back to article Straw: Police can bug MPs without asking Cabinet

The UK Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, told MPs today that the alleged bugging of a prominent Muslim MP's conversations with a constituent had not been authorised by the cabinet. But Straw also said the alleged snooping would not have breached the Wilson doctrine banning the security services from bugging MPs, if it emerged any …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Straw produces get out of jail card.

    Despite profound disrespect for career politicians, I have to say, I quite like this excuse. I'd go so far as suggesting it brilliant.

    If only Gordon could govern the country with such aplomb.

    I'll buy a beer to the guy who thought this response up, if ever I meet him, just for the sheer cheek of it.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Ministerial authorisation was still required

    The Sunday Times article[1] reported that "tables have had their panels hollowed out to hide bugging equipment" and "even the prison officers are said to be unaware of [the tables]. They are operated and maintained by specialist detectives permanently based at the prison."

    According to the Home Office[1], "authorisation from the Secretary of State is required if the police or other law enforcement agencies plan to interfere with property [...] when concealing a surveillance device."



  3. Dave Jones Silver badge

    He's come a long way, baby

    Remember this: Jack Straw was once president of the CIA-hating, anti-fascist, anti-apartheid, anti-everything-police-related, National Union of Students. Pity his younger self can't suddenly appear and shame him.

  4. Charlie Stross
    Paris Hilton

    Am I thick or ...

    ... What's to stop the security services from asking the police to bug a person of interest if the PoI happens to be an MP, and thus off-limits under the Wilson Doctrine?

  5. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    Bugger off

    Looks like the evidence against the accused is inadmissible. What gets me is that they have kept the poor bloke there for 2 years and are only amassing evidence retrospectively, ie while they have his conversations in that cage bugged.

    Meanwhile, no US troops have been sent to Britain to tell us why they killed our lads. Or maybe they sent their testimonies on disk?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bugging a terror suspect

    And why shouldn't our security forces bug a suspected Terrorist?

    They'd be in dereliction of their duty if they didn't.

    Then if an MP was 'the other party' during the conversation, Tough.

    Anyway, since when have MP's had the protection of the Catholic Confessional? (A touch of irony in the above specific circumstances)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Iceberg tip

    Time to kill RIPA. Put back in the judicial checks and balances. Make it apply to everyone, police, spooks included.

  8. Matthew Joyce

    *Possible* violation? *Possible*?

    "... said that the possible violation of <legal barrier not yet buried> would only be authorised by the police if they thought they had excellent reason."

    A pity it wasn't attributable to one of the ministers. It perfectly sums up this pile of self-adulation in government- and police- related legislation.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He's not our suspected terrorist

    "And why shouldn't our security forces bug a suspected Terrorist?"

    Remember that he was arrested and released in the UK since he didn't have a case to answer even under our strict 'careful what you say' Blair laws.

    He's held on behalf of the USA, and challenging his extradition in the EU court.

    My view on this is they should be allowed to bug him, but only with a judicial check on the reason. Kind of crappy that all the judicial checks are missing now. All men are equal, but police are given superpowers over other men.

    And now over politicians too? Haha, it will teach them how out of control the situation in the UK is! Perhaps if a few MPs were stopped and searched leaving Parliament it would open their eyes a little more to what's going on.

  10. theotherone
    Thumb Down


    the jist of this is, in the U.K, if he's "dark enough", it's ok to spy on him/shoot him at subway stations?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Yeah, Straw was the president of the NUS. In fact, a surprisingly large percentage of former ex-NUS presidents are now Labour politicians. Could this perhaps be why the NUS has no backbone when standing up for their members on issues like tuition fees? Just like any other mainstream union, I suppose...

    But yes, this just shows why government doesn't need new legislation. Existing laws are so wishy-washy that they can do just about whatever they want regardless. My favourite one is "conspiracy". Certainly in Scots law conspiracy can be added as a prefix to any other crime in providing a perfectly legal way to keep one detained for a while.

    It can even be combined with an equally wishy-washy crime - 'Conspiracy to Breach of the Peace' anyone? - in order to create some amazingly vague crime that while having no chance of actually making it to court can be used as a tool to keep someone off the streets for a while.

  12. Brian Morrison
    Black Helicopters

    We're all in this together....., rescind the Wilson doctrine, make all MPs and peers subject to what all the rest of us have to contend with all the time and see how long it takes before they start to scrutinise shady legislation a lot more carefully and clip the wings of those that would like us all to live inside their mobile prison.

  13. b shubin

    Color of interest

    @ theotherone

    not just in the UK. come visit the US, and discover that bigotry is alive and flourishing, if sometimes silent and present only in action, not in word.

    the Brits may have developed it into an art form ("no dogs or Chinese"), but the US has truly made it institutional. even the Black Muslims were silent while the Middle-Eastern Muslims were experiencing the New Crusade (Iraq).

    if you want them to care, it has to cost them money or pain; otherwise, they are quite comfortable hating everyone who is not exactly like them.

  14. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

    Ron Hughes


    The issue is not whether or not we should bug terrorists, but about the oversight required for various types of bugging operations. We should indeed be able to bug pretty much anyone -- including lawyers -- ALWAYS PROVIDED that the appropriate oversight exists to ensure that the power isn't being abused in a J. Edgar Hoover sort of way (e.g. bugging your political rivals to ensure your success, or bugging a lawyer to get a true understanding of "what really happened").

    This is the problem with the USA's "FISA doesn't apply to anyone Bush says it doesn't" "warrantless wiretapping". It's not that the wiretapping is a bad thing in any way, BUT without a judge to look over the justification, the risk of abuse is significant.

  15. John A Blackley

    Good comments except

    All good thoughts on this latest example of 'Politician tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing like the truth'. However, it's a bit depressing to see the usual crop of 'they're only being arrested/charged/held/prosecuted because they're not white' missing-the-pointers.

    Certainly, most of the people who have been arrested on terrorist-related charges are not caucasian. That, by itself, does not indicate racism and by accusations of racism we simply muddy a very necessary debate.

    I'm caucasian, over forty and have been arrested in my life. That does not mean the arresting officer had anything against caucasians - it simply means that he had reason to believe I'd been a naughty man.

    So, to all the 'the police are motivated by nothing other than racism' crowd, could we please assume that you'd make that comment in any story about non-caucasians under arrest. It would save you the trouble of typing it and me the trouble of reading it.

    Thank you.

  16. Anonymous Coward


    I have to admit that the way I see it, if you're going to have laws authorising this sort of thing the arguments shouldn't be about who should be exempt, but whether the law should exist at all.

    Everyone should be treated equally under the law.

    If certain people can't cope with being on the receiving end maybe they should start to think that other people may feel the same way.


    As for the lessons this particular case seems to teach, it's that if you want to be a successful terrorist you should be a lawyer and an MP, that way you can't be watched and your instructions to your co-conspirators/'clients' can't be monitored either.

    Whether the person in this case is innocent or not (and even if guilty, is it really significant? Or just another overblown case like so many others?) it doesn't alter the fact that we should either accept that RIPA etc. are applied in all cases, or used in none.

    There should be no opt outs for special cases just because of who someone is.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It is an irony to be savoured that politicians have no compunction in allowing Joe Public (you & I) to under be surveillance, but they express shock when they too come under the watchful eye of our Security Service.

    Its a double irony that it was the Conservatives who flagged the issue. Not out of a sense of justice & homeland protection, but to score cheap political points at the expense of Labour.

  18. daniel Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    No-one seems to mind...

    That the UK is no longer a free country, and that the national police force can intrude into the life of any subject that it wishes - with what seems to be complete impunity with no recourse and no oversight?

    Does no one seem to worry that there is not even a judicial order behind this sort of operation?

    The coppers can now listen in on you without asking anyone for anything before starting... and that is without getting on about passports and what seems to be a highly intrusive ID card system...

    Seems like our Labour friends have decided to turn the country into a mix of South African Appartheid era politics mixed in with KGB standard operating procedure...

    Where is Guy Fawkes when you *really* need him to visit Number 10...

    (probably would be in a secret CIA detention centre having 7 shades beaten out of him)...

  19. Tim

    I'm not really sure...

    I assume the MP wasn't guilty of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts etc, so the big deal is about the police daring to bug an MP. But what if an MP is a terrorist? All the anti-terror laws introduced because they are "needed" to catch terrorists would be useless against them.

    Like the rest of the country (except maybe the readers of the Sun or Daily Mail who can't think for themselves) I can see these "terror" laws are a waste of time and infringe of civil liberties. If Russia with their stricter regime and mandatory ID cards carried everywhere can't stop terrorists the approach is obviously flawed, unless we want to go more extreme than Russia...anyone want that?

    If the MP's had to suffer the same laws they keep forcing on the public maybe they'd read them through before voting on them.

    We need to stop with this nonsense...and need to stop sending British citizens to Guantanamo bay just because America asks for them. We just get them back a few years later when the American tire of cutting their genitals with razor blades and water boarding them.

    I'm not really sure why we have these new terror was illegal to blow stuff up before, and I'm not sure why we extradite to a country which actively and openly tortures them

  20. Paul

    to all MPs - nothing to hide, nothing to fear

    well, Mr and Mrs politicians, remember, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to hide.

    so, you employ your kids at ludicrous salaries, got found out? so, you're under surveillance when visiting constituents in prison?

    well, boo hoo, I shed tears for you. welcome to being under the gaze of the big brother you created!

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Straw: Police can bug MPs without asking Cabinet


  22. BitTwister

    @Ron Hughes

    > And why shouldn't our security forces bug a suspected Terrorist?

    Because a *suspect* is guilty of nothing, that's why.

    But since any one of us could potentially make some sort of bomb and cause damage with it, presumably therefore you wouldn't mind having your telephone calls recorded. Well, you never know; you can't be too careful; they're lurking under every bed - and even *you* might suddenly come over all subversive! (see Daily Mail etc. for similar idiocy)

  23. heystoopid

    Ah but history tells us

    Ah but history tells us once the plod figured a way to tap into and listen to phone conversations they have done so irrespective of any law of the land and of course the non fictional leader by the name of Winnie(although some now believe he is fictional ) in the name of national defence institutionalised it when he became obsessed with reds under every bed in the land thanks to the Cambridge lot leaking everything from his cupboard except his port whilst blaming the French for their dirty dastardly deeds !

    A man would have to be an absolute wanker to think they are exempt from their own self created laws any way !

    How soon we forget the warnings that history provide to ever travel in the same vicious circle of tyrants past for the illusion of safety .

  24. peter
    IT Angle

    RE: Ministerial authorisation was still required

    It doesn't matter, the RIP act was the first in many which avoid concise and clear blame. RIPA cases are held in closed courts with fines and imprisonment for reporting about them for the media and the confessor.

    There is no law which the civil service and parliment cannot rise above.

  25. Spider

    Political Transparency

    I find myself torn here. The suspect is just, that a suspect. Not guilty. However, why the hell should politicians be any different to the rest of us. They voted the law in, they should be bound by it.

    There should be no exemptions, or privileges. They are not special. They are not our betters. They are employed by us. Sooner we sack them the better.

  26. Colonel Panic

    Judicial oversight

    Since the Americans clearly aren't using the 4th amendment to their constitution, maybe they'll let us borrow it for a while.

    Bug whoever you wish - just show a judge reasonable suspicion, and get a warrant. (oh, and if you want to override legal privilege or MP-constituent privilege, show a little more, like a serious offence and the exhaustion of other avenues to obtain the information)

    And make the resulting evidence admissible in court. That way you don't get into the preposterous "we're putting you under house arrest but can't tell you why" control order nonsense.

  27. David Willis


    Wha!.. HMG is bugging its MP..

    Well they are already bugging (evesdropping - but yes they are annoying as well) over 200,000 UK citizens.

    Next thing they will be bugging the Royal family members..

    Oh.. sorry they they have already done that.. and broadcast the information to most of the UKs radio Hams... and nobody questioned them..!!.

    Ahh well rant over.. I expect I'm NOW classed as a subversive..

    Just to make sure.. keywords - GCHQ, WMD, Atomic Bomb, Guy Fawkes..

    Just keep your eyes open for monitoring request 200,001..

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Sunday Times wrong on law......

    The Police can 'interfere with property' under the Police Act and then with the signature of a 'Chief Officer' - only the Security Service need to go to a Minister !

  29. Anonymous Coward

    think about it ..

    We all should feel safe at home and when we are out and about. If that means the secret services get to monitor all our calls and e-mails then fine as long as its done with discretion. What is the big issue?

    I'd much rather live in a safe society knowing that our government is doing everything possible to protect us and the country as a whole and at the same time coming down like a ton of bricks on the people that try to undermine our society and culture. Why do "we" make it dificult on the people trying to protect us?

    Come on Britons, our country is being stolen and bastardised here and you all sit and don't say a word. Meanwhile its the minority terrorist symapthisers that are the big anti-voice here.

    We will all be sorry in the not so distant future.

  30. Richard

    There's a delicious irony in this

    That the RIPA should be the get out of jail free card is brilliant. I hope that the zombie army of Labour MPs who were voting nigh on everything through at the time on the nod are now wondering what on earth they were thinking.

    The standard government tactic on such legislation has been to say that only bad people will be affected by it, which always causes me to remember Dogbert saying that only idiots will have to pay taxes.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chief Constables are the New Czars

    Seems (according to BBC) this MP was bugged for years, since from the time he was a Lawyer at Liberty.

    So it's going beyond bugging of suspected terrorist.

    Have you noticed how Chief Constables are the new all powerful Czars? A Chief Constable demands more powers to tackle X in a *press* conference, bypassing the political chain of command and directly appealing to the people. The politicians don't dare challenge him with an opposing view.

    Put the damn checks and balances back in.

  32. Steve

    @ heystoopid

    Commas, man! They are called commas. Punctuation isn't just to make sentences look pretty.

    Whatever Amanfrommars has, I think you're catching it.

  33. Eponymous Cowherd
    Black Helicopters

    To be hoist by one's own petard

    Good ol' Will. Even the context (spying) is spot on, and Labour are as bumbling as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern could ever be.

    This Labour Government wants, and is working towards a society where nobody can fart without it being monitored and scrutinised. A society where your very substance is used to track and monitor your every move (biometrics).

    They created this monster, so they should be as much subjected to its depredations as the rest of us.

    Like all monsters, it has finally bitten the hand that feeds it (sic) ;-)

  34. Eponymous Cowherd

    Re:think about it..

    ***"I'd much rather live in a safe society knowing that our government is doing everything possible to protect us and the country as a whole and at the same time coming down like a ton of bricks on the people that try to undermine our society and culture. Why do "we" make it dificult on the people trying to protect us?"***

    Because "our society" is based on freedom. Because our law is based on the principle of "innocent until proven guilty". Because a society where everyone is a suspect, and your every move is watched, is no society at all. Because you cannot protect a society by undermining everything that society is built upon.

    And, most of all, because "our government" isn't trying to protect us. It is trying to control us.

    Funny how the 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear' brigade often post as an AC, isn't it?

  35. Anonymous Coward

    Conflict of interest

    Much as I detest MPs, they should not be bugged by the security services for the simple reason that the government in power might bug the opposition. This is a downward direction on a slippery slope For you 'nothing to hide nothing to fear' types - those in power don’t trust you, what makes you trust them? from Jacks weasel excuse we can see clearly governments in power are not trustable.

  36. Ishkandar
    Black Helicopters

    I fully support the bugging of *ALL* MPs !!

    What I demand is that all that dirt should be put public domain on the grounds of entertainment value for their massive salaries !!

  37. amanfromMars Silver badge

    FreePost cc HMGCC/GCHQ

    "if you want them to care, it has to cost them money or pain; otherwise, they are quite comfortable hating everyone who is not exactly like them." ... Color of interest By b shubin Posted Monday 4th February 2008 19:25 GMT

    b shubin,

    In that case, to save any pain, they could spend money on their care/give it to their carers if they have need of XXXXtra caring and do not have it available as Stock and/or "in house".

    A little something Randy Andy touched upon very recently. Bravo Sir, Well Said.

    "There is no law which the civil service and parliment cannot rise above." ......By peter Posted Tuesday 5th February 2008 03:55 GMT .... ... Oh Yes, there most certainly is. Abuse IT and you Run Risk in Self-Imperilment and the Certain Promise of Immaculate Gracious Justice, Summarily Applied.

    "Commas, man! They are called commas. Punctuation isn't just to make sentences look pretty.

    Whatever Amanfrommars has, I think you're catching it." ....By Steve Posted Tuesday 5th February 2008 09:10 GMT .... IT'll do no one harm catching it, Steve. None of us are too perfect which is probably Intelligently Designed to Give Humility Untold Strength, and who's Amanfrommars?

    Glasses, man!? :-)

    * Well, if we're being watched, they'll be looking for something to do/report. May as well help them and make IT easier for them to understand with Instruction and Guidance

  38. N1AK

    @AC: think about it ..

    Wow you cared that much you posted AC, thank god their are individuals like you willing to stick your neck right in defending the police state.

    Going by your post you haven't bothered with evidence when forming an opinion so far so I won't bother you with facts that might get in the way of the truthiness of the issue.

    Want to do whatever it takes to not get cancer? Jump off a bridge. Hopefully now you have just an inkling of why the cause doesn't always justify the means.

  39. Shakje

    There's a missing issue here..

    Khan is a lawyer as well, which means attorney client privileges apply surely?

    MPs should not be bugged for a variety of reasons, part of that is down to trust in the community. People will tell their local MP things that they might not approach the police about, and they do that because they want advice, and anonimity. There isn't a lot of trust in the police at the moment, and removing that trust from MPs is only going to make things even worse. I personally think that bugging needs to be tightened up in its use, and one way of doing that might be making it admissable as evidence.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why and Why not?

    Firstly, I think that MP's should live in the same world as the people they represent, so if we can be bugged, then so should they. Not that I agree with bugging anyway.

    Secondly, this guy is not charged in the UK with anything AT ALL, so why on earth are we wasting money to bug him in order to provide the US with evidence?

  41. Gavin Pearce
    Black Helicopters

    Re: Am I thick or ...

    The security services will bug whoever they want anyway, the law doesn't make any difference.

    I'm sure if they are quite capable of bugging large parts of Russia undetected then the local MP office will be no trouble.

    The Home Secertary has the power in law, (i'm trying to find the exact part it says this, anyone help me?) to over-ride any other law - or his deputy if the Mr Straw happens to be busy elsewhere.

    So I wouldn't worry. ;-)

  42. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Secrecy and Bugging Costs....

    Surely as there is not a professional politician regime in Democracy, there is no such thing as an MP as a special case, as all are still ust members of Society but who have been given the added collective power to weave or deceive the Future?

    Transparency would allow immediate Assistance from the Country and Ensure Excellence of Thought for Realisation to Server.

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