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Barlev directs Public Security Ministry to reevaluate wiretap and search laws

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

This studio photographic illustration shows a smartphone with the website of Israel's NSO Group which features 'Pegasus' spyware, on display in Paris, on July 21, 2021. (Joel Saget/AFP)
This studio photographic illustration shows a smartphone with the website of Israel's NSO Group which features 'Pegasus' spyware, on display in Paris, on July 21, 2021. (Joel Saget/AFP)

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev has instructed his ministry to reevaluate the legal and oversight infrastructure surrounding investigative wiretap and search.

The directive comes days after explosive reports broke that police used the NSO Group’s powerful Pegasus software to obtain unfettered access to the phones of Israel civilians. A wide swath of parliamentary and civil society voices called for examination of the claims and oversight over police usage of phone-monitoring technology.

“I instructed the legal entities in the Public Security Ministry and my bureau staff to conduct an examination of the existing arrangements, including the Wiretapping Law and the search law,” Barlev says in a statement. “This is to examine the need to make adjustments, in order to be exacting and clarify the limits of what is allowed and prohibited in the use of advanced technological means for enforcement purposes. If necessary, my ministry will formulate a government bill, in coordination with the Justice Ministry.”

Barlev explains his directive by calling the existing laws outdated and not fit to address today’s technological capabilities.

“The existing legal arrangements regarding wiretapping and search operations as part of police enforcement operations are old,” says Barlev. “There is justification for examining whether to update the arrangements in light of the technological developments we have witnessed in recent years and the adaptation of legislation to the 21st century.”

The police have held a consistent line in official responses, claiming that they have only used surveillance technology within the bounds of proper oversight and court orders.

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