A new bill, sponsored by Kiambaa MP Paul Koinange, seeks to allow police officers to spy on your telephone communication if you are suspected of drug trafficking. Should the proposed law be enacted, police will be able to gain access to your premises and install devices to tap your telephone communication.
The court may allow a police officer above the rank of chief inspector to conduct such an operation with the aim of collecting evidence, the bill says. Police, however, will be required to apply for written consent from the Director of Public Prosecutions before moving to court.
“The court shall make an order requiring a communications service provider to intercept and retain specified communication of a specified description received or transmitted, or about to be received or transmitted by that service provider,” the Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, states.
The bill also proposes that the courts allow the police to obtain devices or phones they suspect to have been used in drug related offenses. However, the courts need to be convinced that the information which will be obtained may provide some evidence for offenses under the drugs law. They will also consider the application if the information obtained will help track the whereabouts of persons suspected of trafficking in drugs.
The narcotics law also seeks to compel people with information on drug dealings to disclose such to a police officer. Failure to provide such information may earn such a person five years in jail or Sh1 million fine or both.
A person whose communication device or phone is seized and found to contain information that aids drug trade risks a Sh5 million fine or five years in jail.
The drugs law is being enhanced to enable authorities go after Kenyans and foreigners who conspire to commit drug offenses. In the new proposal, so long as both parties conspire to trade in narcotics, they will be deemed to have committed the offense in the country.
This could be the reason the government has made advancements to allow snooping of people’s phones. The Law Society of Kenya in June filed a suit at the Supreme court challenging a Court of Appeal order giving the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) permission to spy on phones.
The CA intends to install a Device Management System (DMS) on mobile networks which will enable authorities to listen, track calls, SMSs, and mobile money transactions. The state agency said that the move would curb counterfeit nd illegal devices by accessing phone numbers, their locations, and call records.
Activist Okiya Omtatah challenged the plan at the High Court, citing threats to privacy under the Constitution, violation of consumer rights and rights to fair administrative action. The LSK says the privacy of Kenyans is threatened by the CA plan, issues which may apply to the latest bid by the National Assembly Security committee.
“A law enforcement officer who aids or abets narcotics trade by concealing or colluding with suspects shall be liable for a fine of not less than Sh20 million or imprisonment of not less than 20 years,” the proposed law reads.
In the proposed bill, any information contained in a communication intercepted in the country or legally in foreign jurisdictions will be admissible in court. Police officers who abuse the proposed law by obtaining information illegally will be jailed for 10 years or fined Sh10 million or both.