Thanks to the quirks of fate and the weather, I have spend the last three days detached from the keyboard, so when Shin Bet chief decided to open a narrow crack in the Pandora box of Kam/Blau affair, I was out of all this and didn't post any knee-jerk responses for which I would be forced to blush today.
Since then, quite a lot of information became available, including the indictment against Anat Kam. It is clear, though, that this info is only the tip of the iceberg, and thus any analysis of the case will be of necessity shallow till more details see the light of the media (if ever).
To start with the conclusion, though: a large quantity of excrement hit a very powerful fan, and there is no person or organization in this story that avoided being covered with some of it. A rare case when I can totally agree with Yaakov Katz of JP: A scandal that leaves no one looking good.
1. Anat Kam (but of course)
Whatever went through this lady's brain when she was stealing thousands of IDF documents will remain unknown to the public, her future bio full of self-adoration notwithstanding. She can call herself a fighter for law, order and human rights till she is blue in the face - it wouldn't make what she's done look better. She purloined about 700 IDF documents classified "Secret" and "Top Secret" having nothing to do with human rights and politics, but everything with extremely sensitive issues like "plans of military operations, summaries of discussions within the IDF, deployment and order of battle (ORBAT) of IDF forces, summaries of internal IDF inquiries, IDF situation estimates, IDF targets, and so on". She accumulated the documents during her army service and copied them just before her discharge from the IDF, leaving no doubts whatsoever regarding her starry-eyed innocence. Whatever her motives were, she should be punished. If, however, some of the already published documents, as it is claimed, point to IDF crossing the lines established by the High Court of Justice, she deserves a (small) monument as a whistleblower, to be located close enough to her cell's window.
2. Uri Blau and his newspaper (Haaretz)
Uri Blau has seemingly done what a good journalist is supposed to do. He got the scoop, published it (Hebrew text) and thus delivered the goods as his chosen profession dictates. Not only this, he also received the green light to publish from the IDF censor. Haaretz, his employer, supports him in his (seemingly enforced) exile in UK till the negotiations with Shin Bet about the return of the classified documents are over and Blau's immunity is reconfirmed. So far so good.
But then some questions pop up. First of all, why didn't Blau and his employer simply return all the documents that Ms Kam handed to them, without withholding part of them for reasons that are, frankly, not very persuasive?
And another, purely hypothetical question: are Blau and/or Haaretz to be blamed for disclosure of their source to security organs? While Shin Bet stated that they got to Ms Kam using their own means, it sounds somewhat fishy. The severity of Ms Kam's crime notwithstanding, the journalistic ethics and the law should be upheld no matter what, and this point should disturb other potential whistleblowers (the real ones, I mean).
There are two main points to be made:
- If, as the linked above article in Hebrew seems to prove fairly conclusively, IDF indeed went against the clearly put (in Hebrew) guidance of the High Court of Justice, many heads should roll. Knowing the IDF (and any other army) ability to stonewall any problem to oblivion, I doubt that anything of significance will happen.
- And another serious issue: the unbearable easiness of access to the classified information that was demonstrated in the case of Anat Kam. Availability of classified information, ease of gathering, accumulating and getting it out of the workplace points not only at general laxity of security, but also at criminal neglect on the side of commanding officers and security in the environment where Ms Kam acted with such remarkable chutzpa. According to herself: "she told her roommate about the lack of compartmentalization in the army office where she had been, and said access to the documents was easy. "It's not logical that there was access like that..." Re any expected results of internal IDF "cleanup" - see the remark above.
No, it's not about the High Court of Justice but about the judges that issued the gag order. The attempted blackout of the press for four months, ostensibly to allow the security organs to make progress in their investigation, while the chief suspect is put under house arrest with free access to all kinds of communication gear, while the Internet and foreign press have a field day, was more than stupid - it was harmful to no end. No one with at least one available finger, one available eye and access to the Internet was fooled or restrained by the gag order. But during the blackout period lots of wild theories and misinformation was spread by enemies of Israel, and the friends of Israel were mightily confused. It is time and again that the sense, or lack thereof, of the press blackout is being questioned, but we don't seem to be able to learn...
As Yossi Melman, the defense expert, rightly puts it:
For those state security "gatekeepers" any case, even the most minuscule and irrelevant, poses an existential threat to Israel's security. When it comes to security issues, they find it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, using cannons against flies. That is, until reality slaps them in the face. They remind me of the saying on the House of Bourbon, they "learned nothing and forgotten nothing."So when both our friends and our enemies are referring to "Iranian style censorship", let's not be surprised. Aside of uncounted harm, the gag order has hardly done anything of note.
And this image of a newspaper page ravaged by censor will remain in memory of many, no matter how much information is provided after the fact...
5. Security fellows (Shin Bet and others)
Four months under house arrest for a (allegedly dangerous) spy? Gag order of indefinite duration? Highly sensitive documents still at large after all this time? Burgling a journalist flat, turning it over like a bunch of junkies after a few trinkets?
This salad will make both Dubai chief of police and Commissar Clouseau envious... nothing to add.
6. The law
No matter what kind of person Anat Kam is and what her ideology, intentions and stupidity level are, trying to fit to her crimes the same measure of severity that was used on, say, the Soviet spies Marcus Klinberg or Yisrael Bar, is a wild exaggeration. Certainly the charge of "Serious (aggravated) Espionage" that fits the two latter cases like a glove is not sitting well on minuscule Ms Kam. While she seems to be deserving a severe punishment, she is a far cry from the spies mentioned. The charges leveled at her are, however, the same as those that put real spies in jail for many years. The problem, however, is that there is no other existing law or, at least, a matching paragraph in the same one that would fit. It was already discussed several times, but there is no solution so far on the side of the lawmaker.
7. Anat Kam and left and right in Israel
I don't even want to separate the two demented wings of the current public discourse. Both could benefit from a few days in a padded room, maybe even together. From hysterical calls for capital punishment to hysterical campaign for blind support of the new hero of human rights, it's rather difficult to tell which one is behaving in the more revolting manner.
But this was kind of expected.
8. Our "friends" abroad.
The gag order was a boon for may an anti-Israeli journo and blogger. Leaving bloggers aside, here are some examples of creative use of facts. To start with, the Guardian - Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem:
Israeli authorities' decision to lift a gag order has revealed the extent of serious spying charges brought against a journalist [emphasis mine] from the country who is accused of leaking top secret military documents.What can you say about this flawless execution of sleight of hand? The only missing item in that sentence is that the accused is being charged not as a journalist for a gossip column but as an IDF soldier who has stolen lots of secret documents. But hey, this is Guardian, capisce?
Judith Miller, The Daily Beast (the same much censored article in the picture above):
A 23-year-old journalist is under arrest for exposing a secret Israeli assassination plot, and another has fled to London, afraid for his life.Same trick with the "23-year-old journalist" as in the Guardian, with a juicy addition of "another" one fearing for his life. Even the said "another" didn't mention such fear in his own article. But Judith knows better, of course.
And so it goes, with friends and foes clearly polarized, focusing on two different angles of the whole: foes - on the IDF breaking the law and friends - on Anat Kam being a spy.
What can I add: both sides seem to be right. Partially. As I am partially right too, bringing up 8 different angles of this sorry affair.