SID wiretap not deliberate: panel

ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR::The panel said prosecutors should have known from telephone records that the wiretapped number did not belong to an individual

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Oct 12, 2013 - Page 1

An 11-member panel of the Ministry of Justice yesterday released its final report on the Special Investigation Division’s (SID) alleged wiretapping of the Legislative Yuan’s switchboard, concluding that the incident stemmed from administrative errors rather than a deliberate attempt to bug the legislature.

Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) told an afternoon press conference that Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) and two SID prosecutors, Yang Jung-tsung (楊榮宗) and Cheng Shen-yuan (鄭深元), would be the subject of further investigation by the ministry’s Prosecutors Evaluation Committee.

The SID’s wiretaps of the legislature’s general line has been at the center of a political storm involving an alleged conspiracy by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) and Huang to remove Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) from his post.

Huang and Yang, SID’s chief prosecutor, will be referred to the committee for supervisory negligence, while Cheng, the prosecutor overseeing the wiretap assignment, will be held accountable for administrative errors, according to the panel’s report.

The SID has said that it mistakenly assumed that the telephone number 0972-630-235 belonged to a legislative assistant and that nothing was recorded on the 21 compact discs it obtained from the Investigation Bureau from the wiretap.

The ministry’s ad hoc panel, established on Sept. 29, supported the SID’s stance, but said that the error could have been avoided.

Telephone records for that number in the six months before the SID began its wiretap showed that the number averaged about 364 calls a day during that time, which prosecutors should have realized meant that it might not be the number of an individual, Chen said.

Chen said the panel had concluded that the SID’s application to wiretap the number was legal.

The SID’s wiretapping became headline news after the division held two press conferences on Sept. 28. In the morning press conference, Yang said 0972-630-235 was not the legislature’s main number. Huang held the second press conference that evening to apologize for the mistake.

Opposition lawmakers had questioned the motive for wiretapping the legislature’s general line, seeing it as overtly political and part of a collaborative effort between Ma, Jiang and Huang to undermine Wang and the opposition.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus slammed the report as full of lies that “takes people for fools.”

“The report is unacceptable to the public,” DPP spokesperson Wang Min-sheng (王閔生) said.

Huang is under investigation by several agencies for discussing the wiretapping with Ma on several occasions even though the SID had not yet closed its investigation.