Israeli universities providing Shin Bet data on graduates

Security service uses information to contact possible new recruits.

Israeli universities give the Shin Bet security service lists of their graduates, their identity numbers, and contact information for the intelligence agency to use in its effort to recruit personnel.

Several months ago a number of social activists, along with thousands of other citizens, receieved a letter from the Shin Bet saying that, “according to the data in our possession,” they had been deemed qualified for various positions in the Shin Bet’s intelligence operation. As a result, MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose office is responsible for the agency, asking, “Why is information being collected about Israeli citizens who are not suspected of security activity? Is this information collected on all Israeli citizens or are we talking about specific people, like social activists? What information is collected and how?”

Last week Zandberg receieved a response from Perah Lerner, the prime minister’s liaison to the Knesset, which said, “The Shin Bet approaches a wide variety of potential candidates from the entire spectrum of Israeli society. Needless to say, the Shin Bet does not monitor or collect information about social activists or any other population as such in order to recruit people to its ranks.”

Lerner also said the Shin Bet gets the information from Israeli universities. A source at one of the universities told Haaretz that the Shin Bet makes a formal request to get lists of the institution’s graduates. The information includes the names, identity numbers, and contact information of the graduates, but not information about grades.

The Shin Bet, like the Mossad, the Israel Police and Military Intelligence, is exempt from the rules governing the confidentiality of personal information stipulated in the Protection of Privacy Law, so the universities have no choice but to hand over the requested information. The law permits the Shin Bet to “receive information for the purposes of discharging its duty,” which it apparently interprets to mean information that will help it recruit.

The Shin Bet said in response, “To exercise its responsibility under the law, the Shin Bet works to recruit quality personnel to its ranks. In this context the service formally approaches various academic institutions to ask for information.”