Israel Rebuffs Criticism Over E-Mail Checks at Airport

Civil RIghts Groups Blast 'Drastic Invasion of Privacy'

E-Mail Invasion? Israel is legendary for its tight airport security. But is it going too far by demanding that some passengers show their private e-mails?
getty images
E-Mail Invasion? Israel is legendary for its tight airport security. But is it going too far by demanding that some passengers show their private e-mails?

By Reuters

Published April 24, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Israel’s top legal adviser on Wednesday rebuffed criticism of authorities for asking travellers entering the Jewish state to show border officers their emails, saying the checks affecting only certain foreign nationals were lawful.

Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein’s written legal opinion was given in response to a query by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) which first questioned the practice last year.

On Wednesday the group called the checks a “drastic invasion of privacy … not befitting a democracy”.

Israel’s security agencies have been keen to stop pro-Palestinian activists they suspect may be planning anti-Israel activities in the occupied West Bank or inside the Jewish state.

Weinstein said officers of the internal undercover security service, the Shin Bet, needed “to establish or dispel suspicion against prospective foreign nationals wishing to enter Israel who show initial suspicious signs”.

He said officers were not allowed to access email accounts without the consent of the owner and added that travellers could refuse to cooperate. This did not necessarily mean they would automatically be barred entry.

“The traveller is not asked to reveal passwords … but opens the account on their own. The traveller has a full right to refuse the search and will not be forced to comply, although this will be taken into account when the authorities decide whether to allow the person to enter Israel,” he said.

Marc Grey, an ACRI attorney, said the issue was not so much the matter of revealing the email account’s password but the actual perusal of the private content in the mailbox.

“Passwords are not the issue, email accounts are about as private as it gets,” Grey told Reuters.

He said he did not know how many travellers to Israel had been asked to open their email accounts.

Lila Margalit, another ACRI attorney, said travellers were not on an equal footing when they faced questioning.

“A tourist … to Israel (who is) interrogated at the airport by Shin Bet agents and told to grant access to their email account, is in no position to give free and informed consent. Such ‘consent’, given under threat of deportation, cannot serve as a basis for such a drastic invasion of privacy,” she wrote in an email distributed on Wednesday.

“Allowing security agents to take such invasive measures at their own discretion and on the basis of such flimsy ‘consent’ is not befitting of a democracy.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.