UK Police Abused Anti-Terror Law To Snoop On Journalist's Phone Records Concerning Minor Political Spat

from the abuse-of-power-is-easy-when-you're-in-power dept

Plebgate is one of those silly minor political spats in the UK involving a top UK politician who apparently got angry that police wouldn't let him ride his bike out of the main gate at 10 Downing Street. The details really don't matter. It's just one of those political type stories that the press loves. But, now it's come out that in investigating this incident, the Metropolitan Police appear to have abused an anti-terror law to obtain the phone records of journalists who reported on the story.

Specifically, the police made use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), the big anti-terror law in the UK that earlier this year we noted was abused to track down a government whistleblower. And this time it was used to get the phone records of Tom Newton Dunn, the political editor of The Sun, because the Sun reported on the whole Plebgate affair. The use of RIPA -- which, again, is supposed to be for tracking down terrorists -- let the police circumvent the law they're supposed to use, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), which requires the police to actually go before a judge first when trying to access journalistic materials. With RIPA, the police could just claim they need the records, and boom, the phone company handed them over.

For various obvious reasons, journalists are fairly alarmed by this clear abuse of the law to view the private communications of journalists. From the Guardian's coverage of this:
Sources in the Sun newsroom said Newton Dunn was disgusted and outraged to learn the police had seized his phone records. “The first we knew of it was yesterday, we are taking legal advice,” said the source on Tuesday. “We would never have known unless the Met report came out.”

Another said: “This is unbelievable. It’s like the secret police going round checking journalists’ phones. If they have done this, the bigger question is how often have they done this?”
Actually, the bigger question goes beyond just how often have they done this for journalists' records, but how often are they doing this for lots of other stuff. As David Meyer at GigaOm rightly points out, the recent (rushed through with no debate) data retention law, DRIP, in the UK expands RIPA to cover all kinds of internet communications as well. Thus, thanks to DRIP, the police can get all sorts of similar information -- and they seem clearly willing to use it on cases that have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism at all, but even in minor political spats that involve the police themselves.

It's not a surprise that surveillance laws will be abused. But it's worth highlighting when they're abused so egregiously.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Canada, 3 Sep 2014 @ 2:09pm

    Wow

    Dear UK friends,
    You can move here. It's better. For a little while, at least.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2014 @ 5:43pm

      Re: Wow

      Dear idiots in UK, do not move here, you are too stupid to keep your politicians in check... we don't want the same idiots voting over here and bringing their stupid problems... we already have enough problems with our dumb ass voters as it is!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2014 @ 7:37pm

        Re: Re: Wow

        I say we take off and nuke the entire UK from orbit.

        It's the only way to be sure.

        -UK user

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2017 @ 7:57am

          Re: Re: Re: Wow

          Only a fucking monster would think about using a non precision nuke on both innocent and criminal, with no hesitation

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZPVqoF7j5M

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2017 @ 8:08am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Wow

            Just to be clear, i dont mean that its okay if the nuke was precise, was just pointing out the non precision aspect of it, you know, the bit that translates into colateral lives lost, even then, you bring suspected criminals to court, not to an execution.......its not all about proving the suspects guilt, its also proving that the law had good reason, or a fked up one

            By the way anon, i took your comment as jest, and as an opening to the clip i posted, not targeted towards yourself

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 3 Sep 2014 @ 2:44pm

    Shouldn't that be Deregulation of Investigatory Powers Act? Deregulation is always good for everyone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2014 @ 2:44pm

    So why even bother reporting on anything in the UK? Doing so clearly means you're a terrorist.

    Sad thing is I am sure it's done elsewhere but only with tighter lips...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    zip, 3 Sep 2014 @ 3:09pm

    back-door "warrants"

    Instead of going through the 'normal channels' and leaving a paper trail, I've got to wonder why British police couldn't just get their info from spy agencies like the NSA and whoever else discretely taps into and logs telephone calls. Since no one would know, there'd be no political fallout to worry about.

    I'm of course not saying that the police should be doing this, but I've got to wonder, if someone like Ed Snowden could get that same info in an instant from his computer keyboard -- without leaving a trace -- why couldn't police do the same (at least in theory)?

    Just as we've witnessed the merger of police and military (which have historically been separate in both form and function) then what's to prevent a gradual merger of police and spy agencies ... 'police-state' style? After all, it can't be wrong (or illegal) if no one knows about it, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2014 @ 3:18pm

    did they not abuse this law when the Snowden info was released and again against Greenwald's partner? in my opinion, the UK is taking pages out of the USA law book by abusing the law as and when it feels like it and absolutely no one is doing anything to stop it, certainly no one in Parliament or the courts! the biggest fly over all this stuff is May. i wouldn't trust her as far as i could spit and thats down on to my shoes!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2017 @ 8:16am

      Re:

      They went further, when they PUBLICALLY went to the guardian offices and proceeded to destroy their storage equipment like nazis trying to make a fucking point

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Sep 2014 @ 4:51pm

    Does it still count as abuse of the law if stuff like this was the actual reason for such clauses/laws, and the 'Because terrorists!' crap was just the excuse?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Sep 2014 @ 10:32pm

    Saying the police/politician spat is irrelevant really misses the point on how far the police are willing to go.
    They bull-shitted on what happened all the way up the chain, got the guy kicked out of parliament, colluded and falsified evidence as well as abusing RIPA, I doubt this last is at all uncommon considering how often the Met were willing to misuse the Section 44 Act.

    Getting more like America every day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    gezzerx, 3 Sep 2014 @ 11:57pm

    Fasism or Liberty

    Time for some PAYBACK, wake up America, Democrats or Republicans.Tories or Labor, Liberals or Conservatives it's two sides of the same evil coin it's called Fascism. So the next time either of the above parties asks for your vote, support or money just say no & vote for an independent candidate.

    Send a message they can't ignore & will understand ! ! Both parties have been complicit in this criminal activity. Some will say they don’t want to waste their vote, but you are already wasting your vote on Democrats & Republicans because they are the ones who have already betrayed us & they have been doing it for decades. This should be a joint effort on the part of all Americans, Democrats,Republicans & Independent voters ! Organize now before its to late ! Your liberty is at stake and that of your children & grandchildren !

    The time is NOW so lets make the most of it & here is why the time is NOW ! Fascism or Liberty the choice is your to make . (see link below)
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/01/21/215122/as-independent-voters-numbers.html

    The whole point is to expose this Election Shame for what it is . We need to divide & conquer Democrats & Republicans instead of them providing the American public with false choices, Its time to remove the Corporate Congress ! !

    If you take away their power then you can take away their toys !

    REMEMBER: POLITICIANS, BUREAUCRATS AND DIAPERS SHOULD BE CHANGED OFTEN AND FOR THE SAME REASON.

    Some word of true Patriots are as follows, as opposed to the words of false flag patriotism of today.

    He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.
    Benjamin Franklin

    He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.
    Benjamin Franklin

    Experience hath shown, that even under the best forms of government those
    entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
    Thomas Jefferson

    In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
    James Madison

    The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of
    their rulers may be concealed from them.
    Patrick Henry

    "We the People are the rightful masters of BOTH Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution"
    Abraham Lincoln

    America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
    Abraham Lincoln

    We should not forget the Waring of Presentation Eisenhower .
    http://YouTube.be/8y06NSBBR
    The NSA is controlled & operated by the DOD & the MIC (Military Industrial Complex) Private Corporations.

    "The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it."
    President John F. Kennedy
    Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
    April 27, 1961

    As is said in the law, falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. ("False in one thing, false in all things" is an instruction given to jurors: if they find that a witness lied about an important matter, they are entitled to ignore everything else that witness said.)

    Also, as a reminder Hermann Goering said at the Nuremberg Trials .
    "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    NSA General Keith Alexander told lawmakers "that even if approved, the measure would not necessarily end warrant-less collection depending on judicial interpretation."

    Disclaimer: Be advised it is possible, that this communication is being monitored by the National Security Agency, GCHQ or other third party organizations. I neither condone nor support any such policy, by any Government authority or organization that does not comply, as stipulated by the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Just Another Anonymous Troll, 4 Sep 2014 @ 8:25am

      Re: Fasism or Liberty

      The nutbag is strong in this one...
      Voting Independent is pretty much a waste of your vote. The odds of enough people actually choosing independent in your area to count is very low.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Sep 2014 @ 9:10am

        Re: Re: Fasism or Liberty

        The defeatism is strong in your counter argument. Voting independent is better than not voting at all, or voting for the major parties. It is would be nice to actually vote in an independent, but a noticeable independent vote in any election would worry the major parties. Also, a swing to independent politicians has to start somewhere, or the broken system will only get worse.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    gezzerx, 3 Sep 2014 @ 11:59pm

    Fasism or Liberty

    Time for some PAYBACK, wake up people, Democrats or Republicans.Tories or Labor, Liberals or Conservatives it's two sides of the same evil coin it's called Fascism. So the next time either of the above parties asks for your vote, support or money just say no & vote for an independent candidate.

    Send a message they can't ignore & will understand ! ! Both parties have been complicit in this criminal activity. Some will say they don’t want to waste their vote, but you are already wasting your vote on Democrats & Republicans because they are the ones who have already betrayed us & they have been doing it for decades. This should be a joint effort on the part of all Americans, Democrats,Republicans & Independent voters ! Organize now before its to late ! Your liberty is at stake and that of your children & grandchildren !

    The time is NOW so lets make the most of it & here is why the time is NOW ! Fascism or Liberty the choice is your to make . (see link below)
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/01/21/215122/as-independent-voters-numbers.html

    The whole point is to expose this Election Shame for what it is . We need to divide & conquer Democrats & Republicans instead of them providing the American public with false choices, Its time to remove the Corporate Congress ! !

    If you take away their power then you can take away their toys !

    REMEMBER: POLITICIANS, BUREAUCRATS AND DIAPERS SHOULD BE CHANGED OFTEN AND FOR THE SAME REASON.

    Some word of true Patriots are as follows, as opposed to the words of false flag patriotism of today.

    He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.
    Benjamin Franklin

    He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.
    Benjamin Franklin

    Experience hath shown, that even under the best forms of government those
    entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
    Thomas Jefferson

    In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.
    James Madison

    The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of
    their rulers may be concealed from them.
    Patrick Henry

    "We the People are the rightful masters of BOTH Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution"
    Abraham Lincoln

    America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
    Abraham Lincoln

    We should not forget the Waring of Presentation Eisenhower .
    http://YouTube.be/8y06NSBBR
    The NSA is controlled & operated by the DOD & the MIC (Military Industrial Complex) Private Corporations.

    "The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it."
    President John F. Kennedy
    Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
    April 27, 1961

    As is said in the law, falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus. ("False in one thing, false in all things" is an instruction given to jurors: if they find that a witness lied about an important matter, they are entitled to ignore everything else that witness said.)

    Also, as a reminder Hermann Goering said at the Nuremberg Trials .
    "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    NSA General Keith Alexander told lawmakers "that even if approved, the measure would not necessarily end warrant-less collection depending on judicial interpretation."

    Disclaimer: Be advised it is possible, that this communication is being monitored by the National Security Agency, GCHQ or other third party organizations. I neither condone nor support any such policy, by any Government authority or organization that does not comply, as stipulated by the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2017 @ 7:32am

      Re: Fasism or Liberty

      That disclaimer i would have felt a fool to write last year.

      Today, not so much, here goes

      For the database

      Surveillance Consent : No

      Target: GCHQ

      Codeword: Queens Fart Bomb

      Message : GCHQ, Your Criminals, your department and ideals should be shutdown, bulldozed for effect, and laws recognising the cancer that is legalised crime

      Targeted surveilence Consent:Are you fucking kidding me, NO!

      Creation of your own opposition: is this very friendly message in one of your databases? then yes


      The more you push, the more we oppose, the more we oppose, the more you push and so on and so on

      Treating people like second class citizens, yeah okay, sure, why not, heres my sarcastic consent, followed by my retraction of said consent that was never a real consent to begin with, that you no doubt would have taken as, out of context actuall consent

      Bastards

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 4 Sep 2014 @ 5:00am

    And reality imitates arts. V.

    It gets me wonder if the UK will descend into a V like society or if the people will be able to chop some heads and place things back into tracks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2017 @ 6:54am

    Like kids with new toys.....our lives, a plaything

    I was goona say that the uk lost its moral highground a long long time ago, but then i thought, (i dont think they ever had it to begin with), because what they say, (NEGLECT TO SAY, or "PARAPHRASE"), and do, are completely different things, which im sure is something that can be applied to our history books, in times where their actions didnt have to be so covert under the scrutiny of mass communication hence the REAL reason for mass surveillance........i suspect the internet is the closest thing in history that has, i suspect, forced a "governing" body to slow down and watch their step........no, i lie, thinking about it, i suspect newspapers may, or going back further still, the written letter might have had a similar affect.........tv as far as i know, needed uncommon hightech equipment in its day, so, although im sure their might have been media that the powers that be might have no liked, i dont think it would have so prevailent, especially now the powers that be had a new toy to play with that is the tv, to mass transmit directly into folk's homes, if the intent was'nt there at the begining im sure its there now, in the form of conditioned acceptance

    (I like technology, i like the tv for its advancement, i dont like the abuse of PUBLIC technology, in private, things like pentesting your own network or another by request/consent, to test its security should be seen as logically okay, under those strictest requirement, the request, the consent, and the agreed upon action, formality not required :) but the basis, always, by reflex, like the reflex that you go into a store, hand over the leash we call money, and expect a product in return.........how would you feel if the the checkout person simply accepted your mony, said thanks, have a nice day, next.

    We are a conditioned society, because we're not able to lead by example, not even i, not when were constantly being exposed to media>word of mouth that constantly reminds me us to not trust ourselves.........everyone is capable of choosing good or choosing bad, and i dont want to be conditioned to think the worst of us

    We are still living in a world of classes, where the kings, lords and bishops have been replaced with presidents/priministers, politicians, and celebrities.......not all mind you, im sure there are many naive not to realise what they are legitimizing........the definition of equality is not rocket science

    Well, theres my ramble of the day, apologies for any sensitivities, lack of editorial read overs, or the basic knowledge, on the problem, a more knowledgeable person might give more justice too

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.