BY DESMOND ALLEN Executive Editor - Operations firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, March 21, 2010
A J Nicholson, the former attorney general, did not know it was Christopher 'Dudus' Coke's phone he was asking the court to tap, when he sought the relevant warrant to do so, on February 2, 2007.
In fact, if the rules are followed, no attorney general knows whose telephone conversation they are seeking a warrant to tap, according to the then governing People's National Party attorney general and minister of justice.
NICHOLSON... the name is known only to the security forces when the document is placed before the attorney general
GOLDING... the wire-tapping of Coke’s phone is now the centre of an escalating dispute between his administration and the United States
[Hide Description] NICHOLSON... the name is known only to the security forces when the document is placed before the attorney general
The wire-tapping of Coke's phone is now the centre of an escalating dispute between the Bruce Golding administration and the United States which is demanding Coke's extradition for alleged trafficking in guns and drugs, based on evidence from those intercepted conversations.
"Requests of this nature made by the requesting and applying agencies, the security forces, never bear the name of the person whose telephone communication is sought to be intercepted. For common-sense reasons, the name is known only to the security forces when the document is placed before the attorney general," said Nicholson.
"As I recall, the practice was, and I expect remains, for an 'X' to be placed where the name is to be affixed, so that, for example, the attorney general would not know whether the subject was his relative or his next-door neighbour. So, the rationale is for the security forces to ensure the highest level of secrecy. I had no problem with this," he said.
The Supreme Court granted Nicholson's request for the interception of Coke's telephone communications on that occasion, and later on March 27, 2007, July 13, 2007 and September 18, 2007.
But Jamaica has stubbornly refused to extradite Coke as requested by the US last August under the two country's 1993 Extradition Treaty and subsequent memoranda of understanding.
Critics of the administration suggest the refusal is because the Tivoli Gardens strongman is aligned to the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and resides in Golding's West Kingston constituency.
Nicholson sought to have clarification on his role in the Coke extradition affair, in a letter to the Sunday Observer, commenting on the newspaper's report on March 15, 2010, titled "Golding's sternest political test -- how the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke extradition story unfolded".
"I draw this to your attention lest there is the impression that an attorney general, past or present, in signing such a request, may be influenced by any oblique consideration, including the name that may appear on the document," the former attorney general insisted.
"Finally, your 'source' might have made it explicit that the requests come from the security forces lest the further regrettable view be left that they may come from any other quarter," he noted.
According to law, a warrant to intercept anyone's telephone has to be issued by the Supreme Court ex parte and must be disclosed only to the commissioner of police, a superintendent of police and the head of the Military Intelligence Unit of the Jamaica Defence Force.
The transcribed information is also to be disseminated only to those individuals whose involvement in the investigation necessitates the receipt of this information.
In the dispute, Jamaica accuses the US of breaching the Interception of Communications Act 2002 (ICA) which governs wire-tapping in Jamaica.
Jamaica insists that there is a general Constitutional right of freedom of expression in Jamaica, including the right of freedom from interference to receive and impart ideas, as well as freedom from interference with one's correspondence and other means of communication.
Moreover, Jamaica argues, because the ICA is an intrusion on a citizen's Constitutional right to freedom of expression, its provisions have to be scrupulously observed and followed.
No order was ever made authorising the disclosure of information to a foreign government, agents of a foreign government or an agency of a foreign government, says Jamaica.
The Act provides that any person who intercepts communication in unauthorised circumstances commits a criminal offence and is liable to imprisonment for a period of three years or a fine not exceeding $3 million or both; and that any person who knowingly discloses the contents of any communication commits a criminal offence and is liable to imprisonment for a period of five years or a fine of $5 million or both.