Committee writes to Shatter berating his ‘disappointing’ response to providing details of GSOC security report
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter had committed to supply a summary of differences between two reports on potential breach of security at Garda Ombudsman’s office
Alan Shatter: told the committee the Rits report had provided an alternative rebutting, or innocent, explanation for each anomaly. He told the committee it would be for retired High Court judge John Cooke to determine during his inquiry which of the two reports was more persuasive. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
A parliamentary committee has criticised as “disappointing” the lack of detail in a document prepared for it by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter on the alleged bugging of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission
Last month, Mr Shatter had undertaken to the all-party Oireachtas Committee on Public Service and Oversight to provide a document summarising the different conclusions reached by two security consultants into three possible security compromises at GSOC’s headquarters on Capel Street in Dublin.
However, the document received by the committee last week included no details or conclusions, rather a series of questions and propositions.
The committee, chaired by Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, agreed to write to Mr Shatter conveying its disappointment at the quality of the response, which it said fell far short of what had been promised by the Minister.
Mr Shatter had appeared before the committee on February 19th to discuss the bugging controversy. In the course of the long hearing the Minister, to cast doubt on the findings of the security firm Verrimus, which had been commissioned by GSOC to conduct a security sweep on its premises, relied on a report commissioned by his department from Irish security company Rits.
Verrimus had found three “anomalies” in security sweeps of the GSOC offices. For one, a possible compromise of a phone in the chairman’s office, it concluded the possibility of an innocent explanation was remote to zero. In relation to the presence of a simulated UK 3G network, it said surveillance equipment used had been of Government-level standard.
Mr Shatter told the committee the Rits report had provided an alternative rebutting, or innocent, explanation for each anomaly. He told the committee it would be for retired High Court judge John Cooke to determine during his inquiry which of the two reports was more persuasive.
Mr Mac Lochlainn pressed Mr Shatter to provide a summary or details of the Rits report and its conclusions to allow the committee to at least compare it with the Verrimus report or assess it.
Differences between reports
Mr Shatter said the department could provide a document summarising the differences between the reports’ conclusions. The document having been sought for three weeks, Mr Shatter wrote to the committee last week with what he said were the “main issues” identified by Rits.
These amounted only to questions asking whether the three conclusions reached by Verrimus had been warranted. The only other details were a question as to whether any other tests for evidence of eavesdropping had been carried out and proved negative (relating to a phone in the GSOC chairman’s room); and whether alternative potential explanations had been adequately explored in relation to the simulated UK 3G network.
Mr Mac Lochlainn said: “The committee has written to the Minister conveying our disappointment with his response and conveying our view that what has been given to us are queries from Rits rather than rebuttals or alternative explanations as suggested by the Minister.”
The Irish Times established last month that the Rits report, which Mr Shatter portrayed as commensurate with the Verrimus report, had been commissioned on a Friday and finished the following Monday. It was a largely desk- based review of the Verrimus report. Mr Shatter has described it as an “information security expert opinion on the Verrimus report” in his correspondence to the committee.