Attorney-General Upholds Airport Email Checks


Israel’s attorney general Yehuda Weinstein has upheld a practice to allow security personnel to read people’s email accounts when they arrive at Ben-Gurion airport, explaining that it prevents terrorists from entering the country.

The ruling issued on Wednesday followed a protest last year when some people trying to enter Israel were ordered to open their emails after interrogation at Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport. In one instance, three Palestinian-American women were forbidden from entering after email checks were conducted.

Security personnel may ask visitors to open their email accounts for inspection if they are perceived as being suspicious, wrote Nadim Aboud of Israel’s attorney general office.

Aboud said the checks were justified because there was an increasing risk of foreigners being involved in terrorist activity. He said security services could not properly investigate the backgrounds of some potential entrants without the additional check.

“At issue is a procedure whose implementation is conditioned on the traveler’s consent, and he isn’t required to give the investigator his passwords … but rather, the traveler opens the email account himself. It should be stressed that the traveler is given the full right to object to this search, and in such a case the security personnel then determine if the person should be allowed to enter the country,” Aboud explained.

A Justice Ministry official said the search was conducted only in “extraordinary cases.” He spoke anonymously in line with ministry policy.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel had voiced objection to the policy due to concerns of invasion of privacy.