The government’s probe into allegations that phones of politicians were illegally tapped has gone beyond the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO).
Government sources say they haven’t found any records at NTRO, or elsewhere, to indicate that its interception equipment was used to illegally tap phones of politicians such as Congress leader Digvijay Singh.
“We’ve broadened the scope to see if it could have happened and the safeguards that need to be put in place,” a source said. This would involve tightening legal and technical frameworks.
For instance, NTRO equipment already keeps an inerasable record in its computers of the various locations where it has been positioned. “If an attempt is made to clear this record, the machine will not work,” the source said.
There are suggestions that the government will explore strict restrictions on sale of off-the-air interception equipment — which intercept signals between handsets and mobile tower — to the private sector.
It won’t be easy as Indian firms import components and assemble the devices in India. Intelligence agencies have identified 11 private operators in and around Delhi who sell interception equipment.
Apart from NTRO and other central intelligence agencies, police in eight states including Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi use similar equipment that can track all cellphones in a two-km radius.