By CONOR LALLY
Law would give Garda access to stored internet records
GARDAÍ and other investigative authorities would be able to access e-mail and other internet records which must be stored for a year, under new measures to be unveiled today.
The new legislation will be published by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern. It represents the first time internet service providers have been compelled to retain data for the purposes of assisting the investigation of crime and prevention of terrorism or revenue offences.
Also under the new provisions, all telephone and text traffic, including information on the location of mobile phones during calling and texting, is to be retained for two years.
The internet and telephone data can then be requested from service provides by the Garda, Defence Forces or Revenue Commissioners.
Requests for the information can be made once those agencies are investigating a criminal offence punishable by a term of imprisonment of five years or more.
Investigations into a smaller number of indictable offences attracting shorter sentences will also allow for the records to be requested. Details of these offences will be contained in the Communications (Retention of Data) Bill 2009, to be published today.
The retained information can also be requested during the course of any investigation into terrorism or any case where investigators are seeking to prevent loss of life.
Retained information will indicate to whom and when a person has sent a text, e-mail or phone call. It will also pinpoint the location of the sender and receiver.
However, the content of the e-mail, text or phone message will not be retained and therefore cannot be accessed.
Any member of the Garda at the rank of chief superintendent or higher can request the information from a phone or internet service provider.
Any member of the Defence Forces at the rank of colonel or higher can also make a request as can any Revenue official at the rank of principal officer or higher.
Informed sources said the information to be retained would assist investigations by proving certain parties were in contact leading up to or at the time a crime is committed.
The same sources said the information would be useful in proving parties had worked together in trying to commit revenue offences or plan terrorism.
A spokesman for Mr Ahern said there were currently no provisions on the statute books dealing specifically with the retention of data by internet providers.
The office of the Data Protection Commissioner will supervise the use of the new measures. A High Court judge will oversee the retention of internet and phone data provisions.
In addition, any person who believes their data has been accessed can apply to a complaints referee, who will check if the relevant provisions have been followed.