New justice minister, Huang grilled on wiretapping

By Rich Chang and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporters

Tue, Oct 01, 2013 - Page 1

Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) yesterday came under fire in the legislature over the wiretapping of the legislature’s central telephone exchange by the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office Special Investigation Division (SID), but Huang and the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau, which carried out the wiretapping, insisted that no conversations were recorded.

The legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee yesterday changed its meeting schedule by inviting Minister of Justice Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) and Huang to answer questions about the wiretapping controversy.

The committee in the evening passed a resolution that all cases probed by the SID involving wiretapping should be suspended, calling for a moratorium on any new investigations until the matter is resolved.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Liao Cheng-ching (廖正井) told Lo: “You said, before assuming office today, that the SID might not have intended to wiretap the legislature’s number. How could you reach such a conclusion before a task force [formed by the ministry on Sunday to look into the matter] has started its investigation?”

“Do you mean to say Huang and the SID did not make mistakes in the wiretapping controversy?” Liao asked.

Lo said that wiretapping experts had told her that “if you applied to wiretap one number, you are not capable of wiretapping other numbers.”

“Of course the SID committed wrongdoings. It took a month of wiretapping the legislature’s switchboard before it realized all records were blank, and it also failed to check that the telephone number was correct, thinking it was a personal number, as the division claimed,” she said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) asked Taipei District Court president Wu Shui-mu (吳水木) how long the court allowed the division to wiretap the legislature’s central exchange number, one month or four months.

“The SID is right that the number was wiretapped for one month,” Wu said.

DPP Legislator Wu Ping-Jui (吳秉叡) asked Investigation Bureau Director Wang Fu-lin (王福林) whether the bureau, which carried out the wiretapping of the legislature’s number, was able to record conversations from that number.

Wang said there are 30 telephone numbers in the central exchange. If the bureau wanted to wiretap all telephone numbers, it needed to adopt “a special method” by changing computer orders, but in this case, the SID only authorized the bureau to wiretap one telephone number.

Wu Ping-Jui said that Huang and Wang were both still lying to the legislature.

DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-Ling (管碧玲) asked how many disks the division took from the Investigation Bureau containing the records of the wiretapping.

Wang said 20.

She added that Huang lied in saying that no conversations were recorded on those 20 disks.

Responding to calls for his resignation for bugging the legislature, Huang said he has apologized for mistaking the switchboard number for the cellphone number of one of DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming’s (柯建銘) aides.

“If the investigation concludes I made mistakes, I will shoulder the political responsibility,” Huang added.

Meanwhile, at a KMT caucus meeting, KMT Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) proposed that a resolution be adopted by the caucus to demand Huang’s resignation.

“It is truly a regretful situation that Huang’s abuse of wiretapping power has fueled public distrust in the government” and “brought humiliation to the country’s democracy,” Lee said, adding that he and Huang had been classmates at the College of Law at National Chengchi University.

Huang should offer to resign to “save himself some dignity,” while the KMT should act in a responsible manner to urge Huang to step down, Lee said.

The KMT caucus meeting did not decide on Lee’s motion.

KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung (丁守中) demanded that Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) apologize to the public for the alleged irregularities in wiretapping.

In a statement, People First Party legislators Thomas Lee (李桐豪) and Chen Yi-chieh (陳怡潔) issued three demands: that the legislature establish a special commission to investigate the matter, that officials involved in the surveillance of telephone conversations be referred to the judiciary for investigation, and that chief officials who lie about the alleged irregularities step down.

In related news, in an interview with BCC Pop Network yesterday morning, Jiang said wiretaps make everyone uneasy whether they are up to something illegal or not, but it is a means to crack criminal cases even in a democracy.

Jiang said the government would not tolerate illegal wiretapping and would examine the system to limit law enforcement agents’ use of wiretaps.

The tapping of the legislature switchboard should not lead to the conclusion that SID should be abolished, Jiang said.

“This was two different issues,” Jiang said, adding that the government was willing to review the system on which the SID was established to ensure the independence of the judiciary, Jiang said.