Justice Minister Says Newsmen’s Phones Were Bugged

Justice Minister Yaacov Shimshon Shapiro admitted in the Knesset today that the phones of journalists have been tapped by Israeli authorities to find out how certain items of information that appeared in the press were obtained. Shapiro, who declared that the time has come to regulate wire-tapping by law. quoted the Minister of Police as saying that 13 telephone taps were made last year and four were made during the first five months of this year.

He didn’t say whose phones were tapped. But according to the Justice Minister, the Defense and Police Ministries and the secret service (Shin Bet) engaged in wire-tapping only with the authorization of senior officers or the secret service chief himself. It was done, Shapiro said. only in cases of “State security or severe criminal acts,” in a few extreme cases, where grave harm had been caused to State security. Shapiro attributed the decision to the Defense and Police Ministers and the head of the secret service themselves.

He told the Knesset that he hoped the proper legislation would be passed soon to regulate wire-tapping. He said he had circulated a draft bill proposal among government departments as long ago as March, 1970, but was persuaded not to submit a bill to the Knesset then on grounds that the tense military situation made such legislation inappropriate at the time.

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