Shin Bet Secretly Detains Reporter for Leaking Top-Secret IDF Memos
NOTE: On March 14th, I was the first blogger or journalist to report this story outside Israel. Subsequently, an Israeli peace activist informed me that Anat Kamm’s attorney and friends have asked others not to publicize her case. In honor of that, I decided to take down this post as I did not wish to harm her defense. I wrote to Kam’s attorney, Avigdor Feldman, and asked him to confirm that he did not wish any public discussion of her case. He has not replied. For that reason, I have decided to repost this story with some amplifications and editing to reflect new information I’ve learned.
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We’re going to be getting into deep territory tonight regarding Israeli military intelligence, the Shin Bet, and their ability to make a mockery of alleged Israeli democracy and freedom of the press.
An Israeli friend brought me word that Anat Kamm, an entertainment writer for the popular Israeli internet portal, Walla, was secretly arrested and imprisoned, after which she was placed under house arrest by Israeli authorities. Needless to say, this is a highly unusual development. In fact, I can’t remember the last time this happened to an Israel journalist. I apologize that most of the material I’ll be linking to is still in Hebrew and not yet translated. If that situation changes I’ll be adding English language links or sources.
Though Kam denies this, Israeli sources maintain she has been fingered by the Shin Bet as the source of a highly damaging 2008 Haaretz report that noted that a number of Palestinian militants who, the IDF claimed in separate media reports, were killed during firefights were actually assassinated in cold blood. This of course wouldn’t be news since it has happened many times before. What was news was that in 2006 the Supreme Court laid down specific and limited procedures under which targeted assassinations may be pursued. Haaretz revealed that the IDF was ignoring the Supreme Court’s ruling and essentially killing militants in cold-blood and covering up the fact. It approved killings even if civilians were also likely to be killed. It approved killing suspects who were not “ticking-bombs,” another contravention of the Supreme Court. In fact, as recently as 2009 the IDF killed Palestinians under suspicious circumstances which Palestinians have labelled murder in cold blood, leading one to believe that targeted assassinations continue.
The Haaretz report, which presumably and inexplicably passed military censorship, displayed two IDF top-secret documents drawn up by the military senior command, which laid out the provisions for the killings and proved that they were ignoring the Supreme Court ruling.
A former intelligence agent, Jonathan Dahoah Halevi, working as a researcher for Dore Gold’s Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, examined the documents in detail attempting to trace the source. While he didn’t specifically identify Kam, he did make clear that he believed the “Deep Throat” served in a position in military intelligence which allowed access to such documents.
Dahoah Halevi fed the story to ShalomLife, a Canadian Israeli news portal which published this rather sloppy right-wing slant on the Kam case. Dahoah Halevi was the editor of Shalom Toronto, listed as a sponsor of ShalomLife. The publisher of ShalomLife, Yossi Arbel, is also the publisher of Shalom Toronto. Some speculate that it may be an attempt by the Jerusalem Center to smoke out an Israeli journalist who will break the gag order by reporting on a story previously reported outside Israel.
On a rather humorous personal note, the author of the ShalomLife article confuses this blog with an “internet forum belonging to the Israeli left” by misattributing a quotation from this post to such an entity:
Internet forums belonging to the Israeli left have expressed support for the leak by Anat Kam, and have called it “a moral act” and “a civil duty”. One of the messages stated: “We must fight for Israeli democracy even if Anat Kam cannot or will not do it herself, and even if the Israeli press cannot or does not want to do it itself.”
There is one especially salient, disturbing passage in the ShalomLife story, which speculates on Kam’s motives in leaking the documents:
It is safe to say that the leaker wished to advance a political agenda and arouse wider public criticism in Israel and the world towards the IDF’s focused and deliberate policies against agents of terror.
First, it is convenient for an Israeli rightist to focus on Kamm’s alleged political agenda and neglect that she undoubtedly had a moral and democratic agenda as well. Second, since the author of the Jerusalem Affairs analysis was himself a former intelligence officer and because Gold is a Likud loyalist, we can safely assume that this reflects the Shin Bet’s own views in the matter. Which is all the more reason to fight this detention tooth and nail. The far-right can natter all they wish about opposition to its policies being political, but the truth is that opposing targeted assassination and leaking material that documents violations of the law is a MORAL act and a the democratic duty of a citizen. We must fight for Israeli democracy even if Anat Kamm cannot or will not do so herself. And even if the Israeli press cannot or will not do so itself. On that note, Haaretz, who used Kam’s materials for its scoop, has so far written nothing about her predicament. That seems to me an unfortunate editorial decision.
The Israeli sources who have written about this note that there is a military gag under preventing reporting not only about the alleged leak, but that Kamm was arrested at all. I call this censorship of infinite regress. Which may explain why Haaretz has been silent. One hopes the Israeli press will find their voice and do their duty as journalists regardless of the strictures of the national security state.
Those who believe in Israeli democracy should explain how a citizen can disappear without a trace. Is this China, where the government denies it even is detaining a troublesome dissident who has disappeared? Is this the face Israel wants the world to see? Does the security apparatus have the right to run roughshod over whatever civil liberties citizens retain? I should add that this isn’t quite as bad as China. Some people now know what happened to Anat Kamm. She is safe although under detention. But other than that, there are a lot of what Don Rumsfeld was fond of calling, in that inimitable way he had with the English language, “known unknowns.”
Apparently, it took over a year, but they have finally closed in on Kamm as the culprit. They have really put the fear of God into her. As Israeli bloggers and activists have become aware of this incident and written about it publicly, associates of Kamm have approached them asking that they desist. Each individual has to consult their conscience in situations like this. But I personally can see no benefit to Israeli democracy or even Kamm herself by keeping silent. Undoubtedly, intelligence agencies have threatened her with horrible punishments if she doesn’t maintain absolute muteness. As a 23-year-old relatively unfamiliar with the school of hard knocks that is the Shin Bet or military intelligence (where she presumably worked and which presumably investigated the leak), she’s quaking in her boots. Who could blame her?
But I think that others need to have different priorities. Even if Kamm doesn’t want to, or can’t fight for herself we must do so ourselves. And again, we do this for the sake of Israeli democracy. We do this to attempt to draw red lines and prevent the intelligence services from crossing them. For we know that the Israeli national security state puts little stock in the rights of its citizens–witness the trampling of the rights of those whose passports and identities were stolen by the Mossad in carrying out the Dubai assassination.
We must make common cause with those Israelis and human rights NGOs who fight against such outrages. As such, a measure of thanks is due the Israel Democracy Institute and its ejournal, The Seventh Eye, which has featured fine reporting on this matter. Sol Salbe has directed me to an excellent archive of linked online articles about Kam’s situation. Indymedia Israel also wrote up the story (web page now taken down) providing additional information. Maariv published a highly allusive piece by Kam’s apparent boss, which reminds me of samizdat of decades past, which satirized the political culture of authoritarian regimes through allegory, indirection and oblique allusion. Here is the first sentence:
How can a journalist be detained for over a month and everyone stays silent? The journalists in Shoo-Shoo-land must be nonentities, otherwise it would be impossible to explain how in the past month not a single one of them wrote a single word on the journalist’s detention.
Let’s not forget that we’re talking about the Only Democracy in the Middle East™ here. And lest we forget how the Shin Bet has dealt in the past with similarly damaging incidents, we need only remind ourselves of the Kav 300 Affair.
I wonder why the spooks did not target Kamm sooner since she leaked the documents over a year ago. Possibly, she was working on a current story they didn’t want to see the light of day and this prevented her from reporting it. Or perhaps, the current political climate in which the far-right is running roughshod over the rights of peace and human rights activists with the approval of the government has emboldened the intelligence establishment to light out after practicing journalists. It may also be possible that Kamm is part of a larger constellation and the investigation includes her, but goes beyond her as well.
We must fight back. We must help Israeli democrats turn back this assault on freedom of the press, free speech, and democracy.
18 thoughts on “Shin Bet Secretly Detains Reporter for Leaking Top-Secret IDF Memos – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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the S.B is the general security service of Israel and is not under army or defense office, but reports directly
to the PM.
The silence in Israel is a result of a court order. Like in other countries, people have to obey the law,
even the blue blooded journalists.
The lady in question broke the law. You break-you pay regardless of your so called high moral excuses for doing it.
You say she broke the law. But then so did the shin-bet. Why are you putting the onus on one law=breaker and not the other.
To me, this looks like “the law” you are talking about is more like “the law of the mafia” which has its ways of enforcing silence. The difference between a mafia-run entity and a real country is that the law of real countries has a built-in nuance, ie, it applies – conditionally – and is always subject to legal challenges.
Kam’s case is a clear-cut whistle-blower situation where the question is one of the greater good – in this case supported by the supreme court – vs one of a possibly rogue agency of the state – the shin-bet in this case. Kam was 100% in the right bringing out violation of the law exposing mafia-like behavior by an arm of the government that held itself above the law. Sure, the shin bet, being mafia-like will come down on her with a two-by-four because that’s what a mafia does. An agency committed to broad daylight assassinations without recourse to law, will not refrain from slamming those who expose the thuggish behavior, and will most certainly attempt to impose silence.
However, as Richard says – not all of us live in a police state, and therefore we – who do not uphold the law of the jungle to which the shin bet apparently subscribes, have every right, and indeed an obligation to spread the entire story far and wide, in its full sordid detail.
Unfortunately, just like when the mafiosi were caught and tried, it’d take a technicality to bring the israeli perpetrators of the “code of silence” to justice. In the meantime, let’s out them as fast a furiously as we can.
A few remarks: 1. The Shin Bet is not the military intelligence, but the internal state security agency, like the FBI. The military intelligence is completely different thing. It's a unit of the army – far bigger than the Shin Bet and Mossad, which collect s information about Israel's enemy armies. It has nothing to do with israeli citizens. 2. The linkage being done here by the author between the arrest of the lady and the fact she is a reporter – as if that was the reason for the arrest or that someone is trying to keep her silence, is a false. The lady was arrested beacuse what she allegedly done during the years she was a soldier in the military intteliigence – much before she became a reporter.
I know the diff. bet. the Shin Bet & military intelligence & you've read my post rather sloppily if you come away w. that impression. She is being investigated by the Shin Bet as I understand. I wasn't aware that military intelligence has an investigative arm for those who violate IDF secrets. If I'm wrong someone can correct me.
You & I both know that the IDF is angry at Kam & Haaretz for publishing this story & a good deal of the Shin Bet's motivation is to punish her for embarrassing the IDF publicly & revealing it flouts Israeli Supreme Court rulings.
Too much Hollywood movies syndrome, and probably an overdose of ficiotnal books about Mossad and SHIN BET (the name is SHABAK).
In Israel we say : “Hey man, you live in a movie !” to somone who has lost it.
in which we basically mean: wake up, get off the matrix you live in.
The IDF and SB is angry at Kam? WOW.
If they were really angry about her, like, say, they were MAD about Vanunu, Ms. Kam would have been disapear completely off the media and Internet. She would have stand a trial, and sent to at least 10 years in jail.
The fact that she was arrested in her home, tells you everything. Would the FBI do the same in a similiar case?
I’m sure that in US, on similiar cirumenstences, Kam would be barried alive, like Jonathan Pollard.
Actually, the system treated Kam very gently and nicely. They were too much nice with her.
Spoken like a man who has something to hide or can’t face up to what’s been uncovered before his own eyes (which are closed naturally).
Spoken like someone who seems to believe the Shin Bet has unlimited powers, which it doesn’t–yet.
She might still have to spend significant time in jail.
How is it that I, who live in the U.S. know more about this case than you, the Israeli? She was arrested & put in prison for at least a month. Only after that was she removed to house arrest.
You’re seriously arguing that the Shin Bet is treating her likes she’s resident in a country club because she’s under secret house arrest?
Ah, your right wing view become apparent as Pollard is patron saint of the Israeli right. The only problem w. the analogy is that Pollard stole actual military secrets of the U.S. government & gave them to Israel. Kam stole documents which revealed blatant IDF illegality, even criminality. Oh & btw, Pollard was “buried alive??” You mean because he received a long sentence for his crimes? Boo-hoo. I cry for him every day.
Lord, what horses(&t!
Doron, what kam did is to act as a whistle-blower, probably on account of conscience, once she came across wrong-doing by the agency that employed here. These kind of dilemmas happens all the time to people who work for governments and corporations. The question is what are the individuals greater responsibilities – to the law of the land – and to their conscience – or to the agency that’s gone rogue and is in violation of the higher law.
So I see this differently than a simple case of “journalistic freedom” but rather as a case of “individual responsibility”. It’s a bit like the agent’s story in the wonderful movie “The Lives of others” about the stasi secret police and one individual’s very personal decision to take a stand.
In kam’s case the israeli version of the stasi will no doubt penalize her severely to set an example to others. But what she disclosed is the wanton destruction of life by an agency that regards itself as not subject to law. In so doing, she has acted in the name of the victims whose lives were forfeit without the benefit of a court of law.
Some day, it’ll be thanks to people like kam – even though she’ll be silence – that Israel will retain any semblance of goodness, historically speaking. In the end, galileo has also relented and silenced hismself. But history has a way of rescuing individuals no matter how weakened they were in their day.
Again, she is being investigated I presume by the Shin Bet since she is a civilian. The silence is the result of a gag order and military censorship. Oh, so "people have to obey the law" except the IDF which can flagrantly violate Supreme Court decisions??? If the IDF breaks the law as defined by the Supreme Court does IT have to pay?
feldman’s son, Yotam, was jailed 3 days ago by the egyptians. i doubt his father, avigdor, checked his email since let alone reply to you (with all due respect)
I know what happened to his son. Do you mean Mr. Feldman has no one else working in his office taking care of his client Anat Kam’s interests while he is distracted by his son’s troubles? Do you mean to tell me that Anat Kam isn’t monitoring matters related to her case? Or her friends? None attempted to contact me. So I invite you to suggest to them that they do so.
Richard, I think you are contributing to safeguarding this young woman’s well-being. I empathize with your agony over this story.
Richard, I think you are doing 100% the right thing by advertising this case – both for the young lady in question, and for the issue at hand, which is the IDF’s violation of explicit court orders not to engage in outright assassination. making the plight of Kam known is the best thing that can be done for her – especially so as you are not subject to their military “gag orders” and neither are any of us outside the state that’s rapidly becoming more like Myanamar every day. There was probably pressure on the groups and individuals who contacted you to help israeli authorities silence the story – standard operating procedure. Not unlike Iranian police who forbade neda’s parents and firends from holding a memorial.
This is very much like the cases of Chinese dissidents who are ‘disappeared” as you said. The one – and only – thing we can often do for them is to tell as loudly as we can, as neither they, not their friends are really at liberty to speak out – as long as they are Israeli citizens. I do hope your expose will create an echo – and will do my best to spread the story.
Michael Oren from today’s NYTimes op-ed:
“Because we share fundamental values — democracy, respect for individual rights and the rule of law — our friendship can sustain occasional disagreements, and remain unassailably solid.”
You’re citing this as a (bad) joke, right? I sure hope so. I would suggest that Oren is constitutionally incapable of saying anything that corresponds with reality (or at least he seldom does). These kinds of proclamations are really self-satirical.
Meaning and truth correspondence are not very important values to propagandists like Oren, they have a very different relationship with & attitude toward language, and concepts.
השין בית כלב השמירה של הציונות פושעת המלחמה אינם שומרים על שום
חוק אלא עסוקים בשמירה על הפרות החוק הציוניות.
ברוכים תהיו על חשיפת פישעי הציונות הכוזרואשכנזית
בחורבן הציונות ננוחם אינשאללה.
I think the web buzz is taking the focus of this story.
1. The girl is alleged in performing a felony, in which she was caught, will be sentenced, and most likely serve in jail for many years (if found guilty of course).
2. The fact she is a journalist is irrelevant. in the time of the alleged crime she served her mandatory active duty in the IDF. Today she is entertainment reporter and she could have been working at Ralph’s or being a stripper for that matter. i know it makes great headline to say that a journalist have been arrested – but lets face it – the fact she is a journalist now has nothing to do with the alleged crimes.
3. as for the gag – since she have not been trialed yet, and since prosecution is still working on her case – i do not see a problem with the gag considering a sensitive material for the prosecution should be collected. i can surely see a media exposure hurt evidence collection in matter of espionage – specially when her alleged partner in crime have reportedly fled for exile. if the gag is kept once she is prosecuted – then i do see damage for basic democracy freedoms. she still have the right to defend herself and if i understand right – indeed she already has a lawyer – which is probably the best anyone could get for such case.
If a reporter got an inside information from the Pentagon that Ben Laden was found and will be attacked on May 1st’ – clearly a media exposure of such will ruin the plan.
i am sure that you will agree with me that in such case a gag is required, and i am sure that you will agree with me that such a gag does not hurt the basics of democracy freedom.
Ms Kam is not the victim here. the Sh B is doing his job, and i do want to remind you that the original story was published, although fact is that if it had been gagged – none of this story would ever been revealed.
Thanks for yr presentation of the prosecution’s case. Quite a nice job you’ve done in representing the interests of the powerful…
That may be what you want, but not what she believes or hopes will happen.
Again, this may be irrelevant to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s objectively irrelevant. Secretly arresting a reporter even for alleged crimes they may’ve committed before they became one is almost as problematic as secretly arresting one for alleged crimes committed while he/she was a reporter. There is a diff I admit, but not a huge one at least in the public consciousness.
Malarkey, the prosecution has all the documents she received. There is no evidence that is outstanding. They also have Blau’s computer.
That’s not remotely what happened in this case & you don’t need to make up hypotheticals because they’re irrelevant to what actually happened. Besides, we have Daniel Ellsberg & the Pentagon Papers & any number of other whistleblower operations which uncovered actual government illegality as Kam & Blau have done. As such they have done the Israeli people a great service if you believe in democracy & the rule of law, as the IDF apparently does not.
No, Israeli democracy is…what, are you crazy? Of course she is.
Were there any news on this so far? I believe there had to be some, although couldn’t find anything on this matter. Surprisingly, some sources I’ve been following have disappeared, like, couple of youtube videos and discussions along with them :S It now says they violated the terms of service…
I would so much like to see the army held responsible for at least some of the crimes that it did… It will be sad, if this effort ends up nowhere…