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ROC Central News Agency

2005-03-18 14:14:53

    Taipei, March 18 (CNA) The Armed Forces Police Command (AFPC) has categorically denied the presence of any wiretapping center in the basement of its headquarters in Taipei as reported by the local news media.

    Media reports said that in addition to the wiretapping center at the Military Intelligence Bureau under the Ministry of National Defense, military intelligence authorities have another electronic eavesdropping stronghold which has never been exposed before.

    According to the reports, the maximum-guarded wiretapping center is located in the basement of the AFPC's Taipei headquarters. "The reports are not true, " the AFPC said in a press statement, adding that the command has never installed a so-called wiretapping center in its history.

    The statement said a group of lawmakers from the Legislative Yuan's Defense Committee made an inspection tour of the AFPC last year to check whether the command had a wiretapping center and found that it did not, the statement added.

    The AFPC 's statement came a day after ruling Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Chien-hui complained about what he called local prosecutors' abuse of their power to authorize wiretaps at a meeting of the legislature's Judicial Committee.

    Quoting official tallies, Huang said local prosecution authorities approved more than 19,000 wiretap applications in 2004, almost two times the number authorized in the United States. "Is this reasonable? " Huang asked. "The United States has a population of more than 200 million, while Taiwan has only 23 million people. It seems to me that the number of our authorized wiretaps has gone out of proportion to our population and indicates that our prosecution authorities do not respect local people's privacy and human rights," Huang claimed.

    Speaking on the same occasion, Minister of Justice Shih Mao-lin and State Public Prosecutor General Wu Ying-chao said they share Huang's view that the number of authorized wiretaps is "too high."

    Both Shih and Wu promised to demand that prosecutors tighten screening of wiretap requests in the future. They also promised to study the feasibility of delegating the power of wiretap authorization to judges. Prosecutors currently have the power to authorize wiretaps.

    According to statistics compiled by the State Public Prosecutor General's Office, a total of 19,485 wiretap applications were approved in 2004, marking a whopping increase from about 3,000 recorded in 2000.

    More than 70 percent of the authorized wiretaps were related to drug trafficking and firearm trading investigations, and less than 10 percent were related to corruption probes, Wu said, adding that the wiretapping periods for some cases lasted more than a year.

(By Sofia Wu)


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