Uri Blau avoids prison over stolen IDF papers

'Haaretz' reporter will admit to illegally possessing classified documents in exchange for 4 months of community service.

Haaretz reporter Uri Blau 370 (photo credit: Courtesy of Channel 10 / PR)
Haaretz reporter Uri Blau 370
(photo credit: Courtesy of Channel 10 / PR)
Uri Blau, the Haaretz journalist who obtained stolen classified IDF documents from former OC Central Command secretary Anat Kamm, will not go to prison, the Tel Aviv District Attorney announced on Thursday.
The state has reached a plea bargain agreement with Blau’s attorneys, under which he will admit charges of illegally possessing classified information.
In return, prosecutors will ask the court to hand down a four-month community service term.
The district attorney filed an amended indictment in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court that charges Blau under Article 113 of the Penal Code, which deals with aggravated espionage.
Despite that, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said in May that the charge of espionage, in the traditional sense of the term, will not be applied to Blau.
Like all plea bargains, the state’s deal with Blau is subject to court approval, and the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court will convene later this month to hear the amended indictment.
The indictment says Blau obtained around 1,800 classified IDF documents from Kamm, on a portable USB storage device.
Kamm, who stole the documents during her military service, is serving a four and a half year prison term following her conviction in February – also under a plea bargain – in which she pleaded guilty to gathering and storing classified military documents and transferring them to Blau. The documents Blau received from Kamm 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 indictment said.
Blau used the classified material 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. The second, published a few weeks later, similarly intimated that the IDF had earmarked Palestinian terrorists for targeted killings.
Blau held the documents for two years until he finally handed them over to the Israeli authorities, the indictment said.
However, he initially gave security officials only around 50 documents, the indictment said.
Blau continued holding the classified documents on his personal computer, which posed a serious risk of damage to state security, according to the indictment.
Blau went abroad from December 2009 until October 2010, even though he knew the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) wanted to question him, the indictment said. In May, the attorney-general announced he would prosecute Blau, saying he had taken into account the need to preserve the character of a free press and allow the media to carry out its essential public role.
On Thursday, the Jerusalem Journalists Association said they “regretted” that Blau and the state had signed a plea bargain. “The deal in actual fact confirms the state’s arguments that journalists are prohibited from possessing classified documents,” the association said.
Danny Zaken, the association’s chairman, said the state should have dropped all charges against Blau, or the court should have rejected the state’s arguments in the name of press freedom.
MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), a journalist by profession, also criticized the plea bargain, saying it was “very unfortunate that the attorney-general has not completely retracted the accusations against Blau.” He called for the prosecution to drop the charges, and said the Israeli press may now be too scared to fulfill its public role.
Attorney Hila Cohen of civil rights NGO the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel slammed the plea bargain.
Cohen told The Jerusalem Post there was a “huge gap” between Weinstein’s announcement in May and the plea bargain and said it was in contempt of the law.
Meir Indor of the Almagor Terror Victims association also blasted the plea bargain, accusing the prosecution of yielding to media pressure.
Indor said the organization would petition the High Court against the deal if Weinstein did not stop it. “The prosecution’s message is this: steal, publish and trade Israel’s state secrets. If you belong to the right industry, you’ll get out cheaply,” Indor concluded.
Haaretz said that the indictment set a “dangerous precedent.”
“We did not think it [was] right to indict him.
However, after the attorney-general decided to do so, and because there is and never was any dispute about the facts, Blau has admitted the offense of possessing the documents,” the paper said.