TJ McIntyre: Circling of the wagons proves how secretive surveillance system is lacking real oversight
The reaction of the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána to the latest phone-tapping scandal has been a predictable circling of the wagons. As usual, those bodies have refused to address the details of the allegations. We have seen generic statements, asserting that there is a legal basis for phone tapping and that it is subject to judicial oversight.
The problem with that response is simple: it is clear that both the Irish law on phone tapping and the way it is implemented fail to meet fundamental international standards.
Take the most basic starting point: who decides whether a phone tap should take place? International human rights law requires that interception of communications be authorised by a judge or an equivalent independent body. In Ireland, however, this power is given to the Justice Minister - leaving it open to allegations of political motivation.