State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss' report on the sensitive issue of the use of wiretaps in criminal investigations is a very valuable and significant document. Wiretaps are vitally important in Israel's war on crime, yet their permissibility gives law enforcement agencies great power, which "requires restraint," as the comptroller stressed.
Discretion is necessary - by the police and other investigative agencies, with regard to if and when to request a wiretapping permit; by the prosecution, both in its handling of material produced by wiretaps and in overseeing sensitive investigations; and by district court presidents, in deciding whether to grant wiretapping permits. The comptroller found flaws in the process and suggested ways to correct them: involving legal officials from outside the police force in preparing requests for wiretapping permits; setting clear rules to ensure the proper use of material obtained through wiretaps; and examining the efficacy, and the use made, of procedures for giving wiretapped material to the defense.
The report aroused particular public interest because of the flaws it discovered in the transfer of wiretapped material from the police to the prosecution, and thence to the defense, in the trial of former minister Haim Ramon. Against this background, some have purported to find statements in the report that are not actually there.
The comptroller's finding of "genuine negligence by those involved in the work" - police investigators Brig. Gen. (ret. ) Miri Golan and Chief Superintendent Eran Kamin, Tel Aviv District Attorney Ruth David and prosecutor Ariela Segal-Antler - is grave. Nevertheless, this was a "personal failure" on the part of those involved, not a "systemic or organizational failure." It would be wrong to slide from an appropriate critique of the prosecution's work into a sweeping onslaught on the agency responsible for enforcing the law.
The report does not revisit Ramon's criminal conviction or have any impact on it. His conviction, in a final verdict that cannot be appealed, remains in force. Ramon has the right to request a criminal investigation or even a retrial, but it would be a shame to drag the entire law enforcement system into additional proceedings after the comptroller has already exposed the flaws in the handling of wiretapped material in his case.
The agencies concerned are now faced with the question of what conclusions to draw with regard to those responsible for the grave mishaps that occurred in the Ramon case. But no less important, they must implement the report's systemic recommendations, which come on top of both previous comptroller's reports and the recommendations of a parliamentary commission of inquiry.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now