UK Police Can't Confirm Or Deny Investigation Of Journalists It Publicly Confirmed In 2013
from the Glomar-logic dept
If you’re a UK-based journalist who’s reported on the Snowden leaks, it’s safe to say you’re under investigation. Not only are you being investigated, but that investigation itself is so secret, it can’t be discussed. The Intercept’s Ryan Gallagher sent a Freedom of Information request to London’s Metropolitan Police (the Met) for more information about the investigation — something twice publicly confirmed by Met representatives.
But when asked specifically for information on the ongoing investigation, the agency had nothing to say.
[T]he Metropolitan Police… says everything about the investigation’s existence is a secret and too dangerous to disclose. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from this reporter, the force has repeatedly refused to release any information about the status of the investigation, how many officers are working on it, or how much taxpayer money has been spent on it. The Met wrote in its response:
“to confirm or deny whether we hold any information concerning any current or previous investigations into the alleged actions of Edward Snowden could potentially be misused proving detrimental to national security.’
In this current environment, where there is a possibility of increased threat of terrorist activity, providing any details even to confirm or deny that any information exists could assist any group or persons who wish to cause harm to the people of the nation which would undermine the safeguarding of national security.”
The response is hardly a response. In fact, almost the entirety of the nine-page document Gallagher received is simply reasons WHY the Met won’t be responding affirmatively or negatively to his inquiry. The only new information gleaned is that control of the investigation has changed hands.
AC Mark Rowley has taken over as Head of Specialist Operations following the departure of Cressida Dick
That’s the one thing the “Counter Terrorism Command” can confirm. This would be the same department within the Met that was directly involved with the detainment and questioning of Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda. Everything else falls under a variety of exemptions, including the oh-so-opaque “state secrets” designation.
The Metropolitan Police Service can neither confirm nor deny whether it holds any of the information that you have requested, as the duty in S1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply, by virtue of the following exemptions:
Section 23(5) – Information supplied by, or concerning, certain security bodies
Section 24(2) – National Security
Section 30(3) Criminal Investigations
Section 31(3) – Law Enforcement
Section 40(5) – Personal information
There’s more detail later, when the response details the agency’s decision to declare the request to be “not in the public interest.”
The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so would undermine National Security or law enforcement. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threats posed by groups or individuals there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive area of extremism, crime prevention, public disorder and terrorism prevention.
After weighing up the competing interests I have determined that confirmation or denial of any information being held concerning whether the MPS has investigated the alleged actions of Edward Snowden or not would not be in the public interest. To confirm or deny that information is held regarding any individual or investigation that may or may not have taken place could be detrimental to any investigations that may be being conducted now or in the future.
But, of course, all of this discussion about national security, public interest and possibly compromised investigations does not confirm that there’s a twice-previously-confirmed investigation of UK journalists in progress.
However, this should not be taken as necessarily indicating that any information that would meet your request exists or does not exist.
This UK-style Glomar tosses the request back to The Intercept, which has tossed it to the nearest governing body..
The Intercept has filed a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office, the public body that enforces the U.K.’s freedom of information laws, about the Met’s refusal to release information about the current status of the investigation. The commissioner will now look at how the police handled the request and decide whether they should be ordered to hand over the relevant details.
Even in the UK, information doesn’t want to be free. It wants to be litigated.
The Met continues to maintain its code of silence in the face of its earlier public statements about investigating those publishing the Snowden leaks. When asked how something the agency itself publicly discussed several months ago is now a “national security” issue, the Met offered a swift “no comment” — a handy way to dodge the logic hole in its Freedom of Information request denial.