Belfast Telegraph

Mystery over watchdog leak source

The source of a leak in the Garda watchdog which released detail on fears the offices had been bugged has not been found.

The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) revealed an inquiry into news reports about an alleged surveillance operation at the Dublin headquarters could not establish their origin.

The oversight body, headed by former Metropolitan Police commander Simon O'Brien, said it is difficult to identify any further useful measures which could ascertain more facts.

No other action will be taken, it said.

"The report was unable to establish individual responsibility for any disclosure, either on the part of an employee of Gsoc or any other party," Gsoc said in a statement.

"It concludes that it is difficult to identify what additional information could usefully advance matters, short of obtaining the co-operation of the journalist in question, who declined the invitation."

The report by Mark Connaughton, senior counsel, will not be published in full as the watchdog said it is impossible to effectively redact information to guarantee the protection of personal data.

The reports of suspicions that the Gsoc offices had been bugged were broken by Sunday Times journalist John Mooney.

The controversy dogged relations between the Garda and the ombudsman's offices and the Department of Justice last year and into this year.

It led to repeated and public clashes between Mr O'Brien and former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan and former justice minister Alan Shatter.

The report for Gsoc follows a Government-ordered inquiry by Judge John Cooke which found no evidence to back fears within the watchdog that its headquarters was under hi-tech surveillance.

The finger of suspicion for the supposed bugging was initially pointed at the Garda force.

A London-based counter-surveillance firm, Verrimus, were brought in to try and determine if security at the Middle Abbey Street offices had been compromised.

On the back of the Cooke report Mr O'Brien said one issue in its telecoms system remained outstanding and unexplained.

Gsoc had initially launched a public interest inquiry into the concerns of bugging but did so without notifying Mr Shatter, minister at the time, and sparking the meltdown in relations among policing bodies.

Reports in February stated Gsoc feared government level surveillance in place at its offices which was capable of intercepting mobile phones. The Cooke report suggested it was more likely a 4G network test bed in the local area.

There were also concerns over a wireless device in the ombudsman offices haphazardly transferring data to a nearby internet wifi hotspot in a cafe and a suspected tap on a landline in the Gsoc offices which could not be confirmed or ruled out.

Gsoc said the Connaughton inquiry cross referenced information in the news reports with all possible source documents to establish what specific data may have been leaked.

It was also designed to establish who had access to the documents containing the information, internally and externally.

Gsoc said all current and previous staff identified by Mr Connaughton were interviewed.

All e-mails, photocopier logs, CCTV footage, documentation from investigations, internal policies and procedures and mobile phones were analysed.

"It is the Ombudsman Commission's view that proportionate measures to try to ascertain the facts have been taken," Gsoc said.

"The Commission agrees with the conclusion that it is difficult to identify any further useful measures. In these circumstances, no further action is intended."

Gsoc said several policy, practice and technical measures have been put in place to enhance security of information about its investigations.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has been given a copy of the report.

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