Thu, Jan 16, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Prosecutors unhappy with wiretapping rule changes

By Rich Chang  /  Staff reporter

Bureau of Investigation Deputy Secretary-General Lee Li-chen, right, talks about the legislature’s recent amendments to the Communication Security and Surveillance Act during a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times

Law enforcement authorities yesterday said that amendments to the Communication Security and Surveillance Act (通訊保障及監察法) passed by the legislature on Tuesday would seriously hurt their investigations.

Lawmakers approved the revisions to toughen the rules governing the use of wiretaps. Among the changes is a requirement that prosecutors must have a case based on specific allegations before they can apply to a court for a wiretapping order.

Another revision requires that court approval for a wiretap on a specific person be restricted to a warrant for that individual alone and not include other people in the same case.

Officials from the Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office, the National Police Agency’s Criminal Investigation Bureau, the Ministry of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation and the Coast Guard Administration held a press conference in Taipei to complain about the amendments.

Taiwan High Prosecutors’ Office acting head Kuo Wen-tong (郭文東) said prosecutors believe the restrictions would obstruct investigations and become a loophole in public security.

Criminal Investigation Bureau Commissioner Lin Teh-hua (林德華) said tightening the scope of wiretapping procedures will make it difficult for police to probe serious and complicated cases because tracking phones was the main tool for breaking such cases.

If a wiretap application is restricted to a specific person, the authorities will waste a lot of time and resources having to repeatedly apply for individual authorizations, which would hinder their efficiency, Lin said.

The police’s 165 hotline for reporting suspected telephone fraud receives 2,000 calls a day, but if police cannot track phone calls from crime rings from the very beginning of an investigation, it will be impossible to solve such cases, he said.

Law enforcement authorities in Greater Taichung and Greater Kaohsiung also held a joint press conference to express similar concerns.

Taichung District Prosecutors’ Office spokesman Tsai Tsung-hsi (蔡宗熙) said that under the new amendments, when the authorities receive a report of a missing person or a kidnapping, investigators will not be able to check phone records if there are no clear suspects, which could delay efforts to rescue the victim.

If investigators learn of a plan to kill someone, they could no longer wiretap the suspects because the killing has not taken place, he said, adding: “This means that if investigators want to wiretap suspects, they will have to wait until someone is killed.”

Meanwhile, Minister of Justice Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) said that while the ministry appreciated the prosecutors’ concerns, it would not seek to change the law again unless mainstream public opinion agrees that the amended law is bad for public order, indicating that it will not suggest the Executive Yuan propose a reconsideration to the amendments.

Executive Yuan spokesperson Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) last night said the government respected the ministry’s decision.

Although a small number of the revised articles might be considered unfavorable to crime prevention and detection, the ministry did not see a problem with most of the revisions, the spokesperson said.

However, the ministry will continue to seek the opinion of law enforcement personnel before it considers whether to propose any new revisions, Cheng said.

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan

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