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Israel Breaks Kam Gag: Floodgates Open

For three weeks, an assiduous group of Israeli and American Jewish bloggers and human rights activists have been chipping away at the solid rock wall of secrecy surrounding the Anat Kam-Uri Blau case.  Today, with the help of some craven Shin Bet officials who’ve been embarrassed by the tumult we created, the wall has collapsed and the floodgates of information and recrimination have been opened.

There is a great deal to report here on multiple fronts involving multiple characters in this drama, so please bear with me.

First, the authorities released a new indictment which outlines the alleged criminal acts of Kam and Blau in this case.  Before we review it, let’s keep in mind that the incident in question would never in most other democratic nations amount to a case of criminal espionage since the leaker was a whistleblower seeking to reveal serious crimes of her superior officers and because the material was leaked to a professional journalist who published in one of the nation’s leading publications.

Here is Dimi Reider’s summary of some of the salient passages:

1. The charges are grave in the extreme. Although the documents were delivered by an Israeli soldier to an Israeli journalist, Kamm is charged with grave espionage (“divulging secret information with the intent to harm the security of the state”)

2. Kamm had first offered the documents to Yedioth Ahronoth’s Yossi Yehoshua, but “the delivery did not take place.”  Yehoshua is slated to appear as a witness for the prosecution.

3.  There’s a “third man” – note that she used someone else to copy the documents…

4.  The investigation is led by the International Crimes Investigation Unit. It may have to do with the charge – espionage – or may hint she had tried to pass the documents [to journalists] abroad.

Some other important facts: previously we knew Kam faced a sentence of 15 years for the charges.  But the new indictment reveals a more grave charge for which the penalty is life in prison. We previously knew Kam took as many as 1,000 documents from the office of Gen. Yair Naveh.  The indictment claims she took 2,000 documents (keep in mind that the claims made are just that and that Israeli authorities have been known to exaggerate or distort the truth in such cases).

yuval diskin

Yuval Diskin, Shin Bet chief: would you buy a used national security indictment from this man? (Life)

She is accused of committing grave damage against the State through her leaks:

The accused did so out of ideological motivations and with the intent to damage the security of the state, among other means, through publishing the documents to the general public.

Note the unwillingness of the State to consider that Kam’s actions were based on MORALITY.  Using the term “ideology” allows them to smear her and her motivations.  But make no mistake, this was a lesser crime committed to expose a greater one.  And the greater crime posed far more danger to the State and Israeli democracy than Kam’s actions.

What also goes unmentioned is that the “damage” she actually did was to reveal grave violations of Israeli law by the highest echelons of the IDF.  The only damage she did was to their reputations.  Of course, it is inherent in the mind of generals and tyrants that damage to their own selves is the same as damaging the nation.  But citizens may have a more sanguine view of this.

Further, the only use made of the documents was for those published in Haaretz.  Every article Uri Blau wrote using these documents was approved by the very same Israeli military censor whose job it is to ensure that no article is published which injures Israeli security.  So how can Yuval Diskin argue that Kam or Blau damaged the security of the state??  It’s an absolutely ludicrous and baseless charge.

Finally on this subject, keep in mind that the Shin Bet has a history of wildly exaggerating charges against various accused in national security cases.  See Jerry Haber’s post on this subject.  DO NOT TRUST anything they say about this case unless it is verified by a disinterested, informed and credible source.  The Shin Bet is none of these things.

While I am torn as to how to characterize Kam’s motives, it is reasonable to hear Dimi Reider’s interpretation of them, which are highly charitable (and hopefully justifiably so–I’ve expressed some doubts on this subject myself):

To my mind, Kamm appears to be an earnestly patriotic woman who had faith in her country and trusted its authorities to follow the rules. In her military service, that very basic sense of decency was affronted by the fact the authorities couldn’t care less about the rules, and vigorously engaged gross violations of Israeli and international law; this is  especially true about her superior, Brig Gen Yair Naveh. She decided to act on it, and did the most democratic thing she could have done: She yanked at the alarm bell. People coming from sincere faith to a rude awakening often become the most damning accusers.

The indictment, due to sloppy excision, actually reveals Kam’s home address.  This is a grave breach of privacy and I’d imagine that a court in any other democratic country would look upon this government malfeasance very unfavorably.  Such an act actually opens the defendant to personal and physical attack by the many Israeli rightists who believe she is a traitor to her country.  In other countries, I might believe such sloppiness was accidental.  But with the Shin Bet such errors are hardly ever accidents.  They want Kam exposed to the wrath of Israel.  They want to punish her and make an example of her.  Not just to throw her in prison, but to punish her psychologically and emotionally.  This is way the security services play the game there.

Jerry Haber’s comparison of Anat Kam (and Uri Blau) to a few other historic whistleblowers is apt:

Anat Kamm. Daniel Ellsberg. Donald Woods. What do they have in common?

I frankly am astonished that any Israeli reporter would testify for the prosecution against a whistleblower who had offered secret documents to him.  What does this say about the value this reporter and Yediot Achronot attaches to such sources?  Why would any source trust anyone from Yediot in future?  Have the editors thought through the implications of his testimony for the prosecution.  I say, if he does testify then Yediot is little more than a government mouthpiece and its journalistic credentials are deeply tarnished.  How can they hold their head up to their readers and the rest of Israel?  It is one thing to be a loyal subject of the realm and quite another to become an extension of the security apparatus.  Shame on Yossi Yehoshua.  Shame on Yediot.

Now to Uri Blau.  The Shin Bet alleges it made an agreement with him to return the documents he received from Kam and destroy his computer.  It claims that he broke the agreement by taking documents with him and fleeing the country.  What doesn’t wash with this explanation, and it’s the same one the Shin Bet tried to use in incriminating another citizen it effectively exiled, Azmi Bishara, how does a wanted journalist flee the country with top secret documents and the Shin Bet doesn’t know about it?  Simply put, no citizen facing his level of scrutiny leaves the country unless the Shin Bet permits it.  They allowed him to leave.  If they didn’t know what he was carrying on his person they’re either lying or incompetent.  I doubt the latter.

Here is Haaretz’s version of the same events.  I’ll let you decide which side appears more credible:

“On September 15, 2009, these discussions [between Blau and the Shin Bet] led to an agreement under which Uri Blau transferred to the Shin Bet dozens of documents that were in his possession, and in exchange the Shin Bet committed to refrain from investigating the reporter regarding his journalistic sources, refrain from investigating the reporter as a suspect, and refrain from using the documents as evidence in legal proceedings against the person responsible for leaking the information.

“Once all the conditions were agreed upon and the documents were transferred, the Shin Bet requested Uri Blau’s personal computer. Haaretz agreed, and the computer was destroyed.

“A short time later, the Shin Bet arrested Anat Kam, a former soldier in the IDF Central Command, on suspicion that she was Uri Blau’s source. In January 2010, the Shin Bet informed Blau’s lawyer, Mibi Mozer, that his client was wanted for investigation. Mozer said that the demand contradicted the conditions of the agreement and that he would advise Blau not to comply.

“From that point on, the Shin Bet refused to fulfill the conditions of the agreement it had signed. The Shin Bet also rejected Mozar’s proposal to draft another agreement that would highlight the Shin Bet’s goal of protecting Israel’s security, while still preserving the conditions of the former agreement.

I understand that it’s not the purpose of intelligence services in any country to be pure and lily-white, by any standard this narrative shows the Shin Bet to be a despicable rogue force accountable to no one and bound by nothing, not even written legal agreements.  And even in any subsequent legal proceeding, the security agency will face no sanction for breaking this agreement.  I hope that Haaretz will eventually release the agreement to further embarrass the Shin Bet.  I feel sad for Israel to have its domestic security secured by such utter scoundrels.

While an Israeli source told me that Galey Tzahal reported that the State said they would not prosecute Uri Blau, Haaretz reports that he will remain in exile.  This would indicate that the Galey Tzahal report has to be in error.  No reporter remains in exile unless he is serious jeopardy.

Here Uri Blau finally has an opportunity to speak his piece about the affair.

Let us all be very clear in this and subsequent reporting of this story that the accused are the heroes of Israeli democracy and the accusers are actually the criminals.  We must make them pay the price.  It may be a vain undertaking.  But if there is justice in the world, we must try to see it is done and not perverted.  Israel is “a world turned upside down,” to use the title of Leon Rosselson’s wonderful revolutionary song.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Aryeh April 8, 2010, 5:36 PM

    Richard – there are so many points I want to make, but I’ll limit myself to two:

    – On Channel 10’s 8pm news edition (04/08/10), Avigdor Feldman (one of Kam’s attorneys), stated that Kam gave Blau the full file with all the documents on it, for him to use at his discretion, and that it was Blau’s combing of the file that brought light to the Two Towers operation.
    Granted, we take Feldman’s words with a grain of salt, but I think it is significant that Kam and her attorneys are seeking this line of defence, rather than depicting her as a whistle-blower, who specifically wanted the three documents related to Two Towers out. Feldman almost made it sound like she had no vested interest in any of the specific documents.

    – Kam’s other attorney, Eitan Lehman, claimed on Channel 1’s 7:30pm edition that the number of documents was exaggarated and amounted to less than a hundred. Keep in mind that even those stating the 2000 figure, claim that of them only some hundreds were classified as “secret” and “top secret”.

  • Ilene April 8, 2010, 5:44 PM

    They’re trying to extradite Blau. I would not be surprised if they also tried to kidnap or kill him. They’ve done it before. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3873475,00.html

  • Kalea April 8, 2010, 8:55 PM

    You stated: “We must make them [Shin Bet/Criminals] pay the price. It may be a vain undertaking.”

    Whether or not it’s a vain undertaking must not discourage a massive and necessary outcry from happening. These thugs should get all the grief that’s coming to them because they will definitely continue to abuse their power unchecked, and they should worry that there will be a wave of opposition coming their way every time they attempt to do so. This is an opportunity to make a powerful statement on a threat to justice and democracy.

    I’m afraid however that one way or another they might try to make an example of Kam and Blau to warn and intimidate future whistle blowers and journalists not to go down this road again.

    You are right to shame Yediot and its reporter. Every blog and media source should come down on them for this betrayal.

    Please don’t ease up on condemning this attack on democracy; it’s just too important.

  • Suzanne April 9, 2010, 3:44 AM

    Thank you for your reporting and towing the moral line here Richard.

    There is still too much we do not know. It would be interesting to hear Anat Kam under oath if she is allowed and is brave enough to speak her mind- and if we are allowed to hear.

    Regardless of any weaseling by her attorney’s about Kam being a whistle-blower, I think it’s very important to keep using those words to describe her.

  • Assaf Oron April 9, 2010, 6:47 AM

    Richard,

    You’ve been such a leader on this. Early signs also seem to indicate that the work by you and other bloggers has actually helped pull the rug from under the Shabak’s case, and now such accusations as “intent to harm state security” will probably carry water.

    • Assaf Oron April 9, 2010, 6:49 AM

      Of course, I meant “will probably not carry water”. Shabak wanted the case to remain secret until the press would announce some ex-soldier is accused of spying for stealing secret documents with ideological motives, etc. etc. making her some Udi Adiv or Talli Fahima in the public eye. Instead, the early focus was on the gag order itself and on the Naveh assassination commands, and the overall public view might be softer and more aligned with each person’s political opinions.