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Hot Topic for Beirut Cabinet? Wiretapping Citizens

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October 02, 2012

Hot Topic for Beirut Cabinet? Wiretapping Citizens

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer


With all the recent upheaval in Lebanon, the topic of just what the new cabinet is planning to do with its newfound power is one to watch. But the newest word from ministerial sources just yesterday suggests that the newly-minted Lebanese cabinet is an issue of wiretapping citizens, and how to protect them from it.


The ministerial sources said that the issue of wiretapping citizens was indeed front and center, with an especial focus on a law known as Law 140 / 99, which enshrines by law the right to privacy in phone, fax, and e-mail communications. Not surprisingly, there are some exceptions listed in the law, as should probably be expected--even the United States has several such exceptions--but there are elements of the Lebanese cabinet who want those exemptions to go a lot farther.

The amendments being proposed to Law 140 / 99 would give security forces, as well as other elements of the Lebanese government, the right to eavesdrop on the communications of any resident on Lebanese soil, and to monitor their movements at any given time. The problem with those demands, of course, is that they explicitly violate the Lebanese Constitution, specifically Article 66, as the draft law with all the exceptions in place was introduced without any input from the telecommunications minister, and thus ignored the power he was given by said Constitution.

Worse, the draft law itself contains portions that are outright unconstitutional on their own merit, according to a report from the telecommunications ministry. The report said, in part, that the law essentially offered "...a flagrant violation of the preamble in the Constitution, particularly Item C, which states that Lebanon is a democratic, parliamentary republic based on the respect of public freedoms, at the forefront of which is the freedom of opinion and religious belief."

There are other issues on the Beirut cabinet's plate, of course--tax issues, several gift issues, the opening of the Lebanese University to Lebanese students studying in Syria--but the wiretapping issue is one that's central, and close to the hearts of many.

While it's unknown as yet just which route the Lebanese government would go, it's hoped that they'll err on the side of freedom, and giving their citizens the right to make phone calls and send e-mails without the watchful eyes of government inspecting the content of said communications.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman







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