Anat Kamm was convicted of divulging secret information – but the GSS smeared her as a dangerous spy
Yesterday, a plea bargain was signed in the Anat Kamm case, and she pled guilty (Hebrew) to felonies she obviously committed: unauthorized possession of secret information and unauthorized delivery of it to unauthorized personnel. In return, the prosecution will not claim she did so “with the intention of harming state security”, which could have sent her to a life sentence. Today, the court eased her house arrest (Hebrew), allowing her to leave her house – probably because it finally realized she is unlikely to use the time to break into the computer of another general.
One has to keep in mind how it all started, some ten months ago: with a gag order gagging a gag order, i.e. not only forbidding publication of details of the case, but also forbidding a report about the forbidden report. Kamm was detained and interrogated, and the GSS – AKA Shabak, Shin Bet, ISA – started a hunt for the Haaretz journalist Uri Blau – and Israeli media was forbidden to write a single word about it. The Israeli blogosphere rumbled with rumor and counter-rumor, but people who wanted to read a clear sentence about the case had to look outside of Israel.
Then, in May, GSS chief Yuval Diskin held a press conference, where he bandied the term “aggravated espionage” about, and described the affair as one of the most severe in the history of Israel, comparing Kamm unfavorably to Tali Fahima. Even at the time, it was a sure bet (Hebrew) that this was merely noise, an attempt to scare the victim and turn the public against her, and that this will turn end in a much, much lighter plea bargain – just as the prosecution made a point of not demanding the death penalty for Fahima at the beginning of the legal process and finished with all of its claims shot, and had to settle for a sentence of three years. Diskin said at the time that enemy organizations “could only dream” of the documents Kamm copied; he knew, as did any sensible observer, Kamm had no contact whatsoever to any enemy organizations; that she gave the information to an Israeli newspaper, which is subject to the military censorship – and that the information showed IDF generals allowed themselves to make a mockery of Supreme Court decisions, and ordered killings when arrests were feasible.
But Diskin, in his presser, turned Kamm into an enemy of the people, and such she shall remain as far as most Israelis are concerned until her last day. The official sentence will matter but little; Diskin has demonstrated what happens to someone who exposes the nakedness of the security system, and did so twice: once by exposing the fact generals disregarded court decisions, and once by showing how laughable was the security in General Naveh’s office, which allowed Kamm to simply copy his entire directory of documents. Our hush-hush apparatus was exposed, as usual, as oscillating between stupid carelessness and full system panic.
Anat Kamm is a leaker, a conveyer of knowledge, not a spy; a spy wants the knowledge he gained specific information kept secret. We now know she was another victim of a GSS smear campaign, like Fahima and many, many others. Not the Israeli public would care: 52% of it believe (Hebrew) freedom of expression should be curtained if the information “harms the country’s image”, which most assuredly happened; and 64% would accept limitation on freedom of expression in case of a “security threat”, which is very, very vague – especially when it is used as an excuse for shutting up people.
For a leak to be effective, it needs a large segment of the public willing to accept the information, to allow it to enrage it, and to do something about it. When the public willfully refuses to listen, when he treats the generals and the secret policemen as totems, turning the person exposing the truth into an enemy of the public is a piece of cake.
Public? As if. There is no Israeli public. What we have is a stampede-prone herd.