[Paul Williams, top, and british security firm Verrimus]
Further to the GSOC bugging brouhaha.
The Irish Independent’s Paul Williams went on RTE Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke this morning to offer alternative explanations for the three security threats discovered by security firm Verrimus in the offices of the Garda Ombudsman’s Commission.
Paul Williams: “There was a wifi device which was located in the Commission’s conference room, it was found to have connected to an external wifi network. Now, our understanding is that a report was subsequently done by the security company to state that, in the first instance they didn’t know which external network it was, that was hitting off their system. They then later established that it was bitbuzz wifi network which was then traced to an insomnia coffee shop on the ground floor of the GSOC building.
We did some further enquiries. We discovered, significantly, that the bitbuzz network was, I understand, introduced to that premises in August of last year. If you walk in, you’re offered, it’s advertised, bitbuzz, you know, you’re given a number to hook into it while you’re in the Insomnia and in the Spar shop – they’re on the corner of Middle Abbey Street and Capel Street. So our understanding is that, and this is based on sources from very close, shall we say, to GSOC, that it was subsequently, this was subsequently discovered, it was reported back and it was reported on paper.
Now, for some reason, neither the Minister (for Justice) nor the Dail committee that met with the GSOC Commissioners last week were informed of this. Also, in relation to the phones, the third anomaly was the use of the UK 3G mobile network, it’s understood that the experts from the security company found this and said this could, and traced it to a much bigger threat. That somebody had an IMSI, it’s a technical term for, it’s like a sting, it’s called a stingray in the business but it’s an IMSI catcher – they believe that this equipment was in existence in the area, based on the fact that they detected a UK 3G network.
Now, in last week’s meeting with the Dáil committee on oversight, the chairman Simon O’Brien told the Oireachtas that he did not have a UK mobile but confirmed that we had UK operatives who were operating [inaudible] and now we asked GSOC yesterday to maybe further elaborate on that, they responded that no GSOC staff member uses a UK phone for official use but when asked to confirm who these UK operatives were they said they were the UK security specialists undertaking the sweep. So, in the confusion, it appears that perhaps they detected the existence of their own English mobile phones while that sweep was going on.”
Sean O’Rourke: “But how does this explain, Paul, this suggestion where the IMSI catcher as you call it, the briefing note said that the specialist firm Verrimus indicated that this level of technology is only available to government agencies and that’s what an awful lot of the concern arose from.”
Williams: “Well there’s another extraordinary sort of twist in this whole story. And this is my colleague Tom Brady yesterday in the Irish Independent revealed that Verrimus company, which was brought in to do this stress assessment actually met with senior gardaí while they were here on that trip and offered them this IMSI catcher for sale. And Verrimus yesterday confirmed this.”
O’Rourke: “Did the gardaí know why Verrimuss were in town? And what the main purpose of their visit was at that stage?”
Williams: “Well, I don’t think so. I don’t know. In that business you don’t tell your left hand what your right hand is doing.”
Williams: “There is an element in our own profession and in particularly in the Opposition, this is being used as an opportunity to, another opportunity to whip the Commissioner, or the Commissioner, and the Minister.”
O’Rourke: “Yes, but equally, it could be suggested that there are elements in your own newspaper who are basically blind to the possibility that Gardaí may have done anything wrong because the line taken by the Irish Independent group has been largely very supportive of the Gardaí and fairly sceptical of GSOC and people who say there’s something afoot here.”
Williams: “I wouldn’t say it’s supportive. I would say, purely from the point of view, you take the story and look at it from a distance and you say, well, on the face of it, this is extraordinary…but when you start breaking it down, it is what if. This, if, for example Sean, you come along and you say that something really seismic had happened in an organisation or in somebody’s life, the first thing people ask is where is the proof and the evidence. The point about it was that we were looking at this and thinking ‘well hang on, there is no, no evidence has been proffered in relation to this.”
Alternatively, from Verrimus:
Previously: Catchers And The Spies
Earlier: Garda Confidential