ICT Africa Headline News

Kenya's Spy Agency Seeks Permission to Tap Citizen's Phones, Computers

22 July, 2014

Source: CIO East Africa

A proposed Amendment Bill currently before Parliament could see the country's spy agency - the National Intelligence Service (NIS) - given permission to go through Kenyans' private mobile phone messages and emails. This is because the bill seeks the removal of a requirement that requires the NIS to first get court warrants before going through citizen's private messages.

According to the Standard, the powers that the intelligence service is seeking through the proposed amendments to the bill will be seen by Kenyans as a violation of their rights.

"The new powers NIS is pursuing, which are likely to raise a public outcry given National Intelligence Service will be seen to be violating the private space of Kenyans, are contained in the Statute Law Miscellaneous (Amendment) Bill (2014). It proposes the deletion of section 36 (2) of the current act, on limitation to right to privacy as enshrined in Article 31 of the Constitution, that provides for the court's participation," states the article.

The court process was meant to mitigate between the need to protect the privacy of citizens while at the same time allowing government agents monitor the activities of those that they suspect of criminal involvement in activities such as terrorism, money laundering, drug trafficking and corruption. The NIS was therefore needed to convince the courts why it was important that the rights to privacy be removed.

Section 42 of the bill that NIS wants amended stipulates the following: "The right to privacy may be limited in respect of a person suspected to have committed an offence to the extent that the privacy of a person's communications may be investigated, monitored or otherwise interfered with."

Section 42 currently gives the NIS permission to go through a person's communication details only after being granted a warrant by the court. However, the proposed amendment seeks to give the spy agency unrestricted access to tamper with citizen's communication without seeking consent from the High Court. This will only happen if parliament approves the proposed amendments.

The Bill further seeks to amend Section 36 (1) of the Act to give NIS power to infringe on the privacy of any person who is subject to investigations. Under the same Act, NIS can only monitor, listen or intercept communication of any person judged to have committed an offence.

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