UK Police Can't Confirm Or Deny Investigation Of Journalists It Publicly Confirmed In 2013

from the Glomar-logic dept

If you're a UK-based journalist who's reported on the Snowden leaks, it's safe to say you're under investigation. Not only are you being investigated, but that investigation itself is so secret, it can't be discussed. The Intercept's Ryan Gallagher sent a Freedom of Information request to London's Metropolitan Police (the Met) for more information about the investigation -- something twice publicly confirmed by Met representatives.

But when asked specifically for information on the ongoing investigation, the agency had nothing to say.

[T]he Metropolitan Police... says everything about the investigation’s existence is a secret and too dangerous to disclose. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from this reporter, the force has repeatedly refused to release any information about the status of the investigation, how many officers are working on it, or how much taxpayer money has been spent on it. The Met wrote in its response:

"to confirm or deny whether we hold any information concerning any current or previous investigations into the alleged actions of Edward Snowden could potentially be misused proving detrimental to national security.'

In this current environment, where there is a possibility of increased threat of terrorist activity, providing any details even to confirm or deny that any information exists could assist any group or persons who wish to cause harm to the people of the nation which would undermine the safeguarding of national security."
The response is hardly a response. In fact, almost the entirety of the nine-page document Gallagher received is simply reasons WHY the Met won't be responding affirmatively or negatively to his inquiry. The only new information gleaned is that control of the investigation has changed hands.
AC Mark Rowley has taken over as Head of Specialist Operations following the departure of Cressida Dick
That's the one thing the "Counter Terrorism Command" can confirm. This would be the same department within the Met that was directly involved with the detainment and questioning of Glenn Greenwald's partner, David Miranda. Everything else falls under a variety of exemptions, including the oh-so-opaque "state secrets" designation.
The Metropolitan Police Service can neither confirm nor deny whether it holds any of the information that you have requested, as the duty in S1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 does not apply, by virtue of the following exemptions:

Section 23(5) - Information supplied by, or concerning, certain security bodies
Section 24(2) - National Security
Section 30(3) Criminal Investigations
Section 31(3) - Law Enforcement
Section 40(5) - Personal information
There's more detail later, when the response details the agency's decision to declare the request to be "not in the public interest."
The security of the country is of paramount importance and the Police service will not divulge whether information is or is not held if to do so would undermine National Security or law enforcement. Whilst there is a public interest in the transparency of policing operations and providing assurance that the police service is appropriately and effectively engaging with the threats posed by groups or individuals there is a very strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of police investigations and operations in the highly sensitive area of extremism, crime prevention, public disorder and terrorism prevention.


After weighing up the competing interests I have determined that confirmation or denial of any information being held concerning whether the MPS has investigated the alleged actions of Edward Snowden or not would not be in the public interest. To confirm or deny that information is held regarding any individual or investigation that may or may not have taken place could be detrimental to any investigations that may be being conducted now or in the future.
But, of course, all of this discussion about national security, public interest and possibly compromised investigations does not confirm that there's a twice-previously-confirmed investigation of UK journalists in progress.
However, this should not be taken as necessarily indicating that any information that would meet your request exists or does not exist.
This UK-style Glomar tosses the request back to The Intercept, which has tossed it to the nearest governing body..
The Intercept has filed a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office, the public body that enforces the U.K.’s freedom of information laws, about the Met’s refusal to release information about the current status of the investigation. The commissioner will now look at how the police handled the request and decide whether they should be ordered to hand over the relevant details.
Even in the UK, information doesn't want to be free. It wants to be litigated.

The Met continues to maintain its code of silence in the face of its earlier public statements about investigating those publishing the Snowden leaks. When asked how something the agency itself publicly discussed several months ago is now a "national security" issue, the Met offered a swift "no comment" -- a handy way to dodge the logic hole in its Freedom of Information request denial.

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Filed Under: ed snowden, foia, investigation, metropolitan police, police, reporting, uk

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  • icon
    tqk (profile), 23 Mar 2015 @ 4:22pm

    Turnabout's okay?

    You see someone running towards you, looking over their shoulder, then ducking down a side street. Moments later, a couple of Met officers run up to you asking if you saw where this person went.

    "I can neither confirm, nor deny, ... No comment."

    Why not? You don't know why that person was running, nor if they're even the same person the cops are looking for. Why stick your neck out? It's none of your business what that person was up to, nor why the cops want them or suspect them.

    Do the cops really want to go there? If you can't be honest and open with those who're paying your salary on something as trivial as this, what right do you have to expect me to help you pull !@#$ like this?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 23 Mar 2015 @ 4:44pm

    Nothing like having people entrusted with dangerous weapons for enforcing the laws act like the laws do not apply to them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    KRA, 23 Mar 2015 @ 6:00pm

    A secretive government police force with unchallenged authority and unilateral control over information is more of a threat to the public--and to a nation--than any terrorist. I expect we'll see that the courts here are just another appendage of the burgeoning police state. Things like this are happening too often to even be ironic anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 23 Mar 2015 @ 8:05pm

    Tortuous Censorship

    This is nothing but censorship piled on censorship. The whole investigation was to discourage publication of things the government didn't like. Now they're censoring that the investigation ever occurred

    The next stage is going back and burning all those inconvenient books and newspapers.

    " virtue of the following exemptions..." There is nothing virtuous about these. The proper word would be tortuous.

    Tortuous censorship.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2015 @ 8:46pm

    Is this not how Hitler started out?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 23 Mar 2015 @ 8:57pm


      Hitler had the Reichstag burned down, then he blamed the fire on communists and the Jews. To enable the passage of a law that would give him unprecedented power over the country while removing the rights of the citizens all in the name of security.

      Sound familiar to the twin towers and the patriot act at all?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    michael, 24 Mar 2015 @ 12:08am

    metpolice crooks

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    spodula, 24 Mar 2015 @ 1:26am

    Yes but..

    the Official secrets act isn't there to protect secrets,
    its to protect official's!

    Its a common mistake.

    (Shamelessly nicked from "Yes Minister")

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2015 @ 3:30am

    I find their capitalisation of National Security amusing. It's as if it were a real thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PT (profile), 24 Mar 2015 @ 11:54am

    "Freedom of Information Act. Three harmless words. I look at those words as I write them, and feel like shaking my head 'til it drops off. You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it."

    Those are former PM Tony Blair's words, speaking of himself in his memoir, and bitterly regretting that he allowed the FoIA to pass under his administration. When this is the attitude of people at the top, it's hardly surprising if the henchmen pick it up and run with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 24 Mar 2015 @ 1:20pm


      He's a petty tyrant, he doesn't understand what "elected by the people to govern, or run the government" means, and I suspect he slept through all his history classes. "L'etat, c'est moi!" "Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?" Our existence is tolerated so long as we pay the bills. Democracy is doomed so long as the electorate continues to fall for BS like him.

      Sic semper tyranis!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2015 @ 6:42pm

        Re: Re:

        "I suspect he slept through all his history classes."

        To the contrary, he was studying methods and techniques!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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