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This is what Cooke found out about those three anomalies at GSOC

Were the Ombudsman’s offices bugged or not?

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

AN INQUIRY INTO alleged bugging at the Garda Ombudsman has found there was no evidence of surveillance at the Dublin offices.

In his report, retired High Court judge John Cooke said that there was also no evidence of gardaí carrying out such surveillance.

The 68-page document looks to explain the three technical and electronic anomalies that were revealed in a Sunday Times article in February this year – and that led to the formal inquiry.

Before delving into the specific issues in his conclusions, Cooke did offer a general get-out-of-jail card for GSOC over its reaction to the results of Verrimus’s security sweep of the office.

In his observations, he noted that because of a lack of explanation in non-technical language, it would be easy for a non-expert reader to pick up an “exaggerated understanding of the significance of its findings”.

He pointed to such words and terminology as ‘red flag warning’, ‘multiple threat detected’, ‘guaranteed threat’ and ‘very highly vulnerable’ that were used by Verrimus in its report back in October 2013.

“Furthermore, the presentation of the findings is not always easy to follow,” he added.

They were presented unexpectedly with an apparent result they did not anticipate from the security sweep which understandably caused great concern, even alarm, having regard to the terms in which the findings were expressed. They had carefully chosen and then relied upon expert advices from a reliably recommended specialist firm.

Cooke also outlined that events were “heavily influenced by the atmosphere of frustration and tension that had arisen in relations between GSOC personnel and the senior ranks of the Garda Síochána”.

He said these tensions led to “the raising of suspicions”.

“It is also clear, however, that the investigating officers and the members of the Commission acted in good faith in taking the steps in question once presented with the TSCM Report.

Indeed it is understandable that, presented with the existence of two apparently serious threats to their security, their primary concern was to move quickly to take the steps necessary to investigate and, if necessary, counter those threats.

“They were possibly unduly alarmed by the language used and perfunctory exposé of the findings presented in that report. It is unfortunate that further elucidation and advice from Verrimus or a second opinion was not sought before the P.I. investigation was commenced.”

Device 4B

Back in February, it was claimed that a wireless AV remote control device for audio and video equipment in GSOC (known as Device 4B) was connecting and transferring data to an external ‘Bitbuzz’ hotspot in a nearby café.

Cooke said it “seems highly improbable that the haphazard performance of such a remote control device” was because of covert eavesdropping on GSOC in a “sophisticated  surveillance exercise by any agency equipped with a capability of ‘intelligence service level’”.

He added that the view that the abnormal behaviour of the equipment was “sinister” should be reconsidered given that it did not have a microphone enabled, as had been assumed, and its original default password was publicly available and had not been changed.

UK 3G Network

Having regard to the explanation given by the mobile phone network in relation to the testing of the 4G/LTE equipment at the time, it is clearly more probable that the iPhone scan detection of the country/network code was not caused by the presence in the vicinity of the offices of an IMSI catcher, notwithstanding the points to the contrary made by Verrimus.

This is what Cooke had to say about the alleged fake UK 3G network (thought to be an IMSI catcher intended to facilitate the tracking and interception of mobile phones).

It was detected on an iPhone as operating near the offices. The report finds that was much more likely to have been cause by the testing of a new 4G installation by a mobile phone provider.

That provider told Cooke that during the time (September/October 2013), it was testing equipment for its new service close to Upper Abbey Street, where GSOC’s headquarters are located.

The number used matched the provider’s ‘test bed’ in the UK and the firm itself believed the detection of the code could have come from its tests.

Ring-Back

This one remains largely unexplained but Cooke is firm in his belief there is no evidence the anomaly was “attributable to an offence or misbehaviour” by a member of the force.

The anomaly saw a nocturnal ring-bank to a ‘polycom’ teleconferencing device which came after an alerting test on the device at about 2am.

Cooke questions the given explanation of human error or mistaken intervention in monitoring of a tap on the phone line.

He concluded that there was an unexplained scientific or technical anomaly.

Whatever the explanation may be, there is no evidence that the ring-back reaction was necessarily attributable to an offence or misbehaviour on the part of a member of the Garda Síochána.

Cooke Report: There is no evidence that GSOC was bugged by gardaí

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