PM spills beans on spy agency

SpyingStatement by the Honourable Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago in the House of Representatives on the interception of communications
November 12, 2010


Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the sensitive and delicate matter of wire tapping by the State. The issue of wiretapping or interception of communications is a troubling and vexing one because it is a surreptitious invasion of your right to privacy.

Very recently I indicated to the country that I believed that the former administration was intercepting private conversations of citizens, including my own.

I now know this to be true.

My suspicions were aroused by a contribution made in this Honourable House by my predecessor in his contribution to the budget debate on Tuesday, September 30, 2008.

Permit me Mr. Speaker to quote the Honourable Member for San Fernando East:

‘Four years ago, as we were seeking to get people to sit on boards of directors a significant number of them began to say to me that they were not prepared to do that because they had reason to believe that the Member for Siparia had special access to the Integrity Commission.

This is what they said. I initially ignored it, but when I heard it often enough and realized the effect, I called one of the security agencies to check it and, Mr. Speaker, you will not believe it, they confirmed that there was someone in the Integrity Commission who is loco parentis, as the lawyers would say, with the Member for Siparia.

As a consequence of which, the Member was in a position to know far more than she, under normal circumstances, was authorized to know.

We reported it to the Chairman of the Integrity Commission at the time. I have monitored the relationship between the Member for Siparia and the individual concerned for years.

They can say what they wish. That incidentally has a jail term associated with it. When they talk about the Prime Minister protecting people, if I protected anybody, it was the Member for Siparia.’

Mr. Speaker, you will recall on October 3rd 2008, mere days after this allegation was made under cover of Parliament, the Chairman of the Integrity Commission responded in an official statement and advised that there was in fact no leak of Integrity files.

The allegation that the Integrity Commission was compromised was patently false, and the imputation on the character on the Member for Siparia was equally false.

Mr. Speaker, my government has carefully examined this very serious and sensitive matter. We have given it the most anxious consideration.

The unregulated and unauthorised interception of communication of citizens is open to misuse and serious abuse.

Moreover, any use of interception of communications without the people’s consent through the Parliament is contrary to democracy to say the least. It represents a dark and sinister side of governance and is symptomatic of a creeping dictatorship.

The confirmed use of wiretapping by secret agencies in the State without the approval of Parliament is illegal.

That such illegal activity was sanctioned by the executive arm of the State without reference to the elected representatives of the people and the Parliament of this country is a tragedy and an extremely dangerous precedent.

It shows that the country was being run by executive decree instead of parliamentary approval.

We have discovered that there are several security agencies with the capacity to intercept communications.

These State agencies were authorised by Cabinet to intercept private communications of unsuspecting, innocent citizens in circumstances where it is not at all clear what the justification was.

There was a lack of coordination and an unnecessary duplication of effort and resources.

These agencies reported directly to the Minister of National Security and the Prime Minister as head of the country’s National Security Council.

In some cases this power was misused to spy on political opponents and perceived political enemies. In other cases no clear justification exists on the grounds for interception remain dubious and questionable.

The Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT) was established by cabinet in 2004 without any proper legal foundation. Billions of dollars were poured into SAUTT whilst the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service was relegated to the back burner.

Cabinet policy at that time, took precedence over legislative authority. No transparency, no accountability and indeed, no drop in crime. SAUTT possessed immense capability. It was however, misdirected and misused by the former administration. It was unfortunately involved in political wire tapping and was hence unable to concentrate its efforts on the fight against crime.

The government ignored the public outcry against the illegal operation of SAUTT and hence no legislation was brought to this Parliament to legalise such an important law enforcement unit. The secrecy and mystery and lack of oversight created fertile soil for waste, mismanagement, underperformance and corruption.

As you know Mr Speaker, we have terminated the employment of the former director of SAUTT Brigadier Peter Joseph. We have a steering committee chaired by deputy commissioner of police Mr. Steven Williams who has been appointed to review and restructure the SAUTT.

Other members of this committee include special advisor to SAUTT Professor Daniel Gibran, acting Chief of Strategic Operations Ms. Judy Brown, and retired permanent secretary Ms. Jackie Wilson.

It is expected that this committee will submit its report before the end of this year.

Rest assured Mr. Speaker should there be need for any legislation arising out of the recommendations of this committee, it will be tabled in this house for debate. We do not intend to conduct government in secrecy and mystery. We intend to be honest and transparent in our relationship with the people of this country.

Having dealt with SAUTT, the government was of the view that it had dealt with the problem of illegal wire tapping.

As Chairman of the National Security Council, I was made aware of the existence of the SIA.

At no time however, did my brief on this agency inform me that the agency was involved in illegal wiretapping and interception of communications of private citizens. Had I been briefed about this secret aspect of the agency’s functions, I would have taken immediate steps to address an act which I am advised to be unconstitutional and illegal.

I was therefore shocked when I received a report, less than two weeks ago, which suggested that one of our security agencies, the Security Intelligence Agency (SIA) may also be involved in political wire tapping.

The information suggested that sensitive information obtained via illegal wire tapping of government Ministers phones was being supplied to a certain MP from the opposition bench. That MP, now sits in this honourable House and served the highest level in government under the previous administration.

I asked Police Commissioner Gibbs to investigate the matter.
Experts were flown in from Canada and a high level team from the special branch of the police service moved in at 6:15am on Saturday 23rd October, 2010 and took control of the operations of the SIA.

The investigation conducted by the police service revealed a frightening picture involving and financial impropriety and illegal wire tapping of a wide cross-section of civil society.

It grieves my heart to say whilst our children were being kidnapped and the Anti-Kidnapping Squad (AKS) seemed powerless and unable to trace the several telephone calls demanding a ransom, the SIA was busy listening to our conversations – conversations of prominent members of society who had no connection with criminal activity.

How many men women and children who were kidnapped or abducted could have been saved we’ll never know.

Let us not forget that some of those children have never been found and the stories from grieving parents about the archaic equipment that was used by the Anti-Kidnapping Squad in its failed attempt to trace the calls from the kidnappers as they demanded their pound of flesh.


No one escaped this secret wire tapping operation as a net was inexplicably cast very far and wide.

Subjects included:
Members of the judiciary,
trade unionists,
Editors and journalists,
media houses,
radio talk-show hosts,
persons in the entertainment industry,
former opposition MP’s,
government Ministers,
sports personalities,
newspaper columnists,
advertising executives,
county councillors,
lawyers and
in some cases, the children of such persons.

Such activity cannot be condoned as it represents a clear and present danger to our democracy.

Words cannot express the deep sense of personal outrage and hurt I feel about this matter.

Such an unwarranted and unjustified invasion of citizen’s privacy is a cause for alarm.

Why on earth would a government wish to engage in such unproductive illegal activity when the country was under siege as a result of criminal activity?

Permit me to cite a few examples Mr. Speaker. A covert project code named “OPPORATION NEWS” commenced in March 2005 and has been ongoing since then. Among the targets in this operation were:

The UNC’s head office
Constituencies offices of UNC members of parliament
Kamla Persad Bissessar
Anand Ramlogan
Suruj Rambachan
Gerald Yetmin
Wade Mark
Manohar Ramsaran
Roodal Moonilal
Roy Augustus
Winston Peters
Robin Montano
Jack Warner
Fuad Khan
Carolyn Seepersad Bachan
Winston Dookeran
Gary Griffith
Anil Roberts
Ashworth Jack
Keith Rowley

Members of the judiciary who were targeted included:
Then Chief Justice Sat Sharma, his wife Kalawati Sharma and his son Shiv Sharma
Justice Herbert Volney
Justice Narine
Madam Justice Carol Gobin

Mr. Speaker, freedom of the press is enshrined in our constitution and the widespread wire tapping of journalists and the media houses undermines this important pillar in our democracy.

Targets included:
Dale Enoch
Sasha Mohammed
Shelly Dass
Francis Jospeph
Ian Alleyene
Inshan Ishmael
Ken Ali
Devant Maharaj
Peter O’Conor
Camini Marajh

Member of the trade union movement whose phones were tapped included:
Mr. Errol Mcleod
Clyde Weatherhead
Mr. Rudy Indarsingh
David Abdullah
Robert Guiseppi
Lyle Townsend

Mr. Speaker the list, as you could imagine is a very long one but permit me to cite a few more examples. Other prominent persons who phones were tapped included:
Former Commissioner of Police James Philbert
Former CEO of the San-Fernando city corporation Marlene Coudrey
Comedian Racheal Price
Former Security Chief Mr. Richard Kelshall
President George Maxwell Richards
Sat Maharaj
Ato Boldon
Emile Elias
Former Chief of Defence John Sandy
Gary Aboud

The dictator was not content to spy on opposition MP’s and the aforementioned list of persons. Former Government Ministers were also the subject of wire tapping, targets included:
Colm Imbert
Pennelope Beckles-Robinson
Donna Cox
Faris Al Rawi
Keith Rowley

The interception was not limited to telephone calls but included the monitoring of peoples email as well. One list provided by the Commissioner of Police contains the name of every single government Minister in the People’s Partnership. Sadly, Mr. Speaker the names of our children are also included on this list.


Mr Speaker I have given today, a sample of some of the persons whose telephones were tapped and whose emails were being intercepted by the SIA since 2005.

I did so with a heavy heart. I regret the further intrusion into the private lives by virtue of this disclosure but I felt it necessary to do so to demonstrate by reference to hard evidence the depth and extent of the dictatorial operations of the former administrations.

Under the former Government, Big Brother seems to have taken a very keen interest in ordinary citizen’s private lives and affairs.

I want to reassure you that I do not intend to move from Big Brother tom Big Sister.

There are many others whose names I have not disclosed to this Parliament. The ones that I have mentioned are persons involved in public life in one form or the other.

Reports from the Special Branch indicate that the SIA was a virtual law unto itself. It reported directly to the Minister of National security and the Prime Minister. There are serious concerns about accountability and transparency.
Special branch officers found $5.9 million dollars IN CASH and an undisclosed quantity of firearm and ammunition were seized. Initial audit reports reveal that some $15 million cannot be accounted for.

There was evidence suggest that a massive sanitization operation took place after the general elections. Empty folders carrying the name of the individuals who were the subject of interception were found.

Other records of taped conversations and transcription of conversations have been removed and/or destroyed. We may never know all of the persons whose right to privacy was compromised by the unlawful intrusion of wiretapping.

Incredibly, Mr. Speaker, the wire tapping continued after the results of the last general election. It is alleged that information gathered by the SIA were secretly being siphoned to a certain opposition MP.

The Strategic Service Agency is a proper legal entity. It was established in 1995 by the Strategic Service Agency Act. Its functions include the development of strategic intelligence that could assist in the detection and prevention of the illegal trafficking in narcotic drugs.

There is no legislation governing the SIA. The previous administration, (in what I suspect was a plan to legitimize the SIA), was in the process of merging the SIA into/with the SSA.

On March 25th, 2010 Mr. Nigel Clement was appointed Director of the SSA (one month before the last general elections). Mr. Clements continued to function as the de facto head of the SIA and was overseeing the amalgamation of the two entities.


In the circumstances I wish to announce that I have advised His Excellency Professor Richards to revoke the appointment of the director of the Strategic Service Agency (SSA) and the Secret Intelligence Agency (SIA). Commissioner Gibbs is also conducting a financial audit into the operations of the SIA.

I have therefore removed the director of SUATT (Mr. Peter Joseph) and the director of the SSA and SIA (Mr. Nigel Clements). New appointments would be made very shortly to restore some measure of integrity and redirect these critical state agencies.

But every cloud has a silver lining and amidst the darkness cause by the sinister operations of these agencies, I’m pleased to say we will now be able to properly utilize the equipment and technology to assist in the fight against crime. It is my hope therefore that the police service will now be able to benefit fully from criminal intelligence that can be lawfully gathered by these agencies.

The lack of co-ordination among our security agencies cannot be allowed to continue. Hence, we are in the process of reviewing the various intelligence agencies with a view to streamlining their activities so as to obtain the best value for money and a more effective system for gathering criminal intelligence.

Mr Speaker, it is our intention to give this Parliament the respect and supremacy that was intended by the Constitution. With this in mind, we have tabled the Interception of Communications bill 2010.
This legislation will strike a balance between the need for regulated wiretapping in limited circumstances as a weapon in the fight against crime and the need to prevent the abuse and misuse of the power to intercept private communications by our citizens.

Mr. Speaker, let me make it clear: it is our view that wiretapping is an important tool that can greatly assist the police in the fight against crime and protect national security.

It must however be carefully regulated and justified on the basis of necessary criminal intelligence or a potential threat to national security.

Gang activity, organized crime, violent crime and drug trafficking continue seemingly unabated.

Detection rates are low and conviction rates are declining as eyewitnesses refuse to testify because of the very real fear of reprisal.

Criminals have become more and more sophisticated in their methods as they take advantage of technological advancements, particularly in the area of communication.

Governments worldwide have found it necessary to embrace the use of communications interception to collect the vital intelligence needed to gain the advantage to fight domestic and international crime and terrorism.

This is particularly so in an era where –
There is an influx of telecommunications providers on the local market;
Cellular phones are ubiquitous;
The satellite telephone market is evolving quickly; and
Internet communications and transactions have grown dramatically.

Mr. Speaker, it is a mystery to us as to why the former administration consistently failed and refused to bring legislation to this Parliament to deal with the interception of communications.

As far back as in the year 2001, the Law Reform Commission in a report entitled “Interception of Communications – the need for a regulatory frame work”, made the following recommendations in support of a regulatory framework for the use of interception of communications:-

1. Legality – the possibility of interference should be clearly laid out in law so that citizens are aware of the circumstances in which it may be done and of the fact that such interference is subject to prior judicial scrutiny.
2. Necessity – the interference should be necessary because less intrusive means have failed or have been considered and rejected, or are less likely to succeed.
3. Proportionality – the intrusive measures should be proportional to the seriousness of the offence.
4. Accountability – there must be proper control, oversight and effective and adequate remedies against abuse.

These recommendations remain relevant today.

The goal, therefore, must be to create a single framework, underpinned by the aforementioned principles, which deals with all interception of communications in Trinidad and Tobago, regardless of the means of communication, of how it is licensed or at which point of the route of communication it is intercepted.

We have made several changes to the original draft bill. On my instruction, SAUTT’s ability to intercept communications, is no more.

I am of the view that the security interests of our Nation would be better served by streamlining and harmonizing the various intelligence units.

It is better that one unit be authorized to intercept private communications for the clearly defined purpose and specific mission of gathering criminal intelligence and protecting and defending national security.

I have also changed the person who can authorize interception of private communication from the Prime Minister as existed in the previous Bill, to the Minister of National Security.

Whilst you have my every assurance that I am very confident about my ability to exercise such power in a responsible manner, the findings of the investigation conducted by the Police Service have clearly shown that there may be others who are unable to resist the temptation to learn more about people’s private lives and affairs.

Rest assured however, that I do not anticipate any one else occupying this chair for the next ten years.

The issue of interception is a troubling one that has bedeviled countries around the world.
It is a necessary evil, but the interests of National Security must prevail in the clash between the right to privacy and National Security.

It is important that we strike the right balance and it is my hope that this Bill accomplishes that objective.

That said, this is far too important an issue for partisan politics and my government remains receptive to any ideas and constructive comments that those on the other side and indeed members of the public may wish to offer.
On this note, the issue of the retention and disposal policy with respect of intercepted communications is a matter which should engage the full attention and deliberation of this Honourable House.

The legal framework needed to accomplish this goal requires four main areas of concern to be addressed. These are:-

1. the right of the individual to privacy;
2. confidentiality – access to information gathered;
3. use of the information as intelligence or evidence; and
4. oversight/accountability.

On the matter of the right of the individual to privacy, the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago does not afford an express protection of the right to privacy.

It does however enshrine
“the right of the individual to respect for his private and family life” (section 4 (c)) and the
“freedom of thought and expression” (section 4(i)).

The right of the individual must be balanced, however, against the interests of national security, the public interest and the economic well-being of the country. When these interests conflict the public interest must prevail where reasonably justifiable.

It is often necessary that individual rights are abrogated to some measure where there is a threat to the public good.

In determining the rules to govern any society, priority must be given, inter alia, to the maintenance of public order, the security of the State and the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of crime.

As such, the State recognizes that in certain circumstances the rights of the individual may be suspended to allow the State to combat the threat.
This is true whether the threat manifests itself as serious organized crime, terrorism or a threat to national security.

Mr. Speaker, in most countries across the globe, the use of intrusive or directed surveillance, or covert intelligence sources, by public bodies is regulated by statute.

For example, there are
the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, 2000 (UK);
the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act, 2002 (South Africa);
Chapter 119 of the US Code; and the
Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act, 1979 (Australia).

These Acts cover a wide range of surveillance activity, from covertly following a person or watching a person, placing secret listening or filming devices near him, using informants to obtain information about him, or intercepting his communications.
Statutes worldwide provide that surveillance or interception techniques require authorisation into different categories: judicial or ministerial or a combination of both.

Hence, Mr. Speaker, the People’s Partnership now introduces this Bill to ensure that any interception of communication is done in accordance with law.

I take this opportunity to briefly highlight some of the key aspects of the proposed legislation.


This Bill would seek to provide the legal framework within which public or private communications, which are being transmitted by means of a public or private telecommunications network, can be lawfully intercepted.

An interception of communication would be lawfully done only when it is done pursuant to a warrant issued by a Judge on an application by an authorised officer. Consequently, it is an offence for a person intentionally to intercept a communication being transmitted without an order of the Court.

In general, a warrant would be issued only to investigate, prevent or detect a specified offence, and would be valid for an initial period of ninety days, but may be extended by the Court for two further periods, each for ninety days.

The Bill would also make provision for an oral application for a warrant in urgent circumstances, subject to certain safeguards.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, the Bill provides that the content of a communication or communication data, which is lawfully obtained, is admissible as evidence in any criminal proceedings.

Mr. Speaker, the proposed legislation would be inconsistent with sections 4 and 5 of the Constitution and therefore would be required to be passed by a special majority of three-fifths of the members of each House.

Part I of the Bill would provide for certain preliminary provisions.

Part II of the Bill would provide for the interception of communication, the method to achieve this and the use of the intercepted communications as evidence.

For example, it is proposed that it would be unlawful to intentionally intercept a communication during its transmission, except in certain circumstances, such as it is not a private communication and it is intercepted pursuant to any other law.

Mr. Speaker, we propose that unlawful possession of a device or any component thereof, the design of which renders it primarily useful for surreptitious interception of private communications would be a strict liability offence. This is similar to our dangerous drug legislation.

The legislation would provide that lawful interception of communication can only be done by means of a judicial warrant, applied for in writing by an authorised officer and issued by a Judge after he has taken a number of factors into consideration.

A warrant may be granted, in the first instance for not more than ninety days, but may be renewed by the Court if satisfied that the renewal is justified in the particular case for a period of ninety days, and a further period of ninety days in exceptional circumstances.

However, Mr. Speaker, this Government is of the view that in urgent circumstances the Court may issue a warrant on an oral application, but within seventy-two hours of its issue, the applicant must submit a written application, at which time the Court will review the matter and either revoke or confirm the warrant.

It is to be noted that intercepted communication shall be treated as confidential. Secondly, the content of a communication lawfully obtained is admissible as evidence in any criminal proceedings.

Mr. Speaker, in order to protect the confidentiality of the process and the persons involved, it is proposed that method used to get communication data and the person who supplied it, except in special circumstances, shall not be disclosed.

Part III of the Bill would provide for certain miscellaneous provisions, such as offences, annual reporting by the relevant Minister and power to make regulations.

For example, it is proposed that it would be a summary offence to make a false statement in an application or affidavit under the Act, or intentionally to disclose information obtained by a warrant or in contravention of the Act or to have possession of intercepted communication without authority.

Mr. Speaker, in keeping with the People’s Partnership philosophy of accountability in public affairs, the proposed legislation would provide for a system of parliamentary accountability.

First, the Minister of National Security shall prepare an annual report on the operations of the proposed legislation and cause it to be laid in Parliament.

Furthermore, we propose that the Chairman of the National Security Council will have the power to make regulations to give effect to the Act, subject to affirmative resolution of Parliament.

The Government is of the strong view that since the interception of communication is an interference with a person’s human rights, the Parliament must be given a crucial role in the overall operation and scrutiny of the legislation.

That such illegal activity could have been facilitated and supported by the executive arm of the State is a stain on our proud and cherished tradition of parliamentary democracy. It has also cast a long dark shadow on the politics of our country. We may never fully appreciate the dangerous consequences that such actions may have on a civilised society based on law and order with respect for the rule of law.

I trust that the debate on this Bill will be an enlightening and illuminating one. I thank you.

Statement by the Honourable Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago in the House of Representatives on the interception of communications by the SIA (pdf)


Spies worry Kamla
A POLITICAL party is suspected of being behind a spying operation on private citizens and politicians, a scenario which Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday described as “frightening.”

PRIME MINISTER Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday stated that in her capacity of chairman of the National Security Council (NSC), she was never informed of the secret operations of the Security Intelligence Agency (SIA), a unit which spied on law-abiding citizens.

PM to spill beans on spy agency
It’s frightening. That’s how Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar described the discovery of illegal phone-tapping by the Strategic Intelligence Agency (SIA), a unit within the National Security Ministry.

Covert agency got $104M funding
A SECURITY agency with functions which include intelligence gathering was allocated a total of $104.6 million over a period of five years, Budget documents disclose. According to a Newsday review of Budget documents over several years, the Strategic Services Agency, which falls under the Ministry of National Security (SSA), saw its allocation increase for the years 2007 right up to the allocation for 2011.

Coded memo?
The following is the September 26 memo issued to SAUTT staff by Clive Robinson, manager, technical operations, SAUTT Intelligence Directorate, on Personal file sharing. Sources say the same memo was sent to SIA staff and believe it is a coded message for SAUTT and SIA staff to destroy sensitive material.

Imbert: Spy agency a distraction
Ex-PM Robinson: Matter raises serious questions


Govt uncovers secret spy unit
THE People’s Partnership Government has just learnt that even after they took office after the May 24 general election, their members were secretly spied on by a shadowy agency whose existence was not even widely known.

…Gibbs Catches Spies
…uncovers illegal tapping of phones, monitoring of text messages and e-mails

20 thoughts on “PM spills beans on spy agency”

  1. lord Please help all this info and who has it. Help my fellow Trinitobagoian to live a life of peace and togetherness

  2. The scale and sophistication of this conspiracy would seem surprising to the people; however, this sort of crime simply fits the modern era in which we find ourselves.
    The PNM has a history of manipulation, deceit and conspiracy to ensure that they continue to govern.
    The casual acceptance of the secret scholarship plan for friends, family and insiders was extremely surprising. Other free countries would cringe at the discovery of such an unethical and illegal plan.In T&T, it was quickly forgotten.
    The continual gerrymandering of electoral boundaries to ensure election victories since the Eric Williams days to present passed almost unnoticed.
    The housepadding strategies to ensure victories in marginal ridings were accepted.
    The selection of PNM supporters for high office in a variety of state enterprises was passed off as accepted practice.
    The inequitable funding of cultural events was tolerated.
    Etc. Etc.
    The discovery of this diabolic plot to spy and eavesdrop on certain figures should surprise no one.The PNM and its supporters have proven that they would do and tolerate anything to maintain control of the Republic of T&T.
    But the people are always right. The spoke in the last election to avoid the emergence of a frightening dictatorship led by a madman.

  3. Thanks Madame P.M. Today is proud day for citizens right to communicate without the fear of a political maco listening to everything that they are saying. It is amazing when you consider that the AKS had no equipment to trace kidnappers call but all the equipment was used to spy on citizens. This is how dictatorships are formed. The blood of those innocent citizens who were brutally murdered falls at the feet of the former regime. The worst political blight T&T had ever seen.

    When it is in your power to do good do it.

  4. Kamla, just set up your own spy agency and done nah.,…we know is that you intend to do. Get rid of all the “PNM hacks” and put in your PP hacks so you can control it. Exposing our national security capabilities like this for political gain however is not a good look.

    1. I agree with you. National security intrest that are serious should not be publicized. That defeats the purpose.

  5. On March 14, 1997 the then opposition MP Keith Rowley brought a motion in the House of Representatives asking that the House condemn the “political use to which the security services are reportedly being put.” The issue arose in the context of allegations that the then Prime Minister Basdeo Panday was spying on the internal workings of the opposition People’s National Movement.

    Prime Minister Panday, in the debate on the motion, countered by stating, inter alia, that spying on the opposition had been the norm under other regimes and proceeded to read into Hansard a newspaper article headlined “Manning: We used to spy too” which alleged that Opposition Leader Patrick Manning had admitted “that when his Government was in power, he too used the National Security Council to find out what was happening with other political parties.”

    Allegations of government spying and wire tapping are by no means novel in this society.

    From time to time in Parliament opposition MPs have complained that their phones have been tapped and that they are in possession of information that the security services have engaged in illegal wire tapping.

    Perhaps the most notorious event in recent history was the alleged importation in late 2002 by the Office of the Prime Minister of multi million dollar spy equipment reputed to have been purchased from Israel.

    Apart from supplying parliamentary rhetoric the question of government surveillance and telecommunication interception raises serious legal questions, a fact which has not been lost on various governments as former Attorneys General Keith Sobion and Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj have both remarked in Parliament on the need for a legal framework governing this area.

    However in the absence of statute it would appear, if parliamentary comment is any guide, that the security services have quite happily been engaging in wire tapping and other covert surveillance with little heed being paid to the legality of such conduct. In doing this they would not in any way be unique.

    In England it was apparent that the security services had engaged in seemingly unrestrained wire tapping and other communication interception until some unfortunate member of the prosecution made the mistake of admitting this in court.

    This spawned the infamous Malone decision in which the UK court ruled that there was no right to privacy recognised at common law. Happily for British citizens, matters did not end there and Malone appealed to the European Court of Human Rights which ruled that police wire tapping was in breach of the right to respect for his private life guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

    The direct consequence of this ruling was that the government was forced to enact a statutory framework for telephone tapping in the form of the Interception of Communications Act, 1985.

    The right to respect for one’s private life may sound familiar as it exists locally, being one of the fundamental human rights and freedoms protected in our much maligned but still effectual Constitution. The only difference between the UK and the local position appears to be that to date the security services have avoided ever admitting publicly that wire tapping is conducted locally, and in the absence of a judge’s ruling that such conduct is illegal, no one cares to pass the legislation which would regulate this practice.

    That the interception of communication by government authorities without statutory authority is illegal seems palpably clear. Under common law, the action for breach of confidence has since moved past the Malone case and has evolved to the point where it has accepted that “a proper degree of privacy is essential for the well-being and development of an individual and restraints imposed on government to pry into the lives of the citizen go to the essence of a democratic state.”

    Constitutional law as well has noted that an individual must be protected against arbitrary interference with his privacy. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that respect for private life mandates that individuals be entitled to sufficiently clear “indications as to the circumstances in which and the conditions on which public authorities are entitled to resort to such covert measures.”

    So this raises the question as to the way forward. Until some public authority admits to or is discovered engaging in wire tapping or other covert surveillance and there is judicial and public indictment of the practice, empiricism suggests that Parliament will remain wilfully impotent in this area.

    It seems a pity that such legislation which is so manifestly in the public interest so often finds genesis only in a judicial finding of illegality or unconstitutionality instead of the considered and deliberate resolve of the Parliament of a functioning democracy. That the government should have the power to undertake covert surveillance seems axiomatic. The current trend of kidnappings alone would be justification enough for such powers.

    That such powers should only be exercised with the authorisation of a Judge of the High Court and not at the untrammelled discretion of the executive seems similarly axiomatic. The potential for abuse is too great. In these matters it behoves us to pay regard to Lord Brown-Wilkinson’s observation that “the dossier of private information is the badge of the totalitarian state.”

    By Rishi P.A. Dass

    The Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago


    Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar was a Minster in the Basdeo Panday Cabinet when then Opposition M.P. Dr. Keith Rowley brought the legislation to Parliament. To now claim ignorance on the matter is pure hypocrisy


  6. Excellent job as usual ,keeping it realer. Sometimes when you observe the operation of these clown presently in charge of our country , or read the tripe of their many bellyaching ardent non patriotic fans ,and chief apologists ,such as the infamous grateful , European wannabes ,T-Man, and Khem, you just don’t know if to laugh or vomit. Such is the levels of their stupidity, penchant for foolish nonsensical distractions ,and misdirected energies, under the guise of progress , and development.
    It is quite interesting , the levels of overzealousness , to try and prove that we have some unwholesome , non -democratic, American Watergate like / European Big Brother, politically motivated anti Indian apparatus ,in our country since 1962, but to what end?.
    Can anyone say how many jobs would be created under this baseless witch-hunt, or if crimes would be drastically lowered by pointless exercises such as these? Manning and his bunch therefore got to be some of the dumbest politicians in the history of the Commonwealth, for who else would have all this information at their disposal, then go and call an election two years before it’s due , only to loose , then stay in Parliament , and listen to all this crap on a daily basis? Thank goodness that Dr. Rottweiler Rowley,aka de Mason Hall kid,was also under the microscope like perhaps half of the rest of the country. In his case,as a victim, he too might be able to use this to his advantage.
    What a sad day , again in our history, as conniving politicians attempts to carry out neo tribal policies , under the guise of national security.
    Fortunately the voters that matters are not fully convinced ,and so the political dividends that can accrue , as anticipated down the road, are minuscule.We wish our country well.

  7. “This Bill would seek to provide the legal framework within which public or private communications, which are being transmitted by means of a public or private telecommunications network, can be lawfully intercepted”

    A democracy is defined by Parliamentary laws. The laws of the land dictate the action of citizens. The PNM appeared to be a law unto themselves, despite having 7 years of governance to put in place laws to protect democracy they did nothing. Instead the follies of dictatorship and loyalty to the PNM continued to rule the day. The Prime Minister is right in enacting legislation to ensure that democracy is preserved. People must not feel that they are constantly being watch and all conmmunications recorded.

    Hundreds of our citizens were kidnapped, beaten and killed. Yet this equipment was not used to find the “community leaders” committing such horror. In fact crime detection rate decrease considerably under the PNM. This was a complete abuse of the public trust and waste of tax payers dollars to fund a rising dictatorship. The murder rate skyrocketted to our 500 yet no one knew who the killers were. People were afraid to step outside their home because they could become “collateral damage”. The criminals were protected under the PNM. They were given priviledge meetings with the then Prime Minister in posh hotels. Funding for their criminal enterprise came through URP and other dictatorial programs.

    Thankful such madness has come to an end and citizens are better for it today.

    1. You on you emotional roller coaster again? Umm, when was the last kidnapping? I dear you to look at kidnapping trends and you will see they markedly dropped when SUATT and I believe SIA got involved.

      Anyway, the criminals apparently was protected by the PNM according to you, but I haven’t seen any difference under the PP. Fact is the PP are disbanding any and all anti-crime units set up by the PNM with no alternative plan. I wonder why?

  8. Rowley: Kamla did nothing wrong
    Richard Lord
    Published: 13 Nov 2010
    Richard Lord
    Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley says Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar did nothing wrong when she revealed in Parliament yesterday that the phones of many prominent citizens were illegally tapped by the Strategic Intelligence Agency (SIA). Rowley commented on the statement during a news conference in the Parliament building yesterday. He said the Opposition People’s National Movement was prepared to support the Government in urgent moves to approve legislation to allow for phone-tapping to be done under a system of judicial overview. “We will support any such measure and it is a pity that such measures had not been in place before because it may have protected us from the shame that we face today,” he added.

    He said he was not surprised that his phone was among the many that were tapped. Rowley stressed, however, that the act was wrong because it was not being done under law. Rowley said the SIA operated illegally under a former UNC Government, in which Persad-Bissessar was a member. He said the problem now was not what the PNM or UNC Government did. “What was painful was that officeholders could have been using that machinery of the State to violate the rights of law-abiding citizens, That is unacceptable.” he added. Rowley said the PNM was “never sent here (in Parliament) to break the law, to abuse the Constitution or to carry out any personal vendetta against anybody.”

    Rowley said he dissociated the PNM “from individual wrongdoing, individual excesses and wrongdoing on the part of officeholders.”
    He stressed: “We have no intentions of defending wrongdoing on the part of any individual.” Rowley said the PNM should be left out of the matter. He said he would be very surprised if the thousands of PNM members across the country “had any interest in finding out what Ms Cox or my children or anybody has to do when the day comes and what they’re saying on the phone. The PNM has no interest in that.” Rowley said the oath of office should govern the conduct of individuals. “The privacy and the right to be private is a fundamental pillar in any democratic society,” he added.

    He said he was sure the SIA was not only involved in monitoring people. He said he was sure the agency was a useful one for this country and there was need to protect the agency. Rowley said he was “uncomfortable” with the Executive treating this matter as discovery. He said in addition to approving legislation to legalise the agency, a joint select committee of Parliament should be established to operate in camera to deal with the matter. Rowley said the matter was “very serious” and “it has far-reaching consequences. There is great unease across the country as a result of the confirmation of long standing suspicion.”

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    .Rowley, a victim himself, is
    Submitted by The Prince on 13 November 2010 – 7:05am.
    Rowley, a victim himself, is right. You cannot hold a whole Party responsible for the actions of one man, even though many were benefiting, like Calder Hart, Monteil, Karamath and a few others.

    Login or register to post commentsReport this comment.I listened intently to the
    Submitted by Juices on 13 November 2010 – 12:56am.
    I listened intently to the statement of the Prime Minister in
    Parliament today, and at the end of her presentation,
    I was not persuaded, that the breaches of the security
    Branches posed a threat to the public or citizen’s constitutional
    Guarantees and the PM may have inflicted more damage as a result
    Of Toxic Politics.

    What were the compelling reasons for the establishment of
    The security branches within our Republic, and the evolving
    Methodologies of said agencies to establish a profile and
    With assets to stay ahead of the criminal enterprises.

    These viable countervailing criminals and their social cohorts, who saw opportunities given the stark reality of a thriving economy,
    To target high profile individuals for kidnapping, to subvert
    Our institutions by using individuals and those with political
    Leverage to further change the business culture to suit their nefarious
    Objectives, after probing and determining their was high leakage
    For milking our porous institutions, (Remember the governments attempt
    To pilot a bill to change certain operations) from financial to the same law enforcement body that is now charged with probing the security apparatus.

    Let’s ask the question that should be asked, given that, the PM reported that
    During the Election she received threats, were the individuals in public life
    High valued target individuals who should be protected by the state, given our evolving criminal culture, and how they corrupt the institutions and culture
    Did our politics evolve to bring individuals with questionable profiles to sit at the table, to contribute to power sharing in some manner?

    Did the government of the UNC, when in Opposition read the same tea leaves?
    Of the Security concerns, as the then PNM administration, or were they about
    Using their leverage of Toxic Politics to deny the vote necessary to have the required legislation presented and approved; we now have the UNC in government leading a coalition and unleashes a dose of toxic political expediency
    On the peril of legal breaches, that pales in insignificance to the dosage of medicine administered to kill the patient. The paradox here is that we are new
    In the usage and complexities and the nuances of this security structure, and we have A PM and administration which continues to demonstrate poor executive judgme

  9. This makes no sense. Why are we dismantling all of the security apparatus? If things need to be reorganized, changed, rules be put in place do it. These agencies are effective and can be very vital to prevent and solve crime. Exposing everything to the public is a huge mistake. Something is not right about all of this. Most of you are only looking for bacchanal and to score political points. Mr. Patrick designed this after the coupe; Mr. Basdeo set up and implemented this agency while he was in power, mind you Mrs. Kamala was one of the two TOP Law enforcement official in the country when this agency was implemented (Attorney General). So, why all of a sudden, she is so shocked about finding this agency? Mr. Manning may come across a liar and crazy, and I think he took some thing too far, but I believe some of the things he has said. These agencies have a lot of info, and all these raids and disclosures are to find and destroy the intelligence information that they have already gathered. DRUGS are the major cause of violence and destruction of our Island. Do you all remember the Scott drug report? This list, however; not published contained a number of people in high places. (E.g. Police, Government Ministers (past/present), Business people, .etc) So, it is not far fetched for these people to finance a political party and once there, try to put their hands on all the information to destroy what they do not want exposed and showcase what they want exposed. Since must of the country is still on the anti PNM/Manning witch hunt, it’s only beneficial to play to the public or your base to score points. Remember it was Mr. Basdeo who stated that Mr. Jack was involved in Drugs, who in turn said he was going to sue and withdraw his bail money, but changed his mind because of his good hearted nature. LOL what a joke!! He also stated Mrs. Kamala was not ready to govern, which is becoming more evident by the “foot in mouth” syndrome. I think she is an intelligent woman, but intelligence does not mean you can LEAD. Ask Mr. Barack about that!! BTW, Mr. Basdeo has been very quiet watching this Government do their thing. I wonder why!

  10. “Hundreds of our citizens were kidnapped, beaten and killed. Yet this equipment was not used to find the “community leaders” committing such horror.”
    Hey buddy, how do you curb kidnapping , when based on cogent evidence, 7 out of 10 of them were the result of disgruntled , and impatient family members , setting up their own to be snatched , by desperate low end criminal bums , then running in front of the media to cry about victimhood, as auntie and Pappi scamper to find the loot hidden under the bed , before an arm ,leg , decapitated head , or other choice body part of a favorite relative, is delivered to the 5 billion dollar resident before sundown?
    Now do you wish for data to substantiate this , or prefer to wait on your Canadian experts ,led by Commissioner Gibbs and company ,to provide them?
    Hey NGA , it’s called ‘de square peg in round hold syndrome.’Asking ‘these divisive, country hating folks,’ to change their Political/Social / Neo Tribalistic , Modus Operandi , is like ‘asking a cannibal to change the menu.’
    It just ain’t happening my friend, so enjoy the ride for the next three years, while enduring the socio-economic – com political pain ,unless you wish to suit up former Leftinent Shah, or is pal Rex Lasalle again ,for some bogus revolution just like 1970-when Dr Deaffy Eric, the then neo colonial ,simi dictator ,was in charge- since most of the weed smoking Tethron boys in green , could give a hoot ,as long as they get pay, and can impregnate idiot chicks in St James , Caranage, Diego , and similar useless, backward ,Afrocentric enclaves around the East West corridors. As for the Pandays , of Father , brother , or clueless daughter, they are totally irrelevant as far as the future or even past , of this our country, that it is not even worth thinking about. Why he did not take up that scholarship that was offered my his motherland , then become another useless economic professor somewhere , is beyond me. Name one single useful deed this guy ever did to advance our country – in or out of power, and I would personally organize a sleepover ,or date with Queen Elizabeth Grand daughter ,for you , they drive you to Mars on a Chagurnas noisy Maxi Taxi.
    Best wishes.

  11. Neal, the excop, turned sociology expert and political analyst with a tinge of acerbic wit, laced with ridicule and expired theories wrote:

    “7 out of 10 of them were the result of disgruntled , and impatient family members , setting up their own to be snatched , by desperate low end criminal bums , then running in front of the media to cry about victimhood, as auntie and Pappi scamper to find the loot hidden under the bed , before an arm ,leg , decapitated head , or other choice body part of a favorite relative, is delivered to the 5 billion dollar resident before sundown?”

    This is a fallacy which the exPM himself tried to spread. True, there were a few suspicious cases involving family intra-activity, but the vast majority of kidnappings were for bandit ransom.The statistics put out by the police does NOT support Neal’s inventions and wishful thinking to support his biased, twisted thinking.This man must be one of those desperate “PNM till ah die” power hungry expatriot characters who has not realized that T&T has moved on. From his short pants ,deprived commentary, I suspect that he is out of touch with the vibe in T&T. His anecdotes and his restricted vision of T&T belong to the past. This excuse for a PNM apologist should put down whatever he is smoking in Zoo York and get with the program.

  12. So since you condescendingly dismissed me as a mere “….excop, turned sociology expert and political analyst,” what do you consider your Uncle Shah to be an expert on since leaving the military after he escaped the death penalty, or your London trained actor Bas ,turn trade unionist freedom fighter, and second rate politician , along with all his legal protégées , in both skirts ,and pants,with a plan to eradicate anything African from this country,since the opaque religion they subscribe to, makes them believe that the only race that is their equals, possess blond hair, and blue eyes?
    So we have a new T&T belong to the past, due to being beneficiary of your PP regime? If so , someone did not tell Brother Fazeer, Commissioner Philbert, or heavens forbid, the thousands that are still awaiting a coherent domestic job creation policy agenda?
    No my friend , referring to me as a PNM till I die is not only an insult to my intelligence, but the people who taught you comprehension in roofless Carapichima Primary school. Show me another individual on this driving on this here information highway, that dares to make a strong , forceful commentary against most of the useless , pseudo African jokers ,that led this political party since 1956, and I would make a prediction as to which Prison cell ,Basdeo Panday the crook, would eventually end up in while law upholding Queen K ,is in charge, or when his incarnated Nehru’s dream, would materialize ,so that his clueless ,rum drinking daughter, would head that political party , much less become PM in this country.

  13. Why not publish the list of people who were tapped under the UNC also? And on another note, we need to investigate the AG and the conspiracy to prevent Ish and Steve from being extradited…..

  14. Please put on your thinking cap, and use the grey matter between your ears. So how come the kidnapping stopped? I would also suggest that you read the article by Dr Selwyn Ryan in the express, in which he discusses the ‘spying’ and the comments of Sir Ellis Clark.

    Read also the comments of the last Commissioner of Police , and find out what are the views of persons in the security business of any government. Educate yourself, so that you can talk intelegently on this topic.

  15. The action of this Prime Minister to publicly reveal government’s National Security measures used to keep the nation and its people safe, is the result of leaders in government not preparing for leadership succession. This failure allows people without knowledge of how government works to be placed in positions of authority at great national risk. If the current Prime Minister thought she was embarrassing the former disgraced PNM government by her revelation, she has made a great error leaving her nation now vulnerable. I believe that leadership succession should be a national priority, in the avoidance of future national disaster due to inexperience. In the electoral process there should be a Constitutional Change for the national election of a Prime Minister and a Deputy Prime Minister who would be entitled to national security briefing even while being in Opposition as the Shadow Ministers and during a transition period before taking office.

  16. The “Big Story” is certainly documented on tape by those in on the Bigger Story of how and why Shelly Dass came to hold a position at the OAS

  17. Thanks Greg for reminding us , of other examples of progress and change, as manifested by Queen K , and her PP regime.
    As my dear luving Granny would fondly say,”Lord put ah hand , and if you can’t ,den put ah foot!”
    Just what have they been teaching our Military elitist Tethron boys, out there in Coup School Sandhurst Britannia folks? Yet they feel we must have confidence in this form of leadership as far as our fledging security?
    Listen to this Afro-mouthpiece apologist,for his government’s incompetence ,and penchant for blatant cronyism. National Security Brigadier John Sandy said ,SSA suspect educated , “acting director, Ramnarine ,was appointed to act in the post for six months and not installed to head the SIA.The appointment was made to assist in the rationalisation, streamlining and amalgamation of the SIA into the SSA?”
    Talk about faulty political spin!,134479.html

    So to stretch your already twisted logic Mr Minister, if Queen Maker Jack Warner, is acting as the PM for 6 months -with the much coveted powers to make crucial economic / political decisions -when his leader is on one of her usual shopping tours across the US , or Europe,what is he then John , not the PM, and who is this clueless woman expected ,to text in efforts to get an answer ,when a matter of national urgency relating to our fragile security present’s itself ? Heaven forbid if it’s any member in the ‘highest echelons,’ of the Ministry of National Security, yes?
    Now this is the foolishness that got us looking like global idiots on those fateful days in 1990 when another square peg was on tour, and we had then Speaker, serving as President, and …well we know the rest ,attempted Coup and all by a fake Islamist, as today he Abu Bakr flaunts his five’ adoring Central , Muslim wives,’ in our faces , and continue’s to threaten our fragile Democracy ,while being protected by deceptive Privy Council Court blokes , and the local domestic Eurocentric political stooges .
    Say yes to one day seeing political ,and economic transparency, by our inter tribal leaders.
    Still not too sure ,this was what the 1.3 million or more of our voting population bargained on ,when they got rid of Manning the clown ,and his useless PNM gang , ehh?
    PNM gone , but PNM remained in spirit it seems ,as manifested by bad governance, some would say , and who can argue? Not me for sure!

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