In the aftermath of the publication of the Anat Kamm affair, which was catalyzed by Judith Miller’s op-ed in the Daily Beast Web site, we can now evaluate the lessons learned.
In this process I believe there are two issues which need to be separated and evaluated differently.
First, there is the public critique of Israel’s censorship rules for security-related matters, which has been voiced by Miller as well.
Secondly, there is the so-called jailing of a “23-year-old Israeli reporter” (to use Miller’s own words to describe Kamm) who supposedly acted in the name of a “free press” and the “right of the public to know.”
It is absolutely necessary to differentiate between these two issues so as to focus on the true nature of Kamm’s actions.
First, let’s be sure to keep this case in perspective. This is a case of an IDF soldier who served as a secretary at the Central Command in a position which gave her access to sensitive files. She (allegedly) used and abused this access to download/copy thousands of classified files and hand them over to the press.
She did not do so as a journalist, but as a soldier with security clearance.
Her motive is still unclear. It obviously wasn’t only ideological – to reveal unlawful misconduct of her commanders in a certain course of action – as has been suggested. For if that were the case, why would she feel the need to steal other documents that were completely unrelated?
WHAT IS clear is that Kamm (allegedly) broke the rules and the law, and should be prosecuted and punished accordingly. There is no case for her martyrdom in the name of freedom of the press.
This is not a similar case to that of Judith Miller’s, i.e the whole Bush-Cheney-Scooter Libby leak fiasco for which she was imprisoned for refusing to reveal a journalistic source.
This is also not like the Pentagon Papers affair. Kamm is not Daniel Ellsberg. Her actions were of a wider scope than just revealing unlawful misconduct on the part of the IDF. Therefore, any attempt to turn her into a martyr is outrageous. It is not only factually false, but also belittles truly heroic actions like those of Miller and Ellsberg.
Furthermore, the second issue which arises from this case is that the
censorship rules in this country are outdated, especially in an age
when de facto they are bypassed by foreign publications. The security
establishment greatly erred in its insistence on preventing the Israeli
press from reporting on the subject. In fact, the concealment of the
affair only contributed to creating a mystery surrounding the actions
of Kamm, and allowed foreign journalists to draw comparisons between
Israel and such rogue countries as Iran, Cuba and North Korea.
The security establishment would have been better off forgoing any
attempt at censorship and should have let Kamm’s (alleged) criminal
actions be exposed. In this case, transparency would have truly been a
strength, rather than a weakness.
The writer is a retired captain in the IDF and formerly the bureau chief for the minister of public security, Avi Dichter.