The Government vs. the Police

It sounds like the dream headline for a reporter on the police beat: an open clash between the intelligence section at the police general headquarters, and the forensic section.

It sounds like the dream headline for a reporter on the police beat: an open clash between the intelligence section at the police general headquarters, and the forensic section. It happened on Sunday, with blue and yellow shirts, and pineapple popsicles, near the swimming pool at Reut - a day of fun and sport for the investigations and intelligence departments. A gag order was placed on the results of the athletic competitions. But, while the police officers were swimming and talking, an enormous shadow fell on them from Jerusalem, where the government of Ehud Olmert is offering an original solution to the age old question of who will investigate the investigators: we, the suspects.

It would be a mistake to consider this merely as the personal caprice of ministers Daniel Friedmann and Haim Ramon: going after police officers and prosecutors who insisted on bringing Ramon to justice, and who convicted him of an indecent act against an army officer. The fact that other ministers agreed to support their proposal is like the promise of a medal for a weak investigator. From this support stems a bill for punishing those investigating politicians: "In case there is a criminal investigation and there is a draft of an indictment against a minister, and so long as it is not a member of Shas, the government will appoint a committee to investigate investigators, until they get the hint, they and their colleagues, until the very last one."

Were a committee set up to evaluate a broader issue, such as the quality of police officers and prosecutors, then it would be possible to take this seriously. In both organizations there are large bastions of neglect and shallowness. However, this is an entirely personal complaint, and it is easy to counter it, if this is what is desired, using convincing arguments.

It is not the condition of law enforcement that bothers Olmert, Friedmann and Ramon, who are joined in their hatred for the police by Arkadi Gaydamak. Nor are they concerned about the citizens who are exposed to all sorts of criminal behavior - from burglaries in their homes, to bombs in their streets, and to government corruption. The ministers are only heeding their own interests.

The police are constantly short of resources - and when the Police chief asks for more manpower, he will be told to take them from the Fraud Squad or the International Crimes division.

Major General David Cohen will spend four-and-a-half hours today at the Shin Bet security service headquarters. Even before he has lunch with Yuval Diskin, Cohen will try to take with him to the police something from the intelligence and investigative powers of the Shin Bet, which relies on secrecy and near absolute central control by the head of the Shin Bet - something the police chief can only be jealous about. If the treasury has any additional money for manpower, it will go to the Shin Bet.

Cohen, who in a week will start making use of the law on communications data - which will make it easier for him to receive transcripts of telephone conversations and locate suspects - is not giving in. He is setting up a SIGINT [Signals Intelligence] unit at the investigations and intelligence division, whose role will be to collect communications intelligence and analyze it. He is also looking for a professional to head the unit, and if he does not find one at the police, he will try to borrow someone from the Shin Bet or the IDF's Unit 8200. He is also pushing for ideas to create more professional methods for encouraging persons in custody to talk - in the creative spirit of the Shin Bet.

The Shin Bet is not a threat to its masters. But the politicians who know that they have something to hide are afraid that they may get caught up in the exchanges of fire between the police and those under scrutiny.

There are hardly any investigations "against" politicians: cases are opened as a result of discoveries in different places - media, state comptroller - and by investigating suspects who lack power and immunity. Only later do problematic links to politicians emerge. This was the way things were, for example, in the case of the Greek Island. In the investigation against David Appel, his ties with Ariel Sharon, Olmert, Reuven Rivlin and others emerged. None of them were in government at the start of the investigation. The names of politicians needing buyers, or brokers of votes, and who have ties to questionable persons emerge with the flow of intelligence and investigations.

Government harassment of the police is not useful. Olmert's legal situation is desperate if not outright doomed. The Bank Leumi case is not closed - there is a recommendation to indict one of the suspects, attorney Tami Ben-David. The case of the investments center is due to reach its conclusions. The investigation of Olmert's conduct at the Ministry of Industry and Trade added another issue in recent weeks, which raises serious questions about the decision making and recommendations of his director general - then and now - Raanan Dinur. In a few weeks, the first reports from New York will arrive on the ongoing investigation in the case of the cash-filled envelopes.

Even if, as it is currently planned, the cabinet sets up on Sunday this outrageous committee to investigate the details of the probe in the Ramon case, it is likely that the next government will disband it, when a new justice minister takes office. But the warning to the police officers will continue making waves: if you find our sins, we will make sure you will suffer the punishment.