As he visited the Lower House to pilot a bill to regulate wiretapping, the Interception of Communications Bill 2010, Sandy departed from his prepared script to express his own “myriad of emotions” of anger and hurt at having been spied upon. “This is the work of a desperate mind, a manic mind, a manic man,” he stormed, looking clearly in the direction of Manning.
Sandy said people felt a great discomfort by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s revelations in the House last Friday that the Security Intelligence Agency (SIA) had been spying on law-abiding citizens such as President George Maxwell Richards.
“‘Outrage!’ ‘Abused!’ ‘Fractured and violated!’ ‘Under siege!’ ‘Sordid invasion!’ ‘Raped privacy!’ ‘Troubling and vexing’, were some of the sentiments expressed by members of a stunned national community,” recalled Sandy on the expose.
On a personal note, Sandy said after having spent his long army career working in intelligence both here and abroad, he was deeply hurt to find out that his own privacy had been invaded by the SIA.
“I have been fortunate to have had the privilege of serving not only in Trinidad and Tobago but internationally with security agencies. I probably more than anyone in this chamber understands the meaning and the basis of classified information, but when your privacy is invaded, you are hurt,” he lamented.
“I have had, fortunately for me, service in the military that I can refer to and boast as being impeccable. My integrity is unquestioned, and when I am faced with information that I am the subject of investigation, it hurts. It hurts,” said Sandy.
“Again Mr Speaker, one would get the impression that that is the work of a sick mind, a manic mind, a manic man.” Government MPs loudly applauded. He hit Manning’s recent claims that the Government is undermining national security by exposing the wiretapping.
“What we are attempting to do is to dismantle the dictatorial power of a sick mind, a manic mind,” said Sandy. “Never again in this country must citizens be exposed to that manifestation of tyranny. Never again!” He said privacy issues would be addressed including human rights and the transparency of wiretapping operations. He said the Bill would allow legitimate wiretapping but not snooping on subject law-abiding citizens such as the President.
“Mr Speaker, His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, loved by all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, I can imagine how he felt on learning what had happened, with his invasion of privacy.”
He lamented how the families and children of law-abiding citizens must now feel to learn they were spied on. “You may very well imagine, Mr Speaker, a mother and child relationship. Speaking to her daughter on the phone, speaking intimate matters. She is confiding in her mother, the mother is confiding in her sister — these items are being eavesdropped upon by persons whom we can only refer to as sick minds, manic minds, manic man.”
He said the Bill would allow wiretapping to be used properly to get both intelligence for crime detection and evidence for conviction in a law court, noting such bills already exist in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.
“It follows, Mr Speaker, that anyone who would enjoy electronic eavesdropping and invasion of privacy for personal gain, is a sick mind, manic mind, manic man.”
Sandy struck a balance to say that while wiretapping can stop criminals who are using cellphones to commit crimes, any use of wiretapping without the nod of Parliament is a breach of democracy and human rights.
Saying that two British newspaper editors are now facing jail for wiretapping the phones of the Royal family, he said to the Opposition MPs, “So, there’s jail looming.”
Mayaro MP Winston “Gypsy” Peters mumbled something to Manning who allowed himself a brief smile, and gave Peters a quick nod.
Recalling the “sadness and shame” expressed over the bugging scandal last Friday by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, Sandy quipped, “Shame brought about all because of a sick mind...”. UNC MPs interjected, “A manic mind”. Sandy continued, “A manic mind, a manic man.”
He held up last week’s Sunday Newsday front page photo of a glum Opposition as seen last Friday in the Lower House to say he empathised with them over the revelations that even they had been spied upon. Referring to Laventille East/Morvant MP Donna Cox, he said, “she was not aware her phone calls were being monitored, even as Minister in the Ministry of National Security.”
Sandy said Manning had said the SIA had reported to him and the then minister of national security Martin Joseph, but he noted that Joseph had categorically denied that the SIA head reported to him and denied authorising the wiretapping of any citizen. “He said he too was shocked by the revelation of the Prime Minister (Mrs Persad-Bissessar) in Parliament.”
Apparently contrasting the two men’s remarks, Sandy said that someone is not being truthful.
Sandy then denounced Manning’s allegation that the Government is dismantling wiretapping in order to aid drug-lords, noting that since then Persad-Bissessar has filed a pre-action protocol letter against Manning.
“Mr Speaker, I wish to publicly applaud the efforts of the Commissioner of Police, Dwayne Gibbs, and his investigating officers for the professional job done in unearthing the apparent inconsistencies that were occurring at the SIA, not only in terms of illegal interception, but also in respect of financial accounting concerns.”
These findings, he said, have prompted the start of a forensic audit for 2001 to 2010. “It was found that no audits of accounts were done at the agency for a decade,” he said. “Quite an alarming discovery, Mr Speaker. Quite alarming. All engineered and overseen by a sick mind, a manic mind, a manic man, with whom we on this side truly empathise,” he added with a mix of scorn and sarcasm.
Throughout Sandy’s attack on him, Manning sat quietly, briefly talking to Point Fortin MP Paula Gopee-Scoon, but mostly looking down to operate his Blackberry.
Sandy outlined the clauses of the Bill. He said clause 6 exempts any secret information collected from the Freedom of Information Act. Clause 7 makes illicit wiretapping into an offence of strict liability, where the accused must prove his innocence. The section imposes a $250,000 fine and five years jail for illicit possession of wiretapping devices.
Under clause 8, he said, wiretapping must be authorised by a judge at an ex parte hearing. “We are not a Gestapo. There must be judicial oversight,” he explained.
Later Persad-Bissessar, in an intervention during the speech of Rowley, asked for the Opposition’s support. She said, “If it is that the Opposition is not inclined to support the Bill, we would not want to pass this Bill without your support, even though we have the majority, because it is too important. In the committee stage, if you like, we can go through and take all your suggestions and give due consideration to them.”