Israelis to Americans: Get used to being spied on

Monday, June 10, 2013 |  Ryan Jones

As Israelis watch the unfolding Internet spying scandal in the US, the local response has been fairly unanimous: We're used to it, and Americans should probably get used to it, as well.

Israelis live in what most Americans would probably consider a constant state of "red alert," considering the unrelenting security threats faced by the nation. In light of that, most Israelis have resigned themselves to the fact that their government and local authorities are keeping close tabs on them, and that individual privacy is little more than an illusion, at least when it comes to communications.

A report in the Times of Israel noted that in 2009, for instance, the Israel Police filed 9,000 requests for personal information from local cellphone and Internet companies. The companies, including Google, were compelled to provide that information even without a warrant, and even though thousands of the requests had nothing to do with terrorist threats or criminal violence.

A year earlier, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel had filed a lawsuit against the government and the compliant companies, demanding an end to unchecked surveillance of personal communications. The courts threw the case out, prompting the government to seek even broader powers.

Today in Israel, the police, the various national security agencies, the army, the tax authorities, the Environment Ministry and even the National Parks Authority have the right to request, without a warrant, private and personal communications from average citizens.

And yet, there is little, if any, local outcry. "Israelis are used to being spied on all the time," Jonathan Klinger, a lawyer specializing in media and technology, wrote on his personal blog. "As Israelis, the authority of the American agencies sounds like a joke."

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