Another Journalist Claims UK Law Enforcement Violated Anti-Terrorism Laws By Putting Him Under Surveillance

from the there's-the-intention-and-then-there's-the-actual-application... dept

Well, now we know what the UK’s anti-terrorism law does best. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) expanded powers for security/law enforcement agencies. For safety. For the nation. And, ironically, for the prevention the sort of thing it was recently amended to prevent. While it may occasionally be used to track down terrorists, it seems to be more often deployed by the watchers to watch those watching the watchers.

So far, multiple stories have emerged showing the law has been used to snoop on whistleblowers and journalists — two entities consistently voted Least Likely to Participate in a Terrorist Attack. Critics said the law would be abused. It didn’t take long to prove them right.

Yet another story of twisting RIPA to serve the state’s own self-interest has emerged. William Turvill of the UK’s Press Gazette has more details.

A BBC journalist suspects that Police Scotland snooped on him without judicial approval to try and find his sources while he was investigating the force.

Eamon O’Connor has claimed that a “very dependable source” believes he was targeted by the force’s Counter Corruption Unit.

The revelation comes after the Sunday Herald quoted an inside source as saying that Police Scotland was one of two forces to have accessed phone records, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), to find journalistic sources without judicial approval since the law was changed in March to prevent this.

And now an investigation unit is investigating the investigators. Police Scotland refuses to confirm or deny any of its people are under investigation by the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office (IOCCO), but the oversight agency has confirmed that is in the middle of an investigation into these allegations.

O’Connor can’t say for sure why he was targeted by the police but figures it has something to with his investigations into an unsolved killing that saw millions of pounds spent but no significant arrests or charges brought.

Police Scotland mounted a massive operation to catch Emma’s killers. They spent £4m of the taxpayers’ money and ended up charging four Turkish men with her murder. But the man was released and no trial took place.

“I made a Radio 4 documentary for File on Four earlier this year which highlighted a number of very serious problems with the way in which the original investigation was run. I can only assume that that has caused some concern inside Police Scotland.

This lack of details also makes it unclear whether the new RIPA stipulations have actually been abused or whether the police performed this surveillance under the old form. Presumably, this will all be sorted out by the IOCCO investigation. And, presumably, most of what it uncovers will be withheld from the public — pretty much a given when alleged abuse of powers has a nexus with anti-terrorism laws.

O’Connor notes that he’s not personally afraid of the police paying him extra attention in return for the “extra” attention he’s paid to their actions. But he notes that this sort of thing can easily chill future examinations of police misconduct/failures.

“I’m not frightened for my personal safety or anything of that kind. But I do feel that this is likely to intimidate and impede whistleblowers and people who want to come forward to tell the truth about something they believe shouldn’t have happened…

“If I’m intimidated or impeded from doing that, and my sources are intimidated and impeded from doing that because they fear they are being monitored, then proper journalism can’t be done.”

If so, then it would appear the unlawful snooping has done exactly what Police Scotland hoped it would: chill further examination of its incompetence.

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Comments on “Another Journalist Claims UK Law Enforcement Violated Anti-Terrorism Laws By Putting Him Under Surveillance”

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Anonymous Coward says:

the whole idea of laws like this is to find out if anyone out of the government, the ‘hierarchy’, the wealthy or the famous is being watched and the way that;s done is to carry out illegal surveillance. as stated, everyone knew it wouldn’t take long before it was abused and that proved to be correct. the problem stems from 9/11 more than anything and the completely over the top reaction of the USA government. of course it wanted to make sure there were not going to be any events that remotely mirrored that one, but in doing so, the security forces went past the point of reasonable and scooped up so much on so many, they didn’t have a hope in hell of sorting out what was going on, where or by who! you get to the state where someone who is perhaps suspicious is suddenly the center of attention, with all resources trying to get him/her to confess to doing something they didn’t know Jack about and the actual perpetrator gets to go on their way. then other countries were sucked in to doing the same things and you get the situation of everyone, everywhere is a suspect for doing everything. cant get much worse a situation than that.

Anonymous Coward says:

What is anti-Terrorism?

Just what does it mean?

Accusing an innocent of being a terrorist and trying to ply them with anti-terrorist laws would pretty much terrify the fuck out of a lot of people.

It seems to me that the only rule is this rule, The government owns you and while citizens are not allowed to terrorize anyone, we the government or any member of law enforcement can and will be allowed to terrorize ‘The People’.

No matter how much history there has been the cycle must begin again. Government will always seek to gain too much power and the people will have to put that government down when they get tired of dealing with the corruption and abuse of power.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Random Strangers on the Street.

We’ve already seen with Bush’s Tywin to Cheney’s Cersei how the democratic process doesn’t keep the Joffreys from ascending to the throne. I’ve been toying with the notion of a Social Security lottery to determine representatives and officials.

Considering the degree of regulatory capture in this nation, the probability of us doing worse is likened to an asteroid hitting Manhattan.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Everyone is a terrorist.

So maybe terrorism shouldn’t be a thing.

Rather than seeking to fight terrorists we should seek to reduce incidents of murder, rampages, arson, vandalism, and so on. Such crimes based on political ideology are actually in the minority.

It occurs to me that we’re supposed to have the right to have opinions of dissent against our own government and its current policies. I know I sure do.

If racial and religious profiling are unethical, why would ideological or cultural profiling be less so?

jameshogg says:

I wonder if I should go on a rant about how the centralisation of the police force under Alex Salmond has helped create nonsense like this. And about how the Scottish National Party were up in arms when it was revealed how GCHQ was spying on MSPs, yet have been rather lacking of the same energy to protest about this.

Maybe I can find out if the cybernats have reached this far on the internet with their cultist affiliation with anything as long as you attach “because Scotland” to it.

Anonymous Howard says:

Re: [#7 jameshogg]

I’ve not long had a rant about how MSPs don’t seem to mind if you or I are spied on, they only care about themselves.

One thing we can say for sure is that the centralisation of the police has resulted in officers with fucking machine guns attending minor incidents despite assurances that this would not happen.

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