N Touch
Wednesday 19 December 2018
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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.

According to Draft Estimates of Recurrent Expenditures, the SSA was allocated: $18.5 million for 2007; $19.5 million in, 2008; $25 million in 2009; $20.6 million in 2010 and $21 million for 2011.

Former Minister of National Security Martin Joseph yesterday said the SSA originated under the PNM administration in the early 1990s. “It has been in existence since 1994,” he said. “It began under the first PNM administration and continued under the UNC and has been in existence throughout that.” He would not say whether or not the SSA had been illegally intercepting citizens’ private communications throughout that time, saying he would not comment further for fear of compromising national security.“What is happening here, we are seriously damaging national security,” Joseph said.

The functions of the SSA, according to statute, are to: “Act as an office for centralising information that could facilitate the detection and prevention of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs” and “develop strategic intelligence and make recommendations to Government on the formation of policies in relation to counter narcotics matters.”

The use to which information gathered by the SSA may have been put is unclear.

On September 30, 2008, former Prime Minister Patrick Manning alleged that then Opposition MP Kamla Persad-Bissessar had ties to the Integrity Commission, based on information he had gathered from an unspecified security agency.

“I called one of the security agencies to check it,” he said. “(Persad-Bissessar) was in a position to know far more than she, under normal circumstances, was authorised to know...I have monitored the relationship between the Member for Siparia and the individual concerned for years.”

The SSA Act makes no reference to another agency, the Special Intelligence Agency, now at the centre of a controversy over illegal communications interception. Top-ranking police officials yesterday said the SIA has been conducting intelligence gathering for several years.

“They are there for a purpose and we want to keep that confidential,” the official said.

Newsday understands that an investigation into the affairs of the SIA being conducted by the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB) was up until yesterday ongoing.

At the same time, however, police sources yesterday said information gathered from the SIA would in the past be used by the ACIB, which reports directly to the Office of the Attorney General.

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