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MHA seeks monthly reports on phone-taps; CBI,others object

The order has met with resistance from some of the agencies,especially the CBI.

Written by Ritu Sarin | New Delhi | Published: October 29, 2013 3:23:08 am

In what seems to be an attempt to streamline the system following the Niira Radia phone-tapping controversy,the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked all the 10 central agencies which are authorised to intercept telephone calls to submit monthly reports on the “gist” of intelligence gathered from their ongoing phone taps.

However,the order has met with resistance from some of the agencies,especially the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). CBI officials told The Indian Express that they have been asked by their bosses not to share specifics of the intelligence gathered with the MHA.

Officials of other agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) also termed the MHA’s latest guideline as interference in their investigations,pointing out that it also presented a risk of leakage.

The new guidelines,marked “top secret’’,were issued to the 10 law enforcement agencies on August 6,asking all the agencies to submit the monthly evaluation reports from July 2013 onwards.

According to MHA officials,with 10 agencies authorised to intercept telephone calls,about 13,000 phones are under surveillance at any point of time.

Seeking a “summary report of monthly outcome of interception’’,the MHA,in its communication,said each agency’s report should include the following data: total number of telephones intercepted during the month,the number of interceptions which led to actionable intelligence,the gist of intelligence generated in broad terms,the numbers dropped during the period,and the total number of such interceptions where no actionable intelligence could be received.

The MHA also said “the summary should be followed by highlights of cases detected and action taken by the agency thereon. The detailed outcome report,mobile number wise,as per pro forma prescribed under SOPs (standard operating procedure) issued on May 11,2011 should be enclosed as annexure to the summary report.’’

Earlier,the agencies were expected to provide the MHA a summary of intelligence gathered from ongoing interception in case they wanted to extend the tapping beyond the stipulated 60-day period. But they are now required to provide a “gist of intelligence generated in broad terms”,even if they don’t need the extension.

MHA officials said their intention was to restrain agencies from carrying out what they described as “over-zealous’’ interception. “We want to compare actionable telephone interception with that which is not actionable. We are satisfied if the agencies list the intelligence gathered subject wise. The whole aim of the exercise is to tighten the system and plug loopholes,’’ said a key official.

Among the other agencies contacted,Delhi Police officials said they had no reservations about submitting monthly reports while key officials of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said the new guidelines don’t have much relevance for them since their requests for telephone interception have shown a sharp fall. “This whole year,the CBDT’s investigation wing has not asked for a single telephone to be put under surveillance. This is the fallout of the leakage of the Niira Radia tapes,’’ said an offiicial.

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