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2018 April 4 - 10 [POLITICS]

90% of police acts of wiretapping unrelated to crimes

April 5, 2018

More than 90% of phone conversations which the police wiretapped in 2017 had nothing to do with crimes. This fact was shown in a government report dealing with police wiretapping.

Law enforcement authorities across Japan used wiretaps in their investigations of 13 cases last year. Of them, 12 were categorized as fraud, theft, or other unorganized crimes. These crimes became subject to the wiretapping authorization law when the law was revised in 2016. Until then, the use of wiretapping was only allowed in investigations of organized crimes.

In the 13 cases, the police monitored and intercepted cellphone conversations for 644 days in total. The number of wiretapped conversations totals 10,957. However, conversations dealing with crime made up only 8.8% of the 10,957 conversations. The remaining 91.1% were unrelated to crimes. It is obvious that even in criminal investigations, telephone tapping infringes on people’s basic human right to privacy in communication.

At the time when the Diet discussed the revision of the wiretapping law which aims to expand the scope of the law to target broader criminal activities, the then Justice Minister in Diet deliberations stressed, “The police must obtain a court order for their eavesdropping activities, which ensures the confidentiality of communications.” The government report indicated that the police obtained 100% of requests for court approval. Contrary to the government explanation, the courts failed to carry out their function of limiting police wiretapping.

Beginning in July 2019, police authorities will be allowed to tap phone conversations without the presence of telecommunication company employees.

Lawyer Koike Shin’ichiro emphasized the importance of having the courts play their role to strictly examine police requests for a wiretapping. Koike cited that in European nations and the United States, third-party organizations are working to prevent the police abuse of power. The lawyer said, “It is necessary for Japan to set up an independent organization with the authority to examine the validity of materials submitted by the police to a court to obtain a court approved wiretap order.”

Past related articles:
> Expansion of police wiretapping is unconstitutional: JCP Nihi [August 22, 2015]
> JCP Shimizu reveals 85% of police wiretaps have nothing to do with crime [May 22, 2015]

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