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SIA gets okay to continue ‘spying’

Published: 
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The controversial Security Intelligence Agency (SIA) has been given the greatlight to resume its operations. The directive, according to Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs, was given following the recent completion of a probe into the unit.Gibbs addressed members of the media outside the West End Police Station, Diego Martin, yesterday after the area was locked down for several hours during an anti-crime operation.

He said: “The SIA investigation at this point is some of the things are still ongoing but for the most part it’s complete and we are moving forward in terms of our intelligence operations.“We have finished our investigations in terms of all the work we have done with SIA with the different groups, now it’s a case of letting them get back to doing their job. That’s where it sits at the moment,” Gibbs said.

He said the SIA had only been shut down for a few days.Gibbs added: “For a period of time we had shut down completely everything and they (the SIA) have been up and running for everything except interception.” He confirmed that the unit had been doing monitoring and surveillance.“We have to understand that that type of work like interception is for work that is done where nothing else works and so there is a whole lot of things that we do in terms of policing and in terms of intelligence-gathering prior to getting there and in terms of criminal work. That’s only one tool.

Saying SIA employees fell under the purview of the Government, Gibbs could not say if any of its members would face criminal or disciplinary charges.“At this point we aren’t expecting things to be laid. We have done our investigations and we have moved on and we are allowing the people to get back to their work,” Gibbs said.
Asked whether the elite Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) also was engaged in spying Gibbs said the unit was intelligence-driven, dealing primarily with criminal intelligence.

“That’s their function, to gather criminal intelligence and it helps us to narrow down on the targets and hotspots and in terms of anything national, in terms of security. They help us put those pieces together,” Gibbs said.Pressed further whether the CIU was involved in wiretapping Gibbs said: “Those are police tactics. Those are Government tactics in terms of dealing with criminal and security activities.

“I won’t go into detail of how they do things. I won’t confirm or deny what they do. They deal with intelligence-gathering which is not open to the public.”

More lockdowns expected

The operation, which began during the early hours of yesterday morning, included members of the Organised Crime, Narcotics and Firearms Bureau (OCNFB), the Special Anti-Crime Unit of T&T (Sautt) and the Western Divisional Task Force.

Describing the exercise as a “major lockdown” Gibbs praised the efforts of the lawmen, saying the operation yielded “great success” in nabbing five murder suspects and purported gang members.“This is one of many the public can expect. We are targeting the hotspots and going after the targets,” Gibbs said.Saying policing involved prevention, awareness and education, the top cop said enforcement, suppression and deterrence also was critical.

He added: “The latter part is what we need to do to control some of the crime that is running rampant.“But in the long-term effect we also have to put in measures to prevent the root causes of crime. We cannot just look at the symptoms of crime.“We need to do what needs to be done and we’re going to come down hard on people,” Gibbs said.

In light of the recent spate of murders in Petit Valley, Gibbs said the decision to lock down the Western Division “wasn’t just a random hit.” He said: “We knew what we were doing based on the intelligence we had. We will continue to do that as we move forward into the Christmas and Carnival seasons.”

Flashback

The Special Branch shut down the operations of SIA in early November when it was discovered it had been spying on people in public life by wiretapping cellphones, landlines, as well as intercepting e-mails and text messages.

Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, COP leader Winston Dookeran and PNM leader Dr Keith Rowley were among politicians who were spied on.It also was alleged there were links between the SIA and the Special Anti-Crime Unit (Sautt) which also had been under investigation for spying. The Interception of Communication Bill was passed in the House last week.

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