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Shin Bet have been secretly spying on Israelis’ phones for years

An Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group, on 28 August 2016, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]
An Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group, on 28 August 2016, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. [JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images]

Israel’s internal security agency, Shin Bet, has been secretly tracking Israeli citizens for at least two and a half years and had access to their phones’ content, which may still be ongoing as part of a programme to fight Daesh, reported Channel 13.

According to the report, the programme, under which the phones of “the majority” of Israelis were subject to monitoring by the Shin Bet, was not approved by the Knesset which cited anonymous sources.

The actual name of the programme is classified, and is therefore referred to as “Dark Box.”

The Dark Box programme was reported to be approved by a team of senior Justice Ministry officials, headed by then-state attorney Shai Nitzan as well as Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, but was not subject to parliamentary oversight, legislation, or any regulations.

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The report did not say exactly what type of data was gathered, though it stated that the security service tapped into databases held by mobile phone companies to store information without the companies’ approval.

When the Shin Bet found useful information, they would file requests with judges to issue wiretap orders or other orders, but would not inform the judges how the initial information was collected, reported The Jerusalem Post.

This comes after Israel’s parliament last week authorised the intelligence agency to track the phones of coronavirus carriers and those they are in contact with for the rest of the year amid a resurgence in new cases.

“The Shin Bet’s methods of operation in the fight against terrorism and in general are confidential by the law and their exposure could lead to serious damage to state security,” said the Justice Ministry to Channel 13. 

“Legal issues are often raised regarding the activity of the service for the examination and approval of the Attorney-General or someone on his behalf.”

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