1,700 mobile records checked 'in error'
Wednesday 26 November Almost every News International journalist with a company mobile phone between 2005 and 2007 will have had records of the calls they made scrutinised by Metropolitan Police working on Operation Elveden.
The Times's crime editor Sean O'Neill reports today that Vodafone handed records relating to 1,757 phones to the police, who were seeking information under RIPA about a single reporter's calls. The phones had been used by journalists, lawyers, secretarial staff and senior executives.
When Vodafone realised the error, it asked for the records to be returned and later wrote to the Met expressing concern that it continued to retain them.
The records were sent to the police in October last year, but it was not until police analysts burnt the material on to a CD in March that they noted that they had "excess material". Three months later, after reviewing the data and making a spreadsheet, the force contacted the Information Commissioner to make an error report. In the meantime it had, according to the Times, returned to the material to find out information about five more journalists, lawyers and sources.
Read the original article here and Roy Greenslade's view here
Six challenge Met's 'extremist' database
Peer fails to force snooping law change
Wednesday 29 October A Liberal Democrat peer failed last night to persuade the Government to insist that police get permission from a judge before looking at journalists’ phone records.
Lord Strasburger had put forward an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill, but Lady Williams of Trafford, for the Government, said that it was not necessary, given the strict regulation the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act already contained, and additional safeguards that were being put in place.
The Justice Minister Simon Hughes had said earlier this month that provisions would be put in place to ensure that a judge's authority was required, rather than that of a senior police officer as at present. The Home Office had also said that the administration of RIPA would be reviewed and a new code on how it should be applied would be laid before Parliament by Christmas.
Lord Strasburger had told the Lords:
"The purpose of this amendment is to graft on to RIPA similar protections to those already applying under PACE: judicial oversight of applications involving journalists’ records and legally privileged information, and to require an open hearing with both sides represented. The judge will need to be satisfied that disclosure is necessary for the detecting or preventing of serious crime, and that the request for data is proportionate to what is being sought to be achieved with it. The judge will have to have particular regard to the protection of legally privileged information and journalistic sources."
His initiative, which had support from members of all parties, came a month after Press Gazette began its campaign against police using the legislation to spy on journalists, starting with a change.org petition. At the same time, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism laid a case against the use of Ripa in the European Court of Human Rights. Since then
Editor's blog Press freedom, Hacked Off and credit where it's due
Guest blog, Tim Crook Threat to sources is a threat to democracy
Police must detail spying on journalists
Monday 6 October Every chief constable in Britain is being told to produce full details of how they are using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) after complaints that some forces are taking advantage of the legislation to spy on journalists and uncover their sources.
Sir Paul Kennedy, acting interception of communications commissioner, said today: "My office will undertake a full inquiry into these matters and report our findings to the Prime Minister and publicly so as to develop clarity in relation to the scope and compliance of this activity...I fully understand and share the concerns raised about the protection of journalistic sources so as to enable a free Press."
The move comes the day after the Mail on Sunday splash on how Kent Police trawled through its records to discover the source of the speeding ticket story that sent Chris Huhne to jail.
Press Gazette had already started the Save Our Sources campaign to protect journalists from misuse of the act - which was passed as an anti-terrorism tool - after the disclosure that the Metropolitan Police had gone through Sun phone records to find out who leaked the Plebgate story.
Press Gazette also reported that Service personnel were now required to report any social contact with journalists - even within their families. Members of the armed forces were also being told to notify press officers if they mix with people associated with the media, such as "academics, representatives of industry and think-tanks".
As a result it set up a change.org petition, which now has more than a thousand signatures. Supporters include Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, who said at the weekend that he would be challenging Kent Police and would also suggest that the information commissioner be invited to appear before his committee. The Liberal Democrats decided at their conference yesterday to back the campaign after hearing from the Hacked Off leading light Evan Harris.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalists is already challenging Ripa in the European Court of Human Rights in the light of the surveillance programmes revealed by Edward Snowden and the Met's review of Tom Newton Dunn's phone calls. The Times reported last month that authorities made 514,608 requests for data under the act last year.
Read more on this story here and you can sign the petition here.
Editor's blog Press freedom, Hacked Off and credit where it's due
The Metropolitan Police secretly snooped on the call records of Sun Political Editor Tom Newton Dunn, to hunt down the source of the 2012 “Plebgate” story.
When the News of the World phone-hacking scandal broke, the Met launched the biggest investigation in British criminal history...
By contrast, Scotland Yard’s response this time has been “move along, nothing to see here”. They insist that spying on The Sun to catch a whistle-blower was “proportionate, legal and necessary”.
So it’s official. Phone-hacking is not a crime or a scandal — so long as it’s the secret police hacking the tabloid Press.
This sheer scale of RIPA requests in the UK is astounding. If some English-born Snowden had leaked the extent that the police and other UK public bodies routinely obtain the telecoms data of citizens then there may have been angry uproar; but the British state sensibly makes no secret of it and just publishes the aggregate totals in obscure official reports, and so everyone shrugs. So it is likely that there will be about half a million RIPA requests this year, as there has been for each of the last few years; but the only one to create any media storm was the one which has come to light about a journalist.
Fewer whistleblowers mean fewer stories. Fewer stories mean the publication of less public-interest information. Less information means an enhancement of our already secretive society. The police are misusing Ripa to discover how journalists obtain stories.
The police use the same process that a journalist and editor use when they decide to investigate someone. The journalist and editor can decide the public interest to investigate someone. They do not have to go to the judge to exercise that public interest.
Unlike the journalists, the police are legally required to record their decisions. They have to sign the order authorising the investigation and retain a record of that decision.
In this way, the police are accountable to the Data Protection Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and the Surveillance Commissioner.
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