Israel to Expand Security Agency Powers

The Israeli government is proposing an amendment to the law governing the authority and operation of the Israel Security Agency (ISA), colloquially known as “Shabak”. The proposal introduces a significant expansion of the agency’s powers, particularly in the areas of intelligence collection and surveillance.

The proposal establishes a legal basis for the use of advanced surveillance tools, similar to NSO’s “Pegasus”, enabling the ISA to covertly access and collect data from various databases in Israel. The proposed amendment is designed to address scenarios where obtaining information through ordinary investigative methods would undermine the clandestine nature of intelligence operations.

Key aspects of the proposal include:

  • The ISA will have authorization to conduct offensive operations in cyberspace. Additionally, the Ministerial Committee for ISA Affairs can grant the ISA additional data-related powers for up to one year.
  • The Prime Minister will have the authority to approve an ISA request to clandestinely access or collect necessary information from databases to neutralize threats against national security. The Prime Minister will be required to consult the Attorney General on these requests, but the Prime Minister is not required to follow the Attorney General’s advice.
  • The collection of particularly sensitive information, such as medical, genetic, and financial data, along with biometric identifiers, will be restricted. However, exceptions are permitted for extracting and using biometric data, subject to privacy minimization guidelines.
  • The draft law amends existing sections of the ISA law relating to computer searches. It authorizes the ISA to conduct covert searches on computers and mobile devices when less intrusive methods are not feasible. These searches, facilitated by spyware, are subject to specific conditions, including the requirement of a judicial order when they involve computers of certain privileged professions, such as lawyers or doctors.
  • The Prime Minister may authorize the ISA to conduct operations on computers, including disrupting or altering computer data, under conditions deemed essential for national security.

Click here to read the proposed amendment (in Hebrew).