Wiretaps still not audited

| 22/11/2013

(CNS): The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has issued a warning that until government puts in place the necessary audit committee to oversee the interception of telecommunication messages by the police, the public cannot have confidence that the wiretapping and other message surveillance being carried out by the RCIPS is lawful or proportionate. In the wake of allegations by the opposition leader Thursday in the Legislative Assembly that his emails, messages and phone calls were unlawfully intercepted, the HRC has queried why, more than 18 months after it was assured government was setting up the required audit commission, it still hasn’t been done and none of the RCIPS electronic snooping has been reviewed.

“Until the Audit Committee is established, the public cannot be sufficiently assured that the surveillance equipment and circumstances underpinning each instance of telecommunication message interception is compliant with the ICTA legislation or established human rights standards intended to protect against unlawful, arbitrary, and unreasonable interceptions,” the HRC said in a new report released to the media on Friday.

The committee raises a number of concerns in regard to the ability of the RCIPS to intercept messages with just a warrant from the governor for what are supposedly only for very serious crimes without any oversight.

McKeeva Bush, who is facing a number of charges under the anti-corruption law, revealed that all of his communication had been intercepted and the police had got hold of his personal bank and finance details. Although he was stopped from going further by the speaker because his case is still in the courts, the issue illustrates the concerns being raised in the community about how much, who and why the RCIPS is intercepting messages. The claim has been made by the deputy police commissioner, the governor and most recently the UK's overseas territories minister, Mark Simmonds, that the police powers to monitor or intercept private calls and electronic messages were for only the most “serious of crime” or “terrorism”.

With the potential of serious intrusion into an individual’s private life, the HRC said it was absolutely necessary for oversight to safeguard people from unlawful intrusion. It said the creation of an Interception of Communications Audit Committee was essential. It was now of concern that, although required by the Information Communications Technology Authority Regulations, which have been in force since 2011, such a committee has not been established

The committee was supposed to conduct an audit of all interception equipment and data records at least once every six months to determine whether interceptions were conducted in accordance with the law's relevant regulations.

Without that committee, the HRC said, it was impossible for the general public to be assured that the use of interception and communications data was properly authorised as an investigative technique and government was interfering in people’s privacy.

“The CI Government is required to refrain from interfering with a number of ways in which a person may express themselves … with a person’s correspondence or other means of communication. In general this means that you have the right to voice opinions and express your views subject to the rights of other persons,” the HRC stated in the report.

The commission said it had warned the former governor, Duncan Taylor that telecommunication message interception carry the potential for human rights infringements and indicated that it considered the Audit Committee to be one of the most important checks and balances in the process.

“For this reason, the HRC stated in its letter to former Governor Taylor that the appointment of members to the Audit Committee by the Governor-in-Cabinet, as per s.17 of the ICTA Law (Interception of Telecommunication Messages Regulations), 2011, should be considered a priority by the government as a means to providing a necessary layer of oversight to the process of telecommunication interception by the police service," the report reveals.

“On 22 March, 2012 the Deputy Governor responded to the HRC confirming that the (then) Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs was in the final stages of identifying members of the Audit Committee and indicated that the matter would go before Cabinet within the next thirty (30) days.”

However, eighteen months later and after repeated enquiries there is no committee, and the HRC described the apparent lack of willingness by previous governments to establish an Interception of Communications Audit Committee as “disconcerting” and pressed the new government to act to create this necessary layer of oversight.

Speaking in the House on Thursday, Premier Alden McLaughlin, who raised his own concerns about the lack of judicial oversight on this surveillance, pointed out that when the UK want something in this regard there is little that the CIG can do, but he said that he would be setting up the audit committee at the earliest opportunity.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    if Cayman wants this sort of role, go independent.  Then the UK can carry on spying on things anyway.  There are more important things than local crime involved with this sort of issue.

    • Anonymous says:

      Even if we go independent, we still will have to abide by the same international policies and rules.

      Should we ignore them. The world leaders will sanction a trade embargo and travel restrictions on us.

      lets just live with it as it is now. The whole world are going through these policy changes. Our mother country is  being whipped and flog by the Europeans

    • Anonymous says:

      What a stupid comment. It's not as if Cayman would be making an unreasonable demand. We are asking the UK to respect the same human rights that it is always insisting we follow.

      I am sure local crime has nothing to do with it which is why they do not wish to have local judges involved.  

  2. Know it all says:

    Again everyone seems to be missing the key fact.  There is nothing to audit. The Governor has made that clear. So why have an audit committee.  Wow! 

  3. Anonymous says:

    This will never happen.  

  4. squid says:

    What the famous Edward Snowden revealed about the GCHQ spy agency in the UK and the NSA spy agency in the United States, how they are constantly spying on people, a form of social control…. could it just be, could it just be that we OT's are being used as their gunea pigs to broaden their massive worldwide agendas?  I am just saying because it seems like in the past 4 years now with 250-300 CCTV camaras being installed, Operation Tempura, Cayman now deemed a police state, andnow this wiretapping… it seems to me that we are deliberately being put in a special interest test-tube. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Not to mention the genetically-modified mosquitoes that they unleashed upon us a couple of years ago. A test tube indeed. I'd like to know who is behind all this?

    • Anonymous says:

      The UK and US are recording who enters and leaves a Bodden Town as part of a worldwide agenda.  How did you work it out?

  5. Anonymous says:

    A Cayman based body cannot be trusted to keep international matters confidential.  There is no need for this "audit".

    • Anonymous says:
      • Anonymous says:

        ROTFLMAO!!!!!! Yes, Tempura? Headed by a retired senior Met officer who left the islands with confidential records it would be a criminal offence for him to possess in the UK. I think that's the most worrying thing about this. Will it be RCIPS using these powers or some outside agency, possibly even another private contractor? There's no safety net here.   

    • Anonymous says:

      Like Operation Tempura?

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am happy if Bush's phone has been tapped. I hope it was done soon enough.

    • Anonymous says:

      Some people just can't move on!

    • Anonymous says:

      Idiot, this is more than Bush phone being tapped. This is a very serious matter and should concern all of us and our privacy.

  7. Anonymous says:

    There is no need for local oversight of something determined at a national level (ie UK).  It will simply increase the risk of information leaking out.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because the privacy rights of citizens in the colonies don't matter? 

      Some of you people just don'tr change. Same old colonialist mentality. 

      • Sov'ran Brows says:

        If it is still pink on the map then we can do what is in our interests there.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Let us ask the Anti-Corruption Commission to look into this…….

    Or the Auditor General to review this…..