The cabinet session on Tuesday is expected to be jammed with heated issues topped with the telecom data dispute which has stirred political controversy over the legality of providing the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch with the telecommunications records.
According to newspapers published Tuesday, the issue will be discussed out of the cabinet’s agenda during the session at the Baabda Palace.
The parliamentary telecom committee visited on Tuesday the phone call interception command center at the interior ministry.
Information obtained by the ISF Intelligence Branch on the alleged plot to assassinate high-ranking security officials, including its chief Col. Wissam al-Hassan, stirred the debate over the legality of providing security authorities with the telecom data to track phone communications.
Sources told An Nahar daily that the committee tasked with verifying the legality of intercepting the calls “refuted the demands of the ISF and the General Security Department in order to preserve the personal freedoms which are protected by the constitution.”
Head of the committee Hatem Madi told the daily that “article 140 (of the law) limited the interception of phone calls, and the law is above everyone.”
Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui held a meeting with President Michel Suleiman at the Baabda Palace on Tuesday.
He told As Safir that he will bring up the issue during the cabinet session so that the government takes the appropriate decision.
“There should be certain limits, especially when the law doesn’t cover us as a telecommunications ministry,” Sehnaoui stressed.
According to the daily, the minister will base his argument on the results of the parliamentary telecom committee’s visit to the command center, which will be briefed on the mechanism and the standards followed in the interception of calls.
The parliamentary telecommunications committee secretary, MP Ammar Houri, denied that there was an agreement with Sehnaoui to conceal the telecom data from the security services, al-Liwaa daily reported.
The minister was in the past 13 days refusing to reveal any data after he agreed with Interior Minister Marwan Charbel during a meeting of the telecom committee to control the amount of information handed over to security forces out of concern for the infringement of people’s liberties, according to As Safir newspaper published on Monday.
Houri noted that the March 14-led opposition expects from the cabinet to abide by the law, saying that the telecommunications minister and the cabinet would be responsible for any security breach in the country.
Meanwhile, Sehnaoui said that the cabinet will tackle the possibility of renewing the contracts of MTC and Alfa mobile phone operators.
“The two companies agreed three days ago, after exhausting negotiations, on the tough conditions set by the ministry,” he told An Nahar newspaper.
Al-Joumhouria newspaper said that the cabinet will approve extending the contracts of the two companies on the condition of dividing their profits to 40 percent on the postpaid lines and to 60 percent on the prepaid lines.
The two companies will also have to implement the national plan to improve the quality of service which includes buying 400 new stations and setting 1,200 antennas.