Shin Bet has been tracking cellphones for years, report says

According to the report, the top-secret program was not subject to legislation or regulations and was conducted without the knowledge of the Knesset or the cellphone companies.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency has secretly tracked most citizens’ cellphones for at least two and a half years in a program aimed at combating the ISIS terror organization, Channel 13 News reported Sunday.

According to the report, the top-secret program was not subject to legislation or regulations and was conducted without the knowledge of the Knesset or the cellphone companies.

The program was approved by a small committee set up in the Ministry of Justice, headed by former state attorney Shai Nitzan. At some point, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit signed off on it as well.

At first, the Shin Bet received permission to spy on Israelis for a six-month period, but that permission was repeatedly renewed for at least two and a half years.

It is unknown whether the program is still active today.

When significant information was obtained through the cellphone data, requests would be made for wiretapping warrants or other orders, but judges were not informed of how the initial information was gathered.

“The Shin Bet’s methods in its fight against terror and in general are classified by law, and exposing them could cause serious damage to national security,” the Ministry of Justice responded in a statement.

“Legal issues related to the service’s activity are frequently brought for the examination and approval of the attorney general or his representatives,” the statement said.

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The secret surveillance program apparently existed long before the Shin Bet’s controversial tracking of coronavirus patients, which began this spring.

Permission for the security agency to track patients has been renewed several times since March until finally being passed into law by the Knesset on July 20.

Many Israelis have appealed what they believed to be erroneous orders to enter quarantine based on the cellphone data.