MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Alan Shatter appeared before the Dáil again today, where he maintained that there was “no evidence at all” of surveillance of GSOC, according to a report he received.
He was speaking on a Private Members motion from Sinn Féin on the issue, during which he said that he is concerned that some information was not given to him before his Dáil appearance last week.
Speaking on their motion, Sinn Féin members gave their thoughts on the controversy, which has been raging for over a week.
Minister Shatter is due to appear before the Oireachtas’ petitions committee tomorrow on the issue.
Shatter he said it is important that the issue is dealt with in a calm way and that conclusions are not jumped to.
In his speech he said that a report he received from IT security consultancy firm RITS that set out to clarify the technical information contained in the Verrimus report gives an opinion that “there is no evidence of any technical or electronic surveillance against GSOC”.
He said that he has received more information on the unexplained accessing of the wifi at the GSOC offices, but “as it was confirmed to me that the wifi at no stage accessed any information whatsoever contained in GSOC’s office, there was, of course, no real breach of GSOCs security”.
He said that Verrimus was unable to explain why the wifi was so accessed, but the section 103 report explains that the wifi showed a connection to the Bitbuzz network and the wifi system was found to be connecting to another wifi system in an Insomnia coffee shop within a Spar outlet in the building occupied by GSOC.
“I am unaware of any credible information that surveillance is being conducted on GSOC’s offices by any of the customers of Insomnia,” said Shatter, but said he was concerned this information was not given to him prior to the Dáil debate last week.
Shatter also said that though he initially thought that an inquiry into the matters was unnecessary, there is now a need to “bring absolute clarity” to all of the matters.
This was what led to the announcement of an inquiry into the situation earlier today.
The Minister said he has had to listen, in recent days, to “allegations made that I am seeking to undermine the role of GSOC or that I may want to abolish it altogether”.
He said that:
While I don’t doubt the general legitimacy of concerns that have been expressed at reports of potential threats of surveillance of GSOC, I think it is a pity that we could not have had a more balanced debate on these matters.
Shatter also stated that one of the potential threats identified by GSOC, the use of a bogus UK network, could only involve technology available to Government agencies.
But he said that information on the technology needed to create a bogus network – an IMSI catcher – “is widely available on the internet”.
Shatter concluded his speech by pleading with deputies, saying “we’ve had a week of hyperbole, of hysteria”.
He said that one journalist contacted his office wanting to know what he was doing about bugging journalists. “I’m doing nothing about bugging journalists – I’m not bugging journalists,” said Shatter.
Could we have a discussion based on fact, not on fiction.
Sinn Féin Deputy Jonathan O’Brien described the situation as having “limped from chaos to crisis to chaos to crisis”.
He said that the “entire situation has become a farce and public confidence is on a downward spiral”.
Sinn Féin is calling for independent inquiry and for all options to be considered, including a commission of investigation into the situation.
He described Minister Shatter’s setting of the terms of reference of the inquiry as “like the fox designing the chicken coop”.
Caoimhghin O Caolain said there had been a “closing of ranks” over the issue.