Kobi Shabtai
Kobi ShabtaiMeir Vaknin/Flash 90

Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai on Tuesday responded to the findings of a committee which probed alleged police use of spyware against civilians, saying the findings proved "beyond the shadow of a doubt" that the police do not act illegally.

Shabtai denounced media reports that police had used spyware against Israelis without first receiving a warrant as an "unprecedented" smear against law enforcement "that mortally damaged not only the public's trust in the police, but in all law enforcement agencies," according to Haaretz.

He urged people to "give thought to the ease with which an entire police force was tarnished.”

The police "do not spy on its citizens and do not spy on protesters and innocent people,” Shabtai said at a ceremony marking the end of an officers' training course. However, he added, he would punish anyone who may have misused tools possessed by the police.

“It is important to me to emphasize that I will not agree and will not allow any deviation, slight or otherwise, from the provisions of the law. If anyone, no matter when, no matter their position or rank, exploited the capabilities of the police and did things they shouldn’t have, I will personally see them brought to justice,” stressed Shabtai.

Shabtai’s comments come a day after a team led by Deputy Attorney General Amit Merari published their initial findings which determined that the Israel Police did not illegally use NSO’s Pegasus spyware against civilians.

The probe was ordered following last month’s report in the Calcalist newspaper which said that the Israel Police had been using the highly controversial Pegasus spyware system to hack into phones belonging to regular Israeli citizens.

Merari’s team was assisted in its probe by technological experts from the Mossad and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet). The probe analyzed information from police logs and received access to NSO’s internal system.

The team said it also probed another system that came into use recently by the Israel Police and said that in this case, as well, there was no indication that attempts were made to illegally hack the mobile phones of any of the people whose names were mentioned in the Calcalist report.

The Calcalist newspaper said in response to the findings, "The findings of the interim report of the investigation team headed by Deputy Attorney General Amit Merari require serious consideration and re-examination of the findings and allegations we published in Calcalist, and this will be done. Due to the short time that passed between the date of publication of the interim report last night and the time the newspaper went to print, such an examination has not yet been done. When we conclude it, we will not hesitate to correct as much as necessary."