Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein announced on Wednesday his decision to indict
Uri Blau, the journalist who took classified IDF documents from former OC
Central Command secretary Anat Kamm.
The attorney-general said he had
carefully considered arguments Blau’s attorneys had put forward, but had decided
to reject them.
Blau is to be charged under the Penal Code with
aggravated espionage, which stipulates that obtaining, collecting, preparing,
recording or keeping secret information without authorization, but without
intent to harm state security, is punishable by seven years in prison.
a statement, Weinstein noted that though Blau was being charged under the
“aggravated espionage” clause, the indictment would not attribute the offense of
“espionage” to him in the traditional sense of that term.
As a result of
Weinstein’s decision, the Tel Aviv district attorney is expected to file an
indictment against Blau, a political affairs reporter for Haaretz, in the Tel Aviv District Court within a few weeks.
attorney-general explained that before deciding to indict the reporter, he had
taken into account “all the relevant considerations,” which he said included the
need to preserve the character of a free press and allow the media to carry out
its “essential role” in ensuring the public’s “right to know.”
he said that his office and the other government bodies involved in the case,
including the State Attorney’s Office, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and
the police, agreed that the case was extremely serious in terms of the
“characteristics of Blau’s conduct.”
The decision to indict the
journalist was therefore inevitable, Weinstein said.
noted that during Kamm’s trial, qualified officials testified that the potential
damage that holding the secret documents could have done to state security was
Kamm, now 22, is serving a four-and-a-half-year prison term
following her conviction in February under a plea bargain, in which she pleaded
guilty to gathering and storing classified military documents during her
mandatory army service and transferring them to Blau.
The lives of IDF
soldiers, as well as state security, could have been endangered had the
documents Kamm gave Blau fallen into the hands of those hostile to Israel,
In his statement, the attorney- general said the
documents included details of military operations; military assessments of
various topics, including the deployment of IDF troops; notes on IDF
investigations; and IDF assessments regarding the military’s goals.
kept those documents on his personal laptop, and in other places, without any
security measures, Weinstein noted.
He concluded that Blau’s holding
these operational documents did not fall within the scope of “journalistic
gathering of information for publication in good faith.”
Kamm earlier this year, Tel Aviv District Court judges said the former secretary
had “cynically exploited her position” during her army service as a clerk in the
office of Maj.-Gen Yair Naveh to steal 2,085 IDF documents, more than 700 of
which were highly classified.
In September 2008, after her discharge from
the army, Kamm had intended to give the files to a Yediot Aharonot journalist,
but when that failed, she handed a disk containing 1,500 documents, 150 of them
highly classified and 330 classified, to Blau.
The Haaretz reporter, whom
Kamm did not know personally, used classified material from those documents as
the basis for two newspaper articles.
In the first article, published in
late October of that year, he accused the IDF of defying a High Court of Justice
ruling against the targeted killings of Palestinian terrorists who could have
been captured alive. The next article, published a few weeks later, similarly
intimated that the IDF had earmarked Palestinian terrorists for targeted
He had received a copy of the targeted-killing order from Kamm;
Haaretz published a photocopy.
Security officials realized that
classified documents had been stolen when they saw the articles, and began to
suspect that the documents were in the possession of parties outside the IDF and
the security services, the attorney-general said on Wednesday.
from the State Attorney’s Office then asked Blau to return the classified
documents in his possession, promising him full immunity from prosecution, that
he would not be interrogated as a suspect or questioned about where he had
obtained the documents.
Also as part of that deal, the State Attorney’s
Office promised the Haaretz reporter that the state would purchase him a new
computer after destroying his personal computer, on which the documents were
After signing that agreement, Blau handed 50 documents over to the
Shin Bet, creating the false impression that he had returned all the documents
in his possession, the attorney-general said.
Meanwhile, the state bought
him a new computer, as it had pledged.
However, in December 2009, the
Shin Bet discovered that Kamm was the source of the leak and interrogated her.
It was then that the authorities uncovered the full scope of the
The authorities realized that Blau had “blatantly violated his
agreement” with the State Attorney’s Office, Weinstein said, because he had
handed over only a small fraction of the stolen documents in his
Blau even kept copies of the 50 documents he had returned to
the Shin Bet, the attorneygeneral added.
The reporter then left Israel
and went abroad for an extended period, even though he had been asked to report
While abroad, he returned, via his attorney, more of the
documents he had received from Kamm.
In a story he published in Haaretz
in April 2010 while he was staying in London, the reporter said that he was
unable “to return to Tel Aviv as a journalist and free man, only because I
published reports that were not convenient to the
Eventually he signed another agreement with the state, in
which he agreed to return all the documents in exchange for certain conditions.
However, this second deal did not include any undertaking that Blau would not be
prosecuted, the attorney-general said.
The journalist finally returned to
Israel on October 24, 2010, and handed over the classified documents that by
then he had held for over two years.
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union)
welcomed the decision to indict Blau, but said that Weinstein should not stop
with putting the journalist on trial.
“It’s time that Haaretz, that
breeding ground for traitors like Blau, stood trial for treason and for
providing refuge to those such as he,” the lawmaker said.
Schneller (Kadima) also welcomed the decision to charge Blau, who he said had
harmed Israeli security to a greater degree than Kamm had.
initiated the “Anat Kamm Bill,” which proposes criminalizing the possession and
transfer of classified material without intention to harm state security, and
which passed its first reading in the Knesset in January. The bill proposes that
the offense carry a maximum 10-year prison term.
“The decision to put
Blau on trial reflects the balance between freedom of information and
journalism, and our responsibility to ensure the security of the State of
Israel,” Schneller added.
However, MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), a journalist
by profession, said the decision to indict Blau could “scare the media and
prevent it from carrying out its full public duty.”
He added that
“journalistic coverage, especially of the military, security and intelligence
services, involves classified information and even possession of
Shai said Weinstein should consider the requirements of
journalistic work, and called on the Tel Aviv District Court to “take into
account the special circumstances of this case and act cautiously and
responsibly to avoid setting a dangerous precedent.”
The Legal Forum for
the Land of Israel praised Weinstein’s decision to prosecute the reporter,
saying that even though press freedom and freedom of expression were important,
Blau had “exceeded his role as a journalist” by receiving and publishing details
from the stolen documents.
“[In doing so], he became a servant of
Israel’s enemies around the world,” said Legal Forum director attorney Nachi
Eyal. “No democratic country would tolerate the idea that its enemies could use
its democratic nature to harm it and the lives of its citizens.”
the Jerusalem Journalists Association slammed the decision to indict Blau,
calling it “disappointing and shameful” and warning that it would “set Israel
back an entire generation and call into question whether Israel can be defined
as a democratic state.”
The indictment would damage the vital role of the
press, the association said, adding that “Blau’s articles were sent to the
censor, and the Haaretz journalist did what any good reporter should do: He
exposed to public scrutiny and judgment that which was concealed from public
Jerusalem Journalists Association chairman Danny Zaken said the
organization would work to have the decision reversed.
called the decision “unfortunate,” saying that the move “sets a precedent in
terms of its ramifications on the freedom of press in Israel, and especially on
the ability to cover the security apparatus.”