Alex Fishman
Alex Fishman
Photo: Ynet
Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Keep the Shin Bet out of Israelis' lives

Opinion: The security service's chief has urged ministers to find a solution to need to track people exposed to COVID-19; the state must guarantee that this happens, for the agency must never be seen to interfere in civilian life

Alex Fishman |
Published: 06.23.20 , 23:53
The head of the Shin Bet domestic security service, Nadav Argaman, has told ministers that they must keep his organization out of the business of tracking civilians after it had previously monitored the movements of COVID-19 patients at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
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  • Argaman opposed renewing or legislating for a controversial program that would allow the security service to use sensitive personal data to track coronavirus carriers, using methods normally reserved for counter-terrorist operations.
    בנימין נתניהו ונדב ארגמןבנימין נתניהו ונדב ארגמן
    Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    (Photo: GPO)
    The Shin Bet chief was speaking to ministers on the so-called "coronavirus cabinet" - and while officials were outraged when recordings of his comments were leaked to the media, the revelation of his point of view is good for the country.
    "What I am asking is that the Shin Bet not be included in legislation [to track civilians]," Argaman is heard saying.
    "What is needed is training that the Shin Bet is willing to provide as a solution, in the event that there is an outbreak… so there can be a civilian response for the State of Israel in the coming years."
    Former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon Former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon
    Former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    Ami Ayalon, who headed the Shin Bet from 1996 to 2000 after completing his military service, was taken aback by the power the agency had over the lives of Israeli civilians.
    Ayalon defined the boundaries he believed should be in place and removed the organization's involvement in matters such as vetting journalists who cover security affairs and other issues he considered to be overreach.
    Ayalon's term at the helm solidified Shin Bet's organizational values. Its mission is to protect the national and security interests of the nation, but its leadership is burdened with ensuring there is no misuse of its power.
    Enlisting the Shin Bet to track the movements of Israelis was decided on at the height of the pandemic and was approved for a limited time using emergency measures.
    מתחם היבדק וסע לבדיקות קורונה בתל אביבמתחם היבדק וסע לבדיקות קורונה בתל אביב
    A coronavirus testing site in Tel Aviv
    (Photo: Nitzan Dror)
    The organization succeeded in locating one-third of those infected by COVID-19 from mid-March to the end of May with 95% accuracy.
    The Supreme Court ruled legislation must be put in place to ensure the information collected is not misused.
    Argaman also believes that further tracking must be handed over to civilian hands and the Shin Bet has offered to help.
    The organization must never be sullied by allegations it is serving an illegitimate political or anti-democratic purpose.

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