MK: Police Bypassing Knesset on 'Big Brother' Legislation

The police appear to be trying to circumvent the Knesset via regulations proposed under a new law nicknamed the "Big Brother Law," Knesset Constitution Committee Chairman Menachem Ben-Sasson charged yesterday.

The law, passed last year, allows the police to establish a comprehensive database of telephone numbers, cell-phone numbers and other telecommunications data. It entrusts the public security minister with promulgating regulations governing issues such as how this information will be stored, who will have access to it and how oversight will be conducted, but requires the Constitution Committee to approve these regulations.

However, a draft regulation submitted by Public Security Minister Avi Dichter states merely that "the database manager will conduct supervisory and oversight activities from time to time as laid down in police procedures." In effect, this means the police would decide for themselves how oversight would be handled, without the committee's approval.

Ben-Sasson warned that "if they are really trying to circumvent the committee via internal orders and procedures, that is unacceptable, and is liable to come at the cost of our confidence in them." That would make it harder for the committee to approve future police requests, he added.

The committee is to discuss the proposed regulation today.

Dichter's office said in response that the only thing police want to decide for themselves is the frequency of oversight activities, but "if the committee thinks it's better to arrange this matter as well via regulations, there's no problem from our standpoint."