A draft resolution calling for the government to establish a judge-led investigation committee into the NSO Pegasus police spyware scandal was approved on Tuesday by the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, after revelations last Monday that evidence collected through spyware was presented to a court.
The draft vote, which was delayed from Monday, was approved by eight Knesset members in favor, with two opposed.
"I am very happy that the Law Committee under my chairmanship made a decision with the support of the coalition and opposition to call on the Israeli government to investigate the Pegasus Saga," Law Committee chairman Simcha Rothman said.
The resolution called to investigate the use of illegally procured information by law enforcement and the State Attorney General. Further the draft said that there should be a review of how aware police officials and judges were of the spyware's capabilities during the software's procurement and the issuance of warrants from the court.
The draft asserted that the 2021 report by Deputy Attorney-General Amit Merari, which was presented to the committee, still left lawmakers with many questions about the extent of police spying.
"A year and a half after the event, there is no one who can say that there is no innocent person sitting in prison on the basis of information that was illegally obtained by this system, that there is no case being conducted on the basis of this information and that the person responsible for these failures has been dealt with at the disciplinary or criminal level," Rothman said on Monday.
Rothman had said that the committee had accepted that there had been a sufficient accounting of the spyware's use, and that there had been no instances of illegally collected data used as evidence, but this was proven to be untrue.
Evidence obtained using spyware was used in double murder case
Monday and Tuesday's Law Committee sessions had been called for by Rothman in response to revelations last Monday that evidence obtained using spyware was presented by the prosecution in a Haifa double murder case. The Israel Police had used spyware ostensibly to intercept communications between two computers, but had accessed stored data and passed on the information to the prosecution.
Shas MK Erez Malul wanted to know if the Justice Ministry and police had done a thorough review to ensure that no one had already been convicted based on illegal evidence. A representative of the State Attorney's Office said that they had been doing checks in accordance with what was discussed in previous Law Committee hearings on the matter, when the Haifa situation appeared. They said that the evidence presented to the Haifa District Court was an exception.
The Police also described the incident as an abnormality, in which there were mistakes made with the settings of the tools. They said that the police were not hiding anything and would cooperate with the investigation, but unfortunately the police had fewer tools than in the past to fight crime.
Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar suggested that they wait for the audit by the State Comptroller, but Rothman said that the nation's auditor or the State Attorney's Office were the wrong bodies to investigate the matter. In case of criminal suspicions, the State Comptroller passed findings to the State Attorney, but Rothman said an independent investigation was needed because the State Attorney's Office's culpability was also in question.
The vote was delayed on Monday after Likud MK Moshe Saada refused to remove his proposal to have former Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit investigated for his decisions in how the spyware scandal itself would be investigated, which Saada said didn't include the Police Internal Investigations Unit.
"There are elements in the system who acted and are acting to whitewash the issue, and there are representatives of the legal system and the State Attorney's office who lied and continue to lie," said Saada.
The police are alleged to have used spyware in at least 1,080 instances, which allowed them to access a wide spectrum of data from phones and computers, including chat history, application data, and call logs. The Public Defender's Office has said that the wiretapping law does not permit the use of spyware, and only applies to physical devices intercepting transmissions.