herald

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Probe ordered into garda watchdog 'phone bugging'

Shatter orders probe into 'phone bugging' at garda watchdog HQ

Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission
Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter is to meet with the garda watchdog after allegations of phone bugging and internet hacking have emerged.

Minister Shatter said that he will probe the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission's (GSOC) decision to hire a British security company last year to investigate if it had been placed under electronic surveillance.

He said he was not aware of the allegations and has since ordered a report into the matter.

The British security consultancy firms last year found evidence of sophisticated govern- ment-level technology used to bug a phone in a meeting room at the watchdog's offices in Dublin.

The investigation also found evidence that those spying on GSOC gained access to the agency's WiFi network and stole emails, data and confidential reports and may have also obtained access to mobile phone conversations.

A GSOC spokesman refused to comment last night, while a garda spokesman said the force had not received any complaint in relation to such spying.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins called on Mr Shatter to address the allegations immediately.

"The idea that someone is engaged in covertly monitoring the ombudsman is deeply unsettling and risks undermining public confidence," said Mr Collins.

"The minister needs to come forward and explain whether he has spoken to the Ombudsman and whether he was aware of this surveillance."

However, a spokesperson for the department said the minister could not make any public comment until a report had been received and considered.

MONITOR

"The minister has sought a full report from GSOC into the matter. He won't be making any comment into the matter," the spokesperson said.

Mr Shatter is expected to brief the Cabinet on the situation tomorrow. The consultants who conducted the investigation into the alleged spying on GSOC included firms associated with the UK's GCHQ spying agency, while assistance was also sought from the British Independent Police Complaints Commission.

They discovered a phone in a room which had been used to hold regular meetings had been bugged, while an entire WiFi network had been created, based out of the UK, to monitor electronic communications.

It appears those conducting the surveillance may have become aware their activities had become known and subsequently wiped an entire internet network of all information.

The whereabouts and identity of those conducting the surveillance are unknown.

The sophisticated nature of the espionage is on a level with that used by the US National Security Agency, and the equipment used is not commercially available.

The report prepared for the GSOC said there was clear evidence of spying. GSOC is understood to have ramped up its security measures since receiving the report.

hnews@herald.ie

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