Friday, March 27, 2015

In my perspective… Telephone tapping crosses the line

Friday, April 13, 2012, 22:28
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By Rayford Young In the United States, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, federal intelligence agencies can get approval for wiretaps from the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a court with secret proceedings, or in certain circumstances from the Attorney General without a court order.[3] Under United States federal law and most state laws, there is nothing illegal about one of the parties to a telephone call recording the conversation, or giving permission for calls to be recorded or permitting their telephone line to be tapped. However the telephone recording laws in most U.S. states require only one party to be aware of the recording, while 12 states require both parties to be aware. It is considered better practice to announce at the beginning of a call that the conversation is being recorded. The Belize Perspective - Belize Telecommunications Act This was contained in a document published in the Nov 6 2011 issue of the Reporter, as a letter sent by the then Minister of Public Utilities, Information, and Broadcasting to the phone companies that says: “4 January 2011...This letter serves to inform that the Government of Belize intends to accomplish the registration of cellular phone users and equipment and access call records for reasons of national security. These measures are sought pursuant to the powers granted to the Minister of Public Utilities under Section 75 (1) of the Telecommunications Act.  “[The company] is hereby advised that it shall require all new and existing customers to register their cellular’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, and require proof of identification (Passport or Belize issued Social Security Card only).  Furthermore, [the company] is required to capture and store Call Detail Records (CDRs) for a period of no less than 24 months. CDRs include - the cellular number of caller and receiver - subscriber identity module (SIM) number of caller and receiver - IMEI number of caller and receiver - date, time and duration of call - the result of the call (whether it was answered, busy etc.) - call type (voice, text) - the content of voice mail and text - the location of cell site(s) used to transmit from cell site(s) to cellular equipment used to transmit or receive the call and all applicable data pertaining to foreign cellular phones operating under “roaming”. My Perspective - The Country of Belize has such a small population I’m puzzled why we need this kind of intrusion in our private lives. A phone call or our text messages are so personal knowing that Big Brother might be listening or have access to my conversation or messages is appalling indeed. The reason given for this draconian law is National Security and the ability to listen in on conversations that might lead to criminal activities. Our population in Belize is so small everyone knows everyone all you need to do is to go to any street corner and you can find out who the thugs are or who are the gang members and drug dealers. You don’t need a law to register everyone that owns a cell phone or who texts to find this out. This is especially demeaning and degrading to all the law abiding citizens that have not committed a crime in their lives to now have their conversations recorded and listened to by some government hack and should alarm everyone. This is such an over reach by government I’m not sure why this is not discussed or covered in the media more. Are we in this country so timid or fearful of the government that we just sit back and allow them to roam through our messages and phone calls and do nothing? Are we so beaten down? It’s amazing. In many developed countries there is a special court set up so the government has to show a judge that there’s a reasonable cause to wiretap or listen in on someone’s private conversations before they can proceed. I don’t see the Belize government putting forward any guidelines or safeguards to assure the Belizean public that this practice is for the purpose they claim it to be; and that they won’t use this method to go after their enemies or the opposition. This is where trust comes in. Do you trust your government with your private text messages or telephone conversations? From the silence I guess the answer is yes, and this is a sad day indeed. Another one of our freedoms taken away and we just sat back and did nothing. The silence is deafening... Rayford Young is a Belizean-American, who currently lives in Michigan, U.S.A. Send comments to
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