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"Report on two visits by Sadiq Khan MP to Babar Ahmad at HM Prison Woodhill" - Rt. Hon. Sir Christopher Rose finds no illegality

Today saw the publication of :

Report on two visits by Sadiq Khan MP to Babar Ahmad at HM Prison Woodhill - Report of Investigation by the Rt. Hon. Sir Christopher Rose, Chief Surveillance Commissioner (.pdf - 15 pages)

See the Office of the Surveillance Commissioners website for more details about role and powers of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and also under the Police Act 1997.

The Home Secretary Rt. Hon. Jacqui Smith MP, also made a statement in the House of Commons about this Report, and the Wilson Doctrine (no changes, no proper clarification). She did promise to make changes the already complicated and bureaucratic Statutory Codes of Practice under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) - see more about this in a future blog article.

Rt. Hon. Sir Christopher Rose's Report essentially finds nothing wrong at all with the paperwork which properly and legally authorised both intrusive surveillance and directed surveillance against Babar Ahmad at HMP Woodhill. This is hardly surprising, as it is his own Office of Surveillance Commissioners, albeit under his predecessor Rt. Hon. Sir Andrew Leggatt, during the relevant time period, during which Sir Christopher himself was an ordinary Surveillance Commissioner.

He mentions the unsurprising ignorance of the Wilson Doctrine by junior police officers, and the astonishing ignorance of the senior ones, such as the controversial retired Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Andy Hayman.

Sir Christopher also points out the obvious need for clarification of the inter-action between the Wilson Doctrine and the RIPA and Police Act surveillance legislation.

Some quotes and notes:

3. The legislation does not exempt Members of Parliament or anyone else from liability to covert surveillance if the circumstances warrant it. My views are not sought on the legislation or on the 1966 Wilson Doctrine which relates to the tapping of MPs' telephones and which, as the present Prime Minister said in his written Parliamentary answer on 12th September 2007, applies to all forms of interception subject to authorisation by Secretary of State warrant. The surveillance which I am investigating does not appear to me to be within the Wilson Doctrine, because it does not give rise to interception as defined by the legislation, nor would it require authorisation by the Secretary of State. If I am wrong about this, the need for clarification which I suggest at the end of this Report is emphasised.

Sir Christopher is probably correct, but the spirit of the Wilson Doctrine has clearly been breached.

8. I have studied the extensive, detailed and comprehensive paper trail of documents authorising surveillance of Babar Ahmad in Woodhill from 12 August 2004 to 1 December 2006. The originals of all these documents were in my possession within less than 48 hours of Mr Straw' s statement to the House. I have also seen prison documents relating to the authorisation of Mr Khan as a visitor to Babar Ahmad under the Approved Visitors Scheme for Category A prisoners. I have read a report from the Security Service about Babar Ahmad.

As we predicted earlier, there does not seem to have been any access to intelligence documents, emails or intelligence databases etc.

11. [...] I personally interviewed the former, but now retired, Assistant Commissioner, Andy Hayman Head of MPS Counter-Terrorism at the time. He was the most senior of the officers involved in the authorisation process and was the authorising officer in relation to Babar Ahmad throughout the relevant period. [...]

There will be a collective groan of recognition of the name Andy Hayman, by many readers of this blog, both amongst the general public and also within the Police, intelligence agencies.and the Westminster Village of politicians, journalists and political bloggers - see the very unconvincing

Asst. Met Commissioner Andy Hayman's letter trying to justify 90 days detention without charge

13. The statement-taking officer has also, at my direction, sought assistance from the journalists apparently responsible for two articles in the Sunday Times on 10 February 2008. Michael Gillard and Jonathan Calvert confirmed to him that they were the authors of the articles. They declined to clarify whether they had a source other than X. They also declined to provide any further information than appeared in the articles, save that they gave the officer the names of two police officers which had apparently been given to them by X. Later, the journalists provided me with a written statement which contained nothing additional of use to my investigation. The two named of. cers have given written statements. They firmly deny the allegations which X is said to have made against them. Neither knew until recently that Sadiq Khan was an MP. Both were of junior rank to X.

X has made public statements to the media and is Mark Kearney.

Are the Sunday Times journalists Michael Gillard and Jonathan Calvert also under police or intelligence agency surveillance ?

17. Babar Ahmad was arrested on an extradition warrant on 5 August 2004 and, the following day, remanded in custody to Woodhill. On 12 August an intrusive surveillance authorisation in relation to closed non-legal visits to him was properly authorised by the Chief Constable of TVP and approved by the duty Surveillance Commissioner. That surveillance was directed to ascertaining the extent of Babar Ahmad’s terrorist activities and contacts within the United Kingdom. That Authority was reviewed in September and October and renewed in November. On 8 December 2004 it was cancelled. All the appropriate procedures were correctly followed throughout.

TVP = Thames Valley Police

Why was this authorisation cancelled ?

Nothing has changed in the Babar Ahmad case - no extra allegations made in the USA, no charges in the UK, but neither have the allegations been dropped.

18. On 8 September 2004, directed surveillance to monitor and record open non-legal visits to Babar Ahmad was correctly authorised through the MPS and accepted by the Prison Service.

It was directed to identifying individuals intent on carrying out terrorist acts within the United Kingdom and abroad. From that date until 1 December 2006, when the surveillance was cancelled, TVP disappeared from the authorisation picture. Following the events of July 2005, Babar Ahmad was one of many terrorists or possible terrorists in prison who were the subject of surveillance authorities through the Prison Intelligence Unit emanating from officers of MPS Counter-Terrorism Unit.

Remember that Babar Ahmad is not a convicted terrorist, and that there are no charges of any kind against him in the United Kingdom. He is in prison awaiting extradition to the USA without having had the chance to challenge any prima facie evidence in a UK Court, because of the evil Extradition Act 2003.

Why exactly was Babar Ahmad under such surveillance at all ?

How could he possibly have been directly or indirectly involved in the July 2005 bomb attacks and failed bomb attacks, whilst being held as a Category A maximum security prisoner at Woodhill and Belmarsh ?

24. [...] In relation to 21 May, surveillance was applied for by a Detective Constable on 6th May 2005, (after Babar Ahmad had returned to Woodhill from Belmarsh), [...]

Presumably because of the narrow terms of reference accepted by Sir Christopher, he does not appear to have enquired specifically about any such surveillance of Babar Ahmad or his legal advisors during the period whilst he was at HMP Belmarsh.

25. [...] Neither officer believed it was relevant that Sadiq Khan was an MP and therefore they did not bring this fact to the attention of more senior officers. It seems unlikely that, in 2005 or 2006, the Wilson Doctrine was the focus of much, if any, discussion in police canteens and, even if it had been, there would be no reason for these officers to believe it was applicable to the surveillance on which they were engaged. [...]

If these Policemen were conditioned not to care about a Member of Parliament, it is unlikely that they will care about the freedoms and rights of ordinary members of the public either.

26. It is difficult and commonly impossible to prove a negative, but detailed enquiries on my behalf show no trace in recent years in prison records or elsewhere of any person known to be a Member of Parliament having been monitored during a prison visit. This is not due to the Wilson Doctrine. It is due, at least so far as Category A prisoners are concerned, to the Approved Visitors Scheme from which MPs are exempt. Although this is not within my Terms of Reference, I understand from further enquiries which I have made that, since 2005 at least, there have been no authorities for directed surveillance of legal visits in prisons in England and Wales to prisoners in custody in relation to terrorist or other criminal matters. I know nothing to suggest that any unauthorised directed surveillance has taken place in relation to legal visits to such prisoners during the period to which my investigation relates.

So what happened before 2005, regarding the bugging of privileged legal visits ?

There are several press reports of interception or bugging of lawyers' conversations or correspondence, and there should be a proper investigation, but that was obviously outside of Sir Christopher's terms of reference.

28. Coda

I am not asked to make recommendations and do not do so. However my statutory duty as Chief Surveillance Commissioner requires me to draw specific attention in this Report and, if necessary, in my Annual Report to the Prime Minister later this year, to one matter which is apparent from my investigation. It is this: there is manifest scope for confusion in the minds of officers of public authorities and MPs as to the correct inter-relationship between the Wilson Doctrine and the legislation. It is obvious, but worth saying, that law enforcement
Report of Investigation agencies are expected to enforce and obey the law. In addition to law enforcement agencies, there are many hundreds of other public authorities empowered by the legislation to carry out directed surveillance. In the light of my findings and the different circumstances with regard to terrorism and covert surveillance capacity which prevail now, in comparison to 1966, I believe that clarification of this inter-relationship would be welcomed by everyone.

We are not holding our breath for any clarification or simplification from this Labour Government and its increasingly Soviet and Kafkaesque bureaucracy.


1. "controversial retired Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Andy Hayman" - no longer comtroversial because by resigning he escapes any disciplinary procedures - and gets a fat pension. The "DO NOT GO TO JAIL / PASS GO / COLLECT £50 K per annum" Card.

2."I have read a report from the Security Service about Babar Ahmad." .. if shit sticks.

3. What this episode does illustrate very forcibly is that whatever you are, MP, Solicitor, blogiste etc., whatever you say, write, buy, hire etc., can / will become known so that at some time a Surveillance Commissioners will be able to report ...."I have read a report from the Security Service about { }."

4. Whatever may have been heard / transcribed of what passed between Ahmad and his visitors does not seem to have been of any use in detecting any crime - It is of course highly likely that prisoners, who maintain intelligence services which MI5 must envy, could probably readily identify which tables were / are bugged.

They do after all maintain a system of delivery / storage and distribution of illegal drugs in every single UK prison which rivals Tesco's for performance and delivery.

I was a great supporter of Wilson in 1964 and I think with distance we realise he was a very successful and clever politician. His wonderfully imprecise Wilson Doctrine, a model as others might say, of "unclarity" will linger on as a refuge for the succession of Jacqui Smiths to conceal the nature of surveillance.

Don't expect "unclarification" any day soon.

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