The Shin Bet security service has been tracking a large number of citizens for at least two and a half years and had access to their phones’ content, apparently without parliamentary oversight, Channel 13’s Raviv Drucker reported on Saturday.
Information obtained this way has been used against suspects in requests for approval for wiretaps and warrants, according to the report. The same methods are now being used to track coronavirus patients and those they come in contact with, the report said.
The Shin Bet, headed by Nadav Argaman, initiated the tracking several years ago in order to “combat ISIS,” and few knew of its existence, according to the report. However, tge report said, the Shin Bet had the ability to track most citizens in the country. A select committee in the Justice Ministry headed by former state prosecutor Shai Nitzan approved the tracking, and that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit also signed off on it at some point.
According to the report, the Shin Bet initially received permission to spy on citizens for a period of six months – but the permission was repeatedly renewed, and may still be ongoing. It was also reported that judges were not informed when information used for a warrant was obtained through this method and that cellphone carriers were apparently unaware of the activity as well.
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The Justice Ministry commented: “The Shin Bet’s methods in its fight against terror and in general are classified by law, and exposing them could seriously damage national security. The service’s activities are all conducted according to the law and save the lives of many Israeli citizens and residents.”
The ministry added that legal issues involving the Shin Bet’s activities are brought before the attorney general not infrequently and that no activity, even temporary, is approved unless it is agreed that the Shin Bet has the appropriate authority.