1. U.S. Admits Role in 3 Afghan Women's Deaths
After denying it for weeks, the U.S. military command admitted a role in the deaths of three Afghan women in a botched Special Operations raid February 12. The admission will only intensify questions about what really happened that night. NATO officials initially said the three women who died had been stabbed to death hours before the raid, but a new Special Operations report says bullets were dug out of their bodies post mortem. (An anonymous NATO official said there had been evidence tampering Sunday, but another disputed that Monday.) Two of the women were pregnant, and one had six other children; they were attending what survivors describe as a celebration of the homeowner's grandson's birth.
Special Operations attacks are blamed for many civilian casualties, which Gen. Stanley McChrystal has been working to limit in Afghanistan, with some success. NATO's statement Sunday said the lack of forensic evidence prevented investigators from being certain of how and when the women died, but they had "concluded that the women were accidentally killed as a result of the joint force firing at the men." Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been lashing out lately against the impression he is a U.S. puppet. The lesson, says The Daily Beast's Bruce Riedel, is to quit choosing other countries' leaders.
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2. A 23-year-old journalist is under arrest for exposing a secret Israeli assassination plot, and another has fled to London, afraid for his life. Judith Miller talks to insiders who have been gagged by the government about the scandal rocking Tel Aviv, and Israel's slide toward Iranian-style censorship.
You’ve probably never heard of Anat Kamm. Few people have. But for nearly four months, the 23-year-old Israeli journalist has been under house arrest in Tel Aviv for allegedly stealing and leaking secret Israeli defense ministry documents to a journalist from Ha'aretz, one of Israel’s leading dailies.
Kamm would love to tell her side of the story, her friends and associates tell me. So would her lawyers. So, too, would Dov Alfon, the chief editor of Ha'aretz, a liberal paper, and Uri Blau, the reporter to whom Kamm allegedly leaked the documents she was said to have copied while she was completing her military service.
“In what kind of country does a journalist simply disappear with other journalists and news outlets having no recourse to publish about it?” asked one blogger. “China? Cuba? Vietnam? Iran? North Korea?”
But they cannot talk or write about the espionage case. In an extremely rare action, an Israeli court has ordered the Israeli media not to publish or broadcast a word about Kamm, the allegations against her, or the investigation that has led Blau, the Ha'aretz reporter involved, to flee to London. For almost four months, Blau has been in self-imposed exile there to avoid answering questions about how and from whom he obtained the confidential defense department documents that are said to have resulted in a spate of stories alleging personal and institutional misconduct on the part of the Israeli Defense Forces, the hallowed IDF, and some of its senior officials.
In a nation that prides itself on its vibrant discourse and a free press, this is stunning, depressing news.
What is being called the “Anat Kamm affair” has produced its own anomaly: Since details about the inquiry have begun spilling out into the non-Israeli press, Israelis can only gossip about what the non-Israeli media are reporting. Violating such gag orders in Israel can result in severe financial penalties for Israeli newspapers and magazines and jail for editors and other media executives. At least one publication was temporarily closed several years ago for disregarding a similar court order.
The saga, I am being warned, is complex. Parts of it that have not been disclosed are said to be enormously sensitive. But based on what has been reported by Israeli bloggers, the Jewish Telegraph Agency, two British newspapers, and on Friday, the Associated Press—coupled with what I’m hearing from sources close to the investigation—the case could come to a head on or before April 12, when an appeals court is scheduled to hear an appeal by Israel’s Channel 10 and Ha'aretz of a court ruling in February upholding the gag order.
Here is what has happened so far. In mid-December, Kamm, then a media reporter for Walla, a popular Israeli Internet site on popular culture, was arrested and accused of having passed along secret information aimed at harming national security, a charge whose maximum sentence is life in prison. At the same time, an Israeli court imposed the gag order barring officials in Israel or the normally irrepressible Israeli media from disclosing any details of the case.
The government reportedly alleges that sometime during her two-year compulsory military service ending in June 2007, Kamm copied a vast number of secret documents without authorization—one blogger said as many as a thousand—while working as a clerk in the office of the IDF’s Central Command. She is accused of having given some of this information to Blau, who in turn used it to publish several stories in Ha'aretz accusing the IDF and senior staff of misconduct. She is reported to have denied the charges.
The story that supposedly triggered the government’s initial interest in the case was an article that Blau published in November 2008 alleging that the IDF had disregarded Israeli law in killing a Palestinian militant in the occupied West Bank in 2007. According to bloggers and the British paper, The Independent, Blau cited defense ministry memos and emails in reporting that the IDF had assassinated a member of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank town of Jenin in apparent violation of an Israeli Supreme Court ruling six months earlier outlawing such assassinations if a peaceful arrest was possible. Specifically, Blau’s article cited a confidential defense ministry document from March 2007 which included an order from Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, then Israel’s senior commander in the West Bank, permitting the IDF to shoot three top Islamic Jihad members even if they did not pose a clear and present danger.
Read it at The Daily Beast: