Fmr Soldier Admitted Leaking Thousands of Secret Docs to Israeli Newspaper, Haaretz

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Former Israeli soldier, Anat Kamm, has admitted to leaking documents to Haaretz, a leading newspaper and news website in Israel. (Credit: BBC, Reuters)

Former Israeli soldier Anat Kamm admitted that she leaked “more than 2,000 documents” to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the BBC reported.

The BBC wrote that Kamm recently “pleaded guilty in return for the prosecution dropping more serious charges, which included spying and harming state security.” Haaretz describes itself as “Israel’s leading daily newspaper.”

Kamm was “a clerk in the office of an army general” and reportedly “copied secret documents from army computers” between 2005 and 2007.  She left the army and later gave the leaks to Haaretz, according to the BBC.

Haaretz’s article based upon the leaked documents was published in October 2008, notably a year and a half before WikiLeaks published what it has titled “Collateral Murder.”  U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning has been accused of leaking the footage to WikiLeaks and could face 52 years in prison as a result.

“The documents included plans for military operations, the minutes of internal discussions, details of the deployment of IDF forces, conclusions of internal investigations, situation assessments, target banks and more,” Haaretz explained.

Kamm “was arrested in December 2009 although her detainment was only made public four months later. She has since been under house arrest,” according to the BBC.

Haaretz later published a report about a possibly-illegal Israeli operation to kill Palestinian militants in the West Bank;” however, Kamm’s lawyer, Eitan Leman, claims Kamm’s leaks “did not harm Israeli security.”

StinkyJournalism is writing Kamm’s attorney for comment and will update with any response.

According to Haaretz, the crimes Kamm pleaded guilty to “carry a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison.”  However, she won’t be charged with “intention to harm the security of the state,” which has a life imprisonment maximum sentence.

As Haaratz noted, journalists in Israel “must comply with military censors,” so if Kamm had turned over anything that would have endangered state security, it wouldn’t have been published.

iMediaEthics found a 2010 interview with Israel’s “chief censor” Sima Vaknin-Gil.  The interview with Der Spiegel isn’t specific to Kamm’s case, but offers more information on the military censors and how they apply to journalists.

Vaknin-Gil explained that her position is appointed by the defense minister, not the chief of staff.  Further, Vaknin-Gil noted that her office is “mainly civilians” as opposed to military.

“We do not belong at all to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The censor is based in the IDF, but we work under the auspices of the State of Israel,” Vaknin-Gil stated.

“Our enemy is the intelligence officer sitting in Damascus and reviewing the Israeli media and Internet. I will censor anything that comes across my desk that I believe will be useful to the enemy for purposes of gathering valuable information. It can be one letter, one word, one line. At times, I regret, it can be more — but we aim to keep our intervention to a minimum.”

Vaknin-Gil noted that her office gets “thousands per month” of items to review. She commented on items that her office may ban:

“An item can be one headline in a newspaper or a complex article which might take several months to review. Out of the thousands of items, 80-85 percent are returned without being touched. Out of the remaining articles, between 10-15 percent are returned to the publisher with what we call ‘specific disqualifications.’  Often it is only one sentence that we ban. Only up to 1 percent of all the items submitted to the censor are totally disqualified.”

“Every journalist who works in Israel is required to submit any report that deals with military or intelligence issues to the censorship agency prior to publication, according to Der Spiegel.

However, Der Spiegel’s reporter, Christoph Schult, a correspondent from Tel Aviv, told Vaknin-Gil that “in the four and a half years I have worked in Israel as a correspondent, I never handed in an article for approval” and that he hasn’t heard from the censors.  In response, Vaknin-Gil stated: “Don’t think we do not know what you have published.  If I thought you were harming state security you would get to know the ‘other side’ of the censorship.”

“When you report to the German reader, you usually would not describe what this or that army unit did yesterday.  Your reports pertain to the political issues and only occasionally to military issues.  That’s why we did not harass you. When you leave Israel at the end of your time as correspondent, I would be happy if you said: This country is really the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Journalists can appeal bans through the “Committee of Three,” an “arbitration committee” made up of a judge, a media professional and a security institution representative.

Read the whole interview with Vaknin-Gil in Der Spiegel here.

See iMediaEthics’ other coverage of leaks in the media –here.  Specifically, read about “the Palestine Papers,” which AlJazeera and The Guardian are publishing here.  “The Palestine Papers” are “thousands of pages of leaked diplomatic correspondence to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”

UPDATE: 2/7/2011 11:16 AM EST: Added section about the military censors

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Former Soldier Anat Kamm Admitted Leaking Thousands of Secret Docs to Israeli Newspaper, Haaretz

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