A Nation at War and State Secrets

Uri Blau’s claim that his use of the Anat Kam documents served the public interest is a fraud.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on April 22, 2010.)

Israel is a nation at war, surrounded by enemies, some threatening to wipe it off the map, a nation in constant danger. Most Israelis are mobilized in one way or another in the defense of the country – some full-time, some most of the time and some part-time. That is Israel’s secret weapon, the motivation and devotion of its people dedicated to its defense, which helps the country overcome unprecedented odds. Much of our security depends on keeping secret the information we receive connected to military strategy and tactics, weapon systems and operational plans. One of the prices of security is keeping this information from the enemy. This we have learned in the 62 years since May 15, 1948.

Most Israelis are privy to some state secrets because of their military service, their work in the defense industry or contact in some other way with matters that are best kept from our enemies. And they are prepared to protect these secrets. Some have even protected such secrets with their lives. The young soldier Uri Ilan, who had been taken prisoner by the Syrians in 1954, fearing that under torture he might reveal secrets, committed suicide. When his body was returned to Israel a note was found on it on which he had written: “I did not betray, I committed suicide.”

Most of us, fortunately, do not face such stark choices and don’t find it overly difficult to keep secrets entrusted to us. As parents whose children serve in the Israel Defense Forces know only too well, their children will not reveal to them secrets that are entrusted to them during their service. Don’t mothers and fathers have a right to know what their sons and daughters are doing while away from home? But Israeli mothers and fathers understand that their children protect secrets, in the knowledge that the safety of their country, families and comrades depends on it.

An Israeli who has decided to reveal secret information can do it easily nowadays. He does not have to travel to London and approach an Arab embassy. Just put the information on the Internet and before you know it Israel’s enemies will know about it. Not only disseminating information has become easy, but obtaining it as well. Just about everything is now stored on computer hard drives, and a push of a button will download many megabytes of information. While great progress has been made to safeguard secret information stored on computers, in the end a great deal depends on the personnel who have access to the computers.

With good reason do we trust our young people serving in the army, but as has been shown recently, a rotten apple appears every now and then, one that can endanger the safety of many. In the case of Anat Kamm, the danger might have been contained if the journalist to whom she transferred the vast store of information she had stolen from an IDF computer, realizing that he now held the keys to something that could endanger his country, had simply reported Kamm to the authorities and returned the information to the IDF where it belonged.

But the Haaretz reporter, Uri Blau, did no such thing. Keeping the information to himself, he began publishing some of it in Haaretz. This seems to have met with the approval of the newspaper and a number of journalists, who insist that it is the duty of journalists to stand up for the right of the public to know and bring to the public’s attention information that comes their way even if it could harm the country’s security. They surely must know that the vast majority of the Israeli public does not want to know information that is secret and whose disclosure might endanger the state, so the claim that they are serving the public interest is a fraud. They hide behind the claim that they rely on the censor to pass on the information they have submitted for publication, while complaining about the very existence of censorship in Israel.

Is it just possible that these “defenders of the public interest” are actually looking for ways to attack the Israeli government, even if by doing so they provide information to Israel’s enemies? Is it possible that sometimes their sympathies are with enemies of Israel, and they are just looking for ways to give Israel a bloody nose?

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