Our previous article BBC Panorama - GCHQ mobile phone interception and tracking and the Omagh bomb attack and speculations, seem to have been broadly correct.
The half hour broadcast programme itself, did not really add any extra factual details to the Sunday Telegraph article.
However, the BBC Panorama programme website does have an interesting transcript of full interview with Ray White (.pdf) (110Kb) , the former Assistant Chief Constable in charge of Crime and Special Branch for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, who features heavily in the programme.
This interview also reveals some of the other material, e.g. details of communications traffic data and intercept recordings, and other reports and transcripts which the BBC journalist John Ware seems to have been given access to.
Ray White and John Ware discuss:
- The matrix of friends , families and associates which gets hoovered up when a particular telephone number comes under suspicion and telephone interception and communications data traffic analysis.
- The difficulty of picking up the significance of coded phrases, which, even if intercepted might be plausible sounding construction work or taxi service related phrases.
- The very limited phone capability of, what was then the Royal Ulster Constabulary's Special Branch, compared to GCHQ.
- The inadmissibility of telephone intercept evidence , or even reference to it , under the Interception of Communications Act 1985, which was in force at the time.
(N.B. the same restrictions and mindset continue today under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000).
- The sensitivity of the possible disclosure of any cross border monitoring of communications, brought home recently by the Capenhurst Phone Tap Tower case, which reached the European Court of Human Rights, which found in favour of the human rights organisations Liberty Human Rights and their Irish equivalents, the British Irish Rights Watch and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties - see the Spy Blog article Liberty wins a minor European Court of Human Rights judgment against the UK Government over telephone and electronic data interceptions
- The political aspect of any such disclosures with respect to the ongoing Peace Process between the United Kingdom and Irish republic governments and the factions in Northern Ireland.
- The possible pressures which timely cell site analysis etc. might have been able to put even experienced terrorists under, during the Police interrogations, had anybody actually been arrested in the immediate aftermath of the bomb attack.
- Mention of problems regarding data entry into the Holmes system, the major inquiry data system linked into the Police National Computer.This has ow been upgraded to Holmes 2)
- Issues of evidential disclosure versus the protection of intelligence sources
- The possible relaxation of the ban on the use of intercept evidence, now that so many other countries use it against Al Quaeda etc.