Shin Bet Could Ease Security Clearance Rules for Past Drug Use

Review by Israel’s domestic security agency comes after state moves to decriminalize marijuana use.

A woman smokes at an event in Tel Aviv marking Israeli government's approval of a new policy to decriminalize personal marijuana use in February 2017.
BAZ RATNER/REUTERS

The Shin Bet security service is reviewing its policies on the use of illicit drugs, with an eye to permitting applicants who admit to past drug use to receive security clearance from the agency. The Shin Bet confirmed to Haaretz that it is conducting a headquarters review of the issue, but declined to elaborate.

The news comes two weeks after Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced that he supports the decriminalization of marijuana use.

It is thought that the Shin Bet may relax its guidelines, so that an admission of occasional past use of so-called soft drugs would be less likely to disqualify candidates from receiving security clearances. Candidates would still have to promise not to use illegal drugs for as long as they remain in a position requiring security clearance.

Shin Bet regulations prohibit anyone serving in the military — whether as a conscript, a career officer or reserve duty — in a position requiring security approval, from using illicit drugs prior to discharge.

While the occasional use of soft drugs does not automatically preclude the granting of a high-level security clearance, regular and continued use does.

Col. Zvi confirmed this policy last week during a session of the Knesset Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

In May 2016, Haaretz reported that candidates for assignment to classified military intelligence units were required to sign a statement promising not to use illicit drugs even if the drugs become legal and even in countries where their use is legal.

“It is impossible to ignore the change led by the public on this matter. Marijuana use is a known and normative phenomenon among broad groups, which can no longer be continued to be labeled as criminals or as those unsuitable to carry out any military position,” said the chairwoman of the committee, MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz).

She added that she planned to invite a Shin Bet representative to the committee’s next session, to explain the changes the agency is considering.

In a statement, the Shin Bet said that as part of its review of the security qualifications for serving in classified positions, various matters are examined, including the question of drugs. “The Israel Security Agency updates its policy from time to time on this matter, as it does on other matters related to security evaluations.”