Biscuits, the World Cup and Nobel Prizes: The Puzzling Documentation of Shin Bet Interrogations

Irit Ballas, Netanel Dagan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Records kept by security authorities documenting potentially violent encounters are generally characterized by technocratic language and parsimonious content, which is intended to project an image of objective and impartial state officials. A qualitative analysis of 688 records covering interrogations of suspects in terror activities by the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) presents a very different picture. They consist of representations of (1) hospitality—caring for the well-being of the person under interrogation; (2) camaraderie—amicable conversations between interrogator and interrogee; and (3) moral conviction—impassioned political or moral debates regarding the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The analysis shows how unconventional documentation techniques in security interrogations may be used to preserve legitimacy; bolster professional prestige and makes a sophisticated use of a sense of secrecy.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)407-423
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (ISTD). All rights reserved.


  • bureaucracy
  • intelligence
  • interrogations
  • records
  • secrecy
  • security documentation


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