December 13, 2005 · Posted in: In the News, Science and Technology

Wiretap central

SOON after the elections in May 2004, Military Intelligence Group (MIG) 21, the signal intelligence unit of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or ISAFP, got the order to tap a certain phone number.

The request was not unusual. MIG 21 is the ISAFP unit that specializes in communications and surveillance. It is, in a manner of speaking, wiretap central for the AFP. In fact, the unit takes pride in its accomplishments, which include tapping phone calls that led to cracking kidnapping and other crime gangs, the exposure of New People’s Army operations, and uncovering the trail of the elusive and predatory Abu Sayyaf.

In May 2004, MIG 21 was informed of reports reaching the military’s Southern Command that the votes in some places in Mindanao “were being sold to the highest bidder.” An order to tap a phone number came down from higher headquarters. MIG 21 did what it was told. Only later did the agents discover that the phone number belonged to Virgilio Garcillano, the former elections commissioner now at the center of an election fraud scandal that has shaken the government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

According to military intelligence operatives contacted by the PCIJ over the last few months, this was how the “Hello, Garci” recordings came about. In his testimony at the House of Representatives last Wednesday, Garcillano admitted he was a victim of wiretapping, although he refused to admit that his was the voice in the recording that has been made public.

While he did not say who was guilty of bugging him, the Senate has pointed to ISAFP. After all, it was an ISAFP agent who sold the recording to the opposition. ISAFP is also said to be President Arroyo’s favorite military unit. The ISAFP chief sometimes reports to her directly, even bypassing the chain of command.

The question that remains unanswered is whether the order to bug Garcillano came from Malacañang itself and whether concerns about the election official’s loyalty to the president had prompted the wiretapping. The other mystery is this: if the president knew Garcillano was being tapped, why did she call him not just once, but according to the recording, 15 times? Was she as much a victim as Garcillano was? If so, why didn’t she raise hell about being bugged and investigate and punish those guilty? If, on the other hand, she knew the eavesdropping was being done, was she so confident of ISAFP’s loyalty and discretion that she couldn’t care less?

The truth is that illegal wiretapping has been part of the toolkit of military intelligence for decades. It’s just that it has almost never been talked about in the open. Anti-crime groups are privy to, and tolerate, unauthorized bugging operations as these have proved useful in running after criminal gangs. But ISAFP, for one, has never admitted it is engaged in wiretapping or even that it has the capacity to tap mobile phones.

The Senate defense committee’s threat to look into wiretapping operations of military intelligence, however, could blow the lid off a practice that military officers believe is a necessary part of keeping law and order. Sen. Rodolfo Biazon wants to reconstitute the Senate select committee on intelligence . “It is a serious breach of national security if the the commander in chief is wiretapped,” he says.

That investigation could open up a can of worms. The reality is that top brass of the military and the police tolerate illegal wiretapping because they deem it essential to fighting terrorists, kidnappers and assorted criminals. Even civilian authorities are not totally clueless: in most cases they would rather not know.

Over the last few months, intelligence officers contacted by the PCIJ confirmed that wiretapping was used in some of the most successful military and police operations in recent years. These officers spoke to PCIJ but insisted on anonymity for security reasons. They said that electronic eavesdropping was instrumental in the arrest of numerous members of kidnap gangs, ranking communists, Abu Sayyaf rebels and even the Indonesian Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi, a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda.

These intelligence officers say that anti-crime and anti-insurgency operations would be more difficult to carry out without wiretapping. While it is possible to get a court order to tap a phone, many operatives believe that this would slow down operations and cause what could be fatal delays. Besides, many of them don’t trust the courts.

But as the Gloriagate scandal has revealed, the routine practice of disregarding legal norms has also led to abuses, primarily the use of wiretapping operations no longer for anti-crime or anti-terrorist campaigns, but for partisan political purposes.

In fact, Biazon reveals that the “master tapes” turned over to him last week by former National Bureau of Investigation deputy director Samuel Ong contained conversastions of still-unidentified individuals that date back to January 2004. The intelligence sources also say that that Ong had not released to the public Garcillano’s conversations with former president Joseph Estrada, Senator Edgardo Angara, and former AFP chief Joselin Nazareno, who remains loyal to Estrada.

How the wiretaps are done

According to an intelligence official interviewed by Newsbreak, ISAFP acquired equipment sometime in 2002 that could monitor 500 cellphones at any given time. The article did not describe how this equipment works and whether this was the one used for tapping Garcillano’s phone.

Intelligence officers contacted by the PCIJ say that the technology used for Garcillano was far more primitive. Tapping mobile-phone conversations through “air interface,” even with sophisticated equipment, they say, is difficult: the wiretapper has to be near or at the cellsite through which the call is coursed so he could eavesdrop on a conversation. But even then, there is no assurance that particular cellsite is transmitting that call and it is difficult to sort which of those calls are being made by the target.

But eavesdropping can be facilitated by intelligence assets embedded in telecommunications companies. Phone companies have all denied rumors that they were cooperating with intelligence agencies. At the height of the Gloriagate scandals, these companies asserted they had nothing to do with the illegal bugging operations.They even told the National Telecommunications Commission in a hearing last July the difficulty of intercepting and recording mobile-phone calls.

But the intelligence officers, who say they had taken part in wiretapping operations, insist that ISAFP has assets in phone companies that allow them to conduct the wiretaps with relative ease. They say the bugging is done with the help of phone company employees without having to use sophisticated eavesdropping equipment. With their help, wiretapping can be done from a remote location, such as the MIG 21 headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo. They say that all MIG 21 uses to eavesdrop is a phone that is connected to an analog tape recorder. That phone picks up all the conversations on the target’s phone and all the agent has to do is pick up the handset every time a call is made and record the calls.

MIG 21, these intelligence sources say, has a log book where the agent on duty records the time, date, the name of the caller if it can be identified, the number calling and the number called. As previously reported in this blog, whenever a tape is filled, the agent then removes it from the recording device and immediately starts preparing what would later become the “master tape.”

The master tape will be purged of irrelevant conversations but will also contain the annotations made by the intelligence operative based on the logbook. These annotations give the time, date and if identifiable, the persons involved in the conversation. This procedure of dubbing the master is followed in most agencies engaged in intelligence work, our sources said, and they identified some of these agencies as the Presidential Security Group, National Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Intelligence Security Group and the Philippine National Police Intelligence Group.

T/Sgt. Vidal Doble was one of those agents recording Garcillano’s conversations and then transferring them on to the master tape. In fact, his voice, as well as those of two other MIG21 agents — a M/Sgt Billedo and a M/Sgt Callos — is heard in the recording, announcing the time and date at the start of each phone call.

It was this master tape that eventually came into the possession of Ong, the former NBI official who made copies of the “Hello, Garci” recording public. The recording was distributed to the press in CD format when Ong held a press conference in Makati in June. That recording is also posted on this blog.

Doble’s game

The key person in the release of the recording is Vidal Doble, a long-time MIG21 operative who has been in ISAFP custody since June. Last week, Doble’s girlfriend, Marietta Santos, testified at the Senate to say that Doble had told her about the wiretapping done on Garcillano by his 14-man unit. She also said she had seen the room where the bugging was done.

She likewise revealed that Doble had sold the tapes to Ong for P2 million. Her story confirms the reporting that has been done on this issue by the PCIJ, Newsbreak and the Inquirer.

“Doble was always broke,” says an intelligence officer who knows him well. “He has two mistresses. He was always short. He couldn’t even afford merienda. Most of the time he had only P20 or P50 in his wallet.”

Apparently, Ong, who has close connections to the Estrada camp, arranged the payoff using money that presumably came from the former president. Ong himself got wind of the tapes through Lito Santiago, his driver, who was a friend of Doble’s. Some intelligence sources say that Doble spilled out information on the tapes in a drinking spree with Santiago, who then told his boss.

The payoff, as Santos later confirmed, took place in February at the Century Imperial Hotel in Quezon City. Doble, she said, later gave P200,000 to Santiago, P200,000 to his brother and P70,000 to her.

He apparently blew the rest very fast. “He went on vacation for two weeks,” says an intelligence operative. “When he returned, he had lots of money and gold jewelry. He was already wearing a bracelet and a necklace.”

Newsbreak, however, doubts whether Doble was acting on his own. So far, there is no evidence of whether other people up the chain in ISAFP are involved, and what, if any, their motives were in encouraging Doble to make the recording public.

The military was supposed to have conducted its own investigation of the wiretapping but none of its findings have been made public. In June, the entire MIG21 was placed under ISAFP custody. The unit, which was led by Army Lt. Col. Pedro Sumayo Jr. during the elections, was supposed to have been under investigation by the armed forces since June, when the tapes were leaked to the public. But up to now, no one is saying what, if any, they’ve found out.

31 Responses to Wiretap central

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baycas

December 13th, 2005 at 8:15 pm

expect adherence to the code of omertà
from the

Mafia of
Isafp and
Gloria.
2-million peso tapes from sergeant vidal –
1 nation’s fuss unending and monumental.

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Uniffors - Just another harmless weblog » Wiretap Central

December 13th, 2005 at 10:17 pm

[…] PCIJ provides us with a very interesting backgrounder on ISAFP’s bugging operations. The report also explains Sgt. Vidal Doble’s role in the bugging of Garci’s phone abd how the tapes reached NBI deouty director Samuel Ong. Useful links to the Senate testimony of Doble’s girfriend, and stories by Newsbreak are included in this PCIJ Report […]

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luzviminda

December 13th, 2005 at 11:34 pm

Lumilinaw na ang istorya behind ‘Hello Garci’ tape. Now its seems that the order to wiretap Garci came from Malacañang. It may be GMA herself who ordered it, that’s why her voice in the tape is sometimes toned down. Since it is the Commander-in-Cheat who ordered the wiretap, the ISAFP has to follow. The question is: Is it part of the legal operation of AFP to be used in political matters? The funds they used are people’s money. The AFP should not play partisan politics. As a soldier, one must NOT LIE, NOT CHEAT, NOT STEAL! The GALANT SOLDIERS MUST NOW SPEAK THE TRUTH! The DUTY of the AFP is to UPHOLD the Constitution and PROTECT the People, even from SUPPRESSION and TYRANNY from the President. It is HIGH TIME to CLEAN UP SOLDIERS!!!

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zorro

December 14th, 2005 at 2:09 am

I think use of the word ‘wiretap’ is not appropriate. Cellphones are considered ‘wireless’ technology after all. Girlfriend
Santos in her Senate testimony said the ISAPF unit used the word ‘monitor’. Also, U.S. military likes to used the acronym SIGINT for signals intelligence. Not only does it sound more military, it also sounds less illegal.

Here is an interesting viewpoint from a blogger lawyer:

http://lacierda.blogspot.com/2005/12/garci-tapes-in-aid-of-legislation.html#comments

i am not a lawyer myself but i certainly think it makes some sense.
perhaps others can weigh in on it.

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zeustar100

December 14th, 2005 at 2:20 am

Nakow.

ISAFP people have a lot of explaining to do. With the way they act right now, it seems they’re hiding a lot of things.

Sabi na nga ba, maaamoy rin ang bagoong na tinakpan.

Nakow pa ulit.

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bukolitos

December 14th, 2005 at 3:15 am

It makes people wonder if the military and PNP is actually for GMA or is she being held hostage by them. How many times na napahiya si GMA dahil na rin sa kagagawan nila. Ang nakapagtataka ay hindi man lang siya makapaglunsad ng pagsisiyasat sa mga kamalian ng mga militar at pulis. Si Doble na nagbenta wiretapped tape ngunit hindi man lang nila masampahan ng kaso.

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baycas

December 14th, 2005 at 3:40 am

“There is no such thing as wiretapping capability,” Senga said. “In fact, it is NOT wiretapping. We are talking about listening to cellular phone communications…” http://news.inq7.net/nation/index.php?index=1&story_id=59889

is senga caught in the same drift as lawyer lacierda? is he also considering the hello, garci recordings as “intercepts” and not “wiretaps?”

dean jorge bocobo’s take on the issue as expounded in his “Long Live the Anti-Wiretapping Law!” http://philippinecommentary.blogspot.com/2005/12/long-live-anti-wiretapping-law.html :

“The Garci Tapes can be MADE ADMISSIBLE in evidence for investigating and prosecuting a category of crimes that RA 4200 specifies as crimes of treason and offenses against national security. The Garci tapes after all, are precisely the physical and logical EVIDENCE that the Military was treasonously used to conduct an unlawful wiretapping operation in the service of selfish partisan political ends. Wiretapping the President is so obviously an offense against national security. That the Palace has not turned the world upside down to discover who undertook such an operation is an indication of something very serious, enough for the Courts to grant Senator Tanada’s clear intent for there to be solid exceptions to the inadmissibility of such materials.”

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baycas

December 14th, 2005 at 3:51 am

gloria the lame duck…held hostage by the same people she corrupted.

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ka emong

December 14th, 2005 at 8:00 am

punyeta ka garcillano napakasinungaling mo. hindi kana nahiya sa sarili mong hayop ka na pinag sabihan ka ng taong nakababata saiyo(cong. gilbert remulla) na sana maging totoong tao ka sana. sana nga at ng lumabas na ang katotohanan at ng di puro pag sisinungaling ang ginagawa mong hudas ka.

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peacelabenpinay

December 14th, 2005 at 10:21 am

It seems that GMA was calling the shots all these chaotic times! I think the wirettaping is the biggest blow to our political institutions. If the executive depatment and the military can CONSPIRE and CONNIVE, what kind of government do we have? The day GMA ordered AFP to wiretap phone conversations of Garci and government officials is the day CIVILIAN SUPREMACY died.

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almaeg

December 14th, 2005 at 10:53 am

hinde akalain ni gma na syang nag utos daw ng wiretapping to garci na hahantong sa kapahamakan yung pagwiretap kay garci. sino ba namn ang magaakala na lalabas itong garci tape na ito. siguro ginusto na rin ng tadhana para wakasan na ang mga kawalanghiyaan ng ating mga leader, gma in particular. narinig ng buong bansa (garci tape) ang pagmanipula ng halalan lalo na ng kayang asawa. kaya kahit anong gawin ng arroyo govt. na pagpapaganda ng imahe ay walang maniniwala at susuporta sa kanya. sayang lang ng effort nila. kahit magpumilit at magkapit tuko sa pwesto ay sirang sira na siya sa tao. eh ano pa silbe nya kung ayaw na ng tao sa kanya. KAPAL NG MUKHA!!!

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jester-in-exile

December 14th, 2005 at 11:35 am

“According to an intelligence official interviewed by Newsbreak, ISAFP acquired equipment sometime in 2002 that could monitor 500 cellphones at any given time. The article did not describe how this equipment works and whether this was the one used for tapping Garcillano’s phone.

“Intelligence officers contacted by the PCIJ say that the technology used for Garcillano was far more primitive. Tapping mobile-phone conversations through ‘air interface,’ even with sophisticated equipment, they say, is difficult: the wiretapper has to be near or at the cellsite through which the call is coursed so he could eavesdrop on a conversation. But even then, there is no assurance that particular cellsite is transmitting that call and it is difficult to sort which of those calls are being made by the target.”

okay, fair points. if air interface capture was done, then it’s not wiretapping — it’s interception (but that’s still espionage, however way one splits hairs on this). i don’t know how our justice system will rule on that.

i don’t quite agree that in this case cellphone signal interception was difficult, having the equipment on hand; since GMA apparently provided the “hot line” cellphone to garci, she already had prior access to the IMEI and SIM numbers on that cellphone. with these numbers (which are broadcasted by the phone at regular intervals while the phone is active) given to the ISAFP to monitor, the ISAFP could very well lock on into the signal and “pull down” the signals and thus the calls as they are made. it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they’re able to pull down SMS and MMS messages originating from that cellphone as well.

“But the intelligence officers, who say they had taken part in wiretapping operations, insist that ISAFP has assets in phone companies that allow them to conduct the wiretaps with relative ease. They say the bugging is done with the help of phone company employees without having to use sophisticated eavesdropping equipment. With their help, wiretapping can be done from a remote location, such as the MIG 21 headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo. They say that all MIG 21 uses to eavesdrop is a phone that is connected to an analog tape recorder. That phone picks up all the conversations on the target’s phone and all the agent has to do is pick up the handset every time a call is made and record the calls.”

that sounds rather primitive; however, with such an image in the public mind, that makes the claim more believable. conspiracy theories (like “ISAFP has assets in phone companies that allow them to conduct the wiretaps with relative ease”) are sexy, aren’t they? fuel for kwentong-barbero (apologies to the barbers, of course).

the bottomline is: GMA and garcillano are on tape, talking about how to rig the elections. the manner by which their voices were acquired is immaterial.

hey baycas, i like that link, especially this statement: “The Garci Tapes can be MADE ADMISSIBLE in evidence for investigating and prosecuting a category of crimes that RA 4200 specifies as crimes of treason and offenses against national security. The Garci tapes after all, are precisely the physical and logical EVIDENCE that the Military was treasonously used to conduct an unlawful wiretapping operation in the service of selfish partisan political ends.”

’nuff said, eh, baycas? GMA and her cohorts, in and out of government and the military, should answer for this mess they’ve put us all in.

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Toro

December 14th, 2005 at 12:28 pm

What is central to all this brouhaha is the defeaning silence of Gloria to go after the Judases in her midst. Up to this moment she has not shown her public outrage that an enlisted man in her military intelligence had the courage to betray her, who even made money out of the tapes. No President will take this and do nothing, unless Gloria is afraid to incriminate herself. And that looks obvious, as obvious as Garcillano is lying.

Who was that casino fellow that was abducted never to be seen again because he gave Morato a VHS cassette copy showing Erap playing in the casino with Atong Ang? Well, the poor fellow obviously had angered the aggrieved party who caused his disappearance, which to this day the crime remains unsolved, but in Gloria’s case she seems to be overly confident and unmindful of the wiretapping incident, perhaps believing this is another problem that will eventually go away just like the others by staying quiet about it. I have my doubts this one will.

Forget Garci. Wait for Ong and Doble to come out and tell all and hell will surely break loose.

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zorro

December 14th, 2005 at 12:31 pm

Wikipedia has an excellent article on the technology of penetrating
GSM transmissions.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiretapping

some conclusions and inferences.
1. GSM’s designers intentionally left open ‘wiretapping’ capabilities
for legitimate law enforcement use. Thus the ‘IMSI-catcher’ tool.
2. The capabilities and equipment must be carefully given only to
legitimate law-enforcement groups in the world. if monitoring equipment became widespread, GSM is dead just like earlier analog system like PILTel used.
3. Only ISAPf, a ‘legitimate’ unit could have had access to this equipment.

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Needless

December 14th, 2005 at 10:37 pm

Doble should also be branded as a mercenary and a traitor. He sells information to any interested parties for a price. If his mistress was telling the truth then that bloke would have practically whispered all of our national secrets between her legs. Hell, she should be absorbed by ISAFP as a full agent. But, she should know better that she’s not supposed to be hanging around in restricted areas on the first place. MIG 21? Hell, the story sounds like a Catch 22 to me.

And the fools at the senate snarls and bitches at each other just to get a price of the action. Worst, it’s on live TV. Man, these are the things we have to bear for the next 2 years until we get new cast of clowns.

And for Garci The Liar, I hope that he meets his fate as he deserves. That goes for GMA and her crooked husband Mike and his appointed henchmen and relatives in place. I still won’t leave out Tabako yet, he’s still has half of his crooks still in placed in different government positions.

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sleepyjohn

December 15th, 2005 at 3:54 pm

In assaying the political situation in our country through the years as far back as I can remember after Marcos, I can infer that its all a GRAND CONSPIRACY to manipulate and abuse all the rich, natural resources of The Philippines, including the intellect of the entire citizenry!

Let’s reminisce after Marcos.

1)Tita Cory with her revolutionary government; all marcos-sequestered companies were returned to its original owners, almost all, but some businessmen didn’t get their companies back because of selfish interests that brewed among those close to Tita Cory in the cloak of ‘advisers’! So, a lot of white elephant companies; while in office,Tita Cory got all threats of Coup attempts to bring her down, but to no avail.

2)FVR went up the ladder to be President; FVR took up the ‘cudgels’ for the country, as what his supporters claimed he did, during his term of office. The problem of Massive energy crisis came during FVR’s presidency. And the boom of the sales of generators to big & small companies/corporations. All in the guise of a boon. It was also in 1992 when some of the former marcos cronies started to salt money out of The Philippines elsewhere, say for example, Guam, Australia, Europe and some parts of the world, where these marcos cronies thought the marcos monies will be safeguarded. Overseas trips of the ‘jetsetter’ president was also notable during the 1992-98 period. Why? let’s just keep our tongue where it is guarded by our teeth and pair of lips.

3) Then came the Erap Presidency which only lasted for two years! I was not surprised and neither are you I’m sure that the downfall was imminent. Why? Again, let’s keep our tongue where its safeguarded by our teeth/dentures and pair of lips. And so, here comes the Vice-President GMA taking the post of President of the Republic as a result of EDSA DOS. Upon assumption, GMA and the rest of the “liberators” took the reins of running the beaten-up motherland. There were massive politicial accommodations, just so, to give thanks to those who hurled her in office.

4) In order to rebuild the country’s image and get more assistance from our Uncle Sam, ‘pure and honest’ elections must ensue. So it happened. Credible as claimed by horn-tooters, Filipinos elected a legitimate President. PGMA is now, officially,the 13th president of the Republic of the Philippines!

5) The ever-trusting Filipino citizenry known for its God-fearing characteristics, good and patience hearts accepted the verdict. Except of course, for those who lost, the election was rigged. Up, until now, the burden of proof remains in the hands of those who lost. Gruelling investigations brought to naught.

6) By now, the good-loving Filipinos are exhausted. Physical energy cannot be split to be on the streets and find time in search of daily food on the table 3x a day on the other. They would rather, tend to the daily food requirements to keep their sanity.

Therefore, the success or failure of the goings-on shall not be dependent on the outcome of the “hello Garci” tapes; or to Abat’s ‘transitional’ government try, nor the abuse usage of the “common Tao” by most militant groups to gather warm bodies to the streets, But to the enlightenment of all grand conspirators, whom by now, should learn to stop as Filipinos know deep in their hearts, that politics in The Philippines has its grand design run skillyfully and often unfairly, by major players and members of the GRAND CONSPIRACY LIMITED, not open to all idealists like you and me!

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atom

December 15th, 2005 at 6:27 pm

Gentleman,
Remember that wiretapping is more effective than monitoring when you refer to mobile which the source of the talker.How?

The main point is that no matter how advance technology even the united state cant wire tap or monitor any device in communication without the access of the exchange which all the signal interface and all the layers of signalling are embeded in short plane language it is central processor of the system all signal are converted into audible sound ,billing time of calls when and from /to.Alarms,origin of places remember every places of calls can be register even mobile, security access everything .Nowadays technology is advance and applied right now.

Going back if the mobile used is identified, you know the provider of the
the services example PLDT ,Smart,Globe ,Suncellular etc all of these has an exchanges where all the requires parameter can be identified.
So there is no reason if these companies cooperate, But ?remember there is what we call Privacy Code this is applicable to all over the world.
However this depend on the security reason to wiretap an indivivual specially for the interest of the nation security.
The bottom line there is agreed security access for Govt Intelligence ISAFP to the device under surveillance to Telephone and Mobile provider they know that.
TThey just wait n see the time of call and record thats it.!

But if it is the interest of the nation the legallity cant be questioned and you are GUILTY of your own ACT.This is an ACT of betrayal.
We are all very intelligent to defend our act but/

IS the TRUTH is SUBJECTIVE or OBJECTIVE?

I can’t put the difference here but is simple just go referenec book about this meaning.This how both parties are fighting.

Ang mali ipagpilit natin tama .Ang Tama ipagpilit ay mali.
At sino ang tama at mali.
Syempre alam natin sagot natural law of reasoning.
GOD BLESS our Country

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jester-in-exile

December 15th, 2005 at 7:34 pm

atom,

“Remember that wiretapping is more effective than monitoring when you refer to mobile which the source of the talker.How?

“The main point is that no matter how advance technology even the united state cant wire tap or monitor any device in communication without the access of the exchange which all the signal interface and all the layers of signalling are embeded in short plane language it is central processor of the system all signal are converted into audible sound… Nowadays technology is advance and applied right now.”

speaking in my capacity as a communications-trained engineer, you’ll do well to remember that GSM is an “open” platform, meaning signals aren’t generally encrypted, unless some form of encryption/decryption is applied at a) the source transmitter and b) the target receiver. no special form of encryption is applied to the air interface.

the primary reason why we can’t hear “voices” when pulling down a GSM signal and connecting it directly to a speaker is that the signal is in encoded in a digital form, not an analog form just like, say, HAM radio.

related to the analog to digital conversion is why GSM (actually, practically all forms of full/full duplex mobile telephony) have identification keys like the IMEI and the IMSI enabling the cellsites (and people not of the network but with the right gear) to translate the digital microwave signal into a usable form like data or voice.

in short, plain, language, since GSM is an telephony protocol, by identifying the IMSI and the IMEI (probably just the IMSI) of the target phone for signal interception, a specific GSM signal can be intercepted, converted from digital signal to analog audio, and then recorded, given the correct gear. you don’t have to go to the PSTN exchange to splice wires. (besides, since these are digital signaling links, they’re probably fiber-optic. it’s extremely difficult to splice into a fiber-optic link without the backbone’s system detecting the signal path loss resulting from the splice.)

by the way, the United States has an agency that does SIGINT; the NSA and other such agencies have done microwave signal interception since the ’70s, probably even since the ’60s. take note, cellphone technology is a form of microwave transmission. remember all those “intercepts” played on CNN about terrorist cells?

more and more i’m convinced that it was by the use of microwave interception gear that the ISAFP got garcillano and GMA on tape. so many people are lying, i know, but as things unfold it seems that there are too many crooks involved in this soup.

zorro,

good links. they’re better in reducing tech-ese to layman-ese than a lot of us. good point on the IMSI-catching gear.

good point on the ISAFP as well.

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lokalokang matino

December 16th, 2005 at 3:02 am

ISAFP may not have the “wiretapping capability” as claimed by Senga but it does not mean that the Gloria-Garci conversations did not happen. Gloria practically admitted having those conversations in her “IM SORRY SPEECH”. If ISAFP did not have the wiretapping equipment eavesdropping is very much possible with the connivance of the service provider like PLDT, SMART, GLOBE. HOW? >>>> With permission from Senior Officers of the telecom company. But Senior Officers of the telcom will not authorise such activity unless the request comes from competent government authority meaning HIGH government official at the level of Cabinet Secretary or Higher, sometimes delegated to the Commissioner of the Nat’l Telecommunications Commission or The NTC Regional Director. It is possible that Gloria herself or the Secretary of DOTC thru the NTC Commissioner requested the eavesdroppping. So a “no wiretapping capability” excuse will not sell. So Senga, don’t be part of the cover up . Be true to yourself and your country, unless of course, you too has been bought. Pakalalaki naman kayo!!!

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Toro

December 16th, 2005 at 7:19 am

Jester, that was interesting. I think you should charge a fee for giving a crash course on high tech communications. haha. I’m sure you’re qualified to pick out Garci’s voice prints too. If you have the equipment to do that it would be interesting to hear it from your side. Have you thought of that?

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jester-in-exile

December 16th, 2005 at 9:06 am

lokalokang matino,

the way i read general senga’s statements are a matter of splitting legal and technical hairs.

wiretapping – general term used when a recording device is physically spliced (tapping) into the communications medium (wire); hence the term.

interception – term used to describe the unauthorized capture and decryption of a radio signal (like GSM-protocol microwave signals)

so general could very well be telling the truth, that the ISAFP could not have wiretapped GMA and garcillano, as the ISAFP does not have the capability. however, as the PCIJ post above shows, the ISAFP possesses interception equipment, which very likely was used to pull down the conversations we now know as the “Hello Garci” tapes.

bottomline: general senga MIGHT be telling a small truth to hide a bigger truth.

i am now pretty convinced that the use of the term “wiretapping” in relation to the GMA/garcillano conversations is a misnomer. perhaps it was used as the term wiretapping is much more familiar to the layman than is, say, intercepts or SIGINT.

toro,

as a matter of fact, i have, but only in terms of speculation. it’s been a while for me since i’ve tried stuff like that as i’m now in a manufacturing setup. no matter, however; any ECE who paid attention in their wire and wireless classes can deduce whether it was interception or wiretapping, and any ECE who paid attention in acoustics/ electronics lab class can analyze audio waveforms. it’s just a matter of having the right (and rather expensive) gear.

thanks for the vote of confidence, toro, but all credit goes to the louisians of mount kafagway.

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Sheila Coronel

December 16th, 2005 at 2:07 pm

Thanks for the informed analyses on how the “wiretapping,” or more accurately, eavesdropping on Garcillano was probably done.

For sure, Gen. Senga was probably splitting hairs. It’s possible that those listening in on Garci were not actually tapping his phone but intercepting and recording his calls.

At any rate, there’s more from Regor Aguilar (raguilar.blogspot.com), a former police intelligence officer now based in the US. Aguilar says that PCIJ’s post on how ISAFP conducts its bugging operations is accurate.

Here’s an excerpt from his latest blogpost:

“But let’s understand more about cellphone monitoring and on how and why the AFP-ISAFP and its monitoring unit, MIG-21, or any elite intelligence agencies needed the cooperation of cell companies in the discharge of their functions. All cellular phones are basically radio transceivers, any voice is transmitted through the air on radio waves, they disperse in all directions and anyone who has the right kind of radio receiver can listen in it, and at present, there were no laws and penalties in our country for any interception or recordings of any cellular calls.

“A cell phone send radio frequency transmissions through the air on two distinct channels, one for voice communication and one for control signals. When a mobile phone is switched on, the cellular network provider knows exactly where you are, whether you are using it or not, it will emit a control signal that it will identify itself to a cell site through its mobile identification number and electronic serial number or commonly known as the “pair.”

“The pair is often used to identify land-based aerial arrays and by comparing the signal strength or if the requester is a legitimate registered user and the time lags for the signals at each position, the network can triangulate any position and identify where you are using the arrays. The triangulation capability of any cell phone companies does vary and really depends according to the age of their equipment, this is the point where ISAFP will ask for cell companies help to locate an individual that is subject of investigation, they are not capable of doing it alone.

“When intercepting calls, and if the cellular system uses analog technology (which barely no one uses), one can just program a phone number into a cell monitoring device, if the cellular system uses newer digital technology, a pricy digital data interpreter that connects between the scanner radio and a personal computer or a lap top is needed.

“The digital data interpreter reads or captures all that was transmitted between the cellular site and cellular phone and feed them into computer software. The cell companies can also monitor calls at the maintenance command on the control channel, it is done if an employee of the company or a manager has full access to those area where monitoring units of ISAFP and Intelligence Group of the Philippine National Police relied on them.”

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jester-in-exile

December 16th, 2005 at 4:04 pm

sheila,

good entry! very well done!

notable points in regor aguilar’s statement:

“The triangulation capability of any cell phone companies does vary and really depends according to the age of their equipment, this is the point where ISAFP will ask for cell companies help to locate an individual that is subject of investigation, they are not capable of doing it alone.”

this is for monitoring the exact location of the cellphone, and thus, the user. triangulation is unnecessary if the eavesdropper already knows where his target is. in garcillano’s case, he was probably in his office, so there’s not much need to go through the main telephone switch. merely placing the equipment within range of the cellphone (something like 10 km or so, i think, depending on terrain and weather) will be sufficient to intercept the signal.

” if the cellular system uses newer digital technology, a pricy digital data interpreter that connects between the scanner radio and a personal computer or a lap top is needed.

“The digital data interpreter reads or captures all that was transmitted between the cellular site and cellular phone and feed them into computer software.”

the philippines uses the 900/1800 MHz GSM protocol, so we don’t need a wide-band scanner, just one agile enough to keep lock on to the phone’s frequency once the IMEI and IMSI (the “pair” aguilar refers to) is detected. we also use an “open” platform GSM coding format, so the data interpreter can be one of the cheaper commercially-available ones used for field testing or diagnostics (i believe Radio Shack has one).

given that the cellphone was provided to garcillano, resulting in the probably valid assumption that the cellphone’s IMEI and IMSI “pair” are known to the eavesdroppers, making it very easy to capture the specific signal, decode it from the “open” platform, and record the audio.

with the assumption that the intercept was made around the area where garcillano was during the elections, i think it makes no sense to go to MIG21headquarters. the audio would probably have been recorded in some ISAFP laptop in MP3 format directly from the decoded feed… and immediately copied into CDs or such.

i get the feeling that there may be no “master tape” after all.

“The cell companies can also monitor calls at the maintenance command on the control channel, it is done if an employee of the company or a manager has full access to those area where monitoring units of ISAFP and Intelligence Group of the Philippine National Police relied on them.”

maintenance command calls are not generally audio. these “calls” (actually merely sequences of 1’s and 0’s coded to mean different commands) are generally for telling the cellphone to increase/decrease transmission power output levels as it goes farther/nearer the cellsite commanding it, for handoff (commanding the cellphone to lock on to another cellsite as it moves far enough away or the cellsite’s capacity is exceeded), or are data streams for SMS, MMS, or other data that does not translate into voice. the ISAFP doesn’t necessarily need access to these to eavesdrop on a voice call.

anyway, kudos to PCIJ! keep us posted!

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baycas

December 16th, 2005 at 8:40 pm

way to go, guys!…give credit where credit is due…

knowing how they did it is one thing…but getting them to admit it is another…we’ll just have to be vigilant…very, very vigilant. senga seems to know a lot more than what he’s speaking…one more slip, he’s dead meat…

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don26

December 16th, 2005 at 9:42 pm

i also agree there may be no master tape but just a reproduction from a digital source. with those hitech digital scanner/interpreter used on the garci celphone conversation, an old fashion analog tape recorder may seem out of place. perhaps there is also a device that can simulate any voice prints like in the tv series 24 hrs. if you recall us intelligence manufactured audio recording evidence to justify a military strike.

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pioS

December 20th, 2005 at 6:05 pm

eto ang masasabi ko lang, ang ISAFP ang nasa gitna nang operasyon na ito katulong nila ang mga telephone companies. clarong-claro naman. bottom line nothing happens in this country without the blessing of the military…… iyan ang realidad at makakatakot ……. ISAFP. MIG21, CIDG acronym that could send fear to any peace loving Pilipino …..

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dugong pinoy

December 22nd, 2005 at 2:14 am

it is good to know that after so over a year of waiting,the truth is slowly coming out with regards to the wrongdoings of a self elected president.many of those who participated in the operations were still inclined to keep their mouths shut as it is evident that the political power of the kapit tuko president is still going strong.but this thing is all in the history books now,specially for those who really know what had transpired iin the biggest and most fraudulent ‘auction’ that happened in the history of philippine politics.there is only one holiday greeting that i wished to extend to our presently s,elected government,SALAMAT SA PAGPAPAHIRAP NINYO SA SAMBAYANANG PILIPINO…MAMAMATAY DIN KAYO…

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INSIDE PCIJ: Stories behind our stories » New ISAFP chief named

March 10th, 2006 at 3:55 pm

[…] The ISAFP is said to be President Arroyo’s favorite military unit. The ISAFP chief sometimes reports to her directly, even bypassing the chain of command. (Click here for "Wiretap Central," PCIJ’s report about the role that ISAFP played in the wiretaps; here for an Inquirer report describing the practice of ISAFP chiefs reporting directly to the President. Newbreak has also reported similarly.) […]

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The Public Thing » Blog Archive » It’s not wiretapping

May 1st, 2006 at 6:58 am

[…] Senga further averred that Doble was given money to say that the tapes were handed him came from ISAFP, but the fact that there are other members of MIG-21 whose voices were in the tape, doing a tag on recordings, a requisite and procedure in technical monitoring in any intelligence unit. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), in their blog, accurately described how the wiretaps are done by ISAFP, who alleged to be involved in the “Hello-Garci” controversy. […]

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The Public Thing » Blog Archive » It’s not wiretapping

July 14th, 2006 at 4:55 pm

[…] Senga further averred that Doble was given money to say that the tapes were handed him came from ISAFP, but the fact that there are other members of MIG-21 whose voices were in the tape, doing a tag on recordings, a requisite and procedure in technical monitoring in any intelligence unit. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), in their blog, accurately described how the wiretaps are done by ISAFP, who alleged to be involved in the “Hello-Garci” controversy. […]

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September 16th, 2006 at 3:29 pm

[…] In PCIJ’s continuing coverage of Joc-joc Bolante’s problems in the US, a clearer picture of what’s really going on is beginning to emerge. […]

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