Anat Kamm espionage trial begins in Tel Aviv

‘Haaretz’ publisher demands Shin Bet uphold agreement not to try reporter Uri Blau.

anat kamm court 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
anat kamm court 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
The Tel Aviv District Court held the first proceedings Monday in the trial of Anat Kamm, a former IDF soldier accused of major espionage.
Before the proceedings, Kamm, who has been under house arrest since December, told reporters, “Today I left the house, so I feel great and I hope everything will be all right.”
Judges decided to close Monday’s proceedings to the public, though they also ruled that some content of the trial would be made public, following a request made by Kamm’s attorneys. The indictment against Kamm was to be read at Monday’s hearing, but the reading was delayed at the request of her attorneys, who said the defense had yet to receive all of the material relating to the case, much of which deals with sensitive security matters.
One of Kamm’s lawyers, Eitan Lehman, said that the indictment “contains charges of passing and possessing classified material, both of which the prosecution says were done with the intention of harming the security of the state. Our response to the indictment will be given after we have seen more of the material relating to the case. We don’t believe that this [Kamm’s actions] included any desire to harm the security of the state.”
The charges against Kamm include two counts of aggravated espionage, including passing classified information with the intent to harm state security, which is punishable by a life sentence, and collecting and holding classified material with the intent to harm state security, for which she could receive up to 15 years in prison.
The charges derive from Kamm’s time as a soldier in the office of OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh, when she allegedly copied over 2,000 classified military documents and leaked them to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau. Blau used the documents to publish a report in October 2008 that found that the army had carried out targeted killings against three wanted terrorists in the West Bank, in violation of a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that said wanted men must be taken into custody if there were a possibility of doing so.
In a subsequent article in November 2008, Blau wrote that the IDF had enacted new, less stringent rules of engagement for wanted men marked for assassination.
Blau has been living in London since before the case broke, while his lawyers negotiated a way for him to return to Israel without facing charges.
Kamm’s attorneys Lehman and Avigdor Feldman on Monday criticized the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and state prosecutors for what they said was backtracking on an agreement that Kamm would not face charges if she turned over all the documents she had allegedly stolen.
After a probe was launched by the IDF, Kamm was identified by the Shin Bet as the source of the leak in late 2009; she has been under arrest since December and was indicted for the allegations in January.
A sweeping gag order was placed on Kamm’s arrest and was only lifted in April, after the case had been widely reported in the foreign press.
Kamm’s mother, Ada Gersht, told reporters at the courthouse Monday that “Anat is fine. She’s a strong girl and she’s doing fine.”
Gersht expressed her feeling that her daughter’s actions were far less serious than the allegations against her, saying that “if what she did was so severe and such a threat to the security of the state, why has it taken so long for the trial to begin, and why has Anat been allowed to remain under house arrest the entire time?”
When asked if she felt the authorities were being more lenient with Blau, she said, “Uri Blau chose his own path; he chose London. There’s no doubt [in that case] London was preferable to Tel Aviv.”
Gersht said she couldn’t say whether or not her daughter regretted her actions, but did say that “she acted with foolishness the whole time she was doing this and she trusted the wrong people.”
She told TV cameras, “Leave it to the viewers to decide who they [the wrong people] are.”
Meanwhile, Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken demanded on Monday that the Shin Bet uphold its original agreement with Blau not to put him on trial for having published the classified military documents he received from Kamm.
Schocken was speaking at a conference on the relationship between law and the media at Netanya Academic College.
Blau was questioned by the Shin Bet over his article on targeted killings, based on a document he had received from Kamm. A photograph of the document itself was included in the report, proving that it was in his possession.
The reporter gave 50 documents to the Shin Bet and said that was all he had. In return, the agency promised not to charge him with revealing state secrets and not to demand that he reveal the source of the documents. Afterward, the Shin Bet learned from Kamm that she had given Blau hundreds of documents.
After Kamm gave Blau permission to reveal that she was his source, the Haaretz reporter returned all the documents to the Shin Bet. However, the agency is now insisting on charging Blau and receiving all the confidential documents he has collected since becoming a journalist.
As a result, Blau has remained in London.
According to Schocken, it is a matter of principle not to put Blau on trial. If a journalist is afraid to receive secret material because he might be criminally charged, it would destroy any possibility of reporting on government failures, including in the military sphere, Schocken said. He said it was unclear when Blau would return to Israel and that this depended on the agreement that he reached with the Shin Bet.
Regarding Kamm, Schocken said it was of no concern to a journalist what the motivations of someone who leaked information were or whether the material leaked had been obtained legally or not. As far as Haaretz was concerned, he said, all that mattered was the truth and the public interest in the story.
“Even if Blau received the information in an improper way, that act is protected by the immunity of the source. Immunity is meant to enable the media to monitor the government, even if it means protecting the criminal. Even army officers leak sometimes,” Schocken added.
Meanwhile, Uri Elitzur, deputy editor of Makor Rishon, charged that Haaretz had broken every rule in the Kamm affair. Any sensible and fair-minded journalist would not have done what Blau did, but would have gone to the police instead, he said.