Army monitors threats to the State’s security

Internationally-based threats to the State’s security have motivated the small number of secret surveillance operations conducted by the Irish army in the last two years.

Hidden cameras and bugs have all been used by the Defence Forces since it was given permission to spy on citizens in 2010.

A tracking device has only been called on once.

All spying operations conducted by the Defence Forces lasted for less than three months.

One person was the focus of two periods of spying after the first bug was removed by soldiers to facilitate an extended investigation.

And every time it looked for permission to eavesdrop, the Defence Forces justified the intrusion by arguing the security of the State was in jeopardy.

In the first year of the new law, there were less than 10 occasions when the Defence Forces used its new powers.

This increased marginally during the next year.

All these represented cases that were not urgent and the soldiers had time to seek approval from a district court judge.

The exact number of applications made to the district courts has not been released.

The High Court judge empowered to police the surveillance, Mr Justice Kevin Feeney, said he had reviewed every file where the Defence Forces had engaged in this activity.

He said he was satisfied the army had followed proper procedures and on every occasion there was an “international dimension” to the investigation.

“In all instances the circumstances giving rise to the applications and authorisations for surveillance were matters impacting upon the security of the State,” he said.

Whenever authorisation was looked for, a designated officer in the army appeared before a district court judge, swore an oath and explained the reason why it needed to plant a device.

No application was refused. And everything permission was given for, the Defence Forces followed through on and planted a camera or a bug.

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