Port of Spain - It was recently discovered that under the Patrick Manning lead People's National Movement (PNM) Government, persons considered of interest were being secretly monitored by wiretapping cellphones, land lines, as well as intercepting emails and text messages.

In a statement in Parliament on Friday 12th November, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar revealed that the PNM government was spying of the citizens of the twin island republic.

The Special Branch, a unit of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, shut down the operations of Strategic Intelligence Agency (SIA) two weeks ago when it was discovered that it had been spying on persons. Persad-Bissessar, COP leader Winston Dookeran and PNM leader Dr. Keith Rowley were among politicians who were spied on.

Persad-Bissessar claimed a "covert project," code-named "OPPORATION NEWS" commenced in March 2005, and has been ongoing since.

Special Branch working with the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB), also recovered $5.8 million in cash and firearms in a vault at one of the locations where SIA operated. SIA is said to have bases in Port-of-Spain and across North Trinidad.

Keith Rowley's Response

Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley says Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar did nothing wrong in revealing in Parliament that the phones of many prominent citizens were illegally tapped by the SIA.

"We will support any such measure and it is a pity that such measures had not been in place before because it may have protected us from the shame that we face today," he added.

Rowley said the SIA operated illegally under a former UNC Government, in which Persad-Bissessar was a member. He said the problem now was not what the PNM or UNC Government did.

Rowley said he was "uncomfortable" with the Executive treating this matter as discovery.

Patrick Manning's Press Conference

Former prime minister Patrick Manning says nobody is above the scrutiny of national security in T&T when it comes to national security matters.

"I never asked whom do you monitor or not monitor. They conduct their business and if in the conduct of their business they see a need to monitor individuals, they do that. The parameter we set is that you are not authorized to monitor anybody who is a law-abiding citizen," Manning said.

Manning said the SIA reported to him in his capacity as Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security.

Noting that the illegal drug trade was the major problem affecting the country, Manning said the SIA was doing a good job in that fight.