Gisha files Freedom of Information petition in light of COGAT’s refusal to respond to an application regarding the issuance of Israeli entry-permits in cases of security preclusions
On March 24, 2015, Gisha sent the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) an application under the Freedom of Information Act (Hebrew), requesting details about COGAT’s decision to approve or deny the entry of Palestinians to Israel, based on whether or not they are classified as having a security preclusion. In its application, Gisha asked for the number of residents whose permit application was denied due to a security preclusion and the number of residents whose application was approved despite the existence of a preclusion. The application focused on the discretion COGAT officials are expected to use while processing and reviewing applications, rather than the process by which a security preclusion is entered into the system.
On August 13, 2015 (Hebrew), more than 120 days after the Freedom of Information application was filed, COGAT’s Freedom of Information Officer responded that divulging the information could “harm national security, public safety or the safety of an individual”, and that therefore, in keeping with Section 9(a)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act, the application was denied. The officer added that “this position is taken in view of the opinion of security officials whereby the requested information cannot be provided for security reasons, including concerns regarding exposure of operational methods and techniques used by the Israel Security Agency” (ISA). The information sought, however, is not at the hands of the ISA, nor is it under its responsibility – it is the responsibility of the COGAT – the agency that decides on applications made by Palestinians.
Given this refusal, on October 25, 2015, Gisha filed a petition under the Freedom of Information Act (Hebrew) with the Tel Aviv District Court sitting as the Court for Administrative Affairs. The court was asked to order COGAT to deliver the information in full, as the contention that disclosing it could expose ISA operations was baseless. Gisha stressed that the information is at the hands of the COGAT and that it relates to the manner in which COGAT uses its discretion in order to decide whether or not to issue Palestinians entry permits, rather than issues related to the work of the ISA.
AP 49730-10-15 Gisha v. COGAT et al. filed October 25, 2015