El Comercio Editorial: Telephone tapping is against democracy

Published in El Comercio Oct.29, 2008

Over the past few days, a terrible sensation has been gradually increasing that the country is literally being blackmailed, by an illegal system of telephone and private communications interception, controlled by some anonymous puppeteer. And that, though it may be redundant to say so, does nothing less than progressively undermine democratic stability and governance.

The issue at stake is particularly serious because the blackmail and scandal involve, day after day, a number of political figures, authorities and the media.

And, although it may be impossible for the press not to publish the content of illegally obtained audios, emails, videos, etc., this does not mean that we must accept a pseudo-moralizing criminal system led by vague interests that range anywhere from commercial and industrial, to political blackmail, personal vengeance and the most despicable delinquency. The ends never justify the means, and least of all in these cases.

Worse still, no one can guarantee that national or foreign intelligence –or even remnants of the Montesinos mafia* that during the past decade caused Peru so much harm– are not actively involved in this black market of wiretapping.

Because of all this, Attorney General Gladys Echaíz’s decision to initiate a thorough investigation via the Public Prosecution Office and a state attorney specialized in organized crime, is appropriate.

As we have mentioned on several occasions, this truth-seeking effort was delayed for far too long.  The state attorney should have initiated the due diligence investigations when the so-called ‘Petrogate’ evidence appeared. Today, of course, what we hope for is –unlike past occasions– that the investigation lead to convincing results and, better still, that those responsible for the phone call interceptions be identified.

In Peru, unfortunately, there has been a tendency until now to cloud the issue of acts that violate the constitutional right to the sanctity of communications. Since the Fujimori era and even in Congress, investigative commissions were created and, despite their initial grandiloquence, inevitably ended up being dissolved with little to show for their efforts.

There are still, for example, wire tapping cases that need to be clarified, cases that  affected national press figures. Likewise, the complaint filed by former Cabinet Chief Jorge del Castillo on the tracking and spying on one of his sons has yet to be cleared. And nothing has been done about a report made by the new minister of Interior, General Hernani, concerning the manner in which enacting regulations to govern private security and telecommunications laws have been suspiciously postponed.

The responsibilities taken on by the Attorney General are, therefore, huge. The special congressional commission created for the Quimper-Leon case must also take on the real challenge of establishing the truth.

In short, Peru demands once and for all an explanation for what is happening. Beyond incidents and anecdotes, the truth is – as our headline indicates – that phone interception severely affects democracy and must be eradicated.

*Editor’s Note: Vladimiro Montesinos was President Alberto Fujimori’s spy chief and operated a vast web of illegal activities that included wiretapping and blackmail. He is currently serving a 15-year sentence for one of more than 70 separate criminal charges.

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