Secure tapping mechanism ready; sequel to Radia tape leak
Soon the Centre would have direct access to all your telephone conversations as the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has developed capabilities to intercept phones without keeping your operator in the loop. Currently, trials are on in Delhi and Haryana through a main server established in the national capital. It would take another 12 months before the system is officially operational.
Alarmed by the leak in the corporate lobbyist Niira Radia phone-tapping case, the Centre at the highest level decided to set up a Central Monitoring System (CMS) to tap calls without the interference of telecom service providers. Subsequently, the DoT's Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TREM) Cell along with the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) was asked to develop the project for which Rs.170 crore was earmarked. After almost one year, the CMS is ready and being tested.
“This is the DoT's exclusive facility that would assist intelligence and security agencies, besides strategic government departments in phone-tapping,” a senior DoT official said. The DoT would be required to set up separate servers in each State, depending upon the requirements and the number of subscribers. While the facility in Delhi and adjoining States are likely to be ready by year-end, it might take at least another couple of years before servers are established across India.
The present system of phone-tapping is a complex one as eight intelligence and investigating agencies wanting to snoop on anybody's phone are required to approach the Union Home Ministry for clearance with specific reasons. Armed with necessary clearances, the department officials would then approach the telecom operators for tapping phones. It is feared that the loopholes in the current process led to the leakage of the Radia tapes.
However, in the new mechanism, the DoT will have total control of a tapped line, giving telecom firms no access to the intercepted line. Another important aspect of the new centralised system is that irrespective of operators, lines would be tapped at one location, which will be manned round-the-clock by officials of the government agencies.