Democratic guidelines for electronic communications surveillance
The global debate on Intelligence and surveillance aftwer Snowdens revelations has its own pecualirites in Latin America, and specially in Argentina. While Intelligence Services in the past have been closely related to dictatorship processes in the region, there is still a strong political component in them.
On February, a reform to the Intelligence Act of 20011 was enacted by the Argentine Congress. In our view, the bill introduces several positive reforms, including among others an increased budgetary transparency and Congressional approval for the Director and Assistant Director of national intelligence, while other controversial points remain e.g. an inadequate separation between intelligence and criminal investigation related to serious federal offenses.
The Act keeps the principle that any communications surveillance must be ordered (when for criminal investigation) or authorized (when for intelligence purposes) by a judge, and centralized all wiretapping in an unit of the Secretary of Intelligence, the Directorate of Judicial Observations (DOJ). Privacy and transparency organizations have since then considered that a risky practice, because of the huge power it place under authority of the Executive branch. One of the main reforms sought by the new bill is the transfer of the communications surveillance operations to the Office of the Attorney General (PGN), under the same principles of judicial order/authorization. In principle, such reform could greatly improve the accountability and fairness of communications surveillance procedures.
The PGN is facing the challenges of the transfer. In an unexpected but welcome move, the PGN has called a number of NGOs, including FVL, for advice on the best forms to implement communications surveillance procedures and safeguards to the highest practicable human rights standards.
Via Libre's role
Fundación Vía Libre has researched and done advocacy in the field of communications surveillance for many years. We believe we can make crucial contributions to the development of democratic safeguards and accountable procedures in Argentina, and perceive that PGN's intentions are commendable. However, our budget for 2015 has already been completely allocated, and a meaningful contribution would require extra workload and resources not foreseen when we established our planning for the year.
Financial assistance required
These funds will be employed in collection and analysis of best practices in the field, with the aim to produce guidelines for electronic communications surveillance. Those guidelines will not only be useful as infput for PGN's procedures and protocols, and a guidance for congressional oversight, but will also raise the level of awareness on the communications surveillance issue in the public at large.
1Ley de Inteligencia Nacional N° 25520. Available at: http://infoleg.mecon.gov.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/70000-74999/70496/norma.htm (in Spanish).
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