Dimi Reider writes: Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced on Wednesday his intention to indict Uri Blau, one of Israel’s top investigative reporters, for possession of classified materials without permission. The materials in question are documents given to Blau by whistleblower Anat Kamm; Kamm, then a conscript clerk in the office of GOC Central Command, copied them from the GOC’s computer, believing they constituted evidence of war crimes carried out in defiance of international law and Israel’s own Supreme Court, including summary executions of terrorism suspects who could have been detained.
Kamm is presently serving a four and a half-year prison sentence following a plea bargain in which she admitted to possession and transfer of classified documents.
The decision today marks a crucial milestone in a process that has been dragging on for more than two years, as prosecutors considered the implications of indicting a journalist for doing something well established in his trade. Almost every journalist with claims to be anything but a stenographer for the army spokesman has held onto classified information – written or otherwise – that was received outside official channels, without authorisation.
Although Blau, in the early days of the investigation into the leak, had already given over to the state all the documents he used to publish the story on summary executions, the state demanded the rest of the cache. During the investigation, Blau spent time in political exile in London, waiting while his lawyers negotiated with the state the terms of a deal under which he would not be prosecuted. Once the deal was struck and Blau did his part, however, the state got greedy, and demanded full access his entire archive, amassed over a decade of investigative work. Then it said it might prosecute him anyway. Blau remained in limbo, his ability to work severely curtailed: few sources would go out on a limb for a journalist likely to be tightly monitored by the security agencies. He only began writing regularly a few months ago, publishing a few stories on the behind the scenes workings of the Israeli right, mostly through deft use of freedom of information requests.
Obtaining and retaining classified information is the bread-and-butter of a civilian journalists monitoring the country’s most powerful and insulated institution – the military. Although Israel has no laws to protect journalists, in most cases (barring one prosecution concerning the revelation of cooperation between the Israeli and Morrocan intelligence agencies half a century ago, and an attempt to prosecute a senior military correspondent after the Gulf War for revealing the regrettable fact the much-lauded “Patriot” missiles failed to intercept a single SCUD), the state has not gone after journalists for doing something so essential to their work – until now. [Continue reading…]