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Maybe no one 'done it' in this spy mystery rolled into a whodunnit


The Garda Ombudsman Commission office on Dublin's Abbey Street

The Garda Ombudsman Commission office on Dublin's Abbey Street

The Garda Ombudsman Commission office on Dublin's Abbey Street

THE confusing GSOC bugging/non-bugging controversy has the kind of intriguing plot John le Carre would have difficulty concocting.

Since the revelation that a security firm found "anomalies" and "potential threats" during a sweep of the watchdog's offices, it has become both whodunit and espionage spy mystery rolled into one.

The fumbling way a member of the Garda Ombudsman Commission leaked the story in the first place – and the confusing explanations given since then – also raised the issue of whether it is really a case of "who might have dunnit" or a "no one dunnit at all".

In the process, serious damage has been caused to both the gardai and the Justice Minister, even though neither was aware of the GSOC security "anomalies" until last Sunday.

Yesterday it emerged that GSOC are concerned that an internal report containing an "inaccuracy", which is repeated three times, was also leaked by a member of staff with the security report. Apparently we will have to wait to see what that inaccurate detail is.

So who would have had an interest in bugging GSOC's offices and what could they stand to gain?


Top of the list of suspects is An Garda Siochana, who were fingered by the damning speculation in the security company report that equipment that might/could have intercepted GSOC mobile phones was only available to "government agencies".

However, the Garda Commissioner angrily rejected the barely disguised accusation and GSOC has now confirmed they don't believe the State spied on them.

The other allegation is that perhaps rogue elements in the gardai were involved in a spying operation.

With the exception of one case, the Boylan affair, the bulk of GSOC's workload involves allegations of assault and abuse of authority against younger gardai.

They would be too far down the food chain to merit sophisticated surveillance.

And those at the centre of the Boylan case already knew almost everything that GSOC knew, because most of the information had been provided by the gardai.

The investigation took four years to complete, which meant that eavesdropping on the discussions of the watchdog's investigators would be of little benefit.


Another scenario is that someone in GSOC was responsible for the plot and had been bugging their colleagues as a result perhaps of an internal rift.

The Ombudsman chairman Simon O'Brien has already told a Dail committee that he has ordered an internal investigation to find out who on his staff leaked the report to a Sunday newspaper.

He has confirmed that only seven people, including himself, knew of the security company report – which means that Mr O'Brien will also have to be interviewed by his own staff as part of the inquiry.


Other potential suspects could come from organised crime or Republican terrorists.

But security experts wonder what value GSOC's information would be to criminals or subversives.

Perhaps it could be argued that, in the right hands, information about a member of the gardai who was under investigation could be useful.

But the logical answer is that because of the nature of complaints GSOC investigate, there is nothing to be gained mounting a sophisticated cyber surveillance operation on them.

The organised crime and terror bosses would much prefer finding ways of spying on the people who actually pose a threat to them – the gardai.


For the most conspiratorial of minds the suspect list could include the NSA, MI5 or CIA, world leaders in the dark arts of espionage.

But it stretches the imagination as to what interest the international spooks would have obtaining intelligence concerning a garda who used his baton once too often.

And that leaves one obvious alternative scenario which has been gaining momentum: no bugging ever took place.

Irish Independent