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Tuesday 10 December 2019
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[UPDATED] Young on Wylie’s book: Probes launched

Claims of data mining by PP govt

MIND BLOWN: Minister of National Security Stuart Young speaks on allegations made against the former PP in the book Mindf--k: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America by Christopher Wylie at a press conference at the National Security Ministry in Port of Spain, yesterday. - Ayanna Kinsale
MIND BLOWN: Minister of National Security Stuart Young speaks on allegations made against the former PP in the book Mindf--k: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America by Christopher Wylie at a press conference at the National Security Ministry in Port of Spain, yesterday. - Ayanna Kinsale

Two separate probes have been launched into allegations of breaches of the Interception of Communications Act and misbehaviour in public office.

National Security Minister Stuart Young announced this at a press conference at his ministry in Port of Spain yesterday.

Young read several excerpts from a new book, Mindf--k: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America, by Canadian former data consultant Christopher Wylie.

Wylie, who was a whistleblower in the Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal, alleged that the People's Partnership-led government was involved in widespread breaches of privacy and data mining.

Young said TT was used as a case study to examine the effectiveness of data mining by hacking systems to give intricate details such as citizens' internet browsing histories.

He described the revelations as “deeply troubling” and said it was possible that spying on private citizens may be continuing to this day.

Young said, "We're going to have two parallel investigations.

"I'm going to ask the Commissioner of Police to launch an investigation into this, but the government will also assist. It is a national security issue.

"This is a breach to every person's right to privacy but, worse than that, if you are being monitored to this extent and not being monitored by the state apparatus, for legitimate reasons, this has nothing to do with national security.

"How was access given to telecommunications servers? Do other people still have access to this information?

"We know it was members of the UNC, a political party. Not even members of government were given that information. They are not government employees, but this is what they were doing.

"I can give no assurance that they are not spying. I am no safer than you are."

Young said government's investigation would also involve collaborating with international investigators from the US Federal Bureau of Investigations and the UK National Crime Agency.

Responding to Young's claims, the UNC issued a press release hours later, accusing him and the PNM of trying to deflect attention away from more pressing issues.

The release also raised questions about the validity of Wylie's claims, which Young referred to at the press conference.

"Today, the Minister of National Security, in the face of a rising murder rate and out of control crime plaguing the country, used a state press conference to read a storybook," the UNC said.

"(Stuart) Young and Faris (Al-Rawi) both lack any critical thinking skills and we must question whether they are fit to hold any public office. Neither of these high-level PNM operatives thought it fit to fact check Wylie?

It said Wylie had never clearly stated his role, named anyone in Trinidad with whom he was working or liaising, nor provided evidence or any report he wrote for his alleged employers in Trinidad.

The release also said the party would be exploring its options for legal redress against what it described as "defamatory misinformation."

Newsday also spoke to CEO of Telecommunications Service of TT (TSTT) Ronald Walcott, who denied the allegations.

"As far as I am aware, TSTT did not play any part in allowing anyone to access our data. As far as I am concerned we take customer confidentiality very seriously."

Responding to questions from the media about allegations in Wylie's book, at the police weekly media briefing on Sackville Street, Port of Spain, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said he preferred not to comment on the allegations unless they were grounded in fact,

He said while he had spoken with Young on the issue, no documentation had been forwarded to him as yet.

"I am not going to work on anything based on a rumour, hearsay, based on someone writing a book. The police service has to work on a proper investigation and then try to get evidence to ascertain if a crime did take place.

"We don't know what the crime is per se. It may expand, or it may be nothing.

"It will be really inappropriate to make any conmment on a matter when we haven't even seen the documents as yet.

He said Young had assured him the documents would be given to me "almost immediately."

Newsday also spoke to Chairman of the Telecommunications Authority of TT Gilbert Peterson, SC, for comment on the matter, but he said he was in court for most of yesterday and did not know much about the press conference or what was revealed.
(With reporting by Jensen La Vende.)

This story was originally published with the title "Nat Sec Minister on Wylie’s book: Probes launched" and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.

Two separate probes have been launched into allegations of breaches of the Interception of Communications Act and misbehaviour in public office.

National Security Minister Stuart Young announced this at a press conference at his ministry in Port of Spain on Wednesday.

Young read several excerpts from a new book, Mindf--k: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America, by Canadian former data consultant Christopher Wylie.

Wylie, who was implicated in the Cambridge Analytica data mining scandal, alleged that the People's Partnership-led government was involved in widespread breaches of privacy and data mining.

Young said TT was used as a case study to examine the effectiveness of data mining by hacking systems to give intricate details such as the internet browsing histories of citizens.

He described the revelations as “deeply troubling” and said it was possible that spying on private citizens may be continuing to this day.

Young said, "We're going to have two parallel investigations.

"I'm going to ask the Commissioner of Police to launch an investigation into this, but the government will also assist. It is a national security issue.

"This is a breach to every person's right to privacy but, worse than that, if you are being monitored to this extent and not being monitored by the state apparatus, for legitimate reasons, this has nothing to do with national security.

"How was access given to telecommunications servers? Do other people still have access to this information?

"We know it was members of the UNC, a political party, not even members of government were given that information. They are not government employees, but this is what they were doing.

"I can give no assurance that they are not spying, I am no safer than you are."

Young said government's investigation would also involve collaborating with international investigators from the US Federal Bureau of Investigations and the UK National Crime Agency/

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