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#Encrochat: Conversation between two police officers formed basis of EncroChat warrant


The National Crime Agency (NCA) received a warrant to covertly harvest hundreds of thousands of messages from the EncroChat fake encrypted network , on the basis of a conversation between a French and a British law enforcement official that was not confirmed in writing, a court was told this week.

The claim was made during the second day of a legal challenge in Britain’s most secret court, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, that should decide if NCA had a lawful basis !

1550 EncroChat users arrested across the UK, and seized 115 firearms, £54m in cash and large quantities of drugs by analysing messages obtained by a French hacking operation on EncroChat phones used by organised criminals, in 2020.

NCA intelligence officer Emma Sweeting drafted an email describing how the French would use an “implant” to extract EncroChat messages from telephone handsets during a meeting at Europol to discuss the French EncroChat operation from 19 to 21 February 2020.

Sweeting told the court that on the final day of the meeting she showed the draft email to Jeremy Decou, the criminal investigations officer responsible for the French EncroChat investigation, who agreed verbally that it was correct.

The NCA used the email to apply for a Targeted Equipment Interference (TEI) warrant – which authorized them to use EncroChat hacked messages criminal prosecutions in the UK - without obtaining written confirmation of its accuracy from the French, the court heard.

The court heard that NCA officers asked Decou in an interview in September 2020 whether he wanted to describe the interception mechanism as an implant, or tool or technical device.

“Jeremy always uses tool, or capture tool or technical device. Once when he was asked whether he wants to use the word implant or something else, he uses the world tool, and he never used the word implant,” said Kamlish.

Decou “slipped-up” in the interview by saying that the technical device had retrieved data from the server at OVH - a datacentre in France that hosted EncroChat.

The NCA had obtained its TEI warrant on the basis that EncroChat messages were extracted from phone handsets.

Decou corrected himself by saying that he could not comment on the technical aspects, Kamlish told the court.

Sweeting said that she could not answer for what Decou said in the interview. “The truth is as I describe. I put that to Jeremy Decou and he confirmed that it was accurate and true.”

Decou emailed Sweeting in January 2020, suggesting that the French hacking technique might not be accepted in judicial cases in the UK, the court heard.

“I remember at our meeting, you said you can’t have interception on a phone in a judicial case,” he wrote. He said the same issue might apply to interception of phone data.

He told Sweeting that he hoped magistrates would find a solution to allow the NCA to use data from the French operation.

The gendarmerie officer wrote that the phone date would be accessed “live or almost live time” from “our server”.

“That rings alarms for anyone asking for a TEI warrant,” said Kamlish.

Sweeting said it was her understanding that Decou was referring to a server set up by the French to receive the data, not the EncroChat server.

The NCA could apply for a TEI warrant to use material extracted from phone handsets as evidence for prosecutions. If the TEI was not appropriate, it could apply for a Targeted Interception (TI) warrant, which would allow use of EncroChat material for intelligence purposes.

“We were trying to find the correct warrant, TEI or TI,” she said. “If it was TI we could use it as intelligence”.


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