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Ministry to propose wiretap amendment this legislative session

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Justice Minister Lo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) yesterday said she had ordered the drafting of an amendment to the Communication Security and Surveillance Act, noting that the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) will propose the draft during the upcoming legislative session slated to begin on Feb. 21.

On the last day of the previous legislative session on Jan. 14, the Legislative Yuan passed the third reading of an amendment to the Communication Security and Surveillance Act, which amended regulations regarding procedures for wiretap operations.

The newly amended monitoring procedures stipulate that should prosecutors or police require monitoring of an individual, they have to file an official report to justify their reasons and apply for a warrant from a district court.

One wiretapping warrant is required to monitor one person for one criminal case only, which means that if the individual is involved in a second case, prosecutors must apply for another warrant in order to keep up their surveillance, according to the amended regulations.

Lo yesterday visited the Chiayi District Prosecutors Office and exchanged opinions with the Chiayi District Court President Hsu Chin-kuo (許進國) regarding the amended wiretapping law.

Lo said it would be very hard for law enforcement to conduct wiretapping operations or to retrieve phone records after the amended law takes effect in five months, stressing that she is worried it will be difficult to investigate crimes, especially drug-related crimes.

The minister went on to say that solving drug trafficking cases relies heavily on monitoring persons of interest and their communication records, noting that if the country could not efficiently crack these cases it would cause severe public security issues.

Noting that the government busted numerous major drug-trafficking cases over the past few years, Lo said wiretapping operations should be given credit for solving those crimes. Lo added that the amended law would definitely affect investigations of drug cases.

As another example to support her argument, Lo went on to say that if authorities need the location of victims of mountain climbing accidents, then they would have to retrieve the victims' phone records, and the amended law would stall the rescuers.

In addition, Lo said the amended regulations state that should prosecutors discover information related to other cases while monitoring one person, the information could not be used as evidence and prosecutors would have to apply for another warrant from a court for the information — a move she describes as impractical.

Lo further noted that the MOJ will propose an amendment to the Communication Security and Surveillance Act during this coming legislative session.

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