The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus yesterday said it opposed a draft that would give enhanced powers to the National Security Bureau’s Special Service Center (SSC), which will be reviewed by the legislature tomorrow.
If passed, the bill would grant the SSC the power to direct military police, police authorities and the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau (MJIB) in judicial investigations.
DPP caucus whip Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said the DPP had offered an alternative version of the bill and hoped the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus would agree to negotiate.
The DPP opposes granting additional powers to the SSC, saying that its mandate should not violate human rights, should not grant officers the right to use firearms and should not restrict people’s right to freedom of assembly and parade.
Tsai called on the KMT caucus to avoid passing the “backward bill.”
The bureau said in a press -statement yesterday that special agents have judicial investigative authority only when they investigate criminal cases and that they can only use firearms on such missions.
It said the proposed bill did not give the SSC expanded powers.
The bill comes amid ongoing efforts to clarify a number of gray areas in the regulations that govern the bureau.
The Executive Yuan in September 2008 proposed a bill outlining the conditions and limitations under which the SSC could operate, such as the definition of restricted areas, searches of individuals and vehicles, video and audio recording, cultivation of undercover sources, use of handcuffs, the detention of suspects and crowd dispersal.
Some incidents, including the election-eve assassination attempt on then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and then-vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) on March 19, 2004, and the shooting — apparently unrelated to elections matters — of former vice president Lien Chan’s (連戰) son, Sean Lien (連勝文), before the special municipality elections on Nov. 27 last year, have also provided momentum for those efforts.
The original draft was allegedly boycotted by the DPP over fears that the proposed powers would be unconstitutional.
Last year, KMT Legislator -Vincent Chang (張顯耀) and other KMT legislators offered a new version of the bill that omitted the controversial articles opposed by the DPP, but that nevertheless gave the SSC additional powers.
Under current regulations, the SSC can coordinate with the Presidential Office’s Department of Security Affairs, the Coast Guard Administration, the MJIB and Military Police Command in its security missions.
However, the KMT draft stipulates that the SSC could “direct” those bureaus and grants it judicial investigative authority, which the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) initially opposed, saying the SSC should only carry out security missions and should not involve itself in judicial investigations.
The ministry has reportedly stopped voicing its opposition.
Under the KMT draft, the president would be granted the right to instruct special agents to protect specific individuals, such as foreign guests. The draft stipulates that special agents would be allowed to use firearms in the line of duty.
The Taiwan Association for Human Rights has weighed in on the issue, calling the KMT bill a law that violates civil rights, the adoption of which would be a step in the wrong direction for human rights.
“We certainly support legislation to regulate what secret service agents can and cannot do. However, the contents of the proposed bill would cause violations of human rights,” association -secretary-general Tsai Chi-hsun (蔡季勳) said.
Under the proposed bill, besides the president, the vice president, the premier and visiting dignitaries, “certain designated people” could also be protected by secret services, she said.
“The designation of ‘certain people’ becomes very tricky, because it is up to the government to make that designation,” Tsai said.
Proposed relaxations on firearms restrictions are also cause for worry, she said.
“Currently, secret service agents are only allowed to use guns when the life of the protected person is threatened, but with the proposed bill, they are allowed to use guns when there’s the ‘possibility’ that the life or belongings of the protected person could be threatened,” she said.
A third issue of concern is that secret service agents would have the same right to investigate as currently reserved for judicial personnel and the police, Tsai said.
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