Tuesday 16 July 2013

Witness Protection, Anyone?

The latest from my regular contributor.

"The Rogue Element of the Private Investigation Industry and Others Unlawfully Trading in Personal Data"

The first version Serious Organised Crime Agency report (2008) was made public in July 2012. It said (p5) there was evidence that private investigators were
(c) accessing details of current investigations against a criminal or criminal group;
(h) attempting to discover location of witnesses

A second version SOCA report (2008) was published July 2013. That version gave more detail, stating private investigators were also (p6)

(j) attempting to discover identity of CHlSes; (Covert Human Intelligence Sources)
(l) attempting to discover location of witnesses under police protection to intimidate them:

July 2nd 2013
The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) took evidence from SOCA's Chair SIR IAN ANDREWS and Director General TREVOR PEARCE. (transcript here)

HASC Chair Keith Vaz cited recent press reports brought to the Committee's attention: "We have also read that private investigators were hired by criminal gangs to infiltrate the witness protection programme... there are criminal acts that have taken place here. The breaking into the witness protection programme is a pretty serious issue.

Trevor Pearce: Other than seeing in the media reporting, I have never heard anything formerly. As a law enforcement officer who has had some significant engagement with the undercover world and the protected persons’ world, I have not heard of that before."

July 9th 2013 
HASC took evidence from Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations (ACSO) CRESSIDA DICK. Nicola Blackwood MP asked about the security and integrity of the MET witness protection programme given press reports of breaches by corrupt private investigators, as mentioned in the 2008 SOCA Report. CRESSIDA DICK responded by clarifying that the SOCA Report was a "strategic analysis of MET material". so it gave nothing to the MET by way of NEW information. She said however that the MET Directorate of Professional Standards and Witness Protection were "highly alert to the media coverage." A scoping exercice is currently underway. Though it was "not surprising serious organised criminals" might attempt to access information on those in witness protection, "we have not had any examples."

"There is risk..., intelligence sometimes that they are seeking to do so...(but) we are not aware of anything in the Metropolitan Police of infiltration of witness protection."

The SOCA strategic analysis utilised five indicative serious crime investigations, plus incorporated intelligence from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) investigation Operation MOTORMAN. (for background see here)

There was a joint Devon and Cornwall Police/ICO raid at the premises of private investigator John BOYALL which revealed that he and another private investigator - Steve WHITTAMORE- were both engaged in illegal data procurement (here).

The seizure included evidence of attempted access to extremely confidential material, according to ICO investigating officer Alex Owens (p4 here):
One VRM (Vehicle Registraion Mark) particular was of great concern to me because clearly written alongside it was ’Protected Number’; Having served within Special Branch during my Police service I knew this particular VRM must relate to a very sensitive individual or operation within the Police. This was subsequently confirmed to me by the Metropolitan Police although I requested no detail.
Boyall sold information on as he was "Sub-contracted to supply information to Stephen Whittamore. Whittamore, Boyall, King and Marshall (Operation Glade) were charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. Boyall and Whittamore were later charged with obtaining information contrary to s55 of the DPA 1998 and received conditional discharge 15.4.05." (p213 here)

One of the five serious crime investigations assessed by SOCA was Operation CARYATID which had resulted in custodial sentences for Clive GOODMAN and private investigator Glenn MULCAIRE. The Investigating Officer (IO) Keith Surtees described the initial handling of the chaotic Mulcaire papers seized on his arrest (p50 here)
I don't recognise a notebook, because I don't recall actually finding one or seeing one. I do recall lots of loose-leaf A4 pieces of paper, as I've said, with various stages of research on, and I think I refer to that within this decision. I see that through the process of -- I think it's probably from August 9, 10 (2006) onwards. I firstly negotiate a group of officers, I think somewhere in the region of 20 or 30 officers, who I negotiate because they're not anti-terrorist branch officers because they're all busy doing Operation Overt and everything else. They're Special Branch officers, they're vetted to the highest level, and it's those officers, I negotiate their overtime, because they're working through weekends when they should be off, and they work through I think for a period of five to seven days to go through all of the documentation, and with that they're briefed by me at the beginning around what I want them to do with that in the first instance, which is to ascertain whether there's anything to undermine or assist the police case with regard to Goodman and Mulcaire, because by then we've charged both Goodman and Mulcaire and my obligations under CPIA kick in
A flawed victim notification policy was challenged later, in September 2011, when there was the Judicial Review -

and the COMMISSIONER of the POLICE of the METROPOLIS (Defendant)

The claimants alleged the MET had failed to notify them that they had been phone hacking targets of private investigator Glenn MULCAIRE. The MET's Mark Maberly was required to give a statement in evidence. He had been Case Officer of the original investigation into Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire - Operation CARYATID. Maberly's statement said (para 50)
On 23rd November 2006 a report was produced by the Directorate of Professional Standards which detailed the results of the examination of the computers and other storage media recovered during the original searches. The report would have been collected shortly after. Included within the report was a computerised address and phonebook of contacts including potential targets. The contents of the report were brought to the attention of the Investigating Officer Keith Surtees. Following on from receipt of this report and in consultation with the SIO, DC Green and I met with an officer from the witness protection unit. There was concern that within the contents of the report were the details of persons who were given new identities as part of a witness protection programme. Those in the programme would include both witnesses and defendants to high profile serious crime. I provided the list for him to view and it quickly became apparent that contained within were names of interest to him. I provided him with a copy of the report to take away. I had no further contact with this officer about the report or the details contained within.
Keith Surtees' evidence to Leveson concurred (p72-73 here):
MR JAY: There were names though in the project list, as it were, that according to Detective Sergeant Maberly were on the witness protection programme. Is that something you knew about?
A. Yes. It was brought to my attention that some names here within this document may well have been from the witness protection programme. What I instructed DS Maberly to do was to contact the witness protection unit, get them to come across to our office, show them the document, get them to look at it, and if there were any risks to people they were protecting, take whatever mitigation they needed to take to protect them. I didn't ask or seek information from the witness protection people around the quantity or individual details of who --
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: Not individual details, but weren't you interested to know whether it was in fact the case?
A. I knew it was the case on some of them because it was quite obvious it was the case.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: Didn't that itself create an enormous issue for you? This must be among some of the most confidential information that's held.
A. Yes, and the officer from the witness protection unit was best placed to take whatever remedial action needed to be taken in regards to that. In terms of the provenance of the information, that also concerned me, yes.
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: But you didn't do anything about that.
A. I had conversations throughout May, June, July and August in terms of the investigation. I had conversations August, September, October, November with regards to the various drips of information that were coming through, and briefed those up.
Q But in that context, if the conspiracy was limited to Goodman and Mulcaire, there would be concern but there wouldn't be enormous concern, but if the conspiracy went wider, as you suspected it did, to others at News International, that concern would be multiplied, wouldn't it, in relation to possible prejudice to those on the witness protection programme?
A. Witness protection programme, access to government ministers, access to military, right across. There were lots and lots of concerns, yes, including the witness protection issues, yes. 
To sum up, this seems to be the chain of communications:

- Metropolitan Police Service SPECIALIST OPERATIONS undertook the original phone hacking investigation - Operation CARYATID - into Goodman and Mulcaire.

- The CARYATID Team borrowed a crew of expensive SPECIAL BRANCH officers with elite Developed Vetting status to undertake a preliminary sift and summary of the Mulcaire papers.

- The resultant summaries revealed that multiple, highly sensitive witness information had been compromised. That sensitive information was communicated to the WITNESS PROTECTION UNIT by the Investigating Officer, who also briefed it up through SPECIALIST OPERATIONS.

- Then the MET provided SOCA with extensive information on the Goodman/Mulcaire investigation for strategic assessment. SOCA undertook its crucial risk analysis , including CARYATID and MOTORMAN, and circulated their restricted Report to key senior policy-makers and agencies.

- The MET was provided with the SOCA Report in Feb 2008. The Director General of SOCA believes it would have gone to the Directorate of Professional Standards and/ or to the Deputy Commissioner.

But five years later, in 2013, neither SOCA nor current ACSO MET SPECIALIST OPERATIONS have ever heard of any private investigator compromising highly secret witness protection data. And that is despite two senior (still serving) officers giving very public evidence twice - to the Judicial Review and to the Leveson Inquiry.

Hackgate has certainly prompted senior rank resignations at the MET. But this can only partially account for the apprently poor 'corporate memory'.

Related Articles
Mayor Boris And The Met Payoffs
Project Riverside And The SOCA Report
All Rise - Justice Saunders At Southwark
The Met - Red Flags And Red Tops
Hackgate - Issues For The Burnton Inquiry Into The Murder Of Daniel Morgan
Hackgate - The IPCC and Surrey's "Collective Amnesia"
Hackgate - Alex Marunchak - Presumed Innocent
Hackgate - Springwatch

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

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