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Home arrow Blog arrow April 2010 arrow April 14, 2010

April 14, 2010
April 14, 2010: Deja Vu: Vanunu, Kamm and Blau and the Fragility of Freedom UPDATED May 17, 2010 @ end

On April 14, 2010, Mordechai Vanunu reported from occupied east Jerusalem, "The restrictions, not to leave the country for one more year renewed. Now 7 years since my release AFTER 18 YEARS in Israel PRISON."

Twenty-four years after the Mossad kidnapped Mordechai Vanunu from Rome after luring him from London, they have returned to track down another who followed his conscience but has been labeled a traitor by the state and a public who view truth tellers as a threat to their sense of security.


The prey this time is Uri Blau, an investigative journalist for the Israeli daily Haaretz, who went into hiding after writing a series of reports exposing lawbreaking approved by Israeli army commanders. Blau faces a lengthy jail term for espionage and Israeli security services have warned they would “remove the gloves” and track down the “fugitive felon.”


Jonathan Cook, reported for The National, “Options being considered are an extradition request to the British authorities or, if that fails, a secret operation by Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, to smuggle him back, according to Maariv, a right-wing newspaper.” [1]



Blau’s informant and professional collegue, Anat Kamm, was put under secret house arrest by Israel last December based on allegations that during her military service she leaked classified documents regarding how Israeli Forces violated laws dealing with targeted killings. Kamm was charged under Israel’s espionage and treason laws while she was working as a reporter for the Israeli site Walla, which had been partially owned by Haaretz until the week prior to her December arrest.



The military censor, which prevents publication of information that they deem could harm Israel’s national security, approved the Haaretz story for publication. The Israeli court gagged details of Kamm’s arrest and news of the arrest itself.


After a cyber storm of reporting, the gag order was lifted and it was reported that shortly after her arrest, Kamm admitted to copying the documents while serving in the office in charge of operations in the West Bank, between 2005 and 2007.  The 23 year old acted out of conscience to expose war crimes and believed she would be forgiven for her honesty and integrity, and only time will tell.


A prelude to the Kamm affair began in July 2009, when Kamm’s brothers in spirit from Breaking the Silence, an Israeli human rights group published 54 testimonies from Israeli soldiers regarding their experiences during Operation Cast Lead.


The testimonies exposed the gaps between the reports given by the army in January 2009 regarding the “accepted practices; the destruction of hundreds of houses and mosques for no military purpose, the firing of phosphorous gas in the direction of populated areas, the killing of innocent victims with small arms, the destruction of private property, and most of all, a permissive atmosphere in the command structure that enabled soldiers to act without moral restrictions.” [2]


On February 3, 2010, The Independent reported that a high-ranking officer who served as a commander during Operation Cast Lead, admitted that Israel’s army went beyond its previous rules of engagement on the protection of civilian lives and “that he did not regard the longstanding principle of military conduct known as ‘means and intentions’– whereby a targeted suspect must have a weapon and show signs of intending to use it before being fired upon – as being applicable before calling in fire from drones and helicopters in Gaza last winter.” [3]

This week, Jonathan Cook reported that Haaretz had also revealed that, in a highly unusual move shortly before Israel’s attack on Gaza, it agreed to pull a printed edition after the army demanded at the last minute that one of Mr Blau’s stories not be published. His report had already passed the military censor, which checks that articles do not endanger national security.



The Déjà Vu:


Kamm and Vanunu share the same attorneys. Kamm is being tried for treason and espionage: Vanunu was convicted of both.


Kamm and Vanunu acted on moral and ideological grounds in a spirit of dissent from government policies of war and deceptions.


Vanunu got 18 years in an Israeli prison for exposing Israel’s 7-story underground clandestine WMD facility in the Negev, which remains uninspected by international inspectors to this very day.


On April 14, 2010, Vanunu wrote, “The restrictions, not to leave the country for one more year renewed. Now 7 years since my release AFTER 18 YEARS in Israel PRISON. The Israel stupid spies will not get any thing from here. FROM NOW ON, FOR $1,000,YOU CAN MEET ME HERE, to support my life here. VANUNU.” [4]


In 1986, after being clubbed, drugged, bound and kidnapped by the Mossad, Vanunu was rendered defenseless again when the court ruled that his motivations were not ideological and they refused to allow Vanunu's own statements regarding his intentions to be considered in his defense.


In 1986, Nuclear Physicist, Frank Barnaby was employed by the London Sunday Times to interrogate Vanunu and review the 57 photos he had obtained at various restricted/top secret locations in the Dimona. Barnaby spent three days with Vanunu in London before he was lured and abducted by the Mossad from Rome. Barnaby attended Vanunu's closed-door trial and was called by the defense to give expert testimony. He testified:


 "I found the fact that Vanunu was able to smuggle a camera and films into and out of Dimona and photograph highly sensitive areas in the establishment astonishing…I very vigorously cross-examined Vanunu, relentlessly asking the same questions in a number of different ways and at different times…I found Vanunu very straightforward.


“After questioning him about his motives for violating Israel's secrecy laws he explained to me that he believed that both the Israeli and the world public had the right to know about the information he passed on. He seemed to me to be acting ideologically. Israel's political leaders have, he said, consistently lied about Israel's nuclear-weapons programme and he found this unacceptable in a democracy.


“The knowledge that Vanunu had about Isreal's nuclear weapons, about the operations at Dimona, and about security at Dimona could not be of any use to anyone today. He left Dimona in October 1985 and the design of today's Israeli nuclear weapons will have been considerably changed since then…Modern nuclear weapons bear little relationship to those of the mid-1980."[5]




Blau is charged with espionage: Vanunu was convicted of it.


In exchange for a promise protecting both him and his source from investigation, Blau returned 50 documents but authorities claim he still holds hundreds more classified documents. Israeli officials have invited any spy agency represented in the UK capital to pursue Blau, who has been out of the country since December. While on holiday a friend warned him that the Shin Bet had broken into his home and ransacked it. He later learned that the Israeli secret police had been monitoring his telephone, e-mail and computer for months.



Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights upholds that "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention", including abduction of a person by agents of one state to another state.

Section 99 of the Israeli Penal Code, treason is defined as "an act calculated to assist (an enemy) in time of war...delivering information with the intention that it fall into the hands of the enemy."

 Section 113 defines aggravated espionage as "deliver(ing) any secret information without being authorized to do so and with intent to impair the security of the state" and a sub-clause provides for a penalty of seven years for the unauthorized collection, preparation, recording or holding of secret information; if this is done with intent to impair the security of the state and then, the penalty is increased to 15 years.


The Israeli army and Shin Bet are attempting to silence investigative journalists and the court system not just enables; it colludes.


“We have a dangerous precedent here, whereby the handing over of material to an Israeli newspaper … is seen by the prosecutor’s office as equivalent to contact with a foreign agent,” said Eitan Lehman, Ms Kamm’s lawyer. “The very notion of presenting information to the Israeli public alone is taken as an intention to hurt national security.” [6]


If Kamm is convicted of espionage with intent to harm national security she could be sentenced to 25 years in jail. Blau published several stories that apparently were based on Kamm’s documents, which exposed how the army command approved policies that broke international law and violated the rulings of Israel’s courts.


Blau’s reports revealed that senior commanders approved extra-judicial assassinations in the occupied territories that were almost certain to kill Palestinian bystanders and the army issued orders to execute wanted Palestinians even if they could be safely captured in violation of a commitment to the high court. Blau also exposed that the defence ministry compiled a secret report showing that the great majority of settlements in the West Bank were illegal even under Israeli law. [Ibid]


B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, said its research had shown that “in many cases soldiers have been conducting themselves in the territories as if they were on a hit mission, as opposed to arrest operations.” [Ibid]

On February 22, 2006 it was revealed in court that Israel had asked Microsoft to hand over all the details of Vanunu's Hotmail account before a court order had been obtained.
Vanunu wrote, "Microsoft obeyed the orders and gave them all the details…three months before I was arrested and my computers were confiscated…it is strange to ask Microsoft to give this information before obtaining the court order to listen to my private conversations. It means they wanted to go through my emails in secret, or maybe, with the help of the secret services, the Shaback, Mossad.


“Sfard [Vanunu's attorney] proved that the police had misled the judges who gave the orders to arrest me: to search my room, to go through my email, to confiscate my computers and that they misled Microsoft to believe they are helping in a case of espionage.


“The State came to the court with two special secret Government orders; Hisaion [documents or information that are deemed confidential by the government and kept from the court, the defendant, and lawyers.] This allows the prosecution to keep documents related to my court hearing secret. One was from the Minister for Interior Security and one from the Minister of Defense."



Vanunu's secretly taped police interrogations, his 2004 Christmas Eve arrest for "attempting to leave the country" when he attempted to celebrate mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the confiscation of his private property by thirty IDF that stormed into his room at St. George's Cathedral in 2004, Vanunu wrote had all "been done under the false and misleading statements to the courts of 'suspicion of espionage', and yet they are not charging me with spy crimes…and the fact is that I have not committed any crimes."



The crimes of the state are blatant and more will be exposed as the Kamm trial proceeds and Blau's destiny unfolds.

Until Israel relents and allows Vanunu the right to leave the state and fade into the world, he will continue to remind any with eyes to see that when acts of moral conscience are viewed as the enemy of the state; freedom is fragile- if not already an illusion.












The Vanunu Saga: 2005-2010


Published around 9 AM EST:


vanunuvmjc (9 minutes ago)
Hi, FROM APRIL 2010.
This is Vanunu ,Auto reply. FROM APRIL 2010 until 2011.
NO any news here.
The restrictions,not to leave the country for one more year renewed,
Now 7 years since my release AFTER 18 YEARS in israel PRISON.
The isreal stupid spies will not get any thing from here.
FROM NOW ON,FOR $1,000,YOU CAN MEET ME HERE,to support my life hereVANUNU.

May 3, 2010: Anat Kam's lawyers negotiating with prosecution on plea bargain

Attorneys: Kam would have made material available to hostile elements had she sought to damage Israel.

By Ofra Edelman


Defense attorneys for Anat Kam, who is suspected of passing on secret documents to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau, have already began negotiating with the prosecution for a plea bargain, Haaretz has learned.

The state has decided to prosecute Kam for the most serious crimes of espionage: passing on classified information with the intent of harming state security.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Kam faces other charges, including gathering and possessing classified materials with intent to harm state security, which carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence.

Israel's criminal code contains a number of other statutes that Kam could have been charged with violating for her alleged actions, that carry significantly less harsh punishments than the ones she has been charged with.

In their negotiations with the state, Kam's attorneys, Avigdor Feldman and Eitan Lehman, will seek to plead down the charges against their client.

One of the main arguments made by Feldman and Lehman is that by passing on the information to Blau, an Israeli journalist bound by Israeli military censorship, Kam demonstrated that she did not intend to harm state security.

The lawyers say that had Kam sought to damage Israeli she would have made the material available to hostile elements.

Israel's penal code includes a law against passing secret information to an unauthorized person, without attributing to that person intent to harm state security. It carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison.

Furthermore, for someone who is not authorized to hold official documents or use them in an unauthorized manner, the maximum sentence is five years.

A civil servant who gives out, without approval, information received in connection with his job to a person unauthorized to receive such information, even after he has stopped being a civil servant, is subject to serve no more than three years in prison.

For possessing information - as opposed to passing it on - that a civil servant is not authorized to have, the sentence is up to one year.

The law also states that a person receiving a secret document on condition that he must keep it secret, who passes it on to a person who is not authorized to receive it, can serve up to a year in prison if convicted.

The justice minister refused to comment on discussions held with defense attorneys, and would not confirm or deny this report.

POSTED May 18, 2010

EXCERPTED FROM The Whistleblower's Story

A young Israeli soldier leaked documents alleging that generals broke the law. The whistleblower will pay. The brass probably won't.

Gershom Gorenberg | April 19, 2010 | web only




…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.



With all due caution about making predictions, it seems likely Kam will do jail time. In a morally complex universe, an army has to deter soldiers from taking home gigabytes of classified material. In the same morally complex universe, Kam also deserves to be decorated by the Parliament or president for serving the public good. With all due caution about predictions, I'm not expecting a press invite to the awards ceremony. One more forecast: Though the case raises suspicions -- of everything from aggravated incompetence to defying the Supreme Court and perhaps murder -- about other people, none of them will pay a price. This will be a variation on what Israelis call the "sentry syndrome," in which the lowest-ranking soldier takes the rap and the brass gets off.



Part of the incompetence involves officers and officials failing to notice that they live in the digital age. Technical ignorance apparently made some of them complicit in her breach of secrecy. It allows others to exaggerate her offense. According to one report (obviously based on leaks by people not named Anat Kam), Gen. Naveh received secret reports by e-mail on the army's internal network and wasn't supposed to print or copy them. But Naveh was reportedly one of those 20th-century bosses who likes reading his e-mail on paper. So the messages were transferred to another computer, and Kam printed them. She also saved them as files. Don't expect the ex-general to pay for breaking the rules.



When Kam was about to be discharged, she copied the files to two CDs. The indictment says she took 2,000 documents, of which 700 were secret. The quantity seems damning, undermining any claim that she intended to reveal specific violations of law -- until one remembers that on a computer, it's much easier to copy a whole directory than start picking through the files.



Something worse than incompetence has been shown by commentators for other Israeli papers who have attacked Blau and Ha'aretz. (Full disclosure: I've written on and off for Ha'aretz over the years.) Military correspondents at every paper depend on leaks, usually from people with much higher ranks than Kam. I know of two essential works of Israeli history based in part on secret papers that Cabinet ministers kept after they left office. In the best case, Ha'aretz's critics are showing intense professional jealousy; in the worst, they are playing to the public's jingoism. Either way, they've forgotten that the press' job is not to help the military keep its dirt hidden.



What really demands scrutiny are the affairs that Blau uncovered. Former Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz released a statement this week saying he'd looked into Blau's story on targeted killings at the time it was published and concluded that the army had not broken the law.

Unfortunately, a statement by the government's top lawyer that the government obeyed the law does not inspire total confidence. An outside investigation would be appropriate. Mazuz certainly didn't rush to act on the Spiegel Report by prosecuting settlers who built on privately owned Palestinian land or officials who helped them.



The underlying dilemma is this: A government does have the responsibility of protecting its citizens. It needs an army to do that, and an army needs to maintain secrecy. It can't function if every soldier decides what to declassify. But armies also use secrecy to hide mistakes, failures, and crimes.

The press' job is to reveal those failures and crimes...



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