New measures for phone wiretappings

New measures for phone wiretappings

Before talking about the new regulations about Turkey’s Telecommunication Authority (TİB), which are on the government’s agenda, let me mention different cases of abuses that we have witnessed as a society since the TİB was established in 2005.

1)    Private lives and business lives have been made public although they had nothing to do with the crime that was being investigated or prevented.

2)    The telephones of people that had no relation to the crime being investigated or prevented were tapped; their communications were monitored.

3) Whether related or not related to the crime, telephone wiretappings were taken outside police centers and prosecutors and were published online, reaching people related or unrelated to the crimes.

4) There were efforts to mislead the courts by tapping phones using false names.

5) There is equipment in the hands of the police that enables them to wiretap without a court order.

6) The records show that there was unlimited access to information that included the traffic of telephone conversations and information about locations.

These are the cases of abuse that come to mind. How can we then prevent other forms of abuses in the future while trying to stop the current abuses?

1)    The TİB must be dissolved. The capacity of the storage on its computers must be terminated; some kind of a higher board of judges of the Supreme Court of Appeals that will check court orders for telephone wiretappings must be established.

2)    The registration of the tapped telephone conversation should be done in places that belong to the police or gendarmerie with the consent of the telephone operator.

3)    The locations where telephone wiretappings are conducted should be monitored and recorded 24 hours by cameras, and these recordings must be kept for at least five years. The computers in these locations should be monitored periodically by the high board that will replace the TİB.

4)    Whether for intelligence or judicial purposes, all telephone wiretappings must be conducted in the presence of two officers. When these officers start to witness a conversation that has no relevance to the crime they are investigating or trying to prevent, they should stop the recording, erase it and start listening again after a while (two minutes for instance) and if the conversation is still irrelevant, then they should again stop listening.

Only recordings that are relevant to the crime they are investigating or trying to prevent should be kept. The violation of this rule should be heavily punished.

5)    The request for telephone wiretapping should include detailed information about the crime authorities are investigating or trying to prevent. It must be explained in detail to the court why that person is believed to be related to the crime. The courts should be legally bound to return any request that lacks these details.

6)    Only the telephones of real persons must be tapped. It should be legally binding that switchboards that have multiple lines like a switchboard of a company cannot be tapped.

7)    The high board and telephone operators must be jointly responsible for monitoring the system. Operators should be obligated to publicize every six months the statistics about requests coming from the courts every three months.

8)    The penal code should include binding articles that evidence obtained by telephone conversations are not primary evidence but should be used as side information to establish an opinion.