Assistance in maritime, cybersecurity and gun intel – US Joins Crime Fight

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

MEETING: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley with US Vice President Kamala Harris’ National Security Advisor Dr Philip Gordon in Washington, DC on January 31. Also in photo at left is Energy Minister Stuart Young and at right, US Ambassadoe to TT Candace Bond. – Photo courtesy OPM

THE masterminds of international organised crime syndicates are targeting Trinidad and Tobago, the Prime Minister revealed on February 2. However, law enforcement agencies from the United States are prepared to help this country fight these criminals.

Dr Rowley spoke at a media briefing at Whitehall, Port of Spain, after his return the night before from the US where he met with top officials from national security agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Rowley said he travelled with Energy Minister Stuart Young, Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne and Digital Transformation Minister Hassel Bacchus, and they met officials including Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Assistant Secretary of Defense Melissa Dalton.

“We also met with officials of the FBI. We do have some problems here in Trinidad and Tobago which I will not burden you with today. We do have some internal problems.”

Touting the TT-US relationship, he said, “The resources of the FBI and CIA were made available to us to deal with our own internal problems.”

“We met with officials of the Department of Homeland Security who gave us a listening ear with respect to what we might need to assist in certain matters.”

Rowley also met top officials of the US State Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy and attended a workshop on cybersecurity and cybercrimes at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

He said artificial intelligence (AI) can make it hard for leaders to know what is true and what is not, as he quipped it can now pass the Bar exam plus doctors’ exams.

“Given the positives of the technology, there are a whole lot of negatives we now have to confront, and so we spent the morning on that and it was a great eye-opener.”

The PM said local law enforcement officers were strengthening their capabilities via US-funded security co-operation initiatives. Again, he did not go into specifics.

These programmes will help with policing strategies for crime-fighting and citizen security. They also help to create specialised and vetted units against organised crime.

“Because we are now attracting elements of international organised crime, which is very concerning to the Government, we are discussing this with the US to get as much help as we can, in ensuring that our bad (crime) situation is not worsened by these developments.”

Rowley named three more areas of TT-US collaboration.

“We have made plans, and the US has agreed to help us, with increased maritime operations. So we will be working on that in the coming weeks to see what we can get out of that.”

He said a gun crimes intelligence unit was a priority area of collaboration between Trinidad and Tobago and the US.

“We intend to establish a cybersecurity bilateral technical working group which will offer institutional technical exchanges and digital transformation support for our people here in Trinidad and Tobago working closely with their (US) colleagues.”

A statement on the White House website, recounting the Rowley-Harris meeting, referred to “key priorities, including regional security issues and the imperative of addressing firearms trafficking.” Rowley said he had met a congressman who was piloting a bill to curb firearms trafficking which the PM said affects places like Trinidad and Tobago.

Rowley also told reporters on February 2 that he had not had a vacation or an annual medical check-up, but would do so just after an upcoming energy conference and Caricom leaders meeting – both being held in Guyana. He said after the Guyana engagements, he would be away for ten days. “I will be here in spirit.”

Less than six months ago, on August 17 to 22, the PM flew off to Barbados for vacation, following the holding of local government elections.

In the question session, he was pressed about the interest of international criminals in Trinidad and Tobago.

He replied that Trinidad and Tobago was an open country, such as in its trade links. “Certain criminals are liking us and I say no more. I say no more.”