Israel Police admits spying on Israeli citizens, says it was legal

The police did not deny that it spied on citizens, as reported in Calcalist, but denies that it was done illegally.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

The Israel Police is denying it illegally used espionage tools developed by the NSO Company to track citizens.

According to a bombshell report by Calcalist, the Israel Police uses NSO’s Pegasus spyware to remotely hack into the phones of Israeli citizens without proper search or tapping orders. The operations were carried out by the Special Operations Team in the police Signet cyber unit, which activities are secretive.

According to the report, NSO’s Pegasus system was purchased by the police in December 2013, during the tenure of Commissioner Yohanan Danino, and became operational during the period of the subsequent commissioner, Roni Alsheikh.

Following the publication, the police stated Tuesday that “there is no basis for the allegations in the article.”

“All police activity in this area is in accordance with the law, on the basis of court orders and strict work procedures. In this area, there are increased supervision and control systems within and outside the organization,” the statement said.

“We are sorry for the attempt to cause damage to police activities without basis. The Israel Police will continue to act resolutely to enforce the law in the State of Israel,” it added.

The police did not deny that it spied on citizens but said that the tapping was done legally.

Minister of Internal Security Omer Barlev claimed that he checked into the issue and found that “there is no practice of wiretapping, or intrusion into devices by the Israel Police without the approval of a judge.”

“At the same time, I intend to make sure that there is no ’rounding of corners’ on the subject of NSO and that everything is checked and approved by a judge to the finest details,” he added.

Member of Knesset Merav Ben Ari, chair of the Knesset Internal Security Committee, announced she will schedule an emergency discussion on findings.

NSO’s software has become notorious in recent years after being used by oppressive regimes to track dissidents and political opponents.