Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein rejected State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss’s request for a criminal investigation into leaks of portions of the evidence in the “Harpaz Affair,” Lindenstrauss’s attorney David Libai revealed on Sunday at a hearing before the High Court of Justice.
Ostensibly, the purpose of the hearing was to request an extension of the ban on publicizing confidential details of the investigations into the affair. The court extended the gag order on publicizing details of the case, which it had initially issued last week.
However, Libai disclosed that Lindenstrauss had asked the attorney-general to open a criminal probe into the leaks two months ago and that his request was rejected.
According to Libai, Weinstein told Lindenstrauss that any complaints about leaks in the case should be taken to the Journalists’ Ethics Committee, and were not a criminal matter.
The Harpaz Affair started as an investigation of a document forged by Boaz Harpaz – purporting to outline a strategy to help Maj.-Gen.(res.) Yoav Galant become the next IDF chief of staff – and has metamorphosized into a broad exposure of a complicated web of infighting between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi.
The specific piece of the Harpaz Affair before the court involved a battle between Ashkenazi’s former main adviser, Col. Erez Weiner, and the state comptroller over receiving documents, publicizing details of the case, the timeline in which Weiner must file a statement about the case and the timeline in which the state comptroller must publicize his final report on the case.
During the hearing, Lindenstrauss was hard pressed to come up with a clear basis as to why a blanket blackout could be imposed on details of the case, even details not specifically related to national security.
Generally, it is not difficult to obtain a gag order on evidence which could expose classified secrets, but much of the case is merely embarrassing to the parties involved.
Libai’s main argument was that the state comptroller simply could not do his job of publishing a final report if the public discussion was flooded with details of the report before it was even published, as occurred last week with a wave of leaked transcripts from telephone calls.
Weiner’s legal team did not oppose the gag order in principle, but obtained a court assurance that the order would apply to all parties in the case. His team had been concerned that parties involved in the case on Barak’s side would make damaging leaks against him, while Weiner’s hands were tied.
The comprehensive gag order protected Weiner from that scenario.
Also noteworthy about the hearing was the obvious tension between Weinstein and Lindenstrauss. During this round of proceedings, the comptroller has been in the unusual position of having to hire Libai as private representation, since Weinstein refused to defend his position of withholding certain documents from Weiner.
The additional revelation of Weinstein rejecting Lindenstrauss’s position on leaks fills in the picture of two of the leading law enforcement officials having fundamentally different views about not only specific tactics in the case, but on the overall direction and goals that the case should pursue.