freedom of information

The risk from freedom of information requests - covert human intelligence sources

Many UK police services have to deal with the problem of ongoing requests from journalists under the Freedom of Information Act. While many of these journalists may be genuinely seeking information which will be of interest to their readers and which form part of living in a free and democratic society, a failure to deal with these requests in a professional manner creates a risk to both individual covert human intelligence sources (informants) and to sensitive methodology. 

North Yorkshire police recently refused a request and were very precise in their use of the correct legislation to legitimately refuse the request. Well done them!  See the following site:

If a police service gives out to much detail it is quite possible for a person to be identified as a human source or for a person to be wrongly identified as a human source. I both such cases there is a real risk to the life of the person concerned. 

This risk is increased where journalists mount what is often referred to as a 'mosaic attack' where they send in a large number of separate requests for information in order to hide just how much information they are requesting.  If the member of the receiving police service is unaware of the nature of human source (CHIS) work or fails to identify the existence of a number of related requests then very sensitive methodology can be exposed. All the journalist has to do is put the answers from the number of requests together and put each piece in place as one would a jigsaw puzzle.This is a risk to policing throughout the UK as it is the same methodology that is used across the country. 

Police services need to recognise this risk, document it and put in place control measures to deal with it.