By Jon Clements*
A few days ago I received an interesting letter from Leicestershire police about the Madeleine McCann investigation.
I had asked them, in July, if they had got any warrants (under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) to use surveillance powers - such as phone tapping and email interception on behalf of the Portuguese police.
The force initially stalled saying it needed to "consult other Agencies" before replying. After a six month delay, Leicestershire has now claimed it is exempt from Freedom of Information laws in this case due to "national security".
I've put in dozens of FoI requests to police forces over the years, some you get and some you don't but "national security" is a new one on me.
To make matters even murkier, Leicestershire claimed a second exemption because the information I requested could relate to "the Security bodies".
A quick look at the FoI Act reveals "Security bodies" are MI5, MI6, GCHQ (pictured above), special forces (such as the SAS) and the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
Despite claiming these exemptions, Leicestershire seem at pains to neither confirm nor deny they hold any information relevant to my request anyway.
Check out (slowly I suggest) the tortuous conclusion to the three page letter explaining their stance.
"It is our decision that the Leicestershire Constabulary must maintain a position of neither confirming nor denying that any relevant information is held and that this response, which neither confirms nor denies that information is held, should not be taken as conclusive evidence that the information you have requested exists or does not exist".
Thanks, but I think that is a rather long-winded way of saying Foxtrot Oscar.
However, it does beg the question just who was bugging the McCanns after they returned from Praia da Luz? And what has the answer got to do with national security ?
*Jon Clements is a crime Correspondent for the Daily Mirror. He joined the newspaper in 1999 and has been showbiz editor and a foreign reporter covering Iraq, Lebanon and Israel.
Kate, Gerry and national security - update
By Jon Clements
I've just spoken to the McCanns' spokesman Clarence Mitchell who has declined to comment. Quite sensible, really. After all, you never who's listening do you ?