Just A Phone Call Away

Garda John O’Toole needed a favour. Phone records necessary for a criminal inquiry were trapped in bureaucratic hell, and the investigation was going nowhere.

He phoned his brother-in-law in Garda HQ, asking if he could speed things up. The chief had signed the authorisations, but nothing was happening at the phone company.

DI Nyham said he’d see what he could do. He phoned the GPO, spoke to someone (he couldn’t remember who), explained the problem, rattled off the numbers.

A few days later, the records arrived.

What no one knew was, the Chief hadn’t authorised the application. There was no legal basis for the  search.

That was 1997.The full story is contained in the second Morris report.

This morning, the government introduced a law mandating ISPs to store email and phone call data for up to two years.

The main opposition spokesman, Charlie Flanagan, welcomed the law because someone phoned him recently and told him ‘dissident republicans were using the Internet to recruit members.’

Karlin Lillington has reported several times on the Data retention bill, but few other journalists have paid it much heed.

So which ISP do you trust when someone telephones looking for a favour?

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.