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ACRI Petitions High Court: GSS Authority Expanded In Violation of Law

The response to ACRI’s Freedom of Information Request has made clear that the General Security Service’s designated functions has been nearly doubled since 2004, without amending the corresponding GSS Law and without informing the public or even the majority of the Knesset. ACRI petitioned today, July 20, 2021, stating that “extending the GSS powers behind closed doors to heights unknown threatens democracy, human rights, and is against the law.”

ACRI’s petition calls on the High Court of Justice to repeal the government’s decisions to expand the GSS’ functions from six to ten, in violation of the GSS Law. The petition includes data from ACRI’s previous Freedom of Information, which relays that as of 2004, the government authorized the GSS to perform four additional functions beyond the six roles designated in the corresponding law. This expansion of powers was done in secret, without publication or public discussion.

The government did as much by relying on a basket clause in the GSS law authorizing it to designate an additional GSS function. The most recent such task the government assigned the GSS via this basket clause was the contact-tracing during COVID-19. The High Court ruled in April 2021 on a number of related petitions, one of which ACRI submitted, that the basket clause allowing the government to authorize the GSS for an additional such role was to be used solely in circumstances when there is an immediate, unexpected danger, and for a limited period. Further, the High Court ruled that in order for the GSS to track civilians, the process must be legislated, and cannot be authorized entirely by a government decision.

Attorney Gil Gan-Mor, director of ACRI’s Civil and Social Rights units: “There are security threats that cannot be anticipated and must be addressed and thwarted immediately, without waiting for legislation. But as is now made apparent, over the years the desire for flexibility has been exploited by the government for the permanent expansion of the GSS's functions and powers, regardless of urgent operational needs, and while bypassing the Knesset. The GSS has the awesome potential to seriously violate human rights, including the possibility of wiretapping, online surveillance, investigations, and more, and therefore the GSS law was enacted in 2002 - in order to define its functions and make its powers transparent. Extending the GSS powers behind closed doors to heights unknown threatens democracy, human rights, and is against the law.

HCJ 5048/21

Attorney: Gil Gan-Mor


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