PM: Romanian prepaid cards used in extremist attacks

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's prime minister, who is backing legislation to require buyers of prepaid phone cards to show identity documents, said Tuesday that cards from his nation have been used in extremist attacks.

The government failed to gain passage for similar legislation in 2012 and 2014, when the intelligence service was saying that financial criminals were using prepaid cards.

Premier Dacian Ciolos gave no details of which attacks involved Romanian cards. However, an intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that prepaid cards from Romania had been used in attacks in Europe in the last year.

The Romanian Intelligence Service said in a statement Tuesday that Romanian cards are currently used in Syria and Iraq and they could be "used to benefit terrorist organizations."

It said that the intelligence agencies and law enforcement needed to continually adapt and be flexible to "be a step ahead of the terrorists." The agency also pointed to neighbor Bulgaria which requires users to give their name, address and a social security number. The measure was introduced in the fight against organized crime.

There was no immediate comment from mobile telephone operators in Romania on the government's plans.

Although legislation was approved by Romania's Parliament in 2014, the Constitutional Court rejected the wide-ranging security law that would have allowed authorities to retain data and other personal details on people without persuading a court that the person represented a security risk. The court said the legislation was unconstitutional and violated human rights.

Telecommunications Minister Marius Bostan said Monday that the government plans to try again. Ciolos says he wants a law that will balance security needs with civil rights.

It was unclear whether the government's proposal would be limited to identification and prepaid cards, or would have a broader sweep.

Some Romanians say such measures are reminiscent of the communist era, when the Securitate secret police tapped phones and kept close tabs on people. A measure in the 1980s requiring anyone who had a typewriter to register it with the communist militia was seen as particularly repressive.