[EDITORIALS]Tapping mobile phonesThe minister of information and communication has admitted that it is “technically” possible to tap mobile phone conversations. This is a change from his previous position that tapping such conversations was possible in theory but impossible in practice. In a confession made by the head of the National Intelligence Service a few weeks ago, it was established that the government had tapped mobile phone conversations. Backed into a corner, the ministry has changed its position from “impossible” to “possible.”
By this time, the ministry and the intelligence agency had already co-sponsored newspaper advertisements that read, “Citizens! Please feel free to use your mobile phones.” People believed the ministry, though they distrusted the spy agency. The information minister offers the excuse that the ministry did not know about the wiretapping and began looking into the situation after the intelligence agency’s announcement. He even displayed a copy of a statement the ministry had submitted to the National Assembly five years ago, which stated, “If large amounts of money are invested, [wiretapping] is possible, theoretically.”
But this is not persuasive at all. The ministry had said repeatedly that tapping mobile phones was practically impossible. Previous ministers, therefore, gave false statements, and the ministry deceived the people and served as a foil for the spy agency’s illegal activities.
Frank self-reflection is called for. The ministry must clarify whether or not it deceived the people, knowing that tapping was possible. If so, ministers and officials who offered false evidence should be punished. If such measures are not taken, the ministry can’t avoid the criticism that it changed its position to make excuses at forthcoming National Assembly hearings and during prosecutors’ investigations.
Legal wiretapping is not an issue that the ministry should get involved in. Didn’t it fail to enforce the existing Protection of Communications Secrets Act? If the National Assembly revises communications laws according to the people’s wishes, the ministry is supposed to implement the law faithfully. The airwaves are public property, entrusted to the Information Ministry; it is the ministry’s duty to prevent them from being used illegally. If it failed to do so, looked on or helped, it must take responsibility. The people will not tolerate an ambiguous attitude.
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