27 September 2011

Kenya: Spies Seek Legal Rights to Tap Phones in Bill

Intelligence officers want eavesdropping on telephone conversations backed by the law.

The proposal is contained in new legal draft of the National Intelligence Service Act.

The draft Bill, yet to be tabled in Parliament, seeks to empower the service to obtain information by tapping telephone conversations.

Government spies have over the years used such techniques to gather information, but would never acknowledge it openly.

The spies are also seeking leave to "instal, maintain or remove" anything from any private property, once they obtain a warrant from the High Court ex-parte.

This means that the person targeted would only be made aware of the proceedings.

The Bill also seeks to allow entry to private property for three months after which an extension would be sought.

At present, the courts grant warrants to police but are not allowed to install anything in the premises.

If the draft Bill is enacted without changes, it would also ensure that the director-general of the intelligence agency is vetted by Parliament.

The Bill also seeks to introduce a third division in the service to exclusively deal with counter-intelligence.

The draft further specifies qualifications of the director-general, effectively locking out politicians from contention.

The holder must be a Kenyan with a university degree, have at least 10 years experience in security and intelligence and must have served in a senior position.

Security of tenure

The spy chief will have security of tenure and can only be removed by the President on grounds of violation of the Constitution after a commission of inquiry says it is okay to do so.

The draft Bill also seeks to outlaw torture and says an intelligence officer who commits the offence can be jailed for two-and-a-half years and fined Sh300,000.

Maj-Gen Michael Gichangi is serving his second five-year term as head of National Security Intelligence Service.

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