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