The Sunday Times reveals it has seen evidence that Labour MP Sadiq Khan has had his conversations with one of his constituents bugged by the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command:
Sadiq Khan, now a government whip, was recorded by an electronic listening device hidden in a table during visits to the constituent in prison.
The bugging of MPs is a breach of a government edict that has barred law agencies from eavesdropping on politicians since the bugging scandal of Harold Wilson’s government. There was no suspicion of criminal conduct by Khan to justify the operation.
A document seen by The Sunday Times shows there was internal concern about the propriety of bugging an MP, who was also a lawyer, but the operation nevertheless went ahead.
The disclosure will put further pressure on Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, who will be asked to explain why his officers apparently breached government rules – and if he authorised it.
Khan discussed sensitive personal and legal matters during the recorded meeting. The MP was said to be “outraged” yesterday. “From what you have told me, this is an infringement of a citizen’s right to have a private meeting with his MP,” he said.
Last night Jack Straw, the justice secretary, said that he had ordered an immediate inquiry and added that it would be “unacceptable” for such a bugging operation to take place.
Andrew Mackinlay, a Labour colleague, said: “The bugging of Sadiq Khan is very dangerous indeed. It is totally unacceptable that MPs’ conversations with constituents are bugged by the security services or the police.
“It is an affront to democracy and has all the hallmarks of a totalitarian regime. No one is suggesting that MPs should be above the law, but when behaving as MPs and dealing with people’s liberty that must be sacrosanct as it is with lawyers.” Khan, 37, is a rising star in the Labour party and is seen as a key figure in Gordon Brown’s drive to win the hearts and minds of Britain’s Muslims. He is a former chairman of Liberty, the human rights group, and used to be a legal adviser to the Muslim Council of Britain. As a lawyer he was a thorn in the side of the Metropolitan police, taking a series of controversial malpractice cases against them.
The constituent in question is Barbar Ahmad, who is in jail fighting extradition charges to the US (despite no evidence having been presenting to a British court).
For those who are interested, here is Sadiq Khan’s voting record:
* Has never voted on a transparent Parliament.
* Voted very strongly for introducing a smoking ban.
* Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards.
* Voted strongly for Labour’s anti-terrorism laws.
* Voted very strongly against investigating the Iraq war.
* Voted very strongly for replacing Trident.
[T]here was no mention of this intrusive electronic surveillance of a Member of Parliament in the relevant Annual Reports of the then Chief Surveillance Commissioner, the Rt. Hon. Sir Andrew Leggatt, whose office is supposed to sanction each request to use such bugging devices.
If the bugging was done without informing the Office of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, then it was illegal under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
The SpyBlog post is a good antidote to the bigoted rantings at the bottom of the Times article.