Israeli Cops Had to Pledge Secrecy in Probe of TV Show That Planted Gun in Palestinian Home

According to a senior law enforcement official, there was no need for a secrecy document as inquiry had nothing to do with classified or operational matters

Right: Samar Sleiman in his basement. Right: Screengrab from the scene in Jerusalem District
Emil Salman

Officers who were questioned in the police inquiry into the documentary reality show “Jerusalem District” were made to sign a secrecy agreement before giving testimony, obligating them not to discuss their testimony with anyone.

This is considered unusual because the inquiry had nothing to do with operational or classified matters, but addressed the police’s decision-making process when cooperating with the producers of the series.

According to a senior law enforcement official, there was thus no need for a secrecy document.

>> Read more: By planting gun for reality TV, Israel Police reveal truth about East Jerusalem | Analysis 

The signing of secrecy documents means that any leak regarding the questioning could lead to criminal sanctions. The process included testimony by dozens of police officers and civilians as well as members of the police spokesman’s unit, the population and communications division, and the legal advisers’ division.

During the filming of the series, which was broadcast by the Kan public broadcaster, police planted an Israeli-army M16 rifle in the home of Samer Sleiman, a resident of East Jerusalem. The search was conducted in his home in the Isawiyah neighborhood last November, and the police later  informed him that nothing had been seized.

Sleiman was never arrested or questioned about the rifle. The planting of the gun, however, led his neighbors to suspect that Sleiman was collaborating with the police. He later filed a complaint against the officers involved in the filming with the Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police misconduct.

The questioning cleared the police officers who were involved in the program, who, the police said, “acted to promote the image of the entire organization without being properly briefed on the necessary restrictions.”

On Sunday, the police said that “the signing of a secrecy agreement is an accepted practice that has been done in the past and in this instance. The purpose of the process is preserving information security in order to prevent disinformation within the organization and outside it, and to avoid obstructing the proper course of the inquiry, which is designed to learn lessons and draw conclusions, before it is completed and publicized.”

The head of the police misconduct department, Keren Bar-Menachem, let the police conduct their own investigation alongside that of her department, something not generally done, in order to prevent the obstruction of the criminal investigation. The police received permission both to conduct their own questioning and release the conclusions.

The police misconduct department said it was “checking the criminal aspects of the incident, while other issues in the command and operational realms should also be checked."

It said that "as such, in coordination with the police brass and with the knowledge of the head of the police misconduct department and the deputy state prosecutor, it was decided that an operational investigation could be conducted without undermining the inquiry that the police misconduct department was conducting.”