The recommendations of the Prime Minister's "spy cop" Surajdeen Persad to rid the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) of certain high-powered officials are still being implemented.
As recently as two weeks ago, the head on the chopping block was former assistant director, Drug Strategy, Michael Maxima, whose contract was not renewed, even though there was no indication he would be sent home, agency sources said yesterday.
In fact the Express learnt that on his last day of work at the St Vincent Street-based agency, Maxima was given a letter saying his services were no longer required and he was unceremoniously escorted out of the building by security officers.
The letter was reportedly signed by SSA's deputy director Julie Browne.
Maxima's fate was sealed more than two years ago when he was fingered in a report by Persad as being part of an illegal phone-tapping operation involving current government ministers of the Peoples' Partnership, on behalf of the Opposition People's National Movement.
Maxima, described by security operatives as a man of "vast knowledge and integrity", is expected to be replaced by another security officer attached to the Special Branch, a recommendation for the post by Persad, which was made 28 months ago in a report to the Prime Minister.
Another name that has also surfaced as a possible contender for the post is current SSA analyst Della Harripaul, who Express was told is junior to the outgoing director.
In a letter to Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar dated October 15, 2010, titled "Re Illegal Tapping of Telephones," Persad called for the dismissal of some 25 agents attached to the Strategic Intelligence Agency (SIA) and pointed out Maxima as one of the senior officers who had participated in the illegal tapping of phones belonging to current government ministers, including the Prime Minister.
According to Persad, who now heads a unit at the SSA, the illegal phone-tapping was being carried out "for the Opposition People's National Movement (PNM (and) the reports are also shared with former Head of the Special Anti Crime Unit, Brigadier Peter Joseph and Head (sic) of the Strategic Services Agency, Michael Maxima."
Maxima never headed the SSA.
Brigadier Joseph had instituted legal action against the State but received a settlement from the State of over $1 million.
The Express has also learnt that another assistant director of administration, Ursline Hood, who is currently on leave, is to be given her marching papers. She is expected to be replaced by SSA analyst Andrew Sookram, a former Special Branch employee attached to the personnel department.
The recent shake-up at the country's premiere "spy agency" comes at a time of a skyrocketing crime rate and intense criminal activity, not just in the traditional hotspots, but throughout the country.
Well-placed sources have said the agency is now "rudderless", and does not even have a strategic plan to secure the country.
At this crucial time, when all hands are expected to be on deck in the fight to stabilise the country, agency sources have confirmed that the entire leadership of the SSA, which includes SSA director Bisnath Maharaj, deputy director Julie Browne, and assistant director Carlton Dennie, and several other top SSA officials are currently in Israel.
While no-one could say how long they would be out of the country, sources claimed they are currently engaged in discussions with the Israeli premiere security firm, Verint Security Inc, with a view to securing more sophisticated spyware, and CCTV surveillance equipment, as well as advanced intercept capabilities to bolster their intercept suite at Piarco.
Meanwhile, the 27 employees who were dismissed from the SIA have taken legal action against the State for wrongful dismissal.
Several of them have also taken their matters to the Industrial Court for arbitration.
On December 23, 2010, three days before Christmas, all 27 were served with their dismissal letters signed by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of National Security, Jennifer Boucard-Blake, according to media reports.
Express checks revealed several of them have turned to consultancy jobs, while others have taken up farming, catering and jobs in the transportation industry.
"These are people with specialised skills, and it is not easy for them to get jobs on the market, so they have to employ themselves," one dismissed official told the Express yesterday.