Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bugged: British Prisons Spy On Lawyers, Visitors

In the UK, the Telegraph has yet another blockbuster story about yet another way in which the rule of law has been eviscerated since 9/11 -- not by terrorists (who could never do such a thing) but by governments:
The full scale of a nationwide policy to bug British jails can be disclosed today after a whistleblower revealed that hundreds of lawyers and prison visitors had been secretly recorded.

The covert eavesdropping of the MP Sadiq Khan is alleged to be just the first case in a far wider operation to bug terrorist suspects and other serious criminals introduced after the September 11 attacks.

Lawyers, including the human rights solicitors Gareth Peirce and Mudassar Arani, were allegedly "routinely bugged" by police during visits to see clients at Woodhill prison. Listening devices were said to have been concealed in tables at the jail.
Well, what do you know? [Click the image to enlarge it.]
The scandal came to light after Mr Khan, a Muslim Labour MP, was covertly recorded during two visits to a terrorist suspect held at Wood­hill prison in Milton Keynes in 2005 and 2006.

It led to a political outcry as the bugging of MPs has been prohibited since the 1960s. Mr Straw was forced to set up an inquiry. He insisted he had known nothing of the operation before last weekend, although it later emerged that officials in his department had learnt of the allegations two months ago.

Now someone with detailed knowledge of the operation claims that Mr Khan's visits were allegedly among "hundreds of conversations" bugged by Det Sgt Mark Kearney during his time with a four-man intelligence team based at the prison since early 2002.

The recordings are deemed so sensitive that copies are stored at a secret facility protected by armed guards.

Initially, only a handful of prisons implemented the alleged bugging policy - including Woodhill and Belmarsh - but over the past 18 months the secret policy is alleged to have been rolled out across Britain.

At least 10 solicitors had conversations recorded at Woodhill while dozens more are thought to have been monitored across the country, the insider claimed. Hundreds of prison visitors were also targeted.

The whistleblower said: "Mark [Kearney] didn't feel what was going on was right or legal. Every person who came in and saw these terrorist suspects was the subject of an eavesdropping operation. He was put under huge amounts of pressure. Initially, it was just one or two machines but it steadily increased and now covers other category A prisoners such as murderers."

Documents seen by The Daily Telegraph reveal that Mr Kearney's team was also ordered to search and copy the contents of prison visitors' bags including keys and mobile phone sim cards.

These allegedly included confidential documents left by lawyers. It is also alleged that senior Woodhill prison staff were extremely unhappy with the practice.