OTA to be inaugurated in November 2018: MoI sources

The Operational Technical Agency (OTA), which will serve as a mediator in surveillance activities between telecom operators and users, is expected to launch operations starting November 2018. Until then, a special non-commissioner officer with a personnel has been assigned to ensure protection of people’s privacy and prevention of possible abuses.

With the novelty being implemented since June 1, the team is already preparing weekly and monthly reports and analyses of formal requests for preventive measures, including measures to curb crime in relation to the wiretapping. At the moment, the fourth comprehensive report is being completed in terms of how many surveillance orders have been issued, and how many telephone numbers have been eavesdropped, according to sources of the Interior Ministry (MoI).

In the past six months, the MoI on several occasions has asked Parliament, i.e. the commission in charge, to send an expert for an inspection, even though it isn’t regulated by the law. However, no parliamentary monitoring has been conducted yet.

The MoI sources fell short of revealing where the OTA would be located, the number of its staff, and of presenting the financial implications after these reforms are implemented.

The package of reforms of the interception of communications – as part of the reforms noted in the Reinhard Priebe’s recommendations – was passed by the government at yesterday’s session. The government adopted the law on Operational Technical Agency (OTA) and a new text of the bill on interception of communications.

Parliament is expected to adopt the OTA law and amendments to the law on interception of communications after the holidays.

The reforms were the subject of intensive work by an inter-institutional working group, whose members included also several opposition officials. According to MoI sources, they cooperated in the creation of these reforms.

Over the reforms, a strategic partnership has been concluded with the Croatian agency, established in a fashion similar to the British service.

OTA is seen as the first step toward establishing control between the services included in the process of intercepting communications.

It means, the sources say, that the MoI will no longer be the sole institution in charge of wiretapping, which was the case until now via the Administration for Security and Counterintelligence. All court orders will have to be processed through OTA, which will, in turn, have only the right to establish connection, but it won’t have powers to eavesdrop conversations.

Also, the mechanism of control of the interception of communications is envisaged to be enhanced. MPs, i.e. a four-member parliamentary commission, made up of two ruling MPs and two opposition MPs with a chairperson from the opposition coalition, will remain in charge of controlling surveillance. They will have the right to conduct an inspection unannounced.

The surveillance control also involves several institutions, namely the Ombudsman, the Directorate for Classified Information Security and the Directorate for Personal Data Protection.

A novelty is the introduction of a council for civil control, which is set to be founded. Its members will be elected by MPs. The council will act upon requests of citizens and companies that have detected abuse of special investigation measures.

The head of the OTA will be elected in Parliament with a two-third majority. The Agency will also have deputy director, according to MoI sources