Judiciary Rejects Security Agencies' Demand to Obtain Text Messages, Internet Passwords Data

The controversial issue of providing security agencies with telecommunications data resurfaced on Monday after a judicial authority rejected a request to expose the text messages (sms) among the Lebanese, As Safir newspaper reported on Monday.

A source close to the judicial authority, which is tasked with assessing the possibility of providing the security forces with the data, told the newspaper that the security agencies' request clearly violates the constitution and the privacy of citizens.

According to the daily, the security agencies filed a request to obtain all the circulating text messages between the Lebanese that occurred two months before the assassination of head of the intelligence branch of the Internal Security Forces(ISF) Maj. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, who was killed on October 19 in a car bombing in the Ashrafieh district of Beirut.

The security agencies also extended their request to acquire the facebook and several internet passwords that the Lebanese use, under the pretext of the “national security.”

Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui confirmed in comments published in As Safir the matter, warning the approval of such a request would allow security agencies to “further exploit” the privacy of the Lebanese.

He pointed out that he referred the request to the cabinet's general secretariat along with his recommendation to “reject” it.

Sehnaoui urged the judicial authority that is made up of three top judges to be more “effective” in safeguarding the implementation of the constitution.

For his part, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told the newspaper that the ISF Intelligence Bureau filed a request to obtain the text messages across the country, noting that the judges rejected its demand for violating the privacy of the Lebanese.

However, he said that the Intelligence Bureau sought to resubmit a request to obtain the text messages in two provinces including Mount Lebanon.

Charbel defended the security agency, saying that investigators will only view the sms for suspicious numbers.

He stressed that the security apparatuses don't obtain the telecom data of officials.

In August, a Lebanese delegation visited France to view the modern mechanisms in intercepting phone calls.

The delegation came back with results contradictory to what the government decided regarding allowing the security agencies to benefit from the telecom data.

Media reports said that the delegation was informed that the norms require the security agencies to explain the results they reached after analyzing the data. “If the results don’t fulfill the purpose the data was taken for then the side that demanded to acquire the data would be held accountable.”

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