The Trinidad and Tobago government has dismissed an allegation by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar that it is engaged in a massive illegal spying ring by monitoring phone messages of key members of society, including journalists, trade unionists, members of the judiciary as well as opposition politicians.
“It is just wild generalization coming from a clearly reckless, unthinking, and perhaps an un-sober politician trying to keep herself relevant but at the expense of the important business of security of this country,” said National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds.
Persad Bissessar, speaking at the Monday night forum of her main opposition United National Congress (UNC), told supporters that she had been provided with the information by a whistleblower and that the “spying “is being done with the help of specially selected police officers, aligned to the government, to help Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley “cling to power.
“Some time ago, I warned you all about the Rowley government acquiring the Israeli software Pegasus program to hack into citizens’ WhatsApp communication and other communications. Tonight, I can confirm that government did acquire the software and they have been illegally spying on citizens through various social media platforms, WhatsApp, e-mails.”
She told the meeting that some of the people identified have been alerted privately to the situation.
“The list of persons being spied on includes members of the media, reporters, and editors; members of the judiciary, senior judges, and magistrates; state agencies spying on their own board appointees; trade unions; members of government. Yes, of course, they are spying on their own MPs and senators. And, of course, they must be spying on the opposition. We know that it’s not the first time.
“Also being illegally monitored are members of the business community, from the chambers of commerce. Lawyers associated both with the UNC and the PNM and, of course, persons in other political parties.
“They are also accessing the media illegally, as in text messages from these persons, and storing it. So, remember, every e-mail that sits in our folders within these persons’ e-mail accounts, they have been accessing and storing them.
“They access your WhatsApp by sending you a message and when you click on it, the software infects your phone. They can read your WhatsApp messages in real-time, real-time as in the time you and sending and receiving them.
“Therefore, I am advising all of you, always delete your WhatsApp messages. Once you are done, delete. They can catch it in real-time, of course, but if you delete as you go along it gives you a bit more security,” said Persad Bissessar, who in 2010 after leading the People’s Partnership into government made a similar accusation of illegal electronic wiretapping of members of the society.
Hinds, speaking on a local radio station here, said this is certainly not the first time that the opposition leader had made such “reckless and irresponsible” accusations and was “casting shadows in the dark…to create problems where there are none.
‘The business of national security is far too important, especially given the challenges that the world faces and Trinidad and Tobago face in terms of managing criminals and criminality and potential terrorists and gun runners that are causing so much stress.
“After all, when I listened to her comments, I will not engage her in that and I will await her or her minion’s approaches on this matter in the Parliament if they choose to raise it there rather than scandalize on this important issue in the public domain,” Hinds told radio listeners.