[Note: This item comes from friend David Rosenthal. DLH]
State sanctions phone and email tapping
Companies that object to order could be brought before private ‘in camera’ court
By Karlin Lillington
Dec 6 2014
Foreign law enforcement agencies will be allowed to tap Irish phone calls and intercept emails under a statutory instrument signed into law by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.
Companies that object or refuse to comply with an intercept order could be brought before a private “in camera” court.
The legislation, which took effect on Monday, was signed into law without fanfare on November 26th, the day after documents emerged in a German newspaper indicating the British spy agency General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had directly tapped undersea communications cables between Ireland and Britain for years.
The Government has refused to comment on the documents – leaked from whistleblower Edward Snowden – which were reported by The Irish Times last Saturday.
Vodafone and Eircom, who co-own the main subsea cable between Ireland and the Britain, both said they had no knowledge of GCHQ intercepts.
Section 541 enacts the third part of the 2008 Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act – which defines how Ireland will collaborate with other governments in criminal investigations – six years after the rest of the legislation was put in place.
Interceptions can only be used in cases with reason, where an investigation is under way, and cannot be used to tap calls indiscriminately.
The newly enacted section also allows the Minister for Justice to request tapping in other countries for an Irish-based criminal investigation, and sets out how requests from other countries to Ireland for such interceptions should be handled.
These are separated into requests for technical co-operation, when the assistance of an Irish-based company is needed to set up an interception, and a requirement that the Irish State be notified when a foreign state intends to tap lines but can legally do so without direct Irish assistance.
The provision for the secret courts is exceptionally unusual.