Foreign citizens visiting Israel may be asked to open their email accounts for airport security when they land at Ben Gurion Airport, the Israeli Attorney-General’s Office stated Wednesday in response to a petition by a leading Israeli civil rights group.
“The threat of using foreign citizens for terrorist purposes is a growing trend,” the Attorney-General’s Office warned, in a missive to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which had petitioned the Israeli Justice Ministry to overrule such security measures over concerns that they were invasive and against Israeli law. “Searching an email account is to be carried out in exceptional cases only after suspicious or pertinent information has been identified.”
Though the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) can request access to an email account before the passenger passes customs and leaves the airport, it cannot demand passwords or personal information that would allow the agency itself to access private accounts. Rather, Shin Bet staff may ask the traveler to open his or her account in view of security personnel, who can then check emails for incriminating evidence that may be relevant to issues of public or national security, wrote lawyer Nadim Avod on behalf of the Attorney-General’s Office.
In addition, the traveler can refuse access to his or her personal email to security personnel, but Shin Bet agents at Ben-Gurion airport can consequently deny the traveler entry to Israel. Avod cited the law of entry to Israel, written in 1952, which states that a foreigner does not have the explicit right to enter the country. The relevant authorities decide who can enter and who cannot, and in such cases of exceptional suspicion, access to private email may be required.
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