Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / AG: UNC not ‘vindicated’ in Cambridge scandal; UNC: Stop using gov’t resources for PNM propaganda 

AG: UNC not ‘vindicated’ in Cambridge scandal; UNC: Stop using gov’t resources for PNM propaganda 

“[…] In the discharge of my responsibilities as the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, in Trinidad and Tobago, I extend caution against any premature revelry at the pause in the criminal investigation into the matters involving and/or surrounding the Cambridge Analytica fiasco…”

The following are press statements from the United National Congress (UNC), Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and UNC PRO Anita Haynes on the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s decision to halt investigations yesterday into the Cambridge Analytica scandal:

Photo: Former Cambridge Analytica employee turned whistle blower, Christopher Wylie, alleged that his company used illegal methods to give the UNC an advantage at the polls.
(Copyright AFP)

(UNC press statement headlined ‘UNC vindicated in Cambridge Analytica investigation’)

The United National Congress thanks the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service for bringing a quick end to the Cambridge Analytica fairy-tale, foisted on our population by senior members of the Keith Rowley administration. Like Emailgate, the PNM has now lost another of their key propaganda tools in their General Election arsenal.

The nation would recall that this became a police investigation after the Minister of National Security, Stuart Young, and the Attorney General, Faris Al-Rawi watched a Netflix movie and read a novel and placed their ‘findings’ at the front of the national agenda.

From the beginning, the United National Congress stated that none of these Cambridge Analytica stories are true.

The UNC is committed to a campaign based on our policies, and our National Economic Transformation Masterplan, which aims to create more than 50,000 new jobs by 2025.

We hope that the decisive end to this Cambridge Analytica saga by the TTPS would finally force the PNM to campaign on substance and policy, and not create some new fantasy to distract the population from their lack of achievements.

Photo: UNC Political Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

(Statement from Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi on Cambridge Analytica LLC)

The Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs takes note of the press release from the United National Congress (UNC) dated 6 May 2020 titled ‘UNC Vindicated in Cambridge Analytica Investigation’ which has been widely circulated in local media and on the World Wide Web.

This press release followed the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s (TTPS) weekly media briefing held earlier that day on 6 May 2020, when Deputy Commissioner of Police Jayson Forde informed the public that the criminal investigation closed the investigation into Cambridge Analytica ‘pending the emergence of evidence to support the investigation’.

The TTPS informed that the effective pausing of the investigation was largely due to the inability of law enforcement officers to interview data analyst and author Christopher Wylie, former Director of Research at Cambridge Analytica LLC (Cambridge Analytica).

In its Press Release the UNC states that ‘…this became a police investigation after the Minister of National Security, Stuart Young, and the Attorney General, Faris Al-Rawi watched a Netflix Movie and read a novel and placed their findings at the front of the national agenda’.

Further the Leader of the Opposition, Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar today made statements carried by way of the 7.00 am news coverage on I95.5fm in which she accused the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago of telling ‘lies upon lies upon lies’ and that there were other matters including ‘Emailgate’ where ‘government members have told lies’.

Photo: Attorney general Faris Al Rawi.
(Courtesy Office of the Attorney General)

In the face of the UNC’s and the Leader of the Opposition’s public statements, the public is reminded and informed as set out hereunder:

1. Cambridge Analytica is a now defunct, British political consulting firm which combines data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process. The company engages in activities including the ‘micro-targeting’ of voters.

2. In March 2018, multiple media houses around the globe broke news of Cambridge Analytica’s business practices. The New York Times and the London Observer reported on the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data breach, in which the company used—for political purposes—personal information acquired about Facebook users.

3. As the events surrounding Cambridge Analytica unravelled, Trinidad and Tobago was pinpointed by former Director of Research, Mr Christopher Wylie, as the site of a data and communication mining test project conducted in 2013, under the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led government.

4. On 9 April 2018, a Statement by the Attorney General was laid in the House of Representatives of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago related to the activities in Trinidad and Tobago of Cambridge Analytica, Aggregate IQ and the Strategic Communication Laboratories Group and their affiliate companies. This Statement, together with a compilation of relevant documentation and materials, was referred to the Joint Select Committee on National Security (JSCNS) for its consideration and report.

Photo: Former Cambridge Analytica employee and whistleblower, Christopher Wylie.

5. Later in the month of April 2018, the Attorney General was contacted by the National Crime Agency of the United Kingdom (NCA) and was invited to attend at their offices in London in the UK along with six other entities to participate in interviews with Mr Christopher Wylie and his Attorney-at-Law Ms Tamsin Allen of Bindmans, relative to his public disclosures and testimony before, inter alia, the UK committee of the House of Commons;

6. Meetings were scheduled beginning Tuesday 1 May 2018 to Friday 4 May 2018.

7. Six entities participated along with the NCA viz (i) the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York (ii) the Federal Bureau of Investigations (iii) the Department of Justice of the United States of America (iv) the Elections Commission of the United Kingdom (v) the Information Commission of the United Kingdom and (vi) the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago.

8. Mr Christopher Wylie agreed to provide Trinidad and Tobago with assistance and the Attorney General subsequently met Mr Wiley and his Attorneys in the UK on several occasions in the presence of Trinidad and Tobago’s UK Attorneys. Mr Wylie indicated that he was prepared to give evidence in Parliament in Trinidad before the JSCNS established to deal with the issue provided that his security could be guaranteed.

9. Mr Wylie specifically confirmed the veracity of his testimony before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the UK and the United States of America (US) Senate Judiciary Committee, when he testified to illegal and devastatingly sinister actions alleged carried out by the UNC Kamla Persad-Bissessar government.

Photo: Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) and former Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal.
(Courtesy Baltimore Post)

10. Mr Wylie informed the Attorney General that he had received threats from persons associated with the UNC and was afraid for his life and he effectively went silent.

11. Mr Wylie specifically informed the Attorney General in the presence of UK Attorneys that his allegations against the UNC Government’s dealings and actions with Cambridge Analytica and their affiliates did NOT involve Mr Gary Griffith, whom he expressly informed had nothing to do with the scandal. At the time of Mr Wylie’s first meetings with the Attorney General, Mr Gary Griffith had not yet been appointed as the Commissioner of Police.

12. At a meeting held on Wednesday July 4th 2018, the JSCNS reviewed and discussed the Attorney General’s ministerial statement. Consistent with the decision of the House of Representatives, the Committee agreed to embark upon an inquiry into activities of Cambridge Analytica, AggregateIQ and Strategic Communication Laboratories in Trinidad and Tobago.

13. This matter of Cambridge Analytica’s actions found itself into the realm of civil litigation in the United States of America, which resulted in the settlement of a billion dollar claim initiated by the US Federal Trade Commission.

14. The Netflix Documentary Film, the Great Hack, was produced and globally distributed on 26 January 2019 without any known legal claims against its authors and/or producers of the said film.

15. The book entitled ‘Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America’ authored by Mr Christopher Wylie was published globally on 8 October 2019 without any known legal claims against Mr Wylie and/or his publishers.

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith.
(via TTPS)

16. The Government took action on the Cambridge Analytica matter in April 2018 long before the Netflix documentary or the Wylie book were released.

17. The TTPS has paused its investigation into Cambridge Analytica, as in order for criminal proceedings to be commenced in Trinidad and Tobago evidence of a certain threshold is required to be secured before any prosecution may be commenced. Obviously, the present lack of availability of evidence from Mr Wylie has temporarily stymied the investigation.

18. There is no statutory limitation period within which criminal proceedings are to be commenced, and in the civil arena, the Limitation of Certain Actions Act, Chapter 7:09, provides for the extension of limitation periods in certain circumstances.

19. The Central Authority for Trinidad and Tobago, the Office of the Attorney General has operationalised the lawful provisions available by way of Mutual Legal Assistance requested of it in the first quarter of 2020 by the TTPS and has pursued the co-operation of international investigative agencies that are conducting parallel investigations into these matters.

20. The Central Authority has made contact with the authorities in the United Kingdom and the United States of America to secure information and evidence relating to this most serious matter of alleged illegal conduct and activity. The foreign authorities have confirmed in writing to the Central Authority that the investigations remain ongoing but that due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, they have encountered momentary obstacles which will be back on track in due course.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith exchange words on Facebook over the closure of the Cambridge Analytica case on 6 May 2020.

In the discharge of my responsibilities as the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, in Trinidad and Tobago, I extend caution against any premature revelry at the pause in the criminal investigation into the matters involving and/or surrounding the Cambridge Analytica fiasco.

The Attorney General wishes to assure the public, that the government continues its effort in ensuring swift access to justice, especially during these novel and unprecedented times.

The Commissioner of Police has reminded and rightfully so, that this matter is subject to be re-opened should new information be brought to light.

(Statement from Senator Anita Haynes, the Public Relations Officer of the UNC, on Al-Rawi’s statement, which was initially published on the Office of the Attorney General’s official Facebook page and shared on the government’s letterhead)

While the Honourable Attorney General is entitled to his opinion no matter how nonsensical it may be, I wish to remind the Attorney General that using official Ministry mediums to push his political narrative is grossly unethical and against every political code of conduct.

Photo: UNC senator and PRO Anita Haynes.
(via UNC)

A commitment from the Ministry of the Attorney General from the Ministry’s online website states that ‘the Ministry remains committed to the holistic development of Trinidad and Tobago through the promotion of the rule of law at all levels of society.’

The office of the Attorney General and its communication channels must be used as a source of official information and not for PNM propaganda.

This latest action by the Attorney General by using state mediums to push his political narrative after being thrown out by the TTPS further shows the blatant politicisation of state resources by the Attorney General. By this social media post is the Attorney General questioning the integrity of the police investigators in this matter?

I remind the Attorney General that there are other ways to publicise party propaganda without using state resources that are paid for by all citizens. We also hope that the Attorney General desists from this practice of using public resources for PNM communications in the future.

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