Photo Credit: Flash90
Judge Moshe Drori will head the investigative committee on police misconduct in the Pegasus affair.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin announced Thursday night the establishment of a governmental investigation committee to examine the use of cyber tools by law enforcement authorities in collecting criminal evidence. Levin will ask the government to grant investigative powers to the committee.

The committee will be led by former district judge Moshe Drori. The other two members will be former national public defender Inbal Rubinstein, and Shalom Ben Hanan, who was head of a division in the Shin Bet. The committee is expected to deliver its conclusions to the Justice Minister within six months from the date of its establishment.


“The citizens of Israel are entitled to privacy and any investigative procedure being conducted in accordance to the law, concerning the rights of the interrogated, witnesses, and everyone concerned,” Levin said, adding, “The accelerating technological developments require the provision of appropriate technological tools to the enforcement authorities to fight crime and corruption.” However, “the use of these tools must be controlled and regulated with deep supervision, and the prosecution of those who use and misuse these tools illegally.”

In late January 2022, the NY Times revealed that in 2017, Israel approved the sale to Saudi Arabia of Pegasus, the spyware developed by NSO Group that can be covertly installed on mobile phones.

And then came a nuclear boom, when Calcalist revealed on February 7 that Israel Police used NSO’s Pegasus spyware to track, without a court order, politicians, senior businessmen, CEOs of government ministries, mayors, executives of giant corporations, journalists, organizers of protests of almost every kind, advisers to the prime minister and his family, political activists, the disabled, and Ethiopians.

Former Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh reportedly introduced the broad use of Pegasus after he came over from the Shin Bet. / Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

A couple of days later, in February 2022, former Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh––who came to the job from the ranks of the Shin Bet––stated that the police do not possess NSO’s Pegasus software and that all surveillance was being carried out under the warrants.

“All the names that were published, without exception, were thoroughly checked by the Israel Police and there was none and it was not created.”

The Drori Committee will hopefully report that the commissioner lied, in keeping with the old method of finding out whether the police commissioner is lying on TV: pay close attention to him and when he moves his lips – he’s lying.

According to Calcalist, the sterile code name for this largely illegal operation was “Technology and Data-Oriented Policing.” But behind this scrubbed headline hid a chilling reality in both its essence and its inconceivable scope. And, according to Calcalist, the staff of the Police Special Cyber-Signet Division had been invading people’s phones for years, secretly and without court orders, using Pegasus (“Saifan” in police jargon) with the understanding that judges would never approve such conduct.

The analysts working for the police cyber-signing unit who carried out the orders to illegally track down protesters were told they were gathering early intelligence over “fear of harm to the public order.”

Here’s an important point: the intelligence that was collected without a court order could not be used as such, and so, according to Calcalist, police investigators had to whitewash the data and pretend that it came from legal investigations – like painting the bullseye around the arrow on the wall.

At the top of the Pegasus pyramid stood the Commissioner, former deputy head of the Shin Bet, Roni Alsheikh (appointed by Netanyahu), and under him the head of the Signet Brigade, Lt. Gen. Yoav Hassan, and the head of the technology department, Yosef Kahlon, both of them graduates of the legendary IDF Intelligence Unit 8200.

In January 2022, then-Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered the establishment of an investigation team for the Pegasus case, to track Calcalist’s claims that the police illegally spied on 26 citizens, including public figures, journalists, and witnesses. Mandelblit appointed Deputy Prosecutor Amit Merari to head the team, together with two former Shin Bet members: Tzafir Katz, former head of the service’s technology division, and Eyal Dagan, former head of the service’s investigations division. Representatives from the Mossad were later added to the team.

Drori, who is slated to head Levin’s committee, at the time slammed Mandelblit’s choice to appoint Merari to head the committee, saying the AG can’t be serious, “Can a person examine herself? After all, she is an active player in this matter.”

Drori demanded an external investigative body, declaring: “If the government has the guts, an investigative committee should be established.”

Well, the last government had its own version of guts, but it looks like the one that replaced it will do the job, God willing.


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