Ben-Sasson considering changing wiretap law

The head of the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on Wiretapping, MK Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima), said on Sunday he was considering new legislation aimed at imposing restrictions on wiretapping. "Wiretapping is an injurious investigation tool at the disposal of the police and it must be supervised so that it will not be used in a trivial manner," Ben-Sasson said during the committee's meeting. "Both the police and the courts wish to get to the truth as quickly as possible, but they might forget that at times the private discourse of innocent people is exposed for no good reason." According to figures presented at the meeting, Israeli courts approve about 1,200 wiretaps a year, compared to 1,800 in all of the United States. The authorities made 1,255 requests for wiretapping permits to the courts in 2006. The courts turned down seven. The panel was established on December 19, 2006, after it emerged that the state prosecution had not properly informed MK Haim Ramon, who is currently a deputy premier, and his counsel that police had wiretapped some of his conversations. The wiretapping occurred during an investigation into allegations that he had sexually harassed a female soldier in the prime minister's office in Tel Aviv on July 12, 2006. One proposal Ben-Sasson is considering would compel the police to report to the court that approved a wiretapping at the end of its investigation. Another possible provision would call on the police not to listen to all the conversations of target, but only those pertaining to the investigation. Ben-Sasson said he was also considering legislation appointing a retired judge to serve as a commissioner to oversee the entire practice of wiretapping. During the committee hearings, Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz testified that the resort to wiretapping was not exaggerated. "On the contrary," he told the committee on February 28, 2007, not enough use is made of this important tool. Without wiretapping, we cannot conduct a battle against organized and serious crime."