Hearing held in Gisha’s Freedom of Information petition against COGAT: The state is refusing to provide figures on the issuance of Israeli permits to Palestinian residents in cases of security preclusions AP 49730-10-15 Gisha v. COGAT et al.
On October 25, 2015, Gisha filed a petition under the Freedom of Information Act against the decision made by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) (Hebrew) not to divulge figures and information about the unit’s denial and approval of applications made by Palestinian residents to enter Israel based on a security preclusion. According to COGAT, there is concern that providing this information would result in a “threat to national security, public safety or personal safety”. COGAT added that revealing the information might expose the Shin Bet’s (Israel Security Agency) modes and systems of operation.
COGAT’s claim is perplexing given the fact that the requested information was simply a statistic relating to COGAT’s decisions to issue or deny entry permits to Palestinian residents, rather than information relating to how security preclusions are enacted in general, or the information that led to any specific security preclusions.
The state submitted its response (Hebrew) to the petition on January 24, 2016, arguing very briefly and without providing any reasoning that in accordance to the exclusion enumerated in Section 9(a)(1) of the Freedom of Information Act, there is concern that revealing the information would compromise national security and therefore should not be divulged. The state asked to present the reasoning for its position ex parte (without the presence of all of the parties) and in camera (in the judge’s private chambers without the presence of the public). The response did not enclose an affidavit, as required under Section 10(c) of regulation 5760-2000 of the Courts of Administrative Affairs (Rules of Procedure). On February 10, 2006, the state submitted a supplementary brief, in which it repeated its position without adding any explanation as to why providing the requested figure raises concerns regarding national security. The brief enclosed an affidavit by a person referred to by the first name “Omer”, a Shin Bet agent, who is not COGAT personnel.
The petition was heard (Hebrew) on February 14, 2016, and the justice presiding reviewed the classified material provided to her by the state. The justice posed no further questions to state counsel after reviewing the material, and the state provided no explanation for the refusal to divulge the information. The case was scheduled for review and decision at a later date.