If the police were empowered to eavesdrop on Caymanian Compass telephone calls, we can presume that our reporters would have more listeners than Rooster Radio on an “Ezzard/Arden” Tuesday morning.
In fact, we have reason to believe that the current publisher of the Compass had his emails intercepted during Operation Tempura when he was acting as spokesman for then-Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan. Our attorneys believe these intercepts were unwarranted and illegal, and we will be returning to that subject in much greater detail in due course.
The topic to ponder today is why are the British so adamant about maintaining exclusive control over wiretapping and other communications intercepts in the Cayman Islands? Why is the U.K. resisting, as it has for a decade, the involvement of the local judiciary?
For background, the governor’s authority over wiretapping was enshrined in Cayman’s 2002 Information and Communications Technology Law. A year later, then-Communications Minister Linford Pierson told the Legislative Assembly that former Gov. Peter Smith had removed a section of the law that would have provided judicial oversight over wiretapping.
In 2003, Gov. Bruce Dinwiddy exercised his powers to oppose the Assembly in order to retain U.K. authority over wiretapping. According to a memo read by then-Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush in the House, Mr. Dinwiddy cited his constitutional responsibility for internal security matters and said “there are sound reasons why the power to authorize interception must remain with him.”
This is what current Premier Alden McLaughlin said at the time: “We know it is not a question of speculation; we know that the United Kingdom government, when it considers it necessary and appropriate, will take steps which contravene the provisions of the Cayman Islands law or laws which overreach the authority even of the courts. For us to be expected to give legislative sanction to that ability is absolutely astounding.”
He continued, “That power and authority is necessary; however, it needs to be vested somewhere else other than in the hands of the colonizing power. … I am persuaded that a matter such as this, which involves real invasion of privacy, should be subject to judicial oversight and control.”
Likewise, Mr. Bush said his government “felt it was a most serious and unnecessary intrusion and erosion of an individual’s basic right to privacy, which we could not support.”
In the intervening decade, we have witnessed the Euro Bank and Operation Tempura scandals with the U.K.’s fingerprints prominently on each fiasco.
In light of the $1 million purchase of police eavesdropping equipment and news that the government wants telecom companies to cooperate actively with police surveillance, a growing number of local leaders are speaking out anew against the wiretapping program, despite reassurances from the Office of the Governor.
In recent days, the Compass has published letters from esteemed attorney Ramon Alberga and Opposition Leader Bush wherein they declare their unequivocal opposition to the standing arrangement on warrants between the governor and police commissioner. Both want the judiciary involved.
So do we.