Malta may be undergoing much-needed judicial and institutional reform. However, the Prime Minister and other cabinet members are still enjoying totalitarian powers by being in control over Malta’s secret service and more specifically wiretapping warrants, reformist and former PN MP Franco Debono has warned.
As it stands, wiretapping is conducted by the Malta Security Services and regulated by the Security Services Act, which was last amended in 1997. The law allows for broad discretion of the Prime Minister and the Home Affairs Minister with regards the use of their techniques.
The Security Services are supervised by a commissioner, who is appointed by and reports to the Prime Minister, and a Security Committee composed of the Prime Minister, the Opposition leader and two other government members. Warrants for special investigative techniques are issued by the minister, who can also modify them at any time. No intercepts can take place unless authorised by government politicians
It was even been flagged as a key issue in an expert report by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). One of the men charged with the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia has even formally requested that evidence against him be dropped because of alleged irregularities in the way police had tapped his phone.
Taking to social media, Debono wrote:
“In November 2011 I filed in Parliament private members’ motion 260 effectively constituting the birth of justice reform – www.riformagustizzja.com. Point 16 of that motion dealt with the Secret Service, a weapon of gross abuse infamously utilised heavily by totalitarian regimes.”
“In fact, my proposal was “to consider whether it is time for the warrants issued for the Security Service, for certain interceptions (which relate to criminality and not national security) are to be transferred from the Minister’s political authority onto the investigative and adjudication authorities”
“Basically, after seeing that Malta was one of the few, if not the only democratic country where the Secret Service was a political toy in the hands of the Prime Minister I had proposed a change in the system.”
“I subsequently also filed constitutional cases which are still pending.”
“Whilst the current administration is being courageous pushing forward important reforms it is very weird, eerie and bizarre that this country is discussing curbing Prime Ministerial powers and no one mentions power number one – the Secret Service!”
“The Secret Service would be the easiest most accessible and most enjoyable toy any mischievous Prime Minister would have immediate access, shrouded in secrecy and dancing to his warrant tunes!!”
Do you agree that the powers over the secret service need to change? Comment below