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New option against illegal surveillance

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, September 29
A two-key system might be introduced in terms of surveillance in Georgia. The offer was made by foreign experts and is being discussed within a special parliamentary commission composed of MPs and NGOs.

Up to now, only the Ministry of Interior Affairs can undertake surveillance and eavesdropping through the special devices planted at the headquarters of mobile operators. 20,000 subscribers can be eavesdropped on at the same time. The system was illegally used under the previous government. The new government destroyed thousands of recordings, which were obtained illegally and might have been used for blackmail and various wrongdoing. However, the Ministry of Interior Affairs still refuses to give up access. They claim that the new ministry staff is no longer using the devices illegally. In contrast, NGOs demand the key to be handed to mobile operators. They stress that people should not be dependent on the government’s goodwill. However, the ministry stands firm on its position and strongly opposes passing the key to the operators.

Following this development, two international legal experts from the European Council took part in a Georgian Parliament meeting to give their recommendation about Georgia’s draft law on government surveillance practices.

Joseph Cannataci and Graham Sutton recommended the country create a transparent system where surveillance could be accessed by the government and private organizations.

"Only after a court verdict is reached will it be possible for the Interior Ministry to launch surveillance and simultaneously, a private organisation or special monitoring agency must double-check the accuracy of the surveillance,” Cannataci said.

Head of the Parliament’s Legal Committee Vakhtang Khmaladze stated that the two-key system appeared to be more supported. However, he admitted that working on the project would take several months.

Khmaladze informed that a bank-style system might be introduced, when a safe key is given to a bank employee and a client.

“Only both of them can open the safe, one will not be able to use it in the case of absence of one of the keys,” Khmaladze said.

Editor-On Chief of Rezonansi newspaper, Lasha Tughushi, who is a working commission member, states that NGOs would express their view through a joint statement regarding the two-key initiative in the near future. He admitted that the NGOs demand concerned giving the key to mobile operators only.