Press Council Backs ISA

The Israel Press Council refuses to back Haaretz in spy case, but warns against arresting journalist. US faces similar incident.

Maayana Miskin , | updated: 12:13 PM

Haaretz newspaper
Haaretz newspaper
Israel news photo: file

The Israel Press Council has released a statement calling on Israeli police not to arrest Haaretz journalist Uri Blau if he returns to Israel. Blau is accused of obtaining stolen classified IDF documents from source Anat Kam and using them in his articles. He is currently in London.

Press Council head Dalia Durner, a former Supreme Court justice, warned that arresting Blau could set a dangerous precedent that would undermine journalists' ability to work freely. In addition, an arrest could damage Israel's image as a country that respects freedom of speech, she said.

While the council said not to arrest Blau, it refused to back Haaretz against the Israel Security Agency. Instead, the council called on Blau to cooperate with the ISA by returning to Israel and handing over the classified documents he was given.

Blau had previously promised to hand over the documents, and in fact turned over dozens to the ISA, but investigators later found that he had turned over only a small percent of the many classified files in his possession.

Haaretz has defended both Kam and Blau, saying the two were acting in the public interest by exposing information that Israelis have the right to know. Defense officials disagree, and say the information Kam stole during her service as an IDF soldier would put soldiers' lives at risk if it were made public or got into enemy hands.

America Reacts Strongly to Own Information Leak
A less dangerous classified information case was recently revealed in the United States, where former National Security Agency executive Thomas Drake has been charged with leaking classified information to a newspaper. He was also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly lying to investigators about the case.

While officials did not name the journalist or newspaper involved, many media outlets reported that the information went to journalist Siobhan Gorman of the Baltimore Sun. Gorman wrote articles in 2006 and 2007 accusing the NSA of wasting taxpayer money.

Unlike Kam, who stole documents during her mandatory IDF service, Drake was a civilian senior executive at the time of his alleged crimes. While Kam has been accused of copying and keeping files detailing secret security arrangements such as troop deployment and arrest operations, Drake's leaks apparently only involved the inner workings of the NSA bureaucracy, and not its agents' operations on the ground.

Nevertheless, Lanny Breuer, head of the US Justice Department's criminal division, said of the case, “Our national security demands that the sort of conduct alleged here, violating the government's trust by illegally retaining and disclosing classified information, be prosecuted and prosecuted vigorously.”