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Court sentences IDF whistleblower Anat Kamm to 4.5 years

This post has been updated.

The Tel Aviv District court has sentenced Anat Kamm to  four and a half years in prison. The sentence writes the final line in a campaign of  scapegoating that has already caused deep and lasting damage to independent Israeli journalism.

Anat Kamm at the Tel Aviv District Court on Sunday (photo: Activestills)

Anat Kamm, the journalist who leaked over a thousands pages of classified IDF documents to Haaretz journalist Uri Blau was sentenced on Sunday by the Tel Aviv District Court to four and a half years in prison. The documents, which Kamm copied while serving as a conscript clerk in the office of then-GOC Central Command Yair Naveh, contained a trove of information, including internal correspondence giving rise to suspicions of war crimes and direct violations of Supreme Court orders committed by senior IDF command. Kamm, who worked as a reporter for new portal Walla from her discharge and until her arrest, was already convicted through a plea bargain last year, with the prosecution agreeing not to ask for more than 9 years in prison for the journalist. A source close to Kamm’s defence team told +972 they are hopeful their client will not be handed a sentence longer than three years imprisonment; I must say I myself expected closer to seven years inside.

As can be seen from the exhaustive timeline compiled by my colleague Noa Yachot, there is a direct line running from the occupation, to executions without trial of suspects who could be detained, to a wider and deeper contempt for the rule of law and the Supreme Court, to the gagging of the press and to persecution of journalists. Kamm’s case is unique in weaving all these elements into a single story; but its real danger lies, of coures, in the unprecedented clampdown on a journalistic source – even more disproportionate than the sadistically vindictive persecution of Mordechai Vanunu.

I suppose considerable time will pass before we know when and how Kamm, out of all leakers, was chosen to be made an example of. But the chill effect on Israeli investigative journalism is undeniable. After years of dealing with the army, with leaks serving as bread and butter of defence journalism – in many cases informally sanctioned leaks, but leaks nonetheless – the army has decided to redefine the rules of the game. The double gag order on Anat’s case – it went unreported for nearly six months – and the media’s compliance with it were bad enough; the reluctance by the media to collectively stand up for Kamm and Blau is worse; but the most harrowing aspect of the Kamm affair is the things we don’t and will not know – the information on the state’s transgressions against its own laws and the trust of its citizens that will remain in the dark, because potential sources know now that neither law nor journalistic ethics can protect them.

Related articles:

Condemnation of Anat Kamm in aftermath of sentence reflects mood of the country

TIMELINE: The Anat Kamm affair

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    1. AYLA

      what about a petition from respected journalists, worldwide?

      Reply to Comment
    2. AYLA

      Thanks, SH. It really concerns me that this story isn’t getting more attention, even here (in comments). The implications of this case are dark and serious, and if we accept this without making noise, we’re heading further into darkness.

      Reply to Comment
    3. directrob

      Ayla, the Anat Kamm case was not that silent, it made the news all over (have a look at google).
      As this side has to obey (the quite popular) gag orders and is probably monitored by the censor for dangerous content you better study Richard Silverstein’s site for more real scoops like these.

      Reply to Comment
    4. AYLA

      thanks DRob–I actually did google last night and read a lot, including NYTimes and Judith Miller. But what about now? Just, too late? Or? We’re setting a dark precedent for journalism. Or maybe it’s long established.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Sad as it is, the text is brilliant.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Y.

      The +972 talking points fail to impress.
      First, one can’t be a ‘whistleblower’ without having something to whistle about. The problem here is that the allegations against the IDF are repeated as fact (nevermind the attorney general disagrees). If you really think the IDF violated the High Court’s ruling (which is, btw, not necessarily the same as ‘war crimes’ – I think Bin Laden’s death would have failed that ruling), ***you can sue the IDF in the high court***. The fact neither Kamm nor any of her defenders bothered to use the simple defense suggests it’s nothing more than an empty talking point.
      Second, Kamm’s testimony in the court did not claim the alleged whistle motivation, which weakens her case even more. The court obviously can’t consider what she did not claim (which makes the lenient sentence a bit of a surprise).
      Third, again, Kamm leaked far more than the two documents related to the accusations vs the IDF, which suggests rather different motivation. Per Dimi’s standard, every widespread leak ever would be perfectly fine – after all, in any large amount of documents, one can (mis)interpret a crime. Since Dimi does not actually want an investigation of said accusation, one can invent anything. Once this happens, the leaker can claim good faith, no matter what… Somehow, I doubt sane people would accept this ‘standard’.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Y.

      Oh, and a different conjuncture on what really happened:
      A) A young, crackshot reporter wants to get the story. All the stories. He convinces an impressionable young clerk in the Central Command to give him lots of documents.
      B) Blau publishes his first story based on the leaks, which the IDF (esp. the military censor) don’t consider damaging or based on too secret info, which is why they don’t try to stop Blau.
      That said, they want to stop leaks. Due to negligence on Ha’artez’s part (IIRC), IDF finds Kamm quickly. So far, this isn’t considered much of an issue.
      C) Kamm panics, does a very very stupid thing by telling the Military Police just how many really secret documents she leaked. Various people are extremely displeased.
      D) The Shaback etc. start hounding Blau, which figures he’s in a lot of trouble. But then, he finds there’s a nice, ex-post facto, defence based on the story he released. And if that won’t work, blackmailing the IDF over the documents would do. Kamm’s defence has little choice but to follow suit with the first part. The rest is obvious.

      Reply to Comment