To have one laptop stolen might be considered a misfortune, but to have two stolen could look like carelessness, especially when you’re the head of Israel’s nuclear programme.

News of the theft from Shaul Horev’s family home in Beit Yitzhak was kept from the Israeli public by a military censor and a gag order requested by the police, partially lifted on Tuesday with a confirmation from Mr. Horev’s office.His wallet, a “communication device” and various documents were also reported to have been taken.

As head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Mr. Horev is in charge of nuclear policy and answers directly to the Prime Minister. The AEC’s statement said there was no sensitive material on the computer. It is the second time a laptop has been stolen from Mr. Horev since he took over at the AEC.

A blogger pointed out the irony that Israel had claimed to have obtained secrets about Iran’s nuclear programme from a stolen laptop which it used as evidence of Iran’s ambitions for nuclear weapons — claims now widely believed to be untrue.

Matthew Fuhrmann, a Stanton nuclear security fellow, suggested Mr. Horev may have been the victim of espionage. “International agencies frequently try to steal information from phones and laptops, particularly from the hotel rooms of officials while they are travelling abroad. Israel in particular is known to have done this,” he said. “I am sceptical that there will be major state secrets on a laptop that has been allowed to leave the AEC, but in the case of the AEC chairman I’m not sure. Certainly this theft will not be welcome news to Israel.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013

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