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The members of the Winograd Committee made it clear on Sunday they were publishing the testimony of witnesses who appeared before it because they were ordered to by the High Court of Justice even though they did not think it was the right thing to do.
The committee issued a brief statement in response to criticism by two of those whose testimony was published last Thursday, Vice Premier and Minister of Negev and Galilee Affairs Shimon Peres and former intelligence chief, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Malka.
"The committee's letter of appointment grants it broad powers to decide the question of open hearings and publication of the proceedings," the committee stated. "In accordance with the letter of appointment, the committee assumed that the decision regarding publication of the testimonies it heard behind closed doors and the timing of the publication was up to it.
"In the hearing before the High Court of Justice, the committee asked the court to allow it to decide these matters and argued that the right thing to do was to publish the protocols only after the final report was issued. The High Court rejected this position and the publication of the protocols by the committee was done in accordance with the court's ruling."
During a meeting of Kadima ministers on Sunday morning, Peres said committee head Judge Eliahu Winograd "committed an improper act [by publishing the protocol.] It will make it harder to learn the right lessons from the war."
The portion of Peres's testimony published last Thursday caused a sensation because he said that he would not have gone to war against Hizbullah and that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a mistake by publicly declaring the goals of the war, thereby giving the Hizbullah the chance to thwart them.
Malka told The Jerusalem Post he understood that the Winograd Committee had no choice but to publish the protocols after being ordered to do so by the High Court. However, he said the committee should have warned the witnesses that appeared before it that they should take into consideration the possibility that their statements might be released to the public.
He also said the committee should have given the witnesses a day to read over the protocols before publishing them, so that each one could have the opportunity to object to words they thought might be harmful.
In his case, he added, "I would not have changed anything of substance. I might have wanted to change a word here or there, but that is all."
In an interview with Israel Radio earlier in the day, Malka said that some of the witnesses may have said things for which they could be sued by others. "Had they known their testimony would be published, I imagine they would have consulted with experts as to how to protect themselves," he added.
He also complained that in his case, about half of his testimony was censored because of its security sensitivity, and it was not always possible to understand what he had actually said because of all the deletions.