State: Soldiers Have Right to Object to Phone Searches

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An Israeli soldier with a cell phone.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Israeli soldiers have the right to approximately the same protection as civilians when their cell phones are searched by police investigators, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan said on Monday.

However, Nitzan said that unlike the Israel Police, the Military Police are authorized to search phones without a warrant, as long as the suspect agrees to the search. As revealed in Haaretz last month, there are procedural differences between investigations conducted by the IDF and those conducted by the police, which operate under restrictions meant to prevent undue invasions of privacy.

Last week Nitzan wrote to military representatives that search guidelines must be in line with legislation that allows the search of a data-bearing device.

The investigating body must explain to those being questioned that they have certain rights. In addition, suspects are allowed to authorize the Military Police to conduct only partial searches, and can refuse a search unless served with a warrant or retract their consent to the search at any time.

Last month, military lawyer Col. Asher Halperin warned the country’s top civil and military legal authorities that the Military Police would be subject to a High Court of Justice petition if it did not halt wanton searches of soldiers’ cell phones.

Halperin delivered his ultimatum in a letter to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Danny Efroni, and said that of 91 investigations conducted of soldiers suspected of carrying or using drugs, in 80 of them the soldiers’ cell phones were searched.

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