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Indian govt ordered phone-tapping
Sat, May 01, 2010
AFP

NEW DELHI - A national news magazine said Saturday the Indian government illegally tapped the phones of officials, politicians and their wives despite denying such claims in parliament last week.

Outlook magazine said intelligence officers intercepted phone conversations mostly on verbal orders from their bosses.

Telephone tapping in India requires prior written authorisation from the country's home secretary.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram earlier in the week promised to probe the allegations but denied to parliament that his Congress party-led government was involved.

Outlook on Saturday quoted unnamed intelligence officials as saying details of the clandestine operations were available in "top secret" logbooks.

The weekly magazine had earlier reported that the phones of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Marxist leader Prakash Karat and Bihar state chief minister Nitish Kumar had been tapped.

"Once the logbooks are examined by a joint parliamentary (probe) committee and matched with the depositions who signed it... it will prove beyond doubt that illegal tapping took place," the magazine quoted one unnamed intelligence official as saying.

"The machine(s) intercepted calls of wives of MPs discussing personal and sensitive matters," the official said, warning the recorded material exposed people to blackmail.

"These are random sweeps, which record calls with impunity," the official said, and described the alleged tapping as "completely illegal and dangerous."

India began importing the phone tappers in 2005 to tackle infiltration by Islamic militants into Indian Kashmir from Pakistan, according to Outlook.

The opposition says the reports recalled the time when then Congress premier Indira Gandhi imposed a state of emergency in India in 1975, censoring the press and jailing hundreds of politicians.

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