[EDITORIALS]Legalizing surveillance

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[EDITORIALS]Legalizing surveillance

Amid the uproar over the illegal taping by the national intelligence agency, the government is now considering introducing legislation to legalize the recording of cellular phone conversations. According to the government, the purpose of this legislation, which would require telecommunication companies to install recording devices on their switching systems, is to deal effectively with the threat of terrorism.
The revision of the Protection of Communications Secrets Act that the Ministry of Justice announced in June includes a regulation requiring telecommunication companies to cooperate with the government. An article in the act stated that telecommunication companies must provide the necessary equipment, technology and function at the government’s request for the restriction of communication, or for presentation of material evidence. If this revision indeed becomes law, both wired and wireless telecommunication companies would have to install recording devices.
Officials of the National Intelligence Service and the Ministry of Justice insist that recording such conversations must be made legal for the sake of national security, and to fight crimes such as kidnapping. Of course, it is the duty of intelligence and investigative agencies to acquire information about serious crimes and to protect national security. In this sense, covert recording of telephone calls is sometimes inevitable. But it should be kept at a minimum and implemented under due process. Our Constitution clearly states, “The privacy of correspondence of no citizen shall be infringed.”
Having once argued that it is virtually impossible to bug cellular phones, the government has admitted doing so. Now it wants to make it legal. The government should think carefully about installing recording devices on switching systems. If it is done, strict procedures should be adhered to so there is no abuse of power.
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