Police: “Conceivable” that security services act in Scotland without their knowledge


Admission follows revelations over secret Scottish spy system linked to GCHQ

SECRET SURVEILLANCE can take place in Scotland without the knowledge of the domestic police, an assistant chief constable has admitted during evidence to MSPs.

Police Scotland assistant chief constable Steve Johnson, questioned by Green MSP and ex-officer John Finnie, said it was “conceivable” that there are ongoing operations in Scotland that the police would be unaware of. 

Finnie has since expressed “concern” that the system of security service surveillance in Scotland lacks proper oversight, having previously raised concerns over whether it was following human rights law

The relationship between Police Scotland and the UK security services was revealed when CommonSpace reported that little-known policing group the Scottish Recording Centre (SRC) gained access to millions of information logs of phone, internet and social media activity from UK spy agency GCHQ.

The revelation of the MILKWHITE programme was the first leak from whistleblower Edward Snowden to directly implicate Scottish authorities in a global system of mass surveillance. There remain unanswered questions over how involved Scottish authorities are, and how much influence they have, in this process.

When the case was raised in parliament, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson MSP directed questions over the legality of the arrangment towards Theresa May and the UK Government, who are in charge of the security services. 

The latest comments by Assistant Chief Constable Johnson add to concerns that illegal activity could take place in Scotland without either the police or Scottish Government being aware. 

GCHQ was found to have acted illegally in its mass surveillance programme. 

Following the evidence session, Finnie said: “It is a concern that when I questioned the role of UK-wide police and security services operating in Scotland, Police Scotland admitted that there could be operations in Scotland of which they were unaware.

“David Anderson QC has pointed out that in relation to bulk equipment interference the operational case is not yet proven. Sadly, the UK Government intends to go ahead and authorise this significant intrusion as it remains a reserved issue.”

Whistleblower Annie Mahon previously told CommonSpace that UK security services had active Glasgow and Dundee branches during her time at MI5 in the 1990s.

Picture courtesy of Defence Images

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