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Anat Kamm Sues Uri Blau and Haaretz

In a most embarrassing climax to the Anat Kamm-Uri Blau saga, Kamm announced she would sue Uri Blau and Haaretz for $600,000 for revealing her as the source for the reporter’s articles about IDF assassinations.

While I sympathize with her plight, and believe Haaretz’s then-editors bear some responsibility for her exposure, her position (and I should make clear that I’m not a lawyer and not familiar with provisions of the law in this case) is shocking.  When you become a whistleblower, the reporter telling your story doesn’t bestow immunity from prosecution upon you.  You both realize (especially in Israel) that you’re liable to be prosecuted, if exposed.  The best a newspaper or reporter can do is protect your identity and offer assistance if you get in trouble.  But how can Haaretz be held responsible for her imprisonment?

What especially stings is that Kamm is specifically demanding that Blau be made to pay a substantial amount of the claim from his own pocket.  She seems to reserve a special place in journalist Hell for him.

Further, if Kamm truly passed the documents to Blau as she claims because she feared that they exposed Israeli war crimes, shouldn’t she be prepared to fight against the State for her right to be a whistleblower?  Shouldn’t she blame the State for her predicament, rather than Blau or Haaretz?

According to this Haaretz article (Walla’s report for Hebrew speakers), her argument makes almost no sense.  She claims that she was exposed because Blau returned to the Shin Bet the documents she’d given him.  This supposedly allowed the security services to discover she was the source.

But according to my reporting, she was exposed by a former Shin Bet agent, Yonatan Dahoach-Halevi, who carefully reviewed the memos which Haaretz foolishly published in full in the paper.  The former intelligence officer noted the personnel referenced in the memos and discovered they had to have originated in the office of the commander of Central Command, Yair Naveh.  From there, it was a straight shot for the Shin Bet to her.

My understanding is that Blau didn’t return any documents to the Shin Bet until well after she’d been arrested.  So either I’ve mistaken the history or she’s concocting a revisionist narrative of events.

Another of her arguments also seems preposterous.  She claims because she knew Blau was bound by the same laws of censorship as any Israeli reporter that he would not endanger her by publishing any material that violated Israeli law or censorship.  She’s claiming that it was his fault for publishing top-secret documents even though she gave them to him.  Even though she was only 21 years old at the time, even a naïve person should know that any document you give a reporter may end up published.  If you don’t want to document published you don’t give it to him.

All of this hits close to home for me because I too received top-secret documents from Shamai Leibowitz, an act for which he went to prison.  But in my situation I protected his identity.  I certainly didn’t publish the actual documents themselves as Haaretz did.  Though Shamai was exposed, it was not by me.  I kept his secret until after he was released from prison, when I felt it was important for the world to know what we’d done together and why.

Shamai paid a very high price for what he did.  Far too high a price thanks to the whistleblower-busting Obama administration.  His prosecution, like Kamm’s was unjust.  But he did what he did for principle.  I only hope that Anat Kamm has similar principles in mind in pursuing this legal action.  I fear she does not.

I have another “sentimental” connection to this story.  It was the first major story I broke involving Israeli national security.  It turned my blog into what it is today, a forum for exposing the secrets of the national security state.  For that reason, I’m especially saddened by these developments.  Though Anat Kamm has undoubtedly been deeply injured, the vast share of that injury derives from the State and not from Haaretz.
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{ 14 comments… add one }

  • Elad R April 4, 2013, 11:55 PM

    “According to this Haaretz article (Walla’s report for Hebrew speakers), her argument makes almost no sense. She claims that she was exposed because Blau returned to the Shin Bet the documents she’d given him. This supposedly allowed the security services to discover she was the source.”

    Kam argument is quite different, she claims that because Blau published the documents given to him by her as part of his article in haaretz, Shabak was able to trace the source to the IDF center command and her.
    לטענתה, בלאו והנהלת העיתון, בכך שפרסמו את המסמכים שהעבירה לידו, חשפו למעשה את העובדה שמדובר במקור במפקדת פיקוד מרכז

    • Richard Silverstein April 5, 2013, 1:56 AM

      The nonsensical argument I referred to is suggested in the Haaretz English article, not in the Walla article.

      The Walla article makes more sense since it alludes to the fact that Haaretz published the original documents, which eventually led back to her. But frankly, I don’t see how you can sue someone for making what in hindsight turns out to be a bad editorial decision. Unless she can show that she specifically had an agreement that the documents were not to be published, how does she have a case?

  • The realist April 5, 2013, 5:46 AM

    Richard, you are either very naive or deliberately misleading. Some people have already realized that this whole Kamm affair was a hoax, and she was in perfect collusion with the state to “reveal” secret documents that do not really hurt the state, but mislead people around the world and in Israel to think that there are highly conscientious insiders in the Army that risk their own freedoms just to “let the world know”. PS: Haaretz/Blau is simply a branch of the IDF Hasbara, and only naive people believe it is fighting from freedom of expression and democracy, while taking great risks.

    • Richard Silverstein April 5, 2013, 2:18 PM

      Wow, that’s cynicism even I can’t approach. Both Kamm AND Blau in collusion with the State, and in jail to boot. Hats off to you.

  • Elad R April 5, 2013, 10:43 AM

    Few Remarks:
    1. Yonatan Dahoach-Halevi was never a shin bet agent, he was an officer in Aman and the IDF spokesman division and a research analyst in few think-tanks.
    2. Uril Blau signed an agreement with the Shabak in Sep 09. As part of the agreement he returned some of the documents, even though he committed to return all of them. Kam was arrested in December 09, 3 months after Blau returned the documents.

    Kam presents herself in being an opportunist not a whistle-blower.

    • Richard Silverstein April 5, 2013, 2:25 PM

      Thanks for the corrections. You are correct in all of them. But the point about Dahoach Halevi is that he’s a former intelligence agent/analyst & outed Kamm using those “skills.”

      As for Kamm’s motives, I think as you’ll find with all people who try to do good, that their motives are a complicated mix. I know this from working with Shamai Leibowitz (not that I believe his motives were anything other than honorable). Bradley Manning and Julian Assange are the same.

      Kamm may’ve wanted to parlay the docs into a post-IDF job. She may’ve hated her boss, Yair Naveh. She may’ve been a true whistleblower seeking to,expose wrongdoing. But this lawsuit doesn’t help her image.

  • The realist April 5, 2013, 11:55 AM

    Richard, why did you block my comment from a few hours ago about this whole Kamm affair possibly being a hoax? It was not offensive or derogatory, but simply a different opinion to yours. Censorship?
    The Realist.

    • Richard Silverstein April 5, 2013, 8:28 PM

      Oh puh-leeze. You’ve published one comment here (at least your IP has never been used here before) & already claim censorship?? Read the comment rules before you comment & before you make a further fool of yourself. I don’t not appreciate such ignorant claims.

  • Dave Terry April 5, 2013, 12:45 PM

    ” if Kamm truly passed the documents to Blau as she claims because she feared that they exposed Israeli war crimes, shouldn’t she be prepared to fight against the State for her right to be a whistleblower? Shouldn’t she blame the State for her predicament, rather than Blau or Haaretz?

    Absolutely! But this scenario reminds me of the words of Thomas Paine “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.

    Young ladies probably should not sign up for ‘tackle football” :>)

  • Anyn. April 6, 2013, 4:10 AM

    Richard,

    I think you’re a bit influenced here by your own personal story.

    The behaviour of Uri Blau and Haaretz was careless and their decision to publish the documents led the Shin Beth to her. If they didn’t publish the documents there may not have an investigation at all – it proved that there was a serious breach of security. The censor office foresaw this development beforehand and advised against this, so it is clearly not a case of blaming someone with hindsight.

    Blau personally tried to cover his own *** by doing deals with the Shin Beth behind Kamm’s back and without consulting or warning her. It may or may not have led to her exposure, but it definitely proves that he put his own personal welfare above the safety of his source.

    And by the way, this is not the first time that Haaretz is negligent in protecting his sources, a similar thing happend to Dalia Glatt-Berkowitz who also gave them sensitive documents which they failed to protect: http://www.the7eye.org.il/12774
    (Sorry it’s in Hebrew, Google seems to be down so I can’t find if there’s an article in English about that).

    You may or may not approve of Kamm’s decision to sue, but let’s say that if I had sensitive documents to leak, I would stay away from Haaretz and its reporters. Another blow to Israeli democracy.

    • Therese April 6, 2013, 3:58 PM

      Anyn, I agree with you. A journalist does NOT give up their source. That was the traditional rule, and a good rule it was. It should have been followed in this case. T.

    • Richard Silverstein April 7, 2013, 1:54 AM

      As I wrote in my post, I totally agree that Haaretz’s publishing the documents in full without pixellating key identifying information in any of them was a major error. For the life of me, I don’t know why the editors did this.

      But I know Blau’s work and it’s first rate. He’s one of the best investigative journalists in Israel. I refuse to believe he would simply betray his source. You also have to remember that he’s the first Israeli journalist ever to receive a jail sentence for doing his job. He’s paid a big price as well for this.

      • Anyn. April 7, 2013, 3:30 AM

        I agree that Blau is a good journalist, but I think his behaviour with the Shin Beth is a bit strange. From the start he was trying to compromise and make deals with them.

        Remember he got a jail sentence (commuted to public service) in a plea bargain which he himself signed with the prosecution. It’s not as if he was willing to fight for freedom of the press at court. In fact, his willingness to compromise creates a precedent that will be used to judge future cases.

        My impression is that Blau is just not very brave, and he consistently seeks to ensure his own security over the interest of others. No wonder Kamm is suing him personally.

        • Richard Silverstein April 8, 2013, 12:24 PM

          @Anony.: I have always said that the circumstances in which Israeli security related detainees are dealt with are so unique, so stressful that I’d rather not try to sit in judgment over individuals’ motives.

          Though it’s qualitatively different, it’s a bit like asking why Holocaust camp inmates didn’t resist or rise up in rebellion & throw off the Nazi yoke. Who are we to sit in judgment when we haven’t been in their shoes?

          Besides, I’d rather focus on the greater injustice of the State’s oppression & violation of civil rights than blame an individual for how he or she responded to such an evil system.

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