The right sentence

A country has the right to classify documents as top secret and in so doing make their leaking to the public a crime.

Anat Kamm stands inside a courtroom in Tel Aviv 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Anat Kamm stands inside a courtroom in Tel Aviv 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
On Sunday, the Tel Aviv District Court sentenced Anat Kamm to four-a-half years in prison for illegally copying and passing on classified information.
The sentence is reasonable not only because it sends a message to those who would engage in such activities in the future, but because it shows that the state takes seriously the acts the defendant committed and did not accept the variety of excuses presented as to why this act should be forgiven.
Anat Kamm was born in Jerusalem and attended its most prestigious secondary school, Hebrew University High School (Leyada). During her army service, she was posted to the office of then-OC Central Command Maj.-Gen Yair Naveh. As part of her work she was able to obtain access to documents marked classified and highly classified.
She copied the documents onto a computer disk. After leaving the army in 2007, she held on to the disk for 18 months before passing 2,000 documents to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau.
In November 2008, Blau published an article based on the information Kamm had stolen from the army; the article claimed that the IDF had contravened a 2006 High Court of Justice ruling that forbade targeting killing of terrorists.
The Anat Kamm affair, as it has become known, took a long time to unravel. She was first summoned for questioning by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) in 2009, and a gag order was placed on the case through April 2010.
In February 2011, she reached a plea bargain with prosecutors to charge her only with passing on the top secret documents, and not with “intent to harm state security.” Under that deal, she was sentenced on Sunday.
The main problem with the case throughout has been the dual public perception that Kamm is both an innocent young woman who had done, in her own words to the court, “something stupid,” and the view that she is an important “journalist” who was merely crusading as a whistle-blower.
At the same time, there is a long-running perception among certain sectors in Israel that as long as people describe their crimes as being related to politics and conscience, they are given a pass.
This should have no relevance to the substance of her crime.
Lastly, concerns were voiced that the affair could lead to the erosion of freedom of the press in Israel. This is certainly a warped interpretation of what such freedom is about; it is certainly not about stealing and publishing secret documents.
The idea that Kamm fits the traditional role of a whistle-blower is negated by the fact that she not only waited a year and a half to offload the documents, but that she didn’t bother to inform the relevant authority, the High Court, that its ruling had been violated.
The fact that Kamm’s crime is seen as both “innocent,” as if it were a momentary lapse of judgment, and also as a calculated political action is contradictory. In short, both cannot be true.
Writing in The New York Times, Dimi Reider – an Israeli blogger – claimed that “the damage the Tel Aviv District Court has inflicted on Israeli democracy is immediate and concrete,” because press freedom is “under attack.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. A country has the right to classify documents as top secret and in so doing make their leaking to the public a crime, especially when those leaking them have sworn an oath as a soldier or as member of the security establishment.
Whether Uri Blau, the journalist to whom Kamm gave the classified documents, will also be charged in this affair remains to be seen. If he is indicted, it will be worthwhile to examine what ramifications that has for the press and its freedom, which must be strictly upheld.