Extremely high Romanian wiretapping costs

By EDRi · March 1, 2006

According to declarations of Romanian public officials, during the last
month, the total costs of the specialized police services for legal
wiretapping in 2005 was at least 118 million euros, an amount very close to
the annual national budget for scientific research.

As Catalin Harnagea, former director of a Romanian Secret Service unit,
declared the cost for wiretapping one telephone line is around 150 – 200
euros/ hour. This amount includes all the interception and transcription
costs. Also according to President Traian Basescu around 6,370 telephones
were wiretapped in 2005. Some figures given by the human rights organisation
Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH) show that, in 2002, a telephone line was
wiretapped for an average of 220 days. Journalists from the newspaper
“Adevarul” estimated every intercept generated about 30 minutes of recorded
conversations per day. If the average per day would climb to 60 minutes, the
total government spending on wiretaps would even double, to an amount higher
than the annual budget for a ministry in Romania. Just to give some
examples, in 2005, the Romanian Ministry of Culture had a budget of around
235 million euros, the budget for scientific research was around 132 million
euros and the budget for house building was about 147 million euros.

In 2003, General prosecutor Ilie Botos declared that during the period
1991 – 2003 the conversations of more than 20,000 persons were intercepted
with a judicial order. Another 14,000 interception mandates were issued
between 1991 and 2002 at the request of national security bodies. Out of the
5,500 watched persons, only 620 were sent to court and just 238 were

In Italy Minister of Justice Roberto Castelli estimated there were 100.000
wiretaps in 2004, costing the Justice department aprox 300.00 million euro
in cost reimbursements. On a population of aprox 58 million inhabitants,
this made Italy wiretapping champion of the western world with 172 judicial
intercepts per 100.000 inhabitants. According to unofficial estimates the
Netherlands intercepted 12.000 phones (fixed and mobile) in 2004. If those
numbers are correct, the Netherlands have 75 judicial intercepts per 100.000
inhabitants. The UK Communication Commissioner mentions a total of 1.983
warrants for intercepts in 2003 on a population of 59,5 million, totalling
3,3 intercepts per 100.000 inhabitants.

The discussion around the costs and reasons of wiretapping is a main topic
also in the trial of the Romanian businessman Dinu Patriciu, owner of
Rompetrol, that has complained about the wiretapping done by the Romanian
Secret Service (SRI) for many years, even before a formal investigation was

Last week the Parliament Commission that supervises the SRI activities has
opened a supervision procedure to inspect the SRI wiretapping centres, after
public concern about illegal interceptions.

SRI (Romanian Intelligence Service)’s “Tympan” costs as much as the Culture
Budget (in Romanian, 15.02.2006)

Wiretapping warrants – state secrets (in Romanian, 16.02.2006)

SRI Commission verifies wiretapping centres (in Romanian, 24.02.2006)

EDRI-gram, Italian GSM provider warns: too many wiretaps (24.02.2005)