• thawra abukhdeir

Limit the ISA's Surveillance Authorities Over Citizens and Residents

ACRI submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice on May 31, 2022, demanding that Article 11 of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) Law be repealed or that a series of amendments be made to it to limit the authorities granted therein. An ACRI investigation into the matter revealed that the vague legal article led to the development of a powerful secret surveillance program over the country’s citizens and residents. This program was exposed due to its use for contact tracing throughout the period of the COVID-19 pandemic. The petition claims that this program is atypical in comparison to democratic countries and gravely violates citizens’ privacy and liberty.

The surveillance program includes the ongoing sweeping collection of all national citizens’ communication data from telecommunication companies, which it stores in the ISA database. In the current era, wherein we all leave a digital trail behind us with each step we take, the comprehensive collection of communication data grants the ISA unprecedented power in spying on citizens. From the moment the information is stored, ISA employees search and process personal information, without a judicial order, secretly, and without oversight. This data can reveal highly sensitive information on each and every individual, including locations, sexual tendencies, social relationships, political opinions, participation in demonstrations, browsing data, and may also serve to identify journalistic sources.

The petition points to a series of grave flaws in the surveillance program: the law is vague and does not include explicit authorization for the sweeping collection of communication data and its storage in a database; extensive use of covert regulations established by the Prime Minister through bypassing the Knesset; authorizing ISA employees to search the database without a judicial warrant; the absence of an explicit legal mechanism on professional confidentiality, and in particular journalists’ source confidentiality; broad use of the system for tasks such as assessing candidates for public positions, and not solely to prevent a security breach; the absence of any system to oversee the database or searches conducted therein; and more. ACRI believes that each of these deficiencies alone, and certainly their cumulative effect, necessitates the annulment of the surveillance program in its current form.