Secret Agents and the Rule of Law

Haim Watzman

Doing press for even the nicest Western secret internal security agency would be a job from hell. Even the best-intentioned, humanist secret security agents must do a lot of unpalatable things to keep the citizens of their countries safe and happy. So when I, an Israeli citizen, criticize the Israel Security Agency (which is what the organization otherwise known as the Shin Bet, Shabak, or General Security Service calls itself on its website) I do so with due gratitude for the benefits I derive from their work.

But when the ISA publishes, on its Hebrew home page, an accusation equating document-leaking with espionage, and making out like it, unlike (ick!) newspaper reporters, is concerned only with the security of the state, then it’s time to say, hey guys, your horse ain’t as high as you think.

Yes, ISA agents are self-sacrificing patriots. But the agency’s record is certainly not pure white innocence. Most famously, in the “Bus 300 Affair” the agency was caught covering up an illegal, immoral extrajudicial murder. Yes, the terrorist (who was subdued and presented no danger to the agents) deserved to die, but no, in a democracy we can’t have security personnel deciding who deserves to live and who to die.

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