'False' police spyware allegations is media's 'Yom Kippur' - Alsheich

Former Israel Police commissioner Roni Alsheikh called on Thursday for Calcalist to reveal who fed it what he claimed were the false allegations that the Israel Police illegally spied on citizens.

Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh
(photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

Former Israel Police commissioner Roni Alsheich on Thursday called on the economic newspaper Calcalist to reveal the identity of the person who had fed it with what he claimed were false allegations regarding the police's use of spyware.

Alsheich, who was accused of spearheading the police's alleged infractions against a number of key figures, repeated in an interview on Kan Radio by Tamar Almog and Moti Gilat his prior claims that the entire affair was  'spin' and completely false.

He called the affair "the Yom Kippur [War] of Calcalist and the media outlets who followed in its wake."

Despite the episode, Alsheich reiterated his belief that spyware was important and essential for catching criminals.

He did not blame Calcalist itself but demanded that the newspaper reveal whoever fed it false information. He acknowledged the paper's right to hide its sources but claimed that in this case whoever was responsible for the false information should not be considered a source but rather someone with an agenda to disparage the police. He deemed the act "immoral" and argued that the public has a right to know who that person is.

 Shlomo Filber, former director general of the Communications Ministry at a conference of the Israeli newspaper ''Makor Rishon'' at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, February 21, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Shlomo Filber, former director general of the Communications Ministry at a conference of the Israeli newspaper ''Makor Rishon'' at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, February 21, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

When pressed on whether he was hinting at Netanyahu, Alsheich said that he was not an investigator and did want to hypothesize. He trusted those qualified to do so to get to the bottom of the affair, but said that Calcalist should reveal what it knew before a different news outlet finds out, arguing that it was Calcalists' "moral imperative."

Alsheich also did not deny that he was considering a libel suit because his name was smeared but said that law enforcement was more seriously hurt since people will only remember the headlines, and not what will be revealed later on.

In a series of reports beginning in January, Calcalist reported that the police's cyber unit had illegally infiltrated numerous cellphones without a warrant. It named a number of people related to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, including key state witness Shlomo Filber. It later named 26 people as being victims of police hacking, including three former government ministry director-generals and prominent businesspeople.

The police initially denied any wrongdoing. It stuck to its claim that no searches were conducted without a warrant but later admitted that while Filber's phone was hacked with a judge's consent, the police had extracted unwarranted information, such as his contact list. The material that was extracted illegally was not passed on to the prosecution.

An investigative team headed by Deputy Attorney General Amit Merari and aided by Shin Bet and Mossad cyber experts found that the police received approval and subsequently attempted to hack only three out of the 26 people named in the report, only one of which was successful. The team did not find any evidence of attempted unwarranted hacking and Calcalist did not provide any.