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. She spoke about the discovery during a news conference at Piarco International Airport on her return to T&T from the United States yesterday. Persad-Bissessar is expected to tell all in a comprehensive ministerial statement in the House of Representatives this afternoon. The T&T Guardian reported exclusively on November 2 that a high-level police probe was being carried out into the operations of the SIA.
Yesterday, the PM insisted the tapping could not have been intended to assist in the fight against crime because the phones belonged to citizens who had no crime record or who had no propensity for engaging in criminal activity. "We're talking here of Members of Parliament of all the parties, we're talking here of persons in private life, including media personnel, we're talking here about persons in the judiciary," she said. The PM wanted to know what the information was being used for. She said the act continued after the May 24 general election, which saw her People's Partnership Government coming to power in T&T. She said the investigation was done by the police under Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs. "We are really grateful for the work done under Commissioner Gibbs," she said. "It also involves the discovery of large amounts of cash at this agency (SIA).
"The commissioner has requested that there be a forensic audit carried out into the discovery." She said legislation seeking to deal with the issue of wire-tapping is to be brought to Parliament today. "It's a frightening bit of information that we discovered only by chance," she added. Persad-Bissessar said she was advised of this about two weeks ago. She said the tapping of phones was illegal. The PM, who is also the chairman of the National Security Council said: "This was never brought to our attention." She later said she had no information to support claims that any other agency within the National Security Ministry was engaged in phone-tapping.