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[June 21, 2014]
PN MPs refuse to comment before internal discussion on phone tapping [Malta Independent, The]
(Malta Independent, The Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) To sign the petition requesting Parliament to release the total number of phone, email and internet interceptions since 2009, click here.Nationalist MPs have refused to comment on the issue of phone tapping and on whether the government should publish the number of interceptions made by the state and insisted that the matter must first be discussed by the PN parliamentary group. This paper asked a number of PN MPs on the subject of phone tapping as they entered Parliament on Monday evening. The Malta Independent has been following the matter closely and has launched an online petition calling on the government to release the total number of phone, email and internet interceptions since 2009. The petition was launched after Vodafone revealed the existence of secret wires that allow state surveillance. The company said that its Malta subsidiary alone – one of three major service providers in the country – had received almost 4,000 requests for metadata in 2013. Metadata deals with the location of a device when messages are sent or when calls are made. The number of interceptions – the actual content of phone calls through wire taps, as well as the content of messages and emails – is not known. PN Whip David Agius said he would be making his arguments during the meeting but would not reveal his opinions. Deputy Speaker Censu Galea and Gozitan MP Frederick Azzopardi gave the same answer and Ryan Callus said he would prefer not to comment until he looks into the matter. "This is a serious matter that could tread on the right to privacy and I would prefer to study the matter further before commenting." The Malta Independent also spoke to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who said he has been advised that the release of such information would amount to a breach of national security. "We already have all the checks and balances in place," said Dr Muscat, who insisted that the number of interceptions was miniscule when compared to figures being mentioned in the media. Other government MPs, such as Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, insisted that the government would surely change the law if more safeguards were needed but others, including Social Dialogue Minister Helena Dalli said that these matters are regulated by the Malta Security Services law. On the other hand, Education Minister Evarist Bartolo seemed to be more concerned on the matter at hand and said he has been insisting for a number of years that the system could be abused. Mr Bartolo, said he still believes his phone was tapped during the divorce campaign in 2011.
Both he and former PN MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando have criticised the investigation into their claims, with the former saying it was superficial. The MPs had been told that the Police had not tapped their phones but no mention of the Malta Security Service was made. Government officials have stated that the law does not allow the government to speak about MSS activities and as such it is not able to confirm the tapping of phones by the secret service. (c) 2013 Standard Publications Ltd. All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).
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