Even if cyberspace has no “here” or “there,” I found it difficult to blog at SouthJerusalem when I was physically far from Jerusalem. Now I’m catching up – first by posting what I’ve written for the American Prospect.
Here’s my piece on the Anat Kam controversy. Please pay attention to an important detail: The documents that Kam leaked included the Spiegel Report, the army data base detailing the land theft and lawbreaking in the building of settlements. Despite freedom-of-information requests, the army had refused to release this data. The information itself proves that there’s no security justification for keeping it secret.The information was simply a political embarrassment.
Now that the Tel Aviv District Court has lifted its gag order on the Anat Kam affair, Israelis don’t need foreign news sites to learn about the ex-soldier who allegedly leaked digitalized reams of classified documents to a reporter. That makes life easier for those whose English is weak, but the difference in public awareness probably isn’t significant. The gag order had already insured intense curiosity. What the increased access should do is stir a serious debate about balancing freedom of the press and whistleblowing with secrecy and security — a debate every democracy needs regularly. This kind of thing isn’t a problem in places like the states, where they have stringent whistleblowing laws so that people who want to speak out against corruption are able to protect themselves with a whistleblower lawyer. If only more countries were as progressive… With this being said, as laws tend to change, it wouldn’t hurt to stay on top of the news in the world of legal news. It could be as simple as researching attorneys and law for example to do just that. Plus, the more you know, the better this may be for you when it comes to understanding the law a little better.
What’s reliably known is this: Kam is 23. (In news photos, she looks 15 and terribly innocent — possibly an image designed by her lawyers.) During her required army service, she worked as a clerk in the office of Gen. Yair Naveh, then-head of the Israel Defense Force’s Central Command. When she completed her service, she took home CDs to which she had copied many classified documents. Later she passed information to Uri Blau, an investigative reporter for Ha’aretz, the Israeli daily that has been most ready to criticize government policy in the occupied territories. In November 2008, using some of Kam’s material, Blau published a long article titled “License to Kill.” It alleged that the IDF had deliberately ignored an Israeli Supreme Court ruling that barred targeted killing of suspected terrorists when it was possible to arrest them. A source whom I consider quite reliable tells me that far more people have read Blau’s article online in recent days than when it was originally published.
Months later, investigators from the domestic security agency, the Shin Bet, reached an agreement with Blau, in which he consented to return classified documents and the agency agreed not to use them to find his source. Kam was arrested last December and has been under house arrest since. Blau and the Shin Bet each accuse the other of breaking their agreement. At last report, Blau is wanted by the Shin Bet and is waiting in London while lawyers negotiate his return.
One more crucial detail, which to the best of my knowledge has not been previously published: According to that same quite reliable source, Kam’s trove included the so-called Spiegel Report, a secret military document detailing illegal construction and theft of Palestinian-owned land in West Bank settlements. In January 2009, Blau published an article on the contents of the report, along with extensive excerpts in Hebrew. As former U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer explains in a recent essay — with characteristic diplomatic understatement — the Spiegel material shows that “even with respect to settlements authorized by the Israeli government and supposedly in compliance with Israeli law, there were systematic violations of the law.” The Spiegel Report is essential to any reasoned debate in Israel about the settlements’ future. …
Read the rest here, and come back to South Jerusalem to comment.