Shin Bet

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Group.png Shin Bet   PowerbaseRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
AbbreviationEnglish: ISA, Local: Shabak - Hebrew: שב״כ, Arabic: شاباك
Mottoמגן ולא יראהMagen veLo Yera'e The Defender that shall not be seen, The unseen shield
FormationFebruary 8, 1949
LeaderDirector of The Shin Bet
Typeintelligence agency

The Israel Security Agency or General Security Agency, known in Hebrew as Shabak (an abbreviation for Sherut ha-Bitachon ha-Klali) or Shin Bet, is the Israeli counterintelligence and internal security service.[1]

The 'Tool'

On 15 March 2020, the Israeli government introduced emergency regulations granting Shin Bet permission to use what it calls the 'Tool' – essentially a secret intelligence database where information about every citizen is constantly collected – to track COVID-19 patients and those around them. According to an investigative report by journalists Ronen Bergman and Ido Shvartztuch published on 27 March by Yedioth Ahronoth, while the database was originally intended to be used in the war against terrorism, the possibility of it being used for other purposes poses a real threat to civil liberties. One unnamed former top Shin Bet officer was quoted in the piece as saying:

“The 'Tool' has saved countless of Israeli lives. It is hard to imagine us waging the war against terrorism or our efforts to expose espionage without it.”

As part of this investigation, an unnamed senior manager of cyber technologies at the Ministry of Communications said:

“Communication companies are required by law to provide all information deemed necessary to the security services. Every conversation that takes place leaves a record in the communication companies’ systems. This record contains lots of data, including the phone number that initiated the conversation, the target of that conversation, the phone number of that conversation’s target, the location of that phone and the location of towers through which the call was initiated. The same is true of the phone receiving the call. The phone location is recorded even if the owner of the phone does not accept the conversation or sends a text. The network knows exactly where the person is at any given moment.”

The investigation also revealed that the five members of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee’s Subcommittee for Intelligence are aware of the Shin Bet's activity as well as the heads of the various branches of Israel’s security services such as the Minister of Defence, chief of staff, director of the Shin Bet and director of the Mossad. And, of course, the prime minister. It was Benjamin Netanyahu who initiated the use of the database in the fight against the coronavirus, and in doing so, made its existence public knowledge.[2]

On 12 May 2020, the BBC reported:

Israel has made extensive use of surveillance technology to try tackle COVID-19, as countries around the world grapple with the trade-off between privacy and monitoring infection. The Shin Bet can access the location data of millions of mobile phone users to trace those who have been in proximity to confirmed patients. Israel credits the system, among other measures, with reducing the rate of infection.

"It is precisely now when we need this 'Tool' to break the chain of contagion and permit the people to go on with their lives," said National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat at a parliamentary oversight committee last week.[3]






Related Quotation

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