Memo: Telecoms must aid in wiretaps

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The Cayman Islands government will require, through regulations to the Information and Communications Technology Authority Law, that local telecommunications companies provide “legal interception facilities” to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, according a memo obtained by the Caymanian Compass.  

The police service purchased surveillance equipment for the purpose of intercepting communications earlier this year, but needs to directly access the service providers’ telephony networks and ensure its equipment functions properly with the telecommunications service providers’ upgraded technology, according to government sources familiar with the issue. 

The equipment purchase was included in a supplementary expense for the 2012/13 government budget as an unspecified $900,000 for “law enforcement equipment services.” 

According to the Oct. 15 memo sent from Information and Communications Technology Authority Managing Director David Archbold to various telecommunication companies on island: “Government has instructed the authority to provide drafting instructions for a new set of regulations under the ICTA Law which will mandate the provision by licensees [referring to the telecommunications companies] of legal interception facilities to the RCIPS.  

“Although initially these regulations will apply only to mobile telephony service providers, it is anticipated that in the near to medium term, these obligations will be extended to all telephony service providers. The authority has already commenced consultations with LIME and Digicel, but would now like to extend these discussions to include all other telephony licenses.” 

A meeting of the telecom providers originally scheduled for Tuesday was put off until next week, Mr. Archbold said.  

Officials with the government’s Home Affairs Ministry declined to comment.  

Regulations attached to the ICTA Law, approved in August 2011 by Cayman Islands Cabinet members, allow “any person employed by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service to intercept a message in relation to a matter or person” for the purposes of gathering intelligence.  

The interception of the message – which can include any form of communication such as telephones, post, e-mail and text messages – must be authorised by a warrant issued directly from Cayman’s governor. The warrant would have to be addressed to the RCIPS commissioner who can then authorize a police service employee to execute it.  

There is no judicial review of those warrants prior to their issuance. However, any information uncovered via the use of such telephone tapping or e-mail snooping methods would not be available for use in court.  

It is not known whether, under any newly proposed regulations, local telecommunications companies would have to be informed when the RCIPS engages in such investigative activity.  

There is an audit committee created by the Interception of Telecommunications Regulations with a mandate to review all interception warrants issued by the governor. That committee has not been officially formed yet.  

According to the regulations, the committee must consist of five members: a local justice of the peace (who will serve as chairperson); a retired judge, magistrate or lawyer; the chief officer of the government Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs [now the Ministry of Home Affairs]; an information technology specialist who is employed by government; and a technical expert in the area of communications interception who is from a law enforcement agency outside the Cayman Islands.  

“The … regulations do not give police a free hand in monitoring anyone’s communications,” RCIPS officials said in a statement about the issue in 2011.  

Under the regulations, the governor would need a specific reason for issuing such a telecom interception warrant. Those include: the interests of national security, preventing or detecting serious crime, averting an imminent threat to human life, circumstances that fall within the scope of international mutual assistance agreements, or to safeguard the economic well-being of the Cayman Islands.  

The regulations also state the governor must be “satisfied that the interception of the message is proportionate to the ends sought to be achieved by intercepting the message and the information sought to be obtained cannot be obtained by other less intrusive means.” 

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1 COMMENT

  1. To safeguard the economic well-being of the Cayman Islands. —-(very vague indeed)

    and with police personnel already being jailed for giving out private phone details to a ‘Friend’ how can anyone feel safe?

    We are heading into dangerous territory here. One has only to look at the worldwide abuse of this sort of information gathering to see where we are heading.

    BAD MOVE!!!

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