Fri, 12 Aug 2022

DUBLIN, Ireland: The dangers to Ireland have "considerably increased" since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to an official supervising the country's espionage laws.

There are now "very serious threats" to Ireland, which have increased in recent months, said Justice Charles Meenan.

He has called for the passing of up-to-date legislation to allow a variety of agencies to access encrypted communications to protect the State.

He added that the failure of the government to update existing laws will "inevitably have serious consequences."

Meenan is the oversight judge for two of Ireland's espionage agencies that are responsible for the interception of phone calls and posts, and access to traffic data on private communications. He also oversees existing laws to ensure they are followed by the country's intelligence agencies.

The current laws are outlined in the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunication Messages Act 1993 and the Communications Act 2011, known as the Retention of Data.

"There are very serious threats to the security of the State from persons or groups organised within and outside the State," said Meenan, as quoted by the Irish Examiner.

In his report delivered to the Taoiseach, Meenan said it was "essential" that new laws were passed for telecommunications to be intercepted to protect the security of Ireland, as well as combat crime.

While not being specific, Meenan said the Russian invasion of Ukraine has significantly increased the level of danger and threat to the security of Ireland.

Meenan noted that the current laws date to 1993 and are "seriously out of date," as the understanding of 'telecommunication message' was based upon 1983 definitions.

"Though these interceptions still have use, it is necessary, in order to deal with crime and protect the security of the State, that provision is made by statute for there to be access to the transfer of data in encrypted form," he said.

Meenan noted that investigations by European police agencies, and statements by senior Garda officers, have indicated that organised crime gangs takes advantage of encrypted phones to order shootings, drug trafficking and firearms shipments.

Meenan said, in his report to the government,"Updated legislation to provide for such is urgently required and long overdue. A failure to enact such legislation will inevitably have serious consequences for the security of the State and its ability to detect and prevent crime."

Of note, Ireland is preparing to create a new, independent examiner of security legislation as part of its massive reform on An Garda Siochana.

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