Warrants for wiretaps systematic 'overreach'
By Lauly Li ,The China PostTAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Judicial Reform Foundation (JRF, 財團法人民間司法改革基金會) yesterday said that 15,000 applications for wiretapping warrants in Taiwan were submitted every year since the beginning of available statistics five years ago.
October 29, 2013, 12:22 am TWN
The JRF held a press conference at the Legislative Yuan yesterday, condemning Taiwan's prosecutors' offices for overreaching their authority in applying for wiretapping warrants.
During the press conference, the JRF pointed to local media statistics collected between 2008 and 2012 which said that on average, courts approve 73 percent of applications for electronic monitoring, meaning about 10,000 warrants have been served.
The JRF's executive director Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正) said that based on records, Japan sees an average of 29.4 wiretapping warrant applications annually, and 2,720 warrant applications occurred in the U.S. every year, noting that Taiwan's quantity of monitoring applications vastly outnumbers that seen in the aforementioned two countries.
Lin said that the people's interests are being harmed, as nobody is supervising the prosecutorial system that monitors them.
Lin further claimed that the wiretapping application procedure is equivalent to, “no matter what really happens, let's monitor it first,” with prosecutors later selecting recorded content on which to support a case.
The application procedure for wiretapping abuses Article 12 of the R.O.C Constitution which states that people shall have freedom of privacy of correspondence, the JRF argued.
The JRF went on to demand that the government abolish the Central Investigation Bureau and the “surveillance and monitoring center” established by the National Police Agency (NPA).
The Ministry of Justice indicated that as far as it knows, statistics suggest that the U.S. and Japan see relatively fewer numbers of monitoring operations, noting that however, the method used to count surveillance operations remains unknown.
A source in the Ministry of Justice said that the reason Taiwan has so many bugging operations is very much related to the fact that not only prosecutors, but also police can apply to stage wiretapping operations via the prosecutorial system in the process of investigations.
The source further noted that the statistics compiled by the Judicial Yuan are different from those published by the Supreme Prosecutors Office, as the Judicial Yuan counts the number of operations based on the person who is monitored, and the Supreme Prosecutors Office calculates its data based on the number of operations.
The source went on to conclude that, by the Judicial Yuan's standard, though a single person may have been monitored 10 times, the whole case would be considered as one bugging operation.
(Related story on page 16)