Background information about the Internet Detective case
LETTER TO THE MP FOR OMBUDSMAN ACTION
I have written the following letter to my MP on 22 April, 1999 and this provides background information about my case.
Re: Request for a Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration investigation
My name is Yaman Akdeniz and I am currently a PhD research student at the CyberLaw Research Unit of the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies, University of Leeds.
I have been pursuing an Open Government Code of Conduct request since October 1998 in relation to a Police Research Group (Home Office) Publication:
David J Davis, Detective Inspector, Fraud Squad, West Midlands Police, The Internet Detective - An Investigators Guide, Police Research Group, Home Office, 1998.
The initial response I got back from the Police Research Group in November 2, 1998 was that the above publication was "not for public release as it has a number of operationally sensitive parts." I was not happy with the initial explanation given that the book would be of no use to me with the sensitive parts removed and I asked the Police Research Group to be treated as applying under the Open Government Code of Practice for this publication on November 2, 1998.
I told the Police Research Group in an e-mail message that "the publication has been mentioned by the press (see for example Campbell, D., "On the bit beat: PCs are getting to know their PCs," The Guardian, Online Section, 9 July, 1998), suggesting knowledge of it outside the police. In addition, I understand from these sources that the Home Office, which commissioned this research, has produced thousands of copies of Internet Detective: An Investigator's Guide for distribution among police forces in the UK, suggesting again a very low level of security."
Furthermore, I asked them to disclose the remainder of the book with suitable redactions and explanations (in terms of the Code on Open Government) as to why materials are left out. I was also asked what use such a "censored version" would be to my research and to my faculty. It was impossible for me to judge at that point whether it would be of use to my research as I have not seen the publication itself apart from the media coverage. I referred to the PRG that "the point of the Code of Practice is to empower the citizen to make their own judgements rather than having officials take them paternalistically for them."
On November 5, 1998, the PRG decided to send me a "censored version" of the Internet Detective as my request "has given [the PRG] the opportunity of reviewing [their]distribution policy on sensitive documents." As the Internet Detective is capable of being understood and would not be misleading with the sensitive parts removed, the PRG prepared a version of the Internet Detective for despatch to me.
From the November 5, 1998 version that I have been sent, chapters 8, 9, 10, and appendices C and D were removed in addition to the table of contents of Internet Detective as "these parts are subject to Part II, paragraph 4 of the Code" according to a PRG e-mail message dated November 9, 1998. Apparently, "the undisclosed parts of the document relate to advice given to Police officers on preventing and detecting crime via the Internet." The explanation given for the removal of such parts was that:
"To give any further details in terms of content would itself tell the reader the Police strategies for preventing and detecting crime and lead to interference with the judicial and investigative processes. The version of the document released to the press in July 1998 had these sensitive parts removed with the agreement of The association of Chief Police Officers and the National Criminal Intelligence Service."
I have responded to the PRG on November 11, 1998 (see the letter attached) and asked the PRG to consider my letter as an appeal to the decision taken by the Home Office. My request was for the reconsideration of the removal of the above mentioned parts of the publication Internet Detective.
I mentioned the media coverage of this publication at the time (see my November 11, 1998 letter) and one of these coverage was Campbell, D., "On the bit beat: PCs are getting to know their PCs," The Guardian, Online Section, 9 July, 1998.
I have contacted Mr Duncan Campbell to compare my version with his version of the Internet Detective. Mr Campbells letter is hereby enclosed and obtained through e-mail correspondence and Campbell states in his letter that he obtained a copy through the press office of the Home Office. Further, Mr Campbell states that (Campbell letter is also included as evidence):
"I was surprised by the suggestion in your letter that Sections 8-10 and Appendices C and D were deleted before it was sent to us. This is incorrect. Only section 10 was deleted from the copy sent to us. Section 8 on Hiding Information and Identities on the Internet and Section 9 on Internet Investigative Techniques were included. So were Appendix C on Types of Crime and Appendix D on specific case studies."
Mr Campbells statement contradicted the information PRG have provided me and he does possess a "less censored" version of the publication Internet Detective.
On November 12, 1998 the PRG responded by saying that I was "quite right." The explanation was that:
"The confusion arose because the original bid from within the service was to remove parts 8, 9 and 10 and the appendices, which is the version you had. We prepared that version and then the original objectors relented to pressure on parts 8 and 9. We then prepared the version that the press received. We kept both versions and the version you had was the first one, which was more heavily censored. I apologise for the confusion and the inconvenience. I have put the fuller version in the post to you."
I finally got the same version as the media got and the only missing section was chapter 10 entitled "Internet - police investigations." Non removal of the table of contents of the less censored version of the Internet Detective gave me a fair idea of the contents of chapter 10 and my conclusion was that the disclosure of the information provided within those 15 pages would not "prejudice the enforcement or proper administration of the law, including the prevention, investigation or detection of crime, or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders" in a letter sent to the PRG on November 16, 1998.
I also stated to the PRG that:
"I believe David Davis produced an excellent guide not only for the police but for whoever is interested to read about such issues and the guide is beneficial for the public. Page 11 carries the notice that the guide is the personal work of the author (David Davis) and does not present itself as an official document of the Home Office or the West Midlands Police. Therefore, the book includes right or wrong the views of one single policeman within the UK and it does not present itself as the Home Office view or the West Midlands Police Authoritys views."
I have been told on November 30, 1998 that the PRG sent a copy of Internet detective to the representative of the ACPO crime committee who originally objected to ID being placed in the public domain. The PRG also decided to have two meetings in relation to this request: one with their Open Government specialists (1-12-98) , and then with ACPO research committee ( 9-12-98) before they reach a final decision on whether to allow or decline access to part 10.
PRG told me that the Home Office was treating my request for access to part 10 as an Open Government Code of Conduct appeal on December 1, 1998.
On December 9, 1998 I have been told via e-mail that:
"Following meetings with our Open Government staff, and members of ACPO research committee, as well as liaison with the representative of the ACPO Crime Committee who placed the embargo on part ten of the Internet Detective we have decided to decline your request for access to part ten of the document under the exemptions in the code. The information is not wholly owned by PRCU although we own publishing copyright and we felt the need to consult with our partners before reaching a decision."
I confirmed with the PRG that I would like to proceed to the next stage of the Open Government Code process with a review by the Record Management Services unit at the Home Office on December 10, 1998. I pointed out that:
"The Internet Detective carries a Crown Copyright with Home Office in parenthesis on page 11 of the publication. Further, the book has the logos of PRG and West Midlands Police Department on the cover of the guide. Moreover, a grant was provided to the author Mr Davis by the UK government through the Home Office Research Grant scheme. Furthermore, a note by the author on page 11 states that the guide is the personal work of the author and does not present itself as an official document of the Home Office or the West Midlands police. There is nothing on the book that would back your claim that the publication is not wholly owned by the Home Office and I would like to see evidence of this factual matter."
Mr. S of the Departmental Record Officer finally responded to me via post on 26 February, 1999 (copy of the letter included) and the Home Office was not prepared to overturn the previous decision of the Home Office in relation to my request to access chapter 10 of the publication Internet Detective. Mr S acting on the behalf of the Record Management Services within the Home Office was satisfied that "to disclose this information could prejudice the enforcement or proper administration of the law including the prevention, investigation, or detection of crime.!
I am still unhappy with this decision and therefore I would like you to take my request to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the Ombudsman). My point is that there is nothing in my belief that would justify the removal of chapter 10 especially after having examined the table of contents of this publication (a photocopy is included as evidence). If my point is not strong enough, as a matter of fact, I do know that some people outside the police received the Internet Detective in full.
Part II, paragraph 4(b) of the Open Government Code of Conduct states that:
"Information whose disclosure could prejudice the enforcement or proper administration of the law, including the prevention, investigation or detection of crime, or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders."
And if that is the case with the excluded chapter 10 from my copy, how can the Home Office claim that a publication with over 2000 copies distributed will remain confidential?
I hope you will consider the complaint I have described above and the evidence attached. I would like to see the full disclosure of chapter 10 of this publication and I hope this can be achieved through the Ombudsman scheme. I would be interested to meet the Ombudsman to explain further my case if you support and refer my action to the Ombudsman.
Mr. Yaman Akdeniz
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