Zille cals for bugging inquiry

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Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille has called on President Jacob Zuma to set up a commission of inquiry into allegations that state security agents are engaged in illegal interceptions of cellphone calls, SMSes and e-mails.

The Mail & Guardian Friday reported it had been told by well-placed sources that illegal snooping was a common occurrence, especially in police crime intelligence.

Zille, also Western Cape provincial premier said in a statement said the M&G report “confirms what we have suspected for some time. Government agents are abusing their power to spy on individuals without permission from a judge as required by law. The report found that employees of state intelligence agencies can easily intercept anybody’s cellphone conversations, text messages and emails without a judge or inspecting authority ever knowing they have done so.
“This is a threat to the constitutional rights of every South African,” Zille said. “We have long believed that cadres deployed to state intelligence agencies are abusing their power to wage external and internal political battles.”

Parliament’s joint standing committee on intelligence revealed in its 2009/2010 report that, over a four-year period until the end of March last year, one of the state’s eavesdropping centre had legally carried out three million interceptions — phone calls, text messages or emails.

The police has denied it has been engaged in illegal interceptions and says these cannot occur because of “fail-safes” built into the process.