Inquiry: British police bugged Muslim MP
A former police officer admitted bugging lawmaker Sadiq Khan's prison visit with Al Qaeda suspect Babar Ahmad.
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London's The Herald says Straw told MPs that government approval was required to listen in on private phone calls, but that "intrusive surveillance operations" by law enforcement officers were subject to additional levels of approval. A chief police officer has the authority to permit such eavesdropping, Straw said.Skip to next paragraph
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The Daily Mail reports that a former assistant police chief authorized the bugging of Ahmad in 2004 before Khan was elected to parliament in 2005. Their meetings continued to be taped, but Khan wasn't the surveillance target, according to anonymous sources cited by the Mail, a conservative daily.
The BBC reports that opposition Conservative MPs have accused the government of failing to take heed of earlier warnings that Khan was being bugged. The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that officials knew last December about the alleged eavesdropping. Conservative MPs also produced a letter sent in December to Prime Minister Gordon Brown that raised the issue, but Mr. Brown's office denied receiving it.
The prohibition on wiretapping British politicians began in 1965, under former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and is known as the Wilson doctrine, the BBC reports in a guide to the bugging row. The prohibition was aimed at calming fears that military intelligence was tapping the phones of MPs. This was later widened to include all forms of communication.
The Associated Press reports that while lawmakers should have exemption from bugging, police occasionally monitor ordinary Britons' phone calls, e-mails, and mail. The British government says such practices have thwarted terrorist attacks, even though evidence obtained from wiretaps is inadmissible in court.
Khan grew up in London and studied law before becoming one of only a handful of British Muslim MPs, reports The Daily Telegraph in a profile. In 2005, after the July 7 bombings in London, he warned of concerns in the Muslim community over proposed antiterrorism laws. In 2006, he signed an open letter from three Muslim MPs to former Prime Minister Tony Blair that suggested British foreign policy was putting civilians at risk.