13 Nov 2010

Spying – outside reality?

This spying stuff going on has some really serious implications. Now, I understand the need for information, especially pertaining to criminal or terrorist acts. However, on the flip side to that need are the ‘guarantees’ of the Constitution:

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        • the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person (S4.a)
        • the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law (S4.b)
        • the right of the individual to respect for his private and family life (S4.c)
        • the right of the individual to equality of treatment from any public authority in the exercise of any functions (S4.d)
        • the right to join political parties and to express political views (S4.e)
        • freedom of thought and expression (S4.i)

Now, the law is open to interpretation, and my interpretation is that those guaranteed rights listed above are all in some way infringed by the covert monitoring (spying) of communications of the individuals.

There are certain places the Constitution allows exceptions to these rights – however, none of the exceptions mentions specifically covert monitoring. In all cases, the Constitution mentions that exceptions to the guaranteed rights must (ought?) to be made by law enacted by Parliament.

Since no such law has been made by the PNM (or P**rick), it stands to reason then that the monitoring is illegal, but more importantly breaches the Constitution to the extent it breaches those guaranteed rights.

Some time ago, I posted a speech by the Lord Chief Justice. That speech warns of the perils of dropping our vigilance in protecting “the constitutional rights of each citizen, as well as the integrity of the constitution by which those rights exist.” Part of that speech bears repeating here:

The places where things have gone wrong include countries which believed that they were mature democracies, where these things did not and could not happen, but they did.

…There was, of course, no physical intimidation, no threat to security of judicial tenure, none of the extremes of tyranny. But it is the first steps which have to be watched. The first incursion by the executive into impropriety. The first compromise by the judiciary with principle. We are all familiar with the employee who steals from his employer. The most difficult time is the first time the hand goes into the till. After that, each successive time is less difficult. The problem with the phrase “eternal vigilance” is that it appears to focus on the long term. But the focus is the immediate, today,  every day. The insidious dangers are no less threatening than the obvious ones, and for the judiciary to acquiesce in the first small, even tiny, steps, may ultimately be terminal.

…In a democratic country all power, however exercised in the community, must be founded on the rule of law. Therefore each and every exercise of political power must be accountable not only to the electorate at the ballot box, when elections take place, but also and at all times to the rule of law. Independent professions protect it.  Independent press and media protect it. [This is an additional issue as well].1961_original_spy_vs_spy

I’ve read most of the articles on the spying issue, and read the comments following. I am appalled at some of the opinions proffered, which to me reek of ignorance and an attempt to bash PP. I don’t find it too unbelievable that the Prime Minister or others were kept in the dark about the SIA and its agenda. Not especially if you read into the information revealed to whom the agency reported.  Since the covert monitoring started long before the current Prime Minister or her colleagues assumed office (years before) then it becomes fairly obvious, at least to me, that the continued ignorance of the spying is not so hard fetched to believe. All it takes is NOT to inform the Prime Minister, whom they were most likely instructed not to inform anyway, given that the reports were directed to one person and one person only. Please note even this person’s colleagues appear unaware they were being spied upon.

So for people to bash the Prime Minister for being unaware of this agency’s actions, merely because she is the Prime Minister and head of the National Security Council is a bit like saying Gibbs should know every actions of his corrupt officers… or something like that.

From what I’ve seen, the Prime Minister took appropriate action as did Gibbs when the situation revealed itself. They continue to take action. I am no fan of any Government but I try to call a spade a spade as I see it. I have been wrong, and may be wrong in the future. But in this case, to say that this is a smokescreen to hide from other issues (such as Ish and Steve, Fazeer Mohammed, etc.) is a bit beyond the realm of reality.

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