Tap Tap goes the Phone

Since I got bored of all the Chirayu Amin, IPL and other useless stories going around in the media, I decided to look up more about the whole phone tapping issue. You know, just because it infringes on the civil liberties of the population, and yes I do feel that the corrupt politicians do deserve their civil liberties, even though these politicians are the ones who steal common’s folks right. Vir Sanghvi presents an analysis here about the whole issue. Now, Vir Sanghi is fine one to speak about poor discussions on TV. Ofcourse, there used to be a time, when he among other TV anchors was well respected.

There used to be a time when presenting the facts and news mattered, now it’s more important to shout and repeat Lalit Modi’s tweets, without analysis, and pass them off as news. If I come across as cynical, perhaps the problem lies in what I consider a distrust of any media personality, presenting news. This is a pandemic, and often I feel the same way when I watch Campbell Brown on CNN. Anways, I digress. This isn’t about what media does or rather doesn’t do.

A snippet from Sanghvi’s blog-

 This is the most likely scenario: It is possible that both Outlook and Chidambaram are telling the truth. The way phone tapping works is that the agency that wishes to monitor a phone line has to get permission in writing from the home secretary or a state chief secretary. Chidambaram’s denial indicates that in these cases, no permission was granted by the home secretary. But the truth is that phones are routinely tapped by the security services without bothering with any written permission. Partly, this is out of necessity. In most countries (and especially the US), intelligence services regularly scan the ether to see if they can pluck out conversations of value.

Sanghvi’s right in saying that often in US, intelligence agencies tap the phone to actually search for terrorist activities. Is this phone-tapping morally acceptable? The answer is no. But this is the price you pay for living in a post 9/11 world, where there are credible threats, and the only way to avoid them is by actually sniffing them out. However, this misses the point in the case of phone-tapping of Opposition leader, or leaders who’re renegade. This is a blatant misuse of power. Not to mention illegal and as I mentioned earlier infringing on someone’s civil liberties.

As far as Govt. not involved and aware of phone tapping. Hogwash. Intelligence Agenices are least interested in what Opposition leader does, unless he shows up on the radar due to unfortunate use of words. The reason I say so is what Sanghvi inadvertently points out – “Spooks” survive on politics and politicians, and thus sway with winds of power. Sanghvi further points out that Politicians are too smart to indulge in phone-tapping. Actually, politicians are too smart to accept phone-tapping, more so when they can order phone taps as word of mouth, rather than a memo. Good luck trying to prove Governemnt’s involvement. It’s very naive of Sanghvi to believe that any spy agency in India or any country for that matter operate independent of Goverments invovlement or its agenda.

In passing, what intrigued me was this bit-

 For instance, R&AW picked up the conversations of the 26/11 terrorists on board a dhow in the Arabian Sea during one such scan. It had no permission from the home secretary for this kind of surveillance.

What does this say about India’s intelligence agencies? I’m not going to analyse that bit, but it should really scare you if you’re living in India.


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