Off-air phone-tap: Army confirms MHA letter, says 'double-checking'
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The Army is going through its records afresh after the union home ministry sought details of what is believed to be undisclosed purchases of off-air interception systems that surfaced during an audit of such equipment.
Army Headquarters officials confirmed that the ministry had raised questions, and said that a response would be drafted after an internal "double-checking" of records.
The Indian Express reported on Thursday that a glaring discrepancy came to light during an audit of snooping equipment by the ministry after defence PSU BEL said 20 such devices had been sold to the Army. The Army has in the past denied having off-air phone interception systems.
While the Army will send its version to the home ministry shortly, one explanation being offered is that the systems were part of a secretive electronic warfare system that the Army uses on the border. "Project Suraj" is used to jam enemy communication and signals but, in the absence of adequate checks, can be moved around and misused as phone interceptors, sources said.
According to the rulebook, within the military, only the Defence Intelligence Agency — which comes directly under the Integrated Defence Staff — is authorised to intercept phone conversations, that too only in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir where it has an active counter-insurgency role.
The audit of off-air phone-tapping equipment was carried out after allegations in 2010 that the National Technical Research Organisation was tapping phone conversations of politicians. The government then ordered a recall of all such devices.
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