Categorized | National News

Gov’t Touts “Improved” Interception Communications Bill

A controversial bill made a return to the House of Assembly yesterday with the government touting the “improvements” made to the proposed law since its introduction last year.


Amidst much criticism, the Christie administration tabled the Interception Communication Bill to repeal the Listening Devices Act of 1972.


Leading off the debate in the Lower Chamber on Wednesday, National Security Minister Marvin Dames lauded the Bill as a comprehensive contemporary law to fight sophisticated technologically savvy criminals and to dismantle their criminal networks.


“This bill is a vital tool to assist in our crime fighting strategies, particularly in combating drug, human, and gun trafficking, gang violence, cybercrimes and other forms of transnational organized crimes,” he said.


“Without legislation such as this one, law enforcement agencies will be severely handicapped and disadvantaged in their attempts to detect, collect, analyze, investigate and prosecute associated crimes in a world where technology related platforms have become the preferred means of communications across the globe especially for organized crime organizations.”


It is estimated that globally, cyber crimes costs approximately $600 billion dollars annually.


At that figure, it is considered more profitable than the global illegal trade of all drugs combined.


Hoping to stay one step ahead or at least apace with such criminals, the bill seeks to provide a single legal framework within which the interception of all communications on public and private systems would be authorized, inclusive of public telecommunication operators and Internet providers.


“The Bill provides for the interception of communication carried wholly or partly by wireless telegraphy and also covers all mail handling systems including parcel and courier services,” he said.


It further provides for the use of certain devices for listening to private conversations, a contentious provision.


The 1969 version of the Interception of Communications Act applied only to telephone wiretaps for landlines.


Nearly 50 years old, these forms of communication are now antiquated.


Minister Dames then stressed that the Interception of Communication Bill 2017 needs to be passed to provide for the legal interception of email and other forms of communication over the internet as well as other technological devices.

“Without the enactment of this new Bill, law enforcement personnel will not be able to utilize the latest in law enforcement techniques and equipment to match the reach, resources or sophistication of organized criminal groups.


“This will undoubtedly lead to a major regression in all of the gains made by law enforcement in recent times, thereby exposing our beautiful nation to untold risks such as economic, reputational, and damage to our social fabric etc.


“We cannot and should not send the message to the criminal element that we are not prepared to follow them or match their resources to wherever they go to safeguard our nation’s security interests,” he said.


Section 26 of the bill removes the power of the minister to simply order a wiretap, but provides for the minister to authorize in writing, a listening device to be used by an individual if it is determined that the use is for defense or national security matters.


But while Minister Dames contends that the bill provides for accountability, transparency and a paper trail, he stressed that there are absolutely no provisions for personal agenda.


“One cannot act outside of the law to go after political adversaries, spouses, sweethearts, or anyone else as a matter of fact without there being consequences,” he said.


“In short, if you are living your life going about your daily business and not threatening the security of others or the national security of this nation, you have absolutely nothing to be concerned about as it relates to this bill. On the other hand, then you should worry.”


The Bahamas is not alone in its push for an Interception Communication Bill.


Jamaica, St. Lucia, Saint Kitts & Nevis, The United Kingdom, and Australia have all used such laws to counter national security threats and combat serious crimes.

















Written by Jones Bahamas

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