Paul Williams: A pathetic toady for Shatter and Callinan

In a previous article I wondered whether Irish Independent journalist Paul Williams was an uninformed novice or a heavily biased journalist writing with a particular agenda.

I suspected he was biased but in a subsequent article Williams has not only revealed his extreme bias but also his thin skin when anybody dares to challenge his very questionable journalism.

In what can only be described as a childish rant Williams reveals himself as an overly sensitive amateur when it comes to covering stories outside his comfort zone.

Instead of responding in a professional manner to journalists who strongly criticised his latest theory on the bugging scandal Williams headed for the gutter in search of sewage to throw at his perceived enemies.

Claiming he was attacked by a ‘marauding group’ of journalists barely out of college, liberal commentators, social media commentators and Sinn Fein Williams abandoned any trace of professionalism he may have possessed.

He was also strongly critical of RTEs ‘politically correct pundits’ but didn’t have the courage to actually name those he condemned.

Crying onto his keyboard he claimed he was being victimised for refusing to accept the wisdom of the ‘media mob’.

But Williams really confirmed his status as a gutter journalist when he resorted to a smear that I haven’t seen used in this country for many years.

Here, in his own words:

It was astonishing to watch as this marauding group swooped to defend a UK security company – some of whose employees are former agents of the dreaded crown – that was used by GSOC.

This crude attempt to stir up anti-British sentiment, particularly as Williams would be well aware that GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien is a UK citizen, is disgusting in the extreme.

This excuse for a journalist claims that his job in life is to put facts on paper and let the public make up their own minds.

In reality, he’s nothing but a pathetic toady for Shatter and Callinan.

Paul Williams: Biased in favour of Garda Commissioner and Minister for Justice?

Irish Independent journalist Paul Williams is an expert when reporting on crime.

He’s also a very courageous journalist, a man who has put his life on the line in his determination to expose those who operate in the murky criminal underworld.

It is clear, however, that when it comes to matters outside of his expertise Mr. Williams is either an uninformed novice or is a heavily biased journalist who writes with a particular agenda.

A recent article by him on the GSOC scandal makes the point.

Williams first claims that there was an unfair inference that ‘shadowy renegades’ within the Gardai were to blame.

Any informed, objective observer would immediately see that the Gardai, whether shadowy or official, were indeed the likely suspects.

It is standard police practice the world over to first focus on the most obvious suspects of a crime before considering other leads.

The Gardai are, without a shadow of doubt, the chief suspects in this case.

He next claims, and he clearly sees this as outrageous, that GSOCs decision not to alert Justice Minister Shatter of the bugging infers that they don’t trust him.

And that is effectively an insult to Shatter, who even his most vocal critics agree, is a man of unflinching integrity.

Objective journalists do not make such unambiguously supportive claims in favour of individuals, and particularly politicians, who are involved in serious controversy.

As for Shatter’s so-called integrity?

I don’t believe that a politician who effectively bullies a police officer when asked to provide a breath test is a man of integrity.

I don’t believe that a politician who attacks Garda whistleblowers who are courageously seeking justice and accountability is a man of integrity.

I don’t believe that a politician who uses confidential police information to attack a fellow politician is a man of integrity.

As part of his argument in support of the Gardai and Minister Williams quotes the Taoiseach’s (completely mistaken) claim that GSOC had a legal obligation to report the matter to the Justice Minister.

An objective journalist would have done his research by having a quick look at the easily accessible legislation.

Williams then goes on to claim that serious criminals and terrorists would be interested in bugging GSOC.

Not even the Garda Commissioner nor Shatter, both of whom are desperately struggling to put this scandal behind them, are prepared to make such a silly claim.

As I said at the beginning Mr. Williams seems to be either an uninformed novice or is heavily biased in favour of the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice.

Given Mr. Williams’ long and close connections with the Gardai I suspect the latter is the case.

Copy to:
Paul Williams

Bugging interview rooms

I touched on this subject back in April, when at the time I wondered why the Irish media seemed to be asleep at the wheel when it came to the significance of the allegations John White had made concerning garda bugging of interview rooms.

Six months later, the Sunday Independent leads with a story concerning the allegations. I’ll quote the whole lot to save you registering.

SENIOR gardai sanctioned the bugging of solicitors, a priest and relatives of prisoners held in garda stations, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Details of the systematic use of eavesdropping equipment emerged following reports that a bug was installed in Letterkenny Garda Station to listen in on conversations between members of the McBrearty family, between periods of interrogation, in December 1996.

One of the detectives involved in the McBrearty case, Det Sgt John White, has made a statement to the Morris inquiry outlining the common use of such techniques.

In his statement, he names several senior gardai, retired and serving, who he said sanctioned the illicit eavesdropping. White’s claims have been supported by other detectives who say the practice was carried out regularly in major investigations.

He said the quipment was a “Nagra” recorder, manufactured by the Swiss electronics firm, Kudelski, which specialises in security and listening equipment. White said that the buggings were most commonly used in cases where the prisoners were not serious criminals or subversives. Professional criminals and IRA members were least likely to discuss matters of interest to investigators.

He also claimed he came across bugging about 50 to 60 times during his period of service in the Murder Squad between 1980 and 1994.

He said the secret information was never discussed at major investigation conferences, where between 20 and 40 gardai might be present, but at “mini conferences” of between five and 10 officers.

The most common question at these meetings, he said, was, “Anything from the tapes?” and the answer would usually be given by a detective superintendent or detective inspector.

He had never heard the detectives raise concerns about the practice. He said there was little cognizance given to conversations with solicitors whose advice to clients – in what should under law have been private – invariably involved advice not to answer any more questions.

He said: “I cannot remember any earth-shattering revelations being made by prisoners to their solicitors.”

White, who was acquitted last July of planting a shotgun in a travellers’ site in Donegal, in 2001, but who was subsequently criticised in three reports of the Morris tribunal, said that during his time as a detective the process of bugging prisoners’ private conversation was called “boxing”.

He said: “Officers and members, including myself, believed that we were entitled to use covert recording equipment in the struggle against crimes of murder and other very serious crimes.

“It was not a case of being entitled to do so by law, but on the assumption that the equipment would not harm any innocent person and that the persons being listened to were either persons who had committed a very serious criminal act or were murderers.

“It was quite clear that this system could not have operated for so many years without the knowledge and approval of the most senior authority within An Garda Siochana. This system of covert recording was being used as a tool by detectives, in an effort to solve crime, and while it could not be regarded by any member of An Garda Siochana as being lawful, it was not regarded by those aware of its existence as being morally wrong.

“I heard many times the phrase ‘to box them’ being used by officers and members in relation to the covert recording of meetings between prisoners and other prisoners, and between prisoners and visitors. This was a reference to placing the respective parties together in a room that was bugged.”

Det Sgt White also said that while he had no documentation on the recordings, there should be in existence – “if they have not been destroyed” – written requests from divisional and district offices for the listening equipment.

He said these forms were known as A 85 and A 13.

He said that two retired detectives stated that they had reported allegations of recordings to their authorities, the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, and the Morris tribunal, in writing. They informed me that their superiors had not taken the matter seriously and that they believed a proper investigation was not undertaken and that the matter was being covered up by the Garda Authorities.”

Why it took six months I don’t know. But the seriousness of White’s allegations are the same now as they were six months ago. The mini-module relating to the bugging will begin at either the end of November or early in the new year. The repurcussions of it could be huge. The tribunal has listed the following people to appear in relation to the bugging mini-module:

Detective Sergeant John White

Garda John Dooley

John Fitzgerald

Joseph Shelly

John McGinley

Sergeant Joseph Costello

Denis Fitzpatrick

Detective Chief Superintendent Austin McNally

Paudge Dorrian

Garda Tina Fowley

James Sweeney

John Costello

Superintendent James Paul Sharpe

Gardai examine hundreds of phone records

Interesting to see how ‘official’ phone bugging is going..

Hundreds of private telephone records are being examined by the Garda Síochána every month, the Data Protection Commissioner said

Gardai currently are entitled to get access to the records during inquiries about any crime, regardless of its seriousness, said the commissioner, Billy Hawkes, who published his annual report yesterday.

An initial request for the records of one individual suspected of criminality can frequently provoke requests for the records of every individual listed on the suspect’s file, he added.

“Just make sure that you don’t ring the number of a major criminal by mistake, or you could find that your records are listed,” he told journalists yesterday, though he emphasised that there is no evidence that the gardaí were improperly using their powers.

The inspection of a citizen’s telephone records should not be the “first option, or a routine option” for the Garda.

Under proposed EU legislation, which is being opposed by Minister for Justice Michael McDowell, telephone records would have to be stored for between six months and two years in all EU member states, but they would be made available to police only during serious crime investigations.

What John White alleged

Here are some parts of the transcripts from Morris. Morris reacted with exasperation that Gardai may be bugging solicitors.

Chair: You have mentioned bugging and similar type activities?
White: There was Chairman, yes
Chair: Are you aware of other members who actually witnessed this type of unauthorized activity?
White: I would be aware from experience, Chairman, of particular members in Dublin. But in relation to bugging and perhaps this is of no interest to you, but it is of interest to me, it’s outside of Donegal but Sargeant Thomas Murphy and Garda James McGrath did witness bugging of an interview room and they were beside the man and the machine and they can name the man that was using it and the made statements to that effect. They cam to the Tribunal here one day and they met me at the back of the Tribunal in the corner there some time ago, maybe a year and a half ago, and they told me that they were quite willing to give evidence about all this. It was in a murder case in Cork in ’92 and they can definitely give sworn evidence that the interview room was bugged and they saw it happening and they heard it happening.
Chair: Are they prepared to come forward and confirm that to the Tribunal?
White: They are and they have made statements to their own superintendent about it. There was supposed to be an investigation but I believe it was a cover-up – – well they believe it was a cover-up and they have told me that. They have all the reports, all the documentation necessary to show that.

Ref 747:

McDermott: Just in relation to the bugging issue and the reference which you made in the broader sense to the existence of bugging in other circumstances, on other occasions and the one incident that you were able to concretize in relation to the Chairman in relation to the Cork matter?
White: Yes
McDermott: And the two men you named, and we won’t name again. I have asked for a search to be done in relation to correspondence to the Tribunal and just as a matter of record, one of the gentlemen did initially write to the Tribunal concerning a matter in Cork relating to bugging and was told by the Tribunal that it was outside the Terms of Reference of the Tribunal. Of course strictly speaking it was. Now, your allegation in relation to the bugging, the generalized bugging issue is now a much wider allegation as and of course what you are saying now is in relation to that particular incident is that as far as you are concerned, it is an example of your general allegation that this was widespread throughout the force; isn’t that right?
White: Yes. Mr. McDermott, that’s right.
McDermott: Thereby making what well may be or may have been deemed to be a matter outside the Terms of Reference relevant to your presentation to the Tribunal. That’s why you are referring to it; is that right?
White: Very strongly, Chairman, yes. I find it very difficult to get people to come forward in relation to this. That is one particular situation. I would very much appreciate if the Tribunal would hear evidence in the future.

Ref 288:

Chairman, at this stage it would be appropriate for the senior Garda authority to come clean in relation to bugging. It cannot be covered up. There are at least two hundred men alive at the moment, and women, probably a lot more, who know exactly what went on over the years, some of them are still serving in the job, and to try and cover it up on a nationwide scale, it can’t be done. It just can’t be done. It did happen. The equipment was bought and purchased at extensive cost to do it. It was not a universal approach, in certain cases they were done and it’s not just down to interview rooms. It’s houses, cars, apartments and phones. And it’s done illegally, totally illegally, and the senior Garda authority know this is the case. I know that I am saying it on oath. I can give you specific – in the next module.
Chair: Sargeant White, what concerns me is the suggestion, more than a suggestion, the statement that is apparently before, that solicitors consultation were being bugged.
White: Yes.
Chair: Whether listening devices are used outside of that –
White: Oh yes.
Chair: – is a matter that I haven’t got to concern myself with. But I do have to concern myself with the allegation that in these particular cases the solicitors’ consultations were bugged.
White: Yes
Chair: You’re saying that happened
White: It happened
Chair: And you saying that it happened as a matter of practice elsewhere; is that correct?
White: Yes
Chair: Solicitors’ consultations?
White: In face I personally heard, Chairman, that one priest was bugged talking to a prisoner. I can give the name of the prisoner. It’s quite some time ago.
Chair: Solicitors, is that what we are talking about?
White: Right, yes. Yes, of course to try and glean any information that would progress the investigation. It wouldn’t be used afterwards, it couldn’t be used obviously, look, I did it but I’m not going to say a word, I am going to keep quiet. Then you’d be on the right track, you couldn’t use it but it would be a great help.
Chair: And that was done with the knowledge and approval of senior officers, you’re saying?
White: It would be done, yes, with the D/I or the D/Super in the area.

An issue for bloggers?

The Morris Tribunal has recently made transcriptions available to the public. The day I have been most interested in of late is Day 434. It occurs to me that certain aspects of placing this material online have not occurred to the Tribunal.

For example at Ref 666:

Chairman Morris:

…So I’m going to make a request to the media for the moment that those names be excluded from any reports there may be. By all means report in full the contents of what Sargeant White has said, but please do avoid using the names in a way that would identify the two people involved until such time as we have had an oppurtunity of considering where we go from there.

But the two Gardai are clearly named by White a paragraph above. What do bloggers do in this situation?