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Wiretapping law to be amended for searches

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) yesterday pointed out that a loophole in the newly amended Communication Security and Surveillance Act has caused an obstacle in emergency rescue operations, calling on lawmakers to amend the act.

Huang yesterday held a press conference for Tainan (台南) citizen Cheng Wen-chiang (鄭文強) at the Legislative Yuan. Cheng said that on the morning of July 8 his father drove away from home, further stating that as his father has a record of attempted suicide due to a health condition. He immediately reported the incident to police.

Cheng said police informed him that in the past they could retrieve phone records or use cellphones to track the location of his father, noting that, however, according to the newly amended Communication Security and Surveillance Act, which took effect on June 29, Cheng had to sign an affidavit that then must be approved by a district court to discover his father's whereabouts using these methods.

Cheng said that after over 12 hours of searching, the police finally discovered his father lying unconscious with charcoal still burning in the car on a road near a sugarcane farm. His father was sent to a hospital for emergency treatment and it was later discovered that he had taken over 20 tranquilizer tablets, Cheng said, adding that his father was lucky to have escaped death.

Cheng noted that although police sent out a written request to the district court first thing in the morning requesting the retrieval of his father's phone records, the court had still not replied to the request after 5 p.m.

If police had been able to discover his father's location by tracking his cellphone or retrieving the communication records, his father could have been found sooner, Cheng said.

Lawmakers, Government to Amend Act

Huang said that according to the latest Communication Security and Surveillance Act, the authorities can retrieve phone records only when the case involves a prison term of three-years or more. Huang said the regulation creates an obstacle in emergency rescue operations such as searching for missing people or citizens who attempt suicide.

Huang further noted that as the district court did not approve Cheng's request quickly, this proves that the act is indeed in need of revision. The lawmaker said that he will propose amendments to the act and the Telecommunications Act that will authorize police to retrieve communications records in emergency situations.

Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) said his ministry proposed an amendment to the Communication Security and Surveillance Act at the end of this May. Chen further said the amendment states that for circumstances such as emergency rescue operations, authorities can retrieve phone records without having a district court's approval in advance. The deputy minister added that his ministry has submitted the amendment to the Executive Yuan for cross-ministry deliberation.

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