UK Liberty

Talk about splitting hairs!

Posted in politicians on liberty, state-citizen relationship, surveillance society by ukliberty on February 5, 2008

The Register:

The UK Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, told MPs today that the alleged bugging of a prominent Muslim MP’s conversations with a constituent had not been authorised by the cabinet.

But Straw also said the alleged snooping would not have breached the Wilson doctrine banning the security services from bugging MPs, if it emerged any operation had been carried out by police.

Straw’s statement can be found here.

Yesterday’s Sunday Times alleged that conversations between Sadiq Khan MP and Babar Ahmad were taped during 2005 and 2006 by police officers. Ahmad is being held in Woodhill prison pending appeal against extradition to the US, where prosecutors intend to try him on terror-related charges. In particular, Ahmad is alleged to have run a website promoting terrorism which was hosted in America.

He is also alleged to have in his possession a GPS device and a decades old tourist brochure for the Empire State Building. Lawks.

He has been imprisoned since 2004 fighting an extradition request to the USA.  He may be a dodgy character, I have no idea, but it certainly seems we don’t have anything to charge him with here, otherwise we should have.

SpyBlog has a great article on the Sunday Times piece, and more generally on the Wilson Doctrine and why it is a good thing, and Diane Abbot said something sensible in her response to Straw’s statement:

The Lord Chancellor’s statement appears to suggest that there is one regime for telephone tapping, another regime for bugging by policemen and another for bugging by members of the security services. When the inquiry is concluded, will he consider one protocol that covers all those circumstances in relation to Members of Parliament so that at the very least to bug or tap the telephone of an MP will require ministerial approval? In that way, our constituents—many of whom come to us as frightened, vulnerable or fearful individuals—could have some security that they were speaking to us in complete confidence.

It is a great pity that many readers of the Sunday Times piece think that just because Ahmad is a person suspected of terrorism and being held pending the outcome of his legal battle against being extradited, he should forfeit his rights.

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