Uri Blau, the Haaretz journalist who used stolen classified IDF documents in
reports accusing the army of defying a High Court ruling against targeted
killings, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to the charge of possessing classified
information without intent to harm state security.
The Tel Aviv Magistrate's
Court convicted Blau of the charge of aggravated espionage (possession of
Tuesday’s hearing came after Blau’s lawyers and
the state reached a plea deal earlier this month.
Under the terms of the
deal, Blau has agreed to plead guilty in return for a four-month prison term,
which the court is expected to impose as community service, subject to a report
by the community service commissioner.
The court will reconvene on
September 3 to discuss that report and it is likely that Judge Ido Druyan will
pass sentence then.
During arguments for sentencing, prosecuting attorney
Hadas Fuhrer-Gafny said the state had reached the plea deal with Blau’s
attorneys because the prosecution “saw the importance of a free
However, Fuhrer-Gafny said the indictment against Blau was very
severe, noting that the Haaretz
reporter had been in possession of documents
that could, if published, resulted in harm to the state.
Blau also did
not return all the documents when he was asked by the state to do so.
amended indictment, filed in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, charges Blau under
Article 113 of the Penal Code, which deals with aggravated
Notably, however, Weinstein has said that the charge of
espionage, in the traditional sense of the term, does not apply to
The indictment says Blau obtained around 1,800 classified IDF
documents from former IDF OC Central Command secretary Anat Kamm, on a USB flash
Kamm, now 22, stole the documents during her military
service in the OC Central Command Office.
She 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
and transferring them to Blau.
The documents contained information about
various military operations, including the deployment of IDF forces, summaries
of IDF investigations, IDF assessments and the various goals of the IDF, the
Blau used classified material from those documents as
the basis for two Haaretz articles.
In the first, published in late
October 2008, Blau 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
Blau held the documents for two years until he finally handed
them over to the Israeli authorities, the indictment said.
the state first asked Blau to hand over all the documents in his possession, he
failed to do so, giving up only around 50 documents, the indictment
Blau continued holding the classified documents in an uncontrolled
manner, which posed a serious risk of damage to state security, again according
to the indictment, which noted that Blau went abroad from December 2009 until
October 2010, even though he knew the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) wanted
to question him.
In Tuesday’s hearing, Fuhrer-Gafny said the prosecution
sought a four-month community service sentence for several reasons, including
that Blau’s indictment is the first time an Israeli journalist has stood trial
for possessing classified documents.
“It was not a deliberate act on
behalf of the defendant to receive the documents. The entire initiative was
Kamm’s, done for her own reasons,” Fuhrer-Gafny said, noting that Kamm had at
first tried to give the documents to another reporter.
Blau told the
court that the trial had taken over his life.
“I am a reporter,” he
“As such I am obligated to inform the public as much as possible so
that they can understand and judge the situations around them. That is the
essence of a free press in a democratic country.”
Blau said that, in
retrospect, he could have acted differently but he had tried to provide the
public with the information it required.
The plea bargain and amended
indictment come after Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein announced in May that
Blau would be indicted.
Weinstein said in reaching the “inevitable”
decision to indict Blau he had taken into account “all the relevant
considerations,” including 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.
However, the attorney-general said that he and the other
government bodies involved in the case, including officials from the State
Attorney’s Office, the Shin Bet and the police, agreed that the case is
extremely serious in terms of the “characteristics of Blau’s conduct.”