The head of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) , George Maior, reassures in an interview with www.ziare.com that the ‘Big Brother’ law and the one regarding the prepaid cards do not extend monitoring and do not allow access to the contents of telephone or electronic communications without warrant issued by a judge. He also explained the intentions with the new form of the law on the retention of data and prepaid cards and the types of data to which unwarranted access shall be permitted by the cyber security law. In addition, Maior answered questions on the scandal of covert officers, the SRI-DNA cooperation as well as the power of Romanian intelligence agencies.
‘The law on the retention of data exists and operates in all European countries. Its absence operationally weakens the capability of the agency to investigate and take preventive action’, Maior said on the ‘Big Brother’ law. ‘We understand the CCR ruling and the considerations on which the law was ruled unconstitutional and we are trying to resolve the aspects the Court had in view. It is a law put in agreement with the CCR requirements, not one that would enhance monitoring capacity as it has been suggested. It is a democratic law, used in all European countries’, he added.
The SRI chief noted the law could not be disused in terms of security vs. freedom. ‘It is about the security of citizens in a democratic state. And it is a fundamental prerequisite for the exercise of rights and liberties in a European state, including here the right to privacy and free speech’, he said.
‘If we reach an individual computer, it may not be searched without warrant’
Regarding the fear of a possible abuse of personal data, George Maior said he counted on a judicial control. ‘Especially in the history of SRI of the last ten years there has been no issue regarding the abuse of data, information, illegalities, also thanks to a very thorough internal legal control mechanism. Including for the sake of our own legitimacy, we want our actions to be subject to a very clear judicial control and there is such control. I would like to stress there is no risk of such absolutely necessary tools to any intelligence agency being abused’, he said. ‘There is no provision that removes judicial control over the electronic search when an individual person is concerned.
In an initial phase, we mean corporations. If we reach an individual computer, it may not be searched without warrant’, the official added.
As for the prepaid card law, the SRI chief said it was necessary. ‘Monitoring does not extend to private calls. There simply has to be a record of people buying these anonymous cards, as there is in many European countries’.
George Maior stressed that, in his opinion, organised crime events would multiply if those laws were not adopted. ‘I can anticipate that organised crime will grow in the near future because of the absence of this law, in spite of efforts being made to keep this phenomenon under control, even considering neighbouring European states.
Major progress has been made in fighting corruption, however it persists as a major element of vulnerability
Asked about the threat of corruption, George Maior said it was ‘still big’. ‘Whilst major progress has been made, it persists as a strategic element of vulnerability. And, apart from its strictly legal effects, it also produces economic consequences and affects our credibility in the European relations. You can see that we still have the CVM’, the official noted.
With regards to the ex-president’s statements complaining about a flawed control on intelligence agencies, Maior said things were not at all like that. ‘Regarding the control, we receive visits – also unannounced – by the oversight Committee to various units, some of which are sensitive as they do counter-intelligence, on a weekly basis. We are one of the few intelligence agencies in the country that report to the Committee and answer questions on the legality of our actions, that present reports to the Parliament. Last year we presented our reports, which were debated on and approved. The director is appointed at the president’s proposal by Parliament, which is an additional control. Justice controls the agency as it has to authorise exceptional means of action, such as interceptions’, the chief of SRI told ziare.com.
The official answered a question on the subject of covert officers, very mush used during the presidential election campaign. ‘Covert officers are an exceptional means of intelligence agencies, a weapon specific to intelligence services used by all of them for improving their capability of defending national security. It is a shame that there is much debate on this. We do not anything that is outside the legal framework’, George Maior said, noting that ‘the level of credibility of the services is very high among the public’, and that ‘says something’.