Shin Bet

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Shabak emblem "Defender who shall not be seen"
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Shabak emblem "Defender who shall not be seen"

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The SHABAK (in Hebrew, שב"כ "Shabak" an acronym of "Sherut ha-Bitachon ha-Klali" שירות ביטחון כללי) known abroad as the Shin Bet or the GSS (General Security Service), is the Internal General Security Service of Israel. Its motto is "מגן ולא יראה" whose translation is: "Defender (Shield) who shall not be seen".

Contents

Duties and roles

The SHABAK duties are:

One of the Shin Bet's roles is to protect the lives of senior Israeli ministers and public servants (such as the President of Israel). The Shin Bet is also responsible for preventing the funding of underground movements and terror groups whose members are Israeli citizens. It accomplishes this goal by using interrogations and secret agents (HUMINT).

Legal status and methods

The Shabak relies mainly on HUMINT to extract information and gather intelligence. It uses informants from the local population in order to gather intelligence about planned terror attacks or about the location of terror leaders. Shabak had overwhelming success with informants, managing to target the top terror leaders of the Palestinian terror organizations - including hardliners such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. The killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abed al-Aziz Rantissi shows how deeply Shabak has penetrated into the Palestinian militias. As a result, the Palestinians groups, mainly the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades started lynching suspected collaborators and killing them on the street without a trial.

Shabak also extract information by interrogating suspects. Until the 1980's Shabak used controversial methods, which included beatings. However, in 1987, after complaints about excessive use of violence in interrogations of Palestinian prisoners, the Landoy Committee (headed by chief supreme judge) published a report setting criteria for lawful interrogation methods. The report allowed Shabak to apply "moderate physical pressure" only in the case of "a ticking bomb" - i.e. a terrorist attack which is about to occur soon, and urgent efforts must be taken in order to thwart it. In 1999 the Israeli Supreme Court (Bagatz) discussed Shabak interrogation methods and ruled that physical pressure is not allowed. In the Justice Ministry, the Department For Special Roles (http://www.justice.gov.il/MOJHeb/PraklitotHamedina/MehozotHapraklitutVehamachlakot/HamachlakaLetafkidimMeyuhadim/), there is a senior investigator who checks complaints about Shabak interrogations. As a result, Shabak is now basing its interrogations on psychological means and has become very effective in applying psychological pressure. However, complaints about physical pressure continue.

In 2002 the Israeli Knesset passed a law, regulating the activity of Shabak. The law ruled that:

  • The Prime Minister of Israel is in charge of the Shabak and carries ministerial responsibility for its activity. The head of the Shabak answer to the prime minister.
  • The Shabak head will serve 5 years in duty, unless there is a state of emergency.
  • Interrogation methods: this part was not made public.

History

Foundation

With the declaration of Israeli Independence, the Shin Bet was founded, as a branch of the Israeli Defence Forces, and was headed by Iser Harel (the father of Israeli Intelligence, who later headed the Mossad). Responsibility for Shin Bet activity was later moved from the IDF to the office of the prime minister. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war which resulted in Israeli independence, the Shin Bet's responsibility included only internal security affairs. It was only later that its responsibilities were extended to Counter-espionage and the monitoring of Israeli Arabs (Arabs who remained in Israel after the 1948 war of Israeli independence and who were granted Israeli citizenship).

Early days

In the beginning, as part of the efforts to prevent undermining activity, the Shin Bet also monitored pro-Soviet opposition parties, which were suspected of supporting the Soviet Union over Israel if the Cold War would become an active full scale war. Today, this kind of activity is considered harming to democracy. The political leadership, headed by David Ben-Gurion, made sure to silence publications that dealt with those activities, which were published only in Haolam Hazeh newspaper by Uri Avneri. A great controversy was created, when two Shin Bet agents were caught installing a bugging device in Meir Yeari's office (Yeari was the leader of Mapam - a Socialist Zionist party, but with favorable reviews on the Soviet Union and Joseph Stalin).

Up until the Six Day War, the Shin Bet continued to focus on counter-espionage and monitoring terrorist activity among the Israeli Arabs. Shabak's most notable achievement in counter-espionage was the capture of Dr Israel Bar in 1961 who was revealed to be a Soviet spy. Bar was a Lieutenant Colonel in the reserves, a senior security commantator and close friend of Ben-Gurion, and reached high Israeli circles. Bar was tried and sentence to life in prison, where he died. In the same year, Kurt Sita, a Christian German from the Sudets and a professor in the Technion, was revealed as a Czech spy.

After the Six Day War

After the Six Day War, Shabak efforts to monitor terrorist activity in the occupied territories become a more and more dominant part of the organization activity, and today it is considered to be the major part of Shabak's mission. Yeshayahu Leibowitz warned that the control over the territories will turn Israel into a "Shabak state". However, Shabak imposed restrictions on itself in order to not harm democratic values, separation of authorities and to prevent the risk that Shabak will be used in a totalitarian manner.

Years of crisis

During 1984-1986 Shabak went into a major crisis following the Kav 300 affair in which two terrorists who hijacked a bus and took hostages were executed without trial by Shabak officers, who later covered up the event and gave false testimonies. Following this affair, Avraam Shalom (then the head of Shabak) was forced to resign.

The event resulted in the Landoy committee, which regulated Shabak interrogation methods.

In 1995 a crisis followed the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin by Yigal Amir. Following the Shabak's failure to protect Rabin, Carmi Gillon was forced to resign. Later, the Shamgar investigation committee learned of serious flaws in the personal security unit and the provocative and inciting behavior of Avishay Raviv - an Agent provocateur of the Shin Bet Jewish Unit. Raviv obtained a "photoshopped" picture of Rabin in an SS uniform, created by two Chabaniks, and presented it in the infamous Zion Square demonstration in Jerusalem prior to Rabin's murder.

Gillon was replaced by outside "import", Israeli Navy admiral Ami Ayalon. Ayalon rehabilitated Shabak after Rabin's murder and worked hard to restore its reputation with the general public.

In 1996, a unit of the Shabak assassinated Hamas chief bombmaker Yahya Ayyash by planting explosive device in his cellular phone. The operation was carried out after an instruction by then Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

During the al-Aqsa Intifada

In 2002, Ayalon ended his 5-years term and he was replaced by veteran Shabak official, Avi Dichter. Dichter, an ex-Sayeret Matkal commando and excell Shabak agent, restored Shabak good reputation and tighten the cooperation with the Israeli Defence Forces and the Israeli police. Foreign press hinted that Shabak is working tightly with the Israeli elite CT unit YAMAM.

Dichter was in charge when the al-Aqsa Intifada erupted. He managed to react quickly to changes and turn Shabak into a prominent player in Israel's war against Palestinian terrorism which plagued Israeli cities after the collapse of the 2000 Camp David Summit.

The Shin Bet is most known for its role in the conflict against Palestinian terrorists. The Shin Bet produces intelligence which enables the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to prevent suicide bombings before they reach their destinations. This is usually done by preventive arrests and deploying road blocks when there is a serious alert.

Beside of preventing suicide bombings from the West Bank by arrests and special operations, Shabak is working tightly with the Israeli Air Force in order to pinpoint and kill terror masterminds and terrorist leaders by precision air strike. The targets are field commanders and senior leaders of Palestinian militant factions (which Israel consider as terrorists), mainly those of Hamas, but also of the Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Fatah and even one Al-Qaeda linkman (Iad Al-Bik). These assassinations, called "targeted killings", are usually done by helicopter gunships, where both IAF commanders and Shabak agents sit together in the command center monitoring the operation. Shabak task is giving intelligence when and where the target will be available for strike (i.e. out in the open, without civilians around him) and then reacting to IAF drone feedback and ensure the men on the sight are indeed the wanted terrorists (this part called "identification and incrimination").

In addition, Shabak uncovered dozens of terrorist group within the Israeli Arab population - most were guided by the Iranian-Lebanese group Hizbullah and by Palestinian terrorist factions such as al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Israeli Arabs usually used as spies, bomb-transporters and suicide bombers transporters, and seldom carried out attack themselves.

Some consider the quality and quantity of the intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet among the best of the world's secret service agencies. Shabak effective activity during the second Intifada boosted his reputation both in the Israeli public and among counter-terror experts. [1] (http://www.fas.org/irp/world/israel/shin_bet/m052504.html)

Current events

In November 2003, four former heads of Shin Bet (Avraham Shalom, Yaakov Peri, Carmi Gillon and Ami Ayalon) called upon the Government of Israel to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. [2] (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1096286,00.html).

Ami Ayalon, along with Palestinian professor Sari Nusseibeh, launched the National Census peace initiative.

Avi Dichter is one of the chief supporters of building a defence barrier against suicide bombers in the West Bank. The Israeli government began building the Israeli West Bank Barrier in 2003. Dichter has since said that the barrier 'is working' and helps to prevent and reduce terror attacks. [3] (http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=397404&displayTypeCd=1&sideCd=1&contrassID=2), [4] (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/12/17/wmid17.xml&sSheet=/portal/2003/12/17/ixportal.html&secureRefresh=true&_requestid=229966)

In February 2005, Ariel Sharon announced that Yuval Diskin, a veteran Shabak field agent, senior negotiator with Palestinian officers and mastermind of the "targeted killings", will replace Dichter after he ends his five-year term. On May 15, 2005 Diskin entered into office after Dichter left with great applauses from press, politicians and public.

Lists and tables

Important events in Shabak history

  • 1948: the Shabak is funded as a Shin Bet and is one of the three secret services in Israel along with the Military Intelligence and the Foreign Intelligence (later, the Mossad).
  • 1961: the Shabak expose Doctor Israel Bar as a Soviet spy.
  • 1984: the Kav 300 Affair, two terrorists hijacked a bus and after IDF SF and Shabak regained control over the bus, Avraam Shalom ordered the killing of the two terrorists who were captured alive. The officers involved tried to cover this up.
  • 1987: the Izat Nafsu affair, when an officer was cleared from spy charges, and Shabak was highly criticized for his methods and norms.
  • 1995: the assassination of Itzhak Rabin by Yigal Amir and the failure of Shabak to prevent it.
  • 1996: the Shabak assassinates Hamas top bombmaker Yahya Ayyash.
  • 2000-2005: the al-Aqsa Intifada and Shabak main role in intelligence gathering and counter terror efforts. Avraam Dichter received high credit for Shabak part in thwarting hundreds of suicide bombings and hitting terror leaders.

Heads of the Shabak

See also

External links

he:שירות ביטחון כללי nl:Shin Bet pl:Shin Bet

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