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Ron Kampeas Breaks Anat Kamm Story in Jewish MSM

Avner Cohen brought me news that Ron Kampeas broke the Anat Kam story today in JTA for the mainstream Jewish media.  Kol ha-kavod to him.  And thanks also for his tip of the hat acknowledgement of my contribution to the story.

Ron does provide some “value-added” reporting noting that Kam faces up to 16 years in prison for her alleged role in leaking top secret IDF memos to Haaretz.  Those memos proved that the army was ignoring a major Israeli Supreme Court ruling that prohibited targeted assassinations except under certain limited conditions.  I’ve been told by an Israeli who spoke to her that her attorneys are hoping that she can cop a plea for no jail time.

Is Uri Blau a wanted man?

Which leads me to ask how can someone spilling such important IDF beans ever hope to get no jail time?  I speculate (emphasis on the word “speculate”) that she may be offering, or the IDF/Shin Bet/Attorney General may be seeking to use her to fry a much bigger fish: the Haaretz reporter to whom she leaked the memos, Uri Blau.

I’ve been mystified how the Haaretz story passed military censorship, given that it included physical reproductions of the two secret memos.  I’ve never heard of the IDF allowing such material published before this.  There has to be a reason we’re not aware of that the IDF felt compelled to allow this through censorship.  At any rate, after allowing it to be published it would seem to me that Uri Blau would have to have a target on his back as far as the IDF and Shin Bet was concerned.

Today, brings an unconfirmed (by me) report via a knowledgeable journalistic source that Uri Blau has left Israel.  [UPDATE: I have heard several somewhat conflicting reports about this.  One says that left Israel in December (the same month Kam was arrested) on a trip to China with his girlfriend.  Another report says that he was on an extended honeymoon.  His Facebook page says that he'll be returning to Israel today.]  Again, one can only speculate why, but we should have a pretty good idea.  It’s the same reason that Azmi Bishara left Israel before he was charged by the Shin Bet with the equivalent of treason.  Blau would not have left the country unless he had a strong conviction that the Shin Bet and police were about to either arrest him or charge him in the case.  He knew what they’d done to Kam by secretly arresting her and slapping an infinite regress gag order preventing publication about her detention and the reasons for it.  He chose to leave rather than face prison for merely doing his job.  As in the Bishara case, if Blau did leave the country one might ask why the Shin Bet allowed him to do so?  I suspect it would’ve faced a massive firestorm of protest from the few Israeli democrats remaining inside the country.

My only hope, and one first offered to me by Avner Cohen, who’s experienced some of the same harassment by the intelligence services, is that disclosure of this sorry mess by Ron Kampeas will force the security services to back off.  That’s the reason I have reported this story myself.  I only hope that what Kampeas and I have done, and hopefully the follow-up reporting by the thus-far spineless Israeli and foreign press corps, will stop this thing before it turns into a real mess and stain on Israeli democracy.

Keep in mind that Walla until recently was owned by Haaretz.  I’m sorry to raise such cynical speculation but it may be warranted.  Can it be an accident that Kam leaked the memos to Haaretz during her military service and that after she left the army she went to work for a Haaretz subsidiary?  Instead of a do-gooder whistleblower, might we have a mole seeking to build a career for herself as a journalist?  I’m not dismissing the chance that there was some moral motivation in her actions.  But given that she wrote a disparaging Walla piece about Israeli conscientious objectors, one wonders how strong that motivation might’ve been.

Another interesting matter: one Israeli source said that Kam, after her arrest was suspended without pay.  A different source tells me that Kam was actually fired.  If you were a Haaretz or Walla editor would you suspend or fire a journalist who’d been arrested for leaking documents to one of your reporters?  It doesn’t make sense if you value whistleblowers and hope to have any turn to your reporters in the future.  I’m guessing that there was some major parting of the ways involving the legal manuvering in this case, that caused Walla to dump her.

The fact that a source told me that Kam has blamed Haaretz for ‘outing’ her is yet another indication that all is not well between these two parties.

Finally, Kampeas quotes Haaretz’s editor denying any connection between Kam and the IDF memo story:

Dof Alfon, the editor in chief of Haaretz, said the linkage between Kam’s arrest and the 2008 article, made in a number of blogs, is “absurd.” He implied that the investigative reporter, Uri Blau, had obtained the information without assistance from Kam.

I hesitate to say this since so much of this story is based on rumor and speculation, but Alfon’s denial doesn’t seem credible.

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  • Avner Cohen March 28, 2010, 7:29 AM

    Richard: you misunderstood (or unaware of) the legal and practical context under which the Israeli military censor works in practice. Here is the root of your misunderstanding.

    The censor, while a military unit, is in many ways–legally and practically–a semi autonomous body in its security review. His decisions should reflect pure security considerations, not the organizational interests of any oif the security agencies. More specifically, and based on the 1989 Schnitzer ruling in the Suprme Court, the censor should ban only information that consitute “near certainty” of major damage to Israeli national security. Anything below this bar, including highly classified documents, should be clear, independently of their original high classification.

    • Richard Silverstein March 28, 2010, 1:01 PM

      Thanks for the corrections & clarifications & of course your knowledge of these matters is far better than my own. As for Supreme Court rulings, it would be wonderful if they were actually honored. We can see that this is often not the case.

  • Avner Cohen March 28, 2010, 7:34 AM

    Also, as a matter of accuracy, my own harrassment was NOT committed by the GSS, General Security Service (what you call old fashionedly Shin Bet, this acronym is dead for decades), but rather by the MALMAB, מלמ”ב, the super secretive agency in charge of security and secrecy of the defense establishment (including the nuclear establishment). In fact, the GSS apparently opposed to the way MALMAB chief then, Yechiel Horev, ran his campaign against me.

  • Kayla March 28, 2010, 9:31 AM

    Tesler was never Anat Kamm’s boss or editor, in Walla or anywhere else. Nothing you couldn’t find out in a simple check.

    • Richard Silverstein March 28, 2010, 10:55 AM

      I was told he was by a knowledgeable Israeli. You haven’t provided any evidence otherwise. If you can show that what you claim is true I would be interested. But merely claiming something is true w/o providing any support for yr claim isn’t sufficient.

      UPDATE: I just checked Tesler’s bio and you appear to be right. He’s a Maariv editor and appears not to have been Kam’s editor (unless he moved to Maariv recently & worked previously at Walla). My confusion was caused by what was perhaps an error introduced in the first Hebrew report I read at Indymedia Israel which said this: ת קם, כתבת ערוץ “ברנז’ה” בוואלה, יוצאת לחופשה

      Tesler’s bio says this: עורך ערוצי nrg ברנז’ה
      (pardon the scrambled Hebrew above, my text editor doesn’t seem to understand which direction Hebrew words/characters should display)

      I assumed that ‘Branja’ was a single media outlet & that Tesler must’ve been Kam’s editor there. I didn’t realize that either Indymedia made a mistake in saying she worked for Branja, or that two media outlets could have departments w. the same name.

      At any rate, your criticism is misdirected. Instead of nitpicking over realtively small details, you might want to ask yrself why the Israeli press hasn’t had the balls to report this story & break the gag order or arrange for it to be broken by a foreign journalist earlier.

      • Kayla March 29, 2010, 1:36 AM

        “Branja” is a generic name for all the media covering sections. There’s one in NRG (which is the israeli newspaper Maariv’s website, where Tesler works), one in Walla (where Anat Kamm was working) and there are more sites of that kind.

        About your criticisim on my criticism: you have no idea what is going on in Israel. You may read hebrew, but you are not connected enough in order to learn all the details about this story. That’s why there are so many factual errors in all of your posts regarding Kamm’s matter. Maybe you should wait for the story to go public in Israel and stop speculating and inventing stuff.

        • Avner Cohen March 29, 2010, 3:54 AM

          My strong gut feeling is that Kayla knows what she is talking about. I second what she said. Feel free Kayla to write me in privacy and it will remain private, via Facebook or otherwise. chag Sameach to all.

          • Richard Silverstein March 29, 2010, 12:27 PM

            My strong gut feeling is that Kayla is Anat Kam or a “friend” of hers. And if she is, then she has her own agenda I’m afraid. I would understand that except that again, if it is Anat, she’s not being transparent about any of this.

        • Richard Silverstein March 29, 2010, 12:20 PM

          Instead of being snippy, you might’ve conveyed the info about Branja w/o the extra attitude. As for not being connected or knowing the details of the story, if Israel were a true democracy and had a true free press you wouldn’t need people like me. Until that happens, I’m afraid you’re stuck with me. I’m not prepared to wait till hell freezes over or Israeli editors get balls to report this.

          I’m happy for you to point out any factual errors you find. A more reasonable, tempered person would understand that given the unwillingness of the Israeli press to do their job & the hostility of the victim in this case to disclosure that I’m doing the best that I can under less than ideal journalistic circumstances.

          What have I invented? Stop talking stupid. You actually write very like other intemperate statements I’ve read by Anat Kam & I wouldn’t be surprised if you were though your IP doesn’t match up w. previous ones you’ve used (which means very little).

  • miki March 28, 2010, 10:32 AM

    The 1st Israeli mainstream media to publish the story (quoting JTA) was Israel Radio Arabic Service on Sunday morning:
    http://www.iba.org.il/arabil/?entity=631865&type=1
    Then it was circulated in several Palestinian websites, notably Maan news agency:
    http://www.maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=272107
    And several websites in the Arab world, notably Bahrain’s news agency:
    http://www.bna.bh/?ID=165479
    I think that the story will be published on Monday morning in Arab newspapers.

  • Shraga Elam March 28, 2010, 2:01 PM

    Of course Avner is more knowledgeable on censorship issues, but still there are many things censored in Israel that do not harm the security.
    I would say that the ruling of the Supreme Court is a theory that is sometimes implemented.
    I’ll give just one famous example. There are classified parts of the famous Agranat report on the Yom Kippur War. I don’t believe that any “national security” is endangered.
    Another example: In the Manbar case there are highly classified parts. I don’t believe that the issue at hand is “national security”.
    I think that sometimes the censorship is liberal and sometimes it isn’t.

    • Avner Cohen March 28, 2010, 9:52 PM

      Shraga: The release of the Agranat Commission is not determined by the censor; it is a decision of a ministerial committee. After their decision, the censor takes a final look, but their role is limited. to the best of my knowledge, the Manbar case falls under gag order, tzav issur pirsum צו אסור פרסוםת not cenosr’s ruling. Apart of the nuclear issue, the censor is quite liberal on truly most issues. And this is the reason why on most legal issues, such as now the Anat Kam/Uri Blau affairs, the ban is not via the censor but rather a legal gag order.

  • miki March 28, 2010, 7:11 PM

    The Saudi paper al-jazirah published it Monday morning:
    http://www.al-jazirah.com/20100329/du16d.htm

    • Richard Silverstein March 28, 2010, 8:41 PM

      Wow, do you know Arabic? You’re a great resource. Thanks. I tried to send you an e mail but it bounced. Do e mail me if you get this.

      • miki March 29, 2010, 4:15 AM

        I just sent.
        Chag Samea’ch חג שמח

  • Miron March 29, 2010, 10:30 PM

    it would be a lot healthier instead of nit picking what arcane law Israel has to go about keeping terrorist alive, even when he shouldn’t, you reported something useful.

  • Arnold April 15, 2010, 4:04 PM

    Kamm is a young brine washed liberal. And as a soldier she committed the most inexcusable crime of betraying other soldiers, serving their country in very dangerous job.
    And your theoretical discussion can nor justify her behavior.
    Note, her country is in danger as no other country in the world.