back to article Straw launches inquiry into Muslim MP bugging case

Justice Minister Jack Straw has ordered an inquiry over allegations that the security services bugged a British MP visting a constituent in prison. Scotland Yard anti-terrorist police allegedly bugged Sadiq Khan, a government whip and Labour MP for Tooting as well as parliamentary private secretary to Straw, when he met a man in …

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Rob
Paris Hilton

why a ban on bugging politicians?

I keep hearing on the news that bugging politicians has been banned for the last 40 years, does anyone know the thinking, if any, behind that rule?

Putting aside the fact that politicians seem to think they can bug anyone they want whenever they want, surely politicians themselves are the most deserving of scrutiny, they keep saying they are not lying, and prove repeatedly that they do lie and cheat, so I propose that all politicians be bugged all day, every day, so long as they are in a position of power.

To further their accountability, you could have a webcast from their transmitters, sort of like big brother, where the general public could listen in and see what their tax money was being spent on.

It seems like a win-win situation for everyone really, i mean who in govt. could reasonably object to a massive invasion of privacy with a fuzzy scope & dubious benefits..

-Paris, as she also likes the world to know what she's up to

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Black Helicopters

if only...

.. they would get so upset and concerned about our civil liberties as they do their own.

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Silver badge

Regarding the bugging of politicians in general.

Politicians/MP's are so squeaky clean, above all suspicion and are of such impeccable character that I wonder why anyone would want to bug them in the first place.

Whilst the average Joe/Joanne Soap has his/her liberties eroded and abused in any which way the law sees fit, politicians are above reproach and should be protected from such violations of privacy. They are very special people who always work in the best interest of the populace. I am sure there is not a self-serving member amongst them. And, being politicians they should be treated with the kind of respect the rest of society can only dream of.

In fact I would go as far as to say, that as such a special class of person, they should be above all those laws that the we, the unclean, are abused with daily.

Remember, it is double standards that has put the Great into Great Britain.

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Interview.

"it is completely unacceptable for an interview conducted by an MP on a constituency matter - or on any other issue - to be recorded"

Dose this meen we never have to have MP's on TV again?

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Dead Vulture

Why the security services shouldn't bug politicians . . .

. . . because they are controlled by the government. If they bug politicians, the information then goes to people who are effectively "in competition" with the person under surveillance.

If MI5 report a security indiscretion by David Cameron to the government, they could use that information against the Tories. On the other hand, if it's a Labour minister, they can choose to ignore it.

In Spycatcher, Peter Wright refers to controversy about Harold Wilson, where MI5 were either being used for political ends, or may have been pursuing them themselves.

Of course, there's no spying ban because the politicians are "clean" - it's more likely that the Security Services couldn't handle the amount of dirt they'd find if they investigated them all!

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Watergate

The only rationale I can think of, is that the recordings could easily be used by the opposition to help win elections, which would very anti-democratic. (As if anyone would notice one more perversion of democracy amidst all the others!)

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Paris Hilton

If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear

NuLabour keep telling us, "If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear".

I would expect anyone visiting someone in prison facing extradition on terrorism related charges to be bugged! The guy's been accused of funding terrorists!!

Meanwhile the rest of the (innocent) population can be monitored by CCTV countless times a day, have our movements tracked by ANPR, have our data mined and lost, our emails and phone calls echeloned, yet a guy accused of funding terrorists can't have his conversations bugged because he's being visited by an MP!

This country is becoming a joke, but since it's being run by politically correct clowns, what do you expect?

Paris Hilton because even she isn't as dumb as the clowns who govern us.

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Anonymous Coward

Whistleblower protection

I come back to this whistleblower fix. If you gave protection to whistleblowers in the security services (provided they blew the whistle directly to MPs) then that would give a feedback loop to keep the security services from attacking their own country.

So for a problem to be revealed, both the whistleblower would have to be convinced enough to end their careers AND the MP would need to be sufficiently convinced too and that would prevent cases like this. Plus it has the advantage that normal day to day stuff continues to be kept from MPs, so no extra risk of leaks.

Pretty shocking to see the attitude of the policeman in that story. "ill feeling"??

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Anonymous Coward

The Wilson doctrine

"I keep hearing on the news that bugging politicians has been banned for the last 40 years, does anyone know the thinking, if any, behind that rule?"

It stems from when they bugged Wilson because they were afraid of a Labour government introducing communism to Britain. Read spycatcher, or this one puts it simply enough:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Wilson_conspiracy_theories

Interesting to read the regulators comments. He calls for the doctrine to be removed.

"It is fundamental to the constitution of this country that no one is above the law or is seen to be above the law. But in this instance, MPs and peers are anything but equal with the rest of the citizens of this country and are above the law""

So if he's in favour of bugging MPs, whose enforcing the Wilson doctrine?

60% anyone?

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Black Helicopters

They were not bugging the MP

They were bugging the "suspected" terrorist in a prison. There is not an expectation of privacy in a prison is there? I admit I do not know UK law but in the US the all prison exchanges are routinely recorded except between the prisoner and their lawyer - those are strictly out of bounds

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It isn't the MP

it's the bugging. There's no need for this tap to be made without a warrant. Whether it was an MP or not is irrelevant (though it IS relevant in that MPs are upset that *MPs* are being taped rather than plebs).

The worst case is that they continue to allow warrantless taps but NO taps on MPs. Best case is that they ban warrantless taps on anyone.

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Bugger

A Muslim civil liberties campaigner trying to prevent the Americans kidnapping another body for the CIA perverts to play with. When the police crawled under the table to plant the bug, they probably found at least two already there from the MI5, the CIA and god knows who else.

As for why we don't bug all MPs, the fact is that it wouldn't reveal anything. We already know about their corruption, their stupid policies, their taking of monumental decisions on sofas surrounded by yes-men. Hansard diligently records every stupid argument and every cynical U-turn. The donations and non-executive directorships they receive are usually publicly available, and it doesn't take Private Eye to join the dots between those and the awarding of lucrative contracts. The problem is not that we don't know that MPs are screwing us, the problem is that most people don't care.

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Black Helicopters

They don't like it up 'em do they?

Are MPs even capable of comprehending the word "hypocrisy"

Pisses me off the way MPs will constantly hide behind this idea of the supremacy of parliament to conceal the fact that they're all incompetent, snivelling toadies and/or wannabe tyrants.

While the threat of MI5 bringing down a government because they didn't like a politician's policies was perhaps a good reason to introduce this doctrine, nowadays there's a far greater risk of a politician bringing the country to ruin to feed their own vanity.

I'm inclined to trust MI5 spooks a lot more than MPs. At least the spooks are professionals, and can be fired if they screw up.

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Alert

The bugging is being viewed in the wrong light.

Much as I'm sick to death of the special treatment that MPs and PMs seem to think they deserve, in this case, I actually support them.

Basically, any discussion between a lawyer and their client is treated as private and confidential - this allows the client to speak freely to their representative (solicitor/lawyer) to get the best possible defence.

If a politician is actually performing his duty to his constituent (as opposed to paying their family members for phantom work) then this should also be treated as confidential.

If I were to visit my MP (highly unlike given the waste of space that he is) I would expect the discussion to be treated as confidential, too.

ANPR, ID cards, and other invasions of privacy of the rest of us (which are totally out of order) shouldn't be used to justify this new invasion of an MPs privacy. Though it will be interesting to see how the Home Office (or whatever they call themselves these days) balance the two matters.

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Silver badge
Thumb Up

Looking for the British "Lynne Stewart", or just a smokescreen?

There are a number of "super-do-gooders" that give legal assistance to those the rest of society would deem undesirable. Most of these are solicitors and barristers, and they hide behind the same shabby excuse - "everyone is entitled to a defence". As the Lynne Stewart affair in the States showed, some of these useful idiots are happily aiding those that want to kill the rest of us, and I suspect the UK secret services are keeping a very careful eye on them. As far as I can recall, the Wilson Convention is not law, it merely was a gentleman's agreement (if such a term can be used with either spooks or politicians!). So this is mainly political hot-air, probably being blown in the hope of obscuring the much more fun news about all the dodgy political funding that's being shaken out (especially that of Scottish Labour Leader Wendy Alexander).

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Flame

Anyone feel sorry for Sadiq Khan?

No thought not.

He's emblematic of everything that's wrong with the Commons - rank up rank of careerist lobby fodder blindly doing the government's will, stripping away our rights in the 'war against terror', always willing to parrot an identikit soundbite straight from the spindoctors, always preaching to the proles.

Well now Khan's found himself on the sharp end of an intrusive state I wonder if he'll be so willing to spout the 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear' mantra that's got him quite so far up the greasy pole.

Doubt it. He'll probably demand an apology and seek ministerial reassurance that mighty MPs like the Member for Tooting should be immune from the laws they pass.

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Anonymous Coward

It's not a new maccarthy era

It's not a new maccarthy era, honest.

No witch hunts here.

It's interestnig to see though how the public have been poisoned to think "hey what does it matter if a civil rights backing MP gets bugged - their all upto something anyway."

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Black Helicopters

@Mark Jan

I accuse you of funding terrorists

Good, now we have that out of the way, All your civil liberties belong to me.

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Anonymous Coward

@Dudly Doright

"There are a number of "super-do-gooders" that give legal assistance to those the rest of society would deem undesirable."

Good thing you speak for the rest of society. :) We can do away with juries and democracy altogether and just ask you what you think!

"As the Lynne Stewart affair in the States showed, some of these useful idiots are happily aiding those that want to kill the rest of us,"

Where are those WMDs? Where did that anthrax come from? Who will investigate these things? You?

" and I suspect the UK secret services are keeping a very careful eye on them."

I bet it was an MI5 officer who leaked it to the tories. Who else would know. I bet they're watching you now!.

"the Wilson Convention is not law, it merely was a gentleman's agreement"

Creepy double speak. Are you a lawyer?

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Black Helicopters

@ AC

It's interestnig to see though how the public have been poisoned to think "hey what does it matter if a civil rights backing MP gets bugged - their all upto something anyway."

Err...civil rights backing MP? Public poisoned?

Over the last 10 years (some would argue longer) there has been no democracy, accountability, sincerity or honesty from this government. Add to that their incessant desire to control the masses through cctv, id cards, vacuous threats of terror and spite laws there is very little reason for the public to believe or trust them.

Added to that, this MP is not standing up for the common man. He is standing up and demanding that he is exempt from the very laws which he demands be forced upon everyone else for their own good !!

He proclaims all are equal, as long as he is more equal than others; he is a member of the 'nothing to hide nothing to fear' gang. So why his angst? Has he seen the error of his ways or is he now concerned because he said something which may land him in trouble...or Gitmo?

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Happy

RE: It's not a new maccarthy era

Of course, one (anonymous) man's poisoning is another man's wool blindfold removal. Let's just say I have first-hand experience of meeting some of these "defenders of the oppressed" and many of them are far from saintly. My absolute fave was a British Muslim solicitor who specialised in taking up discrimination cases but said he would never hire a white solicitor. Please don't let the tinfoil get too tight around your head!

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Silver badge

@why a ban on bugging politicians?

I also would query that politicians are special cases requiring special exclusion treatment. Counselling would do them no harm and most of them a lot of Good.

<[quote]>Mr Straw has said he has no knowledge of what had happened but that it is "completely unacceptable" for MPs' conversations to be recorded.<[/quote]> ....

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7225556.stm

On what valid grounds that secrecy/exclusivity, Jack? It would be Ignorant of us not to consider that at least Arrogant for the Permanent Possibility of Oversight of Public Service would ensure a Conscious Effort to Excel in a Fitness for Purpose and also Provide further Third Party Insight into Future Needs which could then be

Seamlessly Provided.

It would also, at a Stroke, make Senseless and/or Malicious Common Abuse a most unattractive Option and would more than likely Curtail and Prevent it altogether. That can only be a Good thing for everybody and therefore Highly Commendable. To consider it "completely unacceptable" is then rather a disturbing position to be championed by a Minister holding High Public Office. Some may even suggest it is an untenable opinion and especially so in a Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

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Boffin

RE: @Dudly Doright

Oh dear, does it upset you to realise not everyone is sprouting the same stuff as you? If anybody disagrees with you they must be a fascist that wants to do away with the whole legal system, impose martial law, etc, etc. Boy, I bet you were a real laugh at college debates, assuming you even got that far. Take a deep breath, then go look up the word "democracy", it's all about people being allowed to have differing views as long as they act within the law.

In her case, whilst Lynne Stewart was allowed to sprout her nonsense for years, she was prosecuted when she was caught clearly in breach of the law and aiding a convicted terrorist. It would be naive to assume she was the only "super-do-gooder" using her career as cover. Her case had nothing to do with WMD, but that's the common stalwart for the loons when they haven't got any real counter, so I assume that was just dumb reflex on your part.

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@ bringing down the country, etc

The successful parasite does not kill its host. However, it may so weaken the host as to expose it to infestation by other parasites. The smart way to combat parasites would be with phages - parasites which feed on parasites - until the whole perverted ecology simply doesn't work any more. Fortunately the technical limitations of pharmacology do not necessarily apply to sociology.

Just remember - society is not WYSIWYG.

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Paris Hilton

Big Deal

@John Imrie

"I accuse you of funding terrorists

Good, now we have that out of the way, All your civil liberties belong to me."

A bit simplistic don't you think?

The guy's in prison and he's being bugged. Big deal.

It isn't Watergate or the overthrow of a government, it's a man accused of raising funds for terrorists who's being listened in on. The fact that he was being visited by an MP would I suggest be even greater grounds for bugging him!

Paris because even though he's in prison, he's probably being treated as if he was in a Hilton.

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Anonymous Coward

@Matt

Let me make it clearer. You said:

"There are a number of "super-do-gooders" that give legal assistance to those the rest of society would deem undesirable."

You don't speak for 'the rest of society' hence you cannot claim that 'the rest of society' is represented by your viewpoint.

Democracy survives competing viewpoints and wishing the other viewpoint didn't exist doesn't make it so.

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Anonymous Coward

@Matt Bryant & Luther Blissett

lol

Same anti-terror police that pressed the case against the guy with the PDA a coat and a rucksack waiting for a tube?

Same anti-terror police who hyped up their ricin case?

The same anti terror forces behind the genius suggestions for scanners at trains stations?

Same anti-terror forces that support the ID card scheme?

Those anti terror forces? I've got more confidence in a wet paper bag providing protection from "terrorism" then those numptys.

As misguided a fool as the MP inevetably is - recording his conversations is one thing - getting caught is just a further embarrasment to an already laughable organisation.

Running websites and funding terrorism? I call bull---- it sounds alot like the guy who police expected to find Hundreds of Thousands of pounds as a result of his piracy busness (Oink) however all they found was alot of used tissue paper.

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Happy

RE: Yet another Anonymous Coward

"Same anti-terror police that pressed the case against the guy with the PDA a coat and a rucksack waiting for a tube?" - would you prefer after the tube bombings that the Police let anyone carry rucksacks onto the tube unchallenged? A friend in the Met tells me the foreign gent in question was less than helpful when initially approached, to the point where they wondered if he was being deliberately provocative.

"Same anti-terror police who hyped up their ricin case?" I think most of the hype was in the media, but if you doubt AQ has experimented with ricin then please go do some more reading.

"The same anti terror forces behind the genius suggestions for scanners at trains stations?" Actually, they work. And actually, if you have flown internationally this year, you've probably already been scanned without your knowledge. I expect that will have you wrapping tinfoil round your nuts aswell as your head.

"Same anti-terror forces that support the ID card scheme?" Well, that one you can blame on the NuLabour politicos you probably voted for.

I think the anti-terror Police, MI5 and MI6 are actually doing quite a good job. I'd try and convince you of that but it looks like a pointless exercise so I'll leave you to put your head back in the sand where it belongs.

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Re: Matt

Of course they're doing a good job. They've shot two innocent people, one dead, and they've let one terror attack through, but they've foiled dozens of attacks they'd love to tell us about but can't. That puts them about 74-3 up against S.P.E.C.T.R.E, sorry Al-Qaeda, and it's early in the game yet - it's a war of an infinite number of halves.

"A friend in the Met..." bwahahaha, priceless. A friend in Al-Qaeda tells me that the Met consider being refused cheap drinks five minutes after happy hour has ended as 'threatening and aggressive behaviour'. As far as reliability of sources goes, I think I win.

"Would you prefer after the tube bombings that the Police let anyone carry rucksacks onto the tube unchallenged?"

Yes, I would rather like to go about my normal day-to-day life, which includes carrying things onto public transport - sometimes so many things that storing them in my clothing is not practical, and some sort of external receptacle is required, e.g. a backpack - without fear of harrassment from the state. Is that OK with you?

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Rucksacks and tubes

If someone wants to blow themselves up and kill people, assuming they can procure/make the explosives, they can achieve their aims just as easily in the queue to get though a checkpoint as on a tube train itself, or they can find a crowd in any number of other public places that simply can't be policed.

Someone can easily board a tube train at an unstaffed/barely-staffed outlying station carrying a couple of huge suitcases, and sit down calmly all the way to their central detonation point.

It seems like a lame reaction to do something where it isn't actually a defence against meaningful terrorism, just against a very small subset of possible acts which are easily avoided by any terrorist with average intelligence. At best it seems to be for some kind of reassurance, but given the history, quite a few people are more nervous when there are armed police around than when there aren't.

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Bugging is standard in UK prisons

I don't know why this bugging issue has come as such a shock to everyone. It was common knowledge whilst I was in prison that the visit room was bugged. This is why any sensitive information was exchanged in the form of handwritten notes with the visitor, to avoid the authorities gaining an unfair advantage from having access to my intended legal action.

This interference in communication with those outside the prison was not limited to the visit room. A sequence of several of my solicitor's privileged letters went missing at a critical point in my legal case. Letters to Members of Parliament were not considered "priviliged" and had to be passed unsealed for reading by the prison censor. So any thought that a prisoner could have private correspondence with their MP went right out of the window.

My MP Andrew Mackinlay visited me on two occasions at HMP Full Sutton, and we discussed many issues about sensitive aspects of my conviction for espionage, for which I was serving a sentence of 20 years. It is interesting that shortly after one of these meetings, and following some parliamentary questions by Mr Mackinlay, his home in Tilbury was burgled, and Mr Mackinlay was of the opinion that the Security Service were implicated in this - you can see his cryptic comment in Hansard for 26 October 1999.

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