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TNI to step up surveillance

The Indonesian Military (TNI) expects to boost its eavesdropping capability with the purchase of millions of dollars of new intelligence equipment, including sophisticated wiretapping devices, by its Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS) .

The equipment, which was purchased from UK-based Gamma TSE Ltd., is worth £4.2 million (US$5.6 million) and was procured with loans from the UK government. Shipment will be completed by the end of this year.

The House of Representatives has expressed concern that the equipment, especially the wiretapping devices, could easily be abused during the run-up to the 2014 general election.

“The procurement is part of efforts to modernize the Indonesian Military’s primary weapons defense system [Alutsista],” Commission I chairman Mahfudz Siddiq said on Sunday. “BAIS’ existing intelligence equipment is definitely out-of-date and inadequate. However, we must warn the military not to misuse this stuff for activities beyond its mandate, especially now that we are moving closer to the elections,”

Mahfudz urged the TNI to remain neutral in the election.

“Pak Moeldoko has promised us that the military will take a neutral stance [regarding the elections],” said Mahfudz, referring to newly installed TNI commander Gen. Moeldoko.

Commission I deputy chairman Tubagus Hasanuddin from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) had earlier expressed similar concerns about the equipment.

“Commission I will closely monitor the use of the new intelligence equipment,” he said.

Hasanuddin, a retired two-star Army general, said Commission I, which oversees defense and foreign affairs, would set up a special team to monitor how BAIS would use the wiretapping devices in the months leading up to the 2014 elections.

Despite concerns, the procurement project won approval from the commission last year.

Defense Ministry Spokesman Brig. Gen. Sisriadi Iskandar confirmed that the new intelligence equipment was scheduled to arrive in the country by the end of this year.

Sisriadi, however, declined to comment on whether the shipment would include wiretapping devices.

“Intelligence equipment can be many things. It could be unethical for me to elaborate because Law No. 14/008 forbids the release of information on intelligence activities to the public,” Sisriadi said.

He gave assurances that the equipment would not be abused for political purposes.

“I do appreciate the concerns expressed by Commission I, which remind us to use the intelligence equipment with discretion. As our commander has stated, the military will be neutral in using what has been entrusted to us,” he said.

The revelation of the intelligence equipment purchase came in UK Export Finance’s annual report released on June 20 this year.

The move drew criticism from the UK-based Jubilee Debt Campaign, a non-profit organization that promotes freedom from the slavery of unjust debts, stating on its website that the UK government had forced Indonesia, as well as other countries that received the loans, into greater debt without assessing the impact or the ability of the countries to repay.

According to the organization, Indonesia still owed the UK government £350 million ($560 million), mainly from arms sales to the regime of former president Soeharto.

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