State Surveillance in Ireland Part 3: Surveillance Powers & “Authorisation” Processes

Under the 1993 & 2009 legislation governing surveillance‍ powers in the Republic of Ireland there are wide ranging number of measures available to the relevant sections within An Garda Siochana, The Defence Forces and The Office of the Revenue Commissioners.

This post does not cover the measures available in the 2011 Communications (Retention of Data) Actwhich will be covered in a separate post.

To greatly summarise, under the 1993 and 2009 Acts the various organs of State can:

  1. Place phone taps on fixed line communications;
  2. Eavesdrop fixed line communications;
  3. Carry out unrestricted interception of postal correspondence;
  4. Open and read said correspondence;
  5. Place trackers on postal parcels;
  6. Siphon (Man in the Middle Attacks) and read email communications;
  7. Monitor and record internet usage;
  8. Conduct audio and video surveillance;
  9. Store captured audio and video footage, gained from covert surveillance, for an unrestricted period of time;
  10. Covertly enter a private dwelling or vehicle and install a range of devices to facilitate the above activities;
  11. Covertly re-enter a private dwelling or vehicle to retrieve said devices;
  12. Covertly place tracking devices on any vehicle that it is felt is connected with an investigation;
  13. Track all movements of said vehicles within and outside the jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland;

In order to carry out covert surveillance there are several short cuts available to An Garda Siochana, The Defence Forces and The Office of the Revenue Commissioners to circumvent involving a judge or higher external legal entity outside of the particular organisation seeking permission to perform the surveillance on a person or persons.

It really does not matter though as there is an almost 100% approval rate for surveillance requests whether granted by the famous “Superior Officer” or a Judge. “Superior Officers” can grant surveillance periods of 3 to 4 months depending on which Act is being invoked and all are capable of being granted extensions.

Many surveillance requests are granted in “emergency” situations which does not require external permission and while the Acts themselves cover a range of surveillance methods there are a host of other surveillance tactics that are not governed by the Acts and are carried out with little if any oversight and certainly no transparency with respect to process.

As far as disclosure is concerned – all attempts to gather statistics or specifics are met with a wall of silence or derisory replies.


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