Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Operation Blast

Under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI held millions of detailed files and illegal wiretaps that contained top-secret information on millions of Americans. These files and recordings contained damaging facts about sexual, political, and financial information of the country's most powerful and influential people. Hoover kept personal files on every politician who passed through Washington.(1)

Much of the news today will certainly focus on "Operation Blast". This is the statement by Ian Le Marquand in the States:

"It is my duty to inform this Assembly that on 2nd June 2009 I received a formal written report from the Acting Chief Officer of Police which confirmed to me the details of Operation Blast. I was first informed of the general details in relation to Operation Blast by a letter from the Solicitor General dated 30th April, 2009, and requested further information prior to making any decision in relation thereto. I am able to reveal the following information - 1) In February 2006 the States of Jersey Police set up files under the name of Operation Blast which contained sections on every elected member of the States of Jersey, that is on every Senator, Connétable and Deputy. These files do not appear to relate to any actual police investigation. 2) Each section on an individual member contained a photograph and other generally available information on the member. It also contained a full criminal record search on each member. Some of the sections contained other information on a member from a variety of different sources including local police intelligence and national police intelligence and sheets detailing the checks that had been carried out in respect of each individual. The existence and general contents of the files have been independently confirmed to me by the Solicitor General acting upon my request. 3) The files were kept securely within the Special Branch office. Between February 2006 and November 2008 the files were updated from time to time. The files were not retained under standard arrangements for the retention of intelligence data. Indeed, there are papers within the files which would suggest that efforts have been made to ensure that this information was maintained outside the normal protocols for the management of information. Various members of the Police Senior Management were aware of the existence of the files and directed certain information to be retained therein. The existence of the files was known only to a very small number of officers and does not appear to have been disseminated further. 4) I am not aware of the motivation for the setting up and retention of these files but am very seriously concerned about their existence. 5) No new sections were set up after the October/November 2008 elections and no information was added to the files after November 2008. Existing or former members of the States who are concerned by the contents of this statement may wish to contact the Acting Chief Officer of Police, Mr. David Warcup, who has agreed to meet individually with them, should they so wish, in order to discuss the contents of their section of the files."

Channel Television has reported on the story

Deputy Trevor Pitman has likened Jersey to Zimbabwe and Deputy Mike Higgins wants to know why, under the Freedom of Information Act, members cannot look at their files.

Senator Stuart Syvret has asked whether any former crown officers knew about 'Operation Blast'. Senator Syvret is also worried MI5 and Special Branch have been gathering information on his involvement with Greenpeace.

The full report on Channel can be found at:  

There is also an excellent interview with Deputy Bob Hill of St Martin by the roving internet reporter Thomas Wellard at:

The JEP has a brief mention at:

and the BBC story can be found at:  

It is not surprising that politicians have liked this to a "police state", but the files can be made accessible. There is a precedent here. The regimes of the former Soviet block had secret police files, and the parliaments of those countries voted to approve laws opening those files so that they could no longer remain secret (2). It is doubtful if at this stage this will prove necessary in Jersey, but it is remarkable that Jersey is at present, with non-disclosure of these secret files, less open that those countries! Here are some examples:

Slovakian Parliament Votes to Release Secret Police Files: The parliament on 19 August overrode President Rudolf Schuster's veto and approved a law on opening the files of the communist secret police, TASR and international agencies reported. The vote was 82 in favor and 10 against, with 20 deputies abstaining or failing to cast a vote. The law was first passed on 10 July. The legislation keeps classified only the files of foreign nationals, those whose disclosure could "pose a threat to human life and public interest," and the personal data of people persecuted by the former secret police. The law also sets up an Institute for National Memory, where citizens can read the files. The institute will also gather documents on the crimes of the communist period, as well as the period when Slovakia was a Nazi puppet state. (RFE/RL, 21 August 2002).

Czech Senate Approves Access to Police Files Law: Senate on 8 March approved a bill by a vote of 42 to 11, with nine abstentions, allowing access to previously classified communist secret police files, international agencies reported. The Chamber of Deputies approved the bill last month and the legislation will be enacted after its promulgation by President Vaclav Havel. Czech citizens have been able to access their own files since 1996, but not the files of other people. The new legislation excludes from access only files of foreign nationals and those containing information that could endanger national security or the lives of other people(RFE/RL, March 14, 2002).

Serbia Opens Secret Police Files: The State Security Department announced on June 18 that they were opening their files gathered under the Milosevic regime. Individuals are allowed to see their files but not copy or take home documents. Many files had been destroyed before the current government took control. (Associated Press, June 18, 2001).

Poland to Open Communist Secret Police Files: The Polish Parliament appointed Leon Kieres, a lawyer and independent senator, to head the National Memory Institute. The IPN will now take control of all archives of the communist-era security service and those of courts, prosecutors' offices, the former communist party and other institutions. "It will take several months before the opening of the first file," said Zak. Poles will be allowed to see their personal files compiled by the authorities before 1989 and learn if they suffered from discrimination and possibly who informed on them. (Reuters, June 8, 2000)

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