Thu, 12 Feb 2004

Diplomatic corps warned of wiretapping

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said on Wednesday that wiretapping has become a global phenomenon and urged diplomats and staff at Indonesian Embassies abroad to be on the alert.

Hassan said the United States and its allies had developed a system that could "monitor" over one million taps every half hour.

After a screening process, the system selects 650,000 taps to be filtered down to 1,000 reliable taps.

"So, don't ever think that we are secure (from information theft). What has happened in certain places is only the reality," he told the House of Representatives (DPR) Commission I overseeing security and foreign affairs.

"As for the Australian case, we sent team to check it out. We only found an alarm system. Whether there is a bugging device, we don't know," he said, referring to an earlier allegation that Australian authorities were tapping the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has flatly denied the allegation, saying that the so-called bugging device was a piece of security equipment.

Hassan also disclosed on Wednesday that the ministry had sent teams to embassies in several European countries, the United States and other countries to check for possible bugging.

"There are indications of bugging in those countries," he said without elaborating.

Hassan said his office would order staff members at overseas missions to use a special device called Crypto to avoid information leaks.

Commission I deputy chairman Effendy Choirie of the National Awakening Party said legislators supported the plan.

"Yes, we support it, but we have neglected to include it in our summary," he said.

During the hearing, legislator Mashadi of the Reform faction interrupted the minister's explanation and demanded that government send a diplomatic note to Australia, insisting that the country had practiced double standards.

"Australian officials display good intentions before their Indonesian counterparts, but they keep donating money to non- governmental organizations campaigning against Indonesia," he said.