Knesset Rejects Joint List Proposal to Form Inquiry Commission on Use of Spyware by Police

The Knesset on Wednesday rejected a proposal to form a parliamentary commission of inquiry to investigate the police use of spyware on Israeli citizens. Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) proposed to form a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the police’s alleged use of spyware. Her proposal was rejected by a vote of 10-14.

Israel’s police admitted that there were “anomalies” in the use of NSO software (Photo: Al-Ittihad)

The explanatory notes attached to the proposals state, “It was recently reported that Israel Police allegedly conducted a series of wiretappings and hackings of cell phones of Israeli citizens who are not criminals or suspects, without a court order and without the supervision of a judge. The use of the Pegasus program by the police and the hacking of cell phones is illegal and demands an immediate, in-depth and serious investigation. Such means should be used only in unique cases and after the required permits have been obtained.”

In addition, “we have witnessed recently an increase in the frequency of incidents involving the disproportional use of force by police officers against citizens without just cause. Such police violence causes harm to innocent people and severely undermines the public’s trust in the police. In the majority of these cases, it is minorities and the disadvantaged populations of society that are harmed the most… The recurrence of such incidents, as well as the documentation and testimonies, indicate that these are not specific ‘malfunctions,’ but are rather a result of a damaged policy, or at the very least, a negligent one.”

During the plenum debate MK Touma-Sliman said, “Pegasus has made us an open book to the branches of government. They have created a reality in which every citizen should fear that his/her phone is hacked, with all their personal details. Those who are familiar with the Israeli occupation and its practices know that such espionage has been part of the daily reality of Palestinians since the invention of the cell phone, and even prior to that.”

On Tuesday, for the first time, Israel’s police admitted that there were “anomalies” in the use of NSO software – as was revealed in an investigation published in Calcalist.  A statement issued by the police said, “In light of the publications on the subject, the Israel Police conducted investigations into cases in which it was alleged that the police carried out actions that exceeded their powers when wiretapping using technological means that allow communication between computers.”

According to Haaretz, the government is working on legislation to authorize the Shin Bet security services to use sophisticated surveillance technology such as spyware. The proposed amendment to the Shin Bet law, which is being drafted by the Justice Ministry and the domestic intelligence agency, is meant to legalize methods that the Shin Bet is currently using without authorization in law.