Monday, March 12, 2012

We haven't heard much about this in the papers

This post has been cross-posted at Harry's Place

Operation Motorman was an inquiry in 2003 when the UK information Commissioner looked into breaches of the Data Protection Act by the British Press.

An piece from the Indy here gives some of the details :
Operation Motorman was set up by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to look into widespread breaches of data protection laws by the media. In a signed witness statement given to The Independent, Motorman's original lead investigator, a retired police inspector with 30 years' experience, accuses the authorities of serious failings, and of being too "frightened" to question journalists.

"I feel the investigation should have been conducted a lot more vigorously, a lot more thoroughly and it may have revealed a lot more information," he said. "I was disappointed and somewhat disillusioned with the senior management because I felt as though they were burying their heads in the sand. It was like being on an ostrich farm."

He claimed that had investigators been allowed to interview journalists at the time, the phone-hacking scandal and other serious breaches of privacy by the media may have been uncovered years earlier. "The biggest question that needed answering was, why did the reporters want all these numbers and what were they doing with them?" His comments reflect badly on the ICO, and the Press Complaints Commission, which was given early notification of the evidence in the Motorman files. "We weren't allowed to talk to journalists," he said. "It was fear – they were frightened."

The PCC said last night that it had never been given sight of the Motorman evidence but had strengthened its code and issued industry guidelines which had led to an improvement in standards. All the information has been in the hands of the authorities since 2003, when a team from the ICO seized the material from the home of private detective Stephen Whittamore. Whittamore and three other members of his private investigation network were given conditional discharges when Motorman came to court in 2005. No journalists were charged, although the files contain prima facie evidence of thousands of criminal offences. Thousands of victims disclosed in the paperwork have never even been told they were targeted.
Now the Leveson inquiry has seen all the files from Operator Motorman, but as detailed here on the Hacked off campaign site they have not been made public. Today however there has been an application to make them public :
Lord Justice Leveson has recognised a request from the Hacked Off campaign for the Operation Motorman database to be published.

The judge said David Sherborne, barrister for the core participant victims, was welcome to formally submit the request if he thought it would highlight the culture and practice of the press rather than “who did what to whom”
A lot of journos would appear to have been in the frame after the Whittamore inquiry, see here :
The ICO later obtained search warrants for the Hampshire office of a private detective Steve Whittamore.[5] A huge cache of documents revealed, in precise detail, a network of police and public employees illegally selling personal information obtained from government computer systems. The personal information that Whittamore obtained from his network was passed on to journalists working for various newspapers including the News of the World, the Sunday Times, the Observer, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror.[5] At least 305 different reporters have been identified as customers of the network.[6]
Mmm - I wonder if the cops are going to start going after the 305 journalists named in this investigation ? And if they don't what will that mean to the trials (if they ever happen) of the journos who are presently in the frame ?

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