Government mulls regulating sale of tapping devices

May 2nd, 2010 - 12:28 am ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) The government may regulate the sale to the public of sensitive phone tapping equipment of the kind that was used for allegedly snooping on the conversations of prominent politicians, sources said Saturday.
They also said the government had ordered a “full-fledged” inquiry into the allegations of phone-tapping as reported by the media.

“The government is mulling to regulate the sale of these sensitive devices,” an official said.

Eight police forces in the country, apart from the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), have access to this phone-tapping equipment.

There are 11 private suppliers who sell gadgets that intercept the signal between the mobile handset and the nearest cellphone tower. The machine picks up the signal, decrypts it and the conversation can be recorded on a hard disk.

Sources said the the government will investigate whether an agency other than the NTRO, the government’s technical intelligence gathering agency, may be to blame for the illegal phone tapping.

The NTRO reports to the National Security Advisor.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram, earlier this week told parliament that he had discussed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the need to have the NTRO report to a minister accountable to parliament.

Chidambaram also stressed that while the government had not sanctioned the phone tapping, he would look into unauthorised interceptions.

Weekly Outlook magazine first reported that the NTRO had tapped the phones of Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, Congress’ Digvijay Singh, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Prakash Karat.

The Pioneer later reported that NTRO had snooped on telephone conversations between Communications Minister A. Raja and a high-profile lobbyist in the allotment of 2G spectrum.

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