PM: Griffith bought interception software without approval

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Gary Griffith –

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the procurement of an interception of communication solution by former Police Commissioner Gary Griffith was not approved by the National Security Council.

Speaking in Parliament on Friday to deny allegations of spying on the population via the use of Pegasus Spyware software by the Opposition, Rowley said the software was not in use by the State in TT.

“The State Security Agency (SSA) is the sole custodian of all known interception of communication software and hardware procured by the government or any other state agency. My government even resisted repeated attempts by a former Commissioner of Police to obtain, own, and utilise, intercept technology by the police service.

“It is noted that the former Commissioner of Police indicated that under his tenure the police service did not purchase Pegasus or any other spyware directly from Israel. This former CoP confirmed the procurement of an interception of communication solution under his tenure from 2018 to 2021. The procurement of this intercept device by the former CoP was not authorised by the National Security Council for use by the police service and the CoP was immediately instructed to provide the hardware and software to the SSA, which he did.”

Rowley said the technology purchased was never used by the police service to conduct intercept data in motion.

“The SSA maintained control of the servers prior to receiving the physical devices from the police service and our reviews show no interception of communication activity by the police service. It is this Government’s policy that all such technology should reside within the control of the SSA. The SSA has provided an intercept suite to be used by the TTPS, but the equipment is the sole responsibility of the SSA and remains under the SSA’s strict jurisdiction. This is to ensure accountability and control by vetted officers engaged in crime fighting and matters of National Security.”

Dr Keith Rowley –

In a response, Griffith said Dr Rowley had misled the nation by making a false claim as it pertains to the status of interception by the State.

“There are several witnesses to the negotiation for the cited equipment both inside the SSA and the police service. To begin with I repeat, we do not have Pegasus in TT. Additionally, no such equipment can be purchased without the knowledge and approval of the National Security Minister and the head of the National Security Council.

Griffith said no-one took anything away from the police service nor did anyone buy any piece of equipment without authority.

“In fact, I have documentary evidence of communications between the then Minister of National Security and myself on the acquisition of the equipment as well as on how it should be used. The TTPS and the SSA had joint discussions on the intercept equipment. Both organisations felt that the equipment could be misused if it ended up in the wrong hands. As a result, an agreement was made that allowed both organisations to serve as check and balance on each other. The equipment was essentially split in two which forced the SSA to have to inform the TTPS when they needed to use the equipment and vice versa. I also have a template as to how this arrangement was to be operationalised.”

Griffith said this procedure saved many citizens of TT from having their rights violated.

“When the Minister of National Security was changed the new minister was pressuring me as Commissioner of Police to place a constable in charge of the department where the TTPS’ part of the equipment was housed. This pressure by the minister only further convinced me that SSA must be part of the process. It should be noted that this type of equipment is designed to be used to monitor terrorist organisations and gangs. In the wrong hands, however, it can be a weapon against ordinary citizens. I was determined that the latter would not occur under my watch.”

Griffith said the PM could not separate national security from politics.

“Nothing happened as he described, it’s an entire fantasy. His complete statement starting with the name of the equipment is a matter of fiction.”