It is normal in Slovakia these days for people to avoid saying anything important on the telephone. Not just criminals, but also average citizens. This may seem like paranoia, but it is warranted by the behaviour of the state, which does not invite trust but rather suspicion that state organs abuse the public trust.
Given that only one percent (7 out of 642) wiretaps in the second half of last year were used in court, one has to ask what happened to the other 99 percent. The claim of a police spokesman that "not one of these wiretaps was in vain" sounds absurd - what would we think of a police force that had a 1 percent success rate in other areas, such as in laying criminal charges?
This is not nitpicking. Violating a citizen's right to privacy is just as much a rights infraction as putting him in jail. It is also not clear why the public has not been told how many wiretaps are mounted in total - unless we project that it is to conceal those cases in which the surveillance is not "necessary to the security of the state and the prevention of crime".
The use of IT equipment to spy on citizens is an extreme measure that should only be used to counter extreme threats. Such threats do exist, of course, meaning that surveillance is in some cases justified. However, it has to be under strict public control. In Slovakia today it is not, which is why important and intimate information is exchanged only over a beer.
Sme, January 30
5. Feb 2007 at 0:00