Italy's Government Tries To Limit Wiretap Powers In the name of protecting citizens' privacy, Italy's prime minister is pushing a bill severely restricting police use of wiretaps. It also imposes harsh jail terms on journalists who report the contents of bugged conversations. Free speech advocates are up in arms, and prosecutors say it would undermine efforts to combat organized crime and terrorism.
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Italy's Government Tries To Limit Wiretap Powers

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Italy's Government Tries To Limit Wiretap Powers

Italy's Government Tries To Limit Wiretap Powers

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

That has free speech advocates up in arms, even as prosecutors are predicting that it would undermine efforts to combat organized crime and terrorism. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports from Rome.

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SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Last week, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer voiced concern that restrictive wiretap rules could harm joint U.S.-Italian investigations into narco-trafficking, money laundering and terrorism.

LANNY BREUER: From a prosecutor's point of view, we don't want anything to occur that prevents the Italians from doing as good a job as they've in the past.

POGGIOLI: Maria Elisabetta Casellati is a member of Berlusconi's party.

MARIA ELISABETTA CASELLATI: (Through Translator) It's a good draft that balances the right to investigate using wiretaps and the right to privacy.

POGGIOLI: Stefano Rodota is a leading jurist and was Italy's first privacy commissioner.

STEFANO RODOTA: The real aim of this law is to control all media, avoiding any publications of information about what judges are discovering on criminals, financial affairs, and so on. This is an attack to what in the U.S. is called the free speech of the First Amendment.

POGGIOLI: Giuseppe Cascini, chairman of the National Magistrates Association, details some of the bill's restrictions.

GIUSEPPE CASCINI: (Through Translator) You can't use the content of one wiretap in another investigation. If we hear two people planning a murder, that wiretap cannot be used to investigate that murder. You can't bug the inside of a car or cafes, trains or offices unless you can prove a crime is being committed there. The result is that I can virtually no longer investigate crimes.

POGGIOLI: Even Vittorio Feltri, editor of the Berlusconi-owned Il Giornale - usually blatantly pro-government - blasted what the media calls the gag bill.

VITTORIO FELTRI: (Through Translator) With the pretext of protecting the right to privacy, this bill violates the right of freedom of speech, which is protected by our constitution.

POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

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