The Northern Irish police are aware of a claim that militant groups possess data of officers that was accidentally made public this week, and have not been able to verify the claim yet, the head of the region’s police said on Thursday.
The last names, initials, work location, and department of all officers were accidentally exposed for more than two hours on Tuesday, after being inadvertently included in response to a freedom of information request and published on the requester’s website.
The accidental data leak is highly sensitive in Northern Ireland, where officers still sporadically face threats from dissident groups in the form of bomb attacks and shootings, despite a 1998 peace agreement that largely ended three decades of sectarian violence.
“We are now aware that dissident republicans are claiming to be in possession of some of this circulating information on WhatsApp,” Chief Constable Simon Byrne of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) told a press conference.
“We have not been able to verify the content of that claim or access the information that dissident republicans claim to have, but we are monitoring this.”
Byrne mentioned that over 500 referrals had been made to a threat assessment group established on Wednesday, as PSNI updated personal safety advice to its officers.
No officers have been relocated or advised to leave their homes yet, but Byrne stated that PSNI is reconsidering whether some specialized officers need to be moved from their usual workplaces to new locations.
During a meeting of the Northern Ireland Policing Board on Thursday, Byrne said he had not been asked to resign and he did not believe the resignation of a senior official would help address an “unprecedented” and “serious” crisis.