Secret Intelligence Versus the 'Right to Know'

Former Mossad head Ephraim Halevi explains some of the challenges facing intelligence agencies - and Israel - today.

Contact Editor
David Lev,

Ephraim Halevi
Ephraim Halevi
Yoni Kempinski

Israel is facing “unprecedented dangers,” according to Ephraim Halevi, former head of Israel's Mossad intelligence service, and intelligence will play an important role in fending those dangers off.

Modern open society, in which secrets are difficult to keep, makes it difficult for intelligence operations to quietly gather information, but the public need to understand that intelligence operations required some level of security and secrecy, he said.

Halevi was speaking Monday at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism's (ICT) World Summit on Counter-Terrorism, taking place at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center (IDC).

Public opinion has become an important component in the decision making process for policy,” Halevi said. “The first rule of any security agency is to protect its sources and its methods of operations. But during a time when the public is an active participant and judge in nearly every step of the process, we find it difficult to accomplish out missions. Convincing the public that our information is accurate and reliable has become very important among all intelligence services.

With that,” Halevi said, “we have almost no ability to influence public opinion without revealing our sources,” something that no intelligence organization could allow.

“In this battle we must convince the public on how we can reconcile the legal and constitutional issues” that require revealing as much information as possible, “and how we can ensure the security of our information and sources.”