Mon | Dec 10, 2018

Former T&T security minister backs probe into Cambridge Analytica

Published:Monday | April 2, 2018 | 12:03 PM
Former Trinidad and Tobago security minister Gary Griffith

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Former national security minister, Gary Griffith, has backed the decision of the Trinidad and Tobago government to investigate whether or not the British-based political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica (CA), had undertaken a project involving harvesting the data of the country’s population.

Last  Wednesday, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi told Parliament that a whistle-blower, Christopher Wylie, had told United Kingdom lawmakers that the company, combines data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process, had undertaken the work on the twin-island republic in 2013 under the former People’s Partnership administration headed by Kamla Persad Bissessar.

In a statement, Griffith, who served as a national security minister in the Persad Bissessar administration, said that he welcomed any investigation into alleged works by Cambridge Analytica in Trinidad and Tobago.

“That if what is alleged is true and certain individuals used State funds to pay for political campaigns and contracted an agency to be involved in committing illegal acts, then by this investigation, these individuals would be exposed and brought to justice,” he said.

Griffith said it was also necessary to ensure the reputation of Trinidad and Tobago.

“The image of our country has been affected internationally all because one man with a bright pink hairstyle decided to make any investigation accusation and it has become a reality by some, without any evidence being brought forward, and only by the words of that one individual.   So if it is not true, then it must also be exposed to clear our nation’s reputation.”

Last weekend, the Congress of the People (COP) party, a partner in the coalition People’s Partnership government, said it too welcomed the probe.

“We need to investigate this…I fully support the government investigating this. Any such illegality must not be allowed to take place in our country,” COP leader Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan told a news conference.

“Furthermore it is important that we determine those who are culpable for supporting that type of activity, if it indeed took place and if public officers were involved. We are not aware and until that investigation is carried out, we do not know,” she said, adding that if at any point in time, persons within the COP did enter into a contractual arrangement with SCL or Cambridge Analytica, it was never sanctioned by the party.

Persad Bissessar has described as “a malicious, deliberate falsehood” the statements made by Al-Rawi in the Parliament and has indicated that at the earliest opportunity “we intend to file a motion of breach of privilege by the Attorney General in Parliament”.

“I reiterate my previous comments and say that in no way, manner or form did the UNC (United National Congress) members of the former People’s Partnership Coalition Government nor did any member of our Party Executive have any such interaction or dealings, engagements or contracts with SCL/Cambridge Analytica before 2010, post 2010, before 2015 or post 2015.”

“It is therefore evident from this respectable and credible news report from the CBC News of Canada that the UNC was not the political party referred to by Mr Wylie, nor were any of its sitting members of the People’s Partnership Government,” she added.

In his statement, Griffith said the security of the many outweighs the confidentiality of the few who wish to harm the many.

“As it pertains to Intelligence gathering for a State, and as done in most countries, electronic monitoring to acquire data of “illegal activities” is accepted and something that I do support and endorse. As such, monitoring is critical to suppress terrorism, premeditated serious crime, child pornography etc. This is also catered for and is legal, but controlled through the Interception of Communication Act to avoid misuse,” he added.

Griffith said this has nothing to do with the accusations made by the alleged whistleblower.

“To acquire approval to monitor and intercept, via IOCA , you require a warrant for approval which would never be granted for such purposes.

“So again I re-emphasise, at no time did I ever make any request for any such illegal purpose with any organisation as my sole aim was to secure the nation and politics was irrelevant to me. At no time did I request, contract, or approve payment to any organisation for any such illegal activity. If this accusation is true, it was not through me,” Griffith said.