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Jakarta Post

Indonesia steps up telcom surveillance

  • Ina Parlina and Margareth S. Aritonang

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, March 6, 2015   /  07:09 am

Following foreign media reports on alleged spying by New Zealand on Indonesia, National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Marciano Norman said Thursday that security authorities in the country had been working to improve communication security.

A document, released by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden dating back to 2009, released on Thursday, said a New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) officer had worked with the Australian Signals Directorate to spy on Indonesian telecommunications company Telkomsel, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Marciano said his agency had learned about spying allegations that dated back to the administration of president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Marciano said, '€œWe have been conducting efforts to improve communication security.'€

The documents said New Zealand'€™s electronic spy agency had also intercepted emails and mobile and fixed-line phone calls in its neighboring small Pacific states, including Fiji, and shared the intelligence with its international allies, for example Australia.

Lawmaker Tantowi Yahya, the deputy chairman of House of Representatives Commission I overseeing defense, foreign affairs and communications, said the House was aiming to regulate divestment initiatives among telecommunications companies operating in the country in an effort to take control of crucial information.

Tantowi, a politician from the Golkar Party, said that one of the efforts could be limiting foreign ownership in telecommunications companies.

He said that such a move would be made possible with the amendment of the 1999 Telecommunications Law, which has been included in the current National Legislation Program (Prolegnas).

'€œArticle 4 of the law clearly states that the telecommunications industry must be under the control of the government. The fact of the matter is there are violations to such stipulations. No wonder we are easily wiretapped,'€ he added.

Golkar has consistently called for the takeover of telecommunications firms Telkomsel and Indosat, both deemed as strategic.

Sixty-five percent of Telkomsel ownership is controlled by state-owned telecommunications firm PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Telkom) and 35 percent by Singtel Mobile, a subsidiary of Singapore Telecommunications Ltd.

Meanwhile, 65 percent of Indosat'€™s shares are owned by Qatar-based Ooredoo, 14.29 percent by the Indonesian government and the remaining 20.71 percent by the public.

When asked if President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo had knowledge of the wiretapping allegation, Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto declined to comment.

New Zealand'€™s Prime Minister John Key refused to comment on the disclosures, but had said on Wednesday when asked about their expected release that they were bound to be wrong, Reuters reported. The GCSB also refused to comment.

Key is scheduled to visit Indonesia this year. His last visit was in October 2013 when he attended the APEC Summit in Bali.

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