Tony Blair Wants to Tap MPs' Phones; Should Bush Do the Same?
by Jim Kouri, CPP
With all the suspected leaking going on in the United States, much of it coming from congress, perhaps President Bush should take a cue from the British Prime Minister.
Tony Blair is reportedly preparing to do away with a 40-year ban on tapping Members' of Parliament telephones, according to the British newspaper The Independent. Blair will probably make his announcement to the House of Commons within weeks.
The gist of his announcement will be that MPs can no longer be certain that the security services such as MI5 and others will not intercept their telephone and electronic communications.
Past prime ministers had always pledged there would be no tapping of MPs' phones, and that they would be told if it was necessary to breach the ban on surveillance of British leaders.
The ban -- known as the Wilson Doctrine, after Harold Wilson, the prime minister who introduced it -- is to be abandoned in an expansion of MI5 powers following the London bombings in July 2005.
MPs should be treated in the same way as other citizens and will be given the same safeguards against wrongful tapping, the Prime Minister will say, according to The Independent.
The decision provoked a furious battle in the Cabinet just before the Christmas holidays, when the Secretary of State for Defense, John Reid, strongly opposed Blair's plan.
His outburst shocked cabinet members, since Reid was always viewed as one of Blair's closest allies and someone who took a hardline approach to fighting terrorists.
"Reid demanded to know why on earth we were going down this route," The Independent quoted one government colleague as saying.
"It was all the more surprising since you would have thought the MoD is one of the departments most in favor of increased surveillance powers."
A Tony Blair spokesman stated, "The recommendation has been received and will be considered in due course."
Blair was put on notice that any attempt to tap MPs' phones would be bitterly opposed in the Commons. Andrew Mackinlay, a Labor Party MP, said it was a "hallmark of a civilized country" that its government not spy on elected politicians.
According to The Independent, there has been a marked expansion of surveillance in Britain since 1997. New technology and new laws mean that Britons are among the most spied-on citizens on earth. Sweeping new powers to snoop on emails, texts and other communications were included in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, while satellite technology offers multiple new surveillance opportunities.
Blair has confirmed at least three times that his government observed the Wilson Doctrine, most recently in 2003 when it became clear that MI5 had been bugging Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams, who has not taken his seat and so is not formally an MP.
While many Americans fear Blair's recent actions may be repeated here in the US, it's difficult to see how President Bush would be able to bypass the congress -- who many believe, at times, works against the the administration's war on terrorism -- and the Judicial Branch of the US government.
With the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Republican Senator Arlen Specter, considered a RINO (Republican In Name Only) preparing to investigate the NSA spy program, there are many who fear leaks will turn into floods as a result of senators such as Leahy, Kennedy, Durbin and other partisans having access to top secret intelligence.
The threat of being overheard breaking national security laws might be just the thing needed to prevent further leaks by politicians to members of the liberal media in their quest to undermine the war effort. The President, of course, should have probable cause and warrants issued by the secret FISA court before taking any action against suspected leakers in congress.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.