Glaring intelligence lapse exposed in Anat Kam espionage case
The Anat Kam affair on which a gag order was partially lifted on Thursday, April 8 is above all a striking intelligence and field security failure. More importantly, this soldier's ability to photocopy and filch 2,000 top-secret documents from an army facility over a two-year period ranging from 2005 to 2007 demonstrates the vulnerability of the highest command levels in the IDF to infiltration by hostile elements and the free availability of their most secret documents.
Only two days ago, the trial began of another IDF soldier, his relatives and several Palestinians, who managed to break into the office of Chief of Staff Lieut. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and purloin classified material for passing on to Hizballah agents.
Shin Beit director Yuval Diskin told the media Thursday that documents Anat Kam stole during her service in the OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Yair Navey's office and leaked to an Israeli journalist "posed a direct and real threat to the lives of soldiers and civilians."
They concerned secret General Staff orders, personnel numbers, intelligence information, data pertaining to sensitive military exercises, weaponry and military platforms, deployments in emergency situations, combat scenarios and more.
Kam said she acted out of "ideological" – presumed radical left – motives.
In 2008, after offering them around to other journalists, Kam gave the secret files to Haaretz reporter Uri Blau who used them for articles he published in the paper. The military censor okayed them for publication. Eventually his stories attracted the attention of military officials and, when it was discovered that they used classified materials from the Central Command office, the Shin Bet was brought in to lead the probe.
In September 2009, the Shin Bet and Haaretz signed an agreement whereby Uri Blau promised to hand over all the documents in his possession, in return for which the Shin Bet agreed not to use them to initiate a criminal investigation against him or track his sources.
Two months later, in December 2009, Anat Kam was identified as the source of the leak and placed under house arrest. On January 14, she was indicted on charges of grave espionage.
It turned out later that the reporter Blau handed over only 50 secret documents. The rest he is suspected of keeping back.
In 2009, he left Israel and moved to London, apparently to avoid arrest and questioning about the missing documents.
In interviews with foreign journalists, Haaretz chief editor Dov Alfon said this week the newspaper will take care of all Blau's needs for as long as necessary. This Israeli daily is therefore protecting its reporter despite the breach of his agreement with the Shin Bet and is treating his case as the fundamental issue of a journalist's right to immunity and the immunity of his sources.
The Shin Bet chief warned that Blau has chosen a hazardous course by exposing himself to hostile agents as an intelligence target.
The Anat Kam story attests to four serious security lapses:
1. She was recruited and posted at a sensitive military facility in the nerve center of the IDF's counter-terror and other operations on the West Bank – notwithstanding her known ties with far-left groups opposed to those operations.
2. Her freedom to photocopy and burn on CD disks thousands of secret files over a two-year period is a sorry comment on field security standards at the Central Command office
3. The two-month time lag between the Shin Bet's interview of Uri Blau and her questioning is another odd aspect of the case.
4. A whole year after the probe was launched, most of the stolen documents have not been recovered.
In his defense, the Shin Bet director acknowledged Thursday: "We were too gentle here. We should
have removed the gloves a lot earlier in the case… We were too sensitive to the world of journalism."