Tue, Jun 21, 2016 - Page 8 News List

Lie detectors smack of intimidation

By Wu Ching-chin 吳景欽

Rumor has it that, to filter out the individuals responsible for leaks, the Taipei City Government intends to ask private companies to help it carry out lie detector tests on its public servants. Above and beyond whether you think the city government should be acting as a judicial authority, this practice is sure to be seriously damaging to the rule of law and human rights.

According to Article 3 of the Act of the Establishment and Management of the Government Employee Ethics Units and Officers (政風機構人員設置管理條例), “the term ‘Government Employee Ethics Units’ referred to in this act means the various units in charge of the government employee ethics businesses at central and local organs and state-owned enterprises.”

According to Article 4, these units are not only in charge of handling corruption and malfeasance cases within the central and local governments, but are also responsible for safeguarding confidential information. However, since these “Government Employee Ethics Officers” are not “judicial police officers” — as defined by Article 229 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (刑事訴訟法) — charged with the responsibility of investigating offenses, they cannot employ forceful investigation methods in corruption and malfeasance cases, but when violations against the Criminal Code occur, investigations should be carried out by Agency Against Corruption officers, who are also judicial police officers.

Hence, when public servants in the Taipei City Government are suspected of leaking confidential information, investigations should be conducted by the city’s Department of Government Ethics.

However, it is disputable whether the department can legally inspect e-mails, social network messages or other correspondence records of the city’s public servants, as personal e-mails and messages are private information; inspection can only be done with warrants issued by judges. Even if the inspected items are communications records and information about the communications users, according to Article 11 of the Communication Security and Surveillance Act (通訊保障及監察法), only when an offense punishable by imprisonment of more than three years has taken place, and a warrant is applied by the prosecutors and issued by the judges, can an inspection be carried out. Hence, without a warrant, the inspection of personal data by the Government Employee Ethics Unit, which is not a judicial police department, is a violation of the law.

As for investigations into corruption cases, it is the responsibility of the Government Employee Ethics Unit. If the Taipei City Government’s Department of Government Ethics is incapable of finding the sources of the leaks, so be it; but to delegate this task to a private company and let it conduct lie detection tests not only lacks a legal basis, it also violates the principle that states core state powers should not be delegated to the private sector.

Moreover, there are no certification systems for examiner qualifications, lie detector equipment, or the premises on which the tests are to be carried out. Hence, there is a question as to whether private lie detection companies have the requisite proficiency. In addition, there are no objective standards for the procedures, the questions and the evaluation of the results, making it impossible to review and repeat the tests. It is therefore questionable how scientific the process is.

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