Tel Aviv District Court clears for publication affair reported by foreign press over past few weeks: Former Walla website reporter Anat Kam, 23, placed under house arrest after allegedly stealing confidential material from Central Command chief's office during her military service, transferring it to Haaretz reporter
Vered Luvitch Published: 04.08.10, 13:02 / Israel News
The Tel Aviv District Court has cleared for publication an affair reported by foreign media across the world over the past few weeks: An Israeli journalist is accused of serious offenses, including leaking secret information without authorization in an attempt to compromise the State's security and possession of classified information.
Nuclear spy Mordechai Vanunu was accused of similar offenses in the past. The offenses are considered as serious espionage according to Israeli law. The maximal punishment for such offenses is life imprisonment.
The court cleared for publication on Thursday that Anat Kam, 23, who worked as a reporter for the Walla news website, leaked secret documents which she had stolen from the army, where she served in the office of then-Central Command Chief Yair Naveh.
The affair began following a Haaretz report published by Uri Blau in November 2008, which discussed illegal assassinations of Palestinians by the Israel Defense Forces. The article said that the army had held discussions which revealed that the IDF ignored High Court rulings in regards to the assassinations, and that the assassinations were carried out following orders issued by the Northern Command, even in cases in which the wanted terror suspects could have been arrested.
According to the article, the army's senior ranks, including the chief of staff, approved hurting innocent people as part of targeted assassinations.
Although the article was published in November 2008, Kam was only arrested by the Shin Bet in December 2009 following an investigation sanctioned by IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and then-Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. After being questioned she was placed under house arrest.
According to the investigation, Kam burned the files onto a CD and uploaded them onto her home computer following her release from the army.
In September 2009, following negotiations, Blau, through his attorney, handed the Shin Bet some 50 documents that he had received from Kam, as well as his computer, which was destroyed. However, the investigation revealed that Kam had copied and later transferred more than 2,000 documents to the Haaretz reporter, some of them highly classified.
Some of the documents detailed plans for past and future IDF operations, summaries of meetings between senior IDF officers, combat doctrines, Central Command defense plans, ways of dealing with a possible flare-up in the territories and information on the deployment of IDF forces.
Blau's attorney, Mibi Mozer, negotiated with the Shin Bet on the disclosure of additional documents, but the talks reached a deadlock on Tuesday, after which it was decided to lift the gag order on the affair.
It was decided that these documents would serve as a basis for an internal investigation and that Blau would not be questioned regarding his sources.
Blau and his attorney maintained that the Haaretz reporter had handed the Shin Bet all of the documents that may jeopardize the activity of Israel's security forces, as the agreement stated.
Ynet learned that the negotiations on the disclosure of the remaining documents failed due to the Shin Bet's demand that Blau hand over all of the security documents in his possession, including those that may be used as evidence in the case against Kam.
During a meeting with newspaper editors Thursday, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin referred to the affair as the most severe in Israeli history as far as the damage it could have caused to the country's security.
Diskin said the Shin Bet would make every effort to retrieve the remaining documents. According to him, one of the lessons from the affair is that the Shin Bet should have intervened at an earlier stage.
Diskin defined the documents as "highly classified" which any intelligence agency would be delighted to get its hands on. "If these documents, even part of them, reach enemy hands or foreign intelligence agencies, this could cause serious, ongoing security damage and danger to IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens," the Shin Bet chief asserted. "You don't need to be an expert in information security to understand how much dangerous information there is here."
However, he emphasized that the Shin Bet is aware of press freedom, and therefore all possible steps were taken together with the State Prosecutor and the Attorney General. The Shin Bet, he said, used a "kid gloves" approach and carried out the investigation extremely carefully because the subject is a journalist (Blau). If it had not been a journalist, he noted, the Shin Bet may have taken a different approach.
On January 14 Kam was indicted for allegedly committing a severe act of espionage. She has been held in house arrest for the past four months.
Hadas Forer, and attorney for the prosecution, charged Kam with disclosing confidential information without authorization with the intent to compromise state security, as well as illegal possession of confidential information.
Kam began working for Walla in the summer of 2007. About a month ago it was reported that she had been placed on unpaid leave.
The foreign press has been dealing with the affair in detail.
The British Independent newspaper reported that journalist Uri Blau left for Asia about three months ago and is now in London. According to the paper, Haaretz was negotiating the terms of his return with the State Prosecutor's Office.
The Independent also reported that Kam denies all charges. Haaretz editor-in-chief Dov Alfon told the British newspaper, "Haaretz has a 90-year-long tradition of protecting its reporters from government pressures, and Uri Blau is getting all the help we can provide him with."
Jewish bloggers and organizations engaged in the freedom of press and freedom of speech have also taken an interest in the affair. The Committee to Protect Journalists called for the gag order to be lifted.
"There are more questions than there are answers because the gag order makes it impossible to verify information about the case," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the organization's coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa region.
Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times journalist Judith Miller also addressed the affair in her blog, writing that Blau was staying in London in order to avoid a Shin Bet investigation on the source which leaked the documents to him.
"What is being called the 'Anat Kam affair' has produced its own anomaly: Since details about the inquiry have begun spilling out into the non-Israeli press, Israelis can only gossip about what the non-Israeli media are reporting. Violating such gag orders in Israel can result in severe financial penalties for Israeli newspapers and magazines and jail for editors and other media executives," Miller wrote.
She noted that parts of the affair have not been disclosed and "are said to be enormously sensitive".
According to Miller, news of the investigation and the house arrest was initially reported on March 15, on Richard Silverstein's "Tikun Olam" website. She said Israeli censors were "notoriously fickle" and that the courts were traditionally responsive to their requests for blocking the dissemination of information that might jeopardize or harm Israeli security.
"Israel, like the United States at the federal level, also has no shield law that protects journalists from being forced to reveal the sources of their stories," Miller wrote. She mentioned an affair which took place shortly before the election of Ariel Sharon as prime minister in 2003, when Israeli prosecutors launched a secret inquiry into who leaked information about a story published by Haaretz into alleged illegal payments to Sharon.
"Israeli prosecutors repeatedly asked journalist Baruch Kra about the source of the story, but Kra refused to reveal that information. The source was eventually identified, however, when Israeli officials obtained a court warrant authorizing their inspection of his telephone records."
Click to view image: 'Denies the allegations. Anat Kam (Photo courtesy o'
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