Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly and the party’s spokesperson on communications in the senate is calling on the Justice Minister to explain why foreign law enforcement agencies, including the British spy organisation General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) are being allowed access to Irish phone-calls and emails. The interception of underground cables was reported last weekend, and it’s now emerged that Minister Frances Fitzgerald has signed in a law which will allow this practice to continue.
Senator Daly commented, “I find it shocking that the Government would stand over the tapping of Irish data by foreign spy agencies. What’s worse is the fact that this practice has been commonplace for years and nothing has been done to stop it. The scale of this tapping is unknown, but it is possible that all Irish internet activity could have been monitored via these underwater cables.
“The details of this mass monitoring came to the fore last week following the publication of documents from US whistle-blower Edward Snowden, and raise serious questions about what the Irish Government knew about the bugging. Minister Fitzgerald has remained silent on the issue despite the revelations making national and international headlines.
“The Government has been extremely secretive in its handling of this controversy; and has now enacted a law to legitimise this surveillance. Minister Fitzgerald signed the relevant section of the 2008 Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act into law at the end of November, almost keeping it under the radar, until the release of the Snowden files, which brought it to the public’s attention last week. Despite the subsequent media attention, the Minister has remained stony silent.
“This new legislation gives extended powers to Governments to pressure telecommunications companies into allowing them access to information and threatens them with “in-camera” private court hearings should they fail to comply. This is an extremely worrying development, and could leave personal and business data like text messages, emails, voice messages and phone calls open to exploitation.
“Minister Fitzgerald must clarify the terms of this legislation and give assurances that no monitoring will be allowed unless it is part of sanctioned criminal investigations”.