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Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Police Hacked Phones to Target Netanyahu; Evidence Would Be Inadmissible in U.S. Courts

The trial of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has revealed in recent days that police hacked the phones of close aides to Netanyahu without authority — which would, in the U.S., make the resulting evidence inadmissible in court.

Netanyahu is on trial for corruption in a case that his allies say reflects an effort by Israel’s left-wing legal fraternity to target him. He is accused of attempting to negotiate with a newspaper for better coverage; accepting unauthorized gifts, such as cigars, from a friend; and for interference in a telecommunications deal. The charges are considered flimsy and politically motivated; supporters of the case against Netanyahu argue they are a test of Israel’s ability to hold politicians accountable.

During the trial, it emerged that Israeli police used illicit spyware to target Netanyahu aides who were turned into state witnesses.

The alleged hacking is linked to a broader scandal in which an Israeli company is alleged to have sold spyware to foreign governments. As Politico noted Sunday, February 5, there have also been revelations that the spyware was used to spy on Israeli citizens.

The hacking may have affected more than one witness — and information gained in the hacking may have been used by police to force witnesses to turn against Netanyahu.

Leaks about the allegations against Netanyahu were used in several elections and played a role in his eventual replacement in last year’s election — even though his Likud Party received more votes than any other.

Netanyahu tweeted that the revelations were an “earthquake,” and there are growing calls for an inquiry into whether Israel’s law enforcement apparatus violated the law and civil liberties in an attempt to bring down the prime minister.

In the U.S., evidence obtained without legal authority is inadmissible at a criminal trial as the “fruit of the poisonous tree.” If the evidence that is excluded is important enough to the prosecution’s case, the charges may be dismissed entirely.

Other methods used to encourage witnesses to turn against Netanyahu have shocked the public.

“God, we ask that You call all politicians and leaders to be honest, honorable, and fair.”