Likud's Elkin hopes to bring US-style parliamentary oversight of intel agencies

The Likud MK points out that, currently, only the head of the Shin Bet is required by law to appear before the Knesset Subcommittee on Intelligence, four times per year.

September 16, 2014 19:32
1 minute read.

Elkin meets with Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein. (photo credit: OFFICE OF MK ELKIN)

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will increase its oversight on intelligence agencies, committee chairman Ze’ev Elkin announced Tuesday.

Elkin (Likud) met with Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-California) on a trip to Washington to strengthen ties between his panel and its counterparts in the US Congress.

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In recent months, the senator’s relations with US intelligence agencies grew tense, as Feinstein accused the CIA of monitoring the committee. In July, an internal CIA investigation found that the agency was spying on Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers.

Feinstein discussed the issue with Elkin and gave him a book on how Congress oversees intelligence agencies.

Elkin said after the meeting that he hopes to “start thinking thoroughly about how to pass laws on this topic in Israel.”

“One of the central issues that recently arose, mostly in Operation Protective Edge, was the gap between the information intelligence agencies have and that which reaches relevant MKs,” he explained. “From here we understand the need to regulate in legislation full transparency and parliamentary oversight, which will clearly define what intelligence agencies must present, to whom they must report, what is the executive branch’s authority to limit access [to information], what kinds of materials can be confidential and who decides such things.”

“When the information is presented in this way to MKs, they will be able to study it and ask the right questions and do their basic job in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which is the only democratic tool to oversee intelligence agencies,” Elkin added.

The MK pointed out that, currently, only the head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) is required by law to appear before the Knesset Subcommittee on Intelligence, four times per year, but the law does not say what he must report. The instructions for other agencies are vague.

Elkin and Feinstein also discussed Operation Protective Edge. The MK described the far-reaching measures the IDF takes to avoid harming civilians in Gaza and compared it to British and American actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The two also discussed Hamas’s use of women and children as human shields, often in civilian structures such as schools and hospitals, and Feinstein sharply criticized Hamas.

Elkin invited Feinstein to the Knesset, and expressed hope that their committees will continue the dialogue.

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