A report into the bugging allegations, by the retired judge John Cooke, said it is “impossible” to “categorically rule out all possibility of covert surveillance” at the ombudsman’s offices.
However, it concluded that “the evidence does not support the proposition that actual surveillance” took place and “much less that it was carried out by members of the Garda Síochána”.
The report was ordered in February prompted by a Sunday Times report that the office was under “hi-tech surveillance”.
Mr Justice Cooke examined three anomalies that prompted GSOC to carry out a counter-surveillance operation at its Dublin HQ. These included a wi-fi device in the GSOC boardroom linked to an outside source, a UK 3G mobile network operating near its offices, and a middle-of-
the night “ring-back” that resulted in concern that a phone in its offices may have been bugged.
He concludes that one of these anomalies — a nocturnal ring-bank to a teleconferencing device which came after an alerting test on the device — “remains unexplained as a technical or scientific anomaly”.
He said: “There appears to be some technical factors which cast doubt upon the explanation that there had been mistaken human intervention in the monitoring of a tap upon the phone line outside GSOC offices.
“Whatever the explanation may be, there is no evidence that the ring-back reaction was necessarily attributable to an offence or misbehaviour on the part of a member of the Garda Síochána.”
On the wi-fi device connected to an external device in a café, the report said it “seems highly improbable that the haphazard performance of such a remote control device” was because of covert eavesdropping on GSOC in a “sophisticated surveillance exercise by any agency equipped with a capability of ‘intelligence service level’”.
The report says members of the ombudsman’s commission “acted in good faith” in taking steps to carry out a review. “It is understandable that, presented with two apparently serious threats to their security, their primary concern was to move quickly to take steps to investigate and, if necessary, counter those threats.”
However, it is critical of the decision to carry out the investigation without telling Garda authorities or the then justice minister, Alan Shatter.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that she has confidence in the garda ombudsman’s office and there was now a need for a “new culture” of co-operation between it and the gardaí.
Fianna Fáil said Mr Justice Cooke must be called before the Oireachtas Justice Committee at the earliest possible date to discuss his findings.