Is anyone else confused about what is actually going on with wiretaps? Well, here is an explanation as I understand it.
In October 1999, a law was issued protecting the privacy of any communication that takes place in Lebanon from being monitored. Here is an excerpt of the law (translated):
The Lebanese Law no. 140 issued on October 27, 1999 protects the right to privacy in telecommunications regardless of the means of communication.
First with respect to general provisions;
According to Article 1, the right to privacy in domestic and international calls through any means of wire or wireless means (landlines, all forms of mobile devices including mobile phones, fax, email, etc) is protected by the law and cannot be subjected to any form of eavesdropping, monitoring, interception or revelation except in cases stated by this law and through means determined by the law.
Secondly, with respect to judicially authorized interceptions of communications, Article 3 states that the legal decision to intercept should determine the communication device involved in the legal action, the criminal act subject to prosecution or investigation, and the duration of the interception which should not exceed two months subject to extension according to the same legal procedures and conditions.
So basically, unless the authorities have authorization from the courts, they cannot monitor our calls. Of course, laws are never implemented in Lebanon. With the elections looming and the Harir court about to start, it only seems logical that this issue is brought to the forefront.
According to the Daily Star, this illegal form of wiretapping will continue for 15 days (until February 22) after which case, the authorities will no longer be allowed to openly do it as they’ve been. So basically, if you are a terrorist preparing an attack, you just need to maintain a communications blackout for two weeks and then you can simply send your partner a SMS like “the bomb is ready” or something, and you will probably not get caught.
What I find absolutely strange is that the government is now deciding to create a task team to see if Law No 140 actually works effectively? After 10 years!! Well this clearly shows that the government does not work effectively (but we of course knew that).
The word going around is that the law will be amended with specifics on how exactly one goes around getting the proper authority to tap phonelines. However, initial ideas center around vague terms that are open to interpretation. For instance, a securiy officer would be allowed to make the request. What exactly is a security officer? Who qualifies as a security officer? Well, also this officer can make a request through the Ministry of Interior, Defense, or Telecommunications. And this is where we’ve laid the seeds of confusion. Without a single authority responsible, there realy is no authority that is responsible.
Once again, we are back at square one.