The British government is refusing to disclose the job title and taxpayer-funded salary of one of the most senior law enforcement officials in the United Kingdom, claiming the details have to be kept a secret for security reasons.
Cressida Dick (pictured above) was formerly one of the highest ranking officers at London’s Metropolitan Police, the largest police force in the U.K., where she headed the Specialist Operations unit and oversaw a controversial criminal investigation into journalists who reported on Edward Snowden’s leaked documents.
In response to Freedom of Information Act requests from this reporter, the Foreign Office has repeatedly declined to disclose even the most basic details about Dick’s position.
Government officials handling the requests say that members of the public are not entitled to know anything about Dick’s job title, role and responsibilities, or the amount of money she is earning – despite the fact that specific salaries earned by senior Foreign Office officials, as well as their job titles, are usually routinely made available online.
In two separate refusal letters issued in February and March, the Foreign Office said that it would not hand over the information because it relates to “bodies dealing with security matters,” and so the government was “not obliged to consider the public interest in disclosure.” It would acknowledge only that Dick has been appointed in a “director general” position.
The letters cited a transparency exemption that is used to keep information secret if it relates to, or was provided by, one of the U.K.’s spy agencies, suggesting Dick is working closely with the British intelligence community as part of her new role. The same transparency exemption, which falls under section 23 of British FOIA law, is being used by the Metropolitan Police to withhold information from The Intercept about the criminal investigation Dick oversaw into journalists who reported on the Snowden leaks.
Richard Taylor, a U.K.-based freedom of information advocate and journalist who helps run the British open government site WhatDoTheyKnow.com, said the refusal to disclose Dick’s salary and job title illustrated that the section 23 exemption was “far too broad.”
“If she [Dick] is one of the most senior people in the Foreign Office, then she should be accountable publicly,” Taylor said. “We should have information about her role.”
On Wednesday, The Intercept asked the British government to clarify why details about Dick’s salary and job title had to be kept a secret.
A Foreign Office spokesman said in an emailed statement that officials at the director general level are paid a figure between £105,000 and £208,000 ($156,000 and $309,000), but would not disclose the specific amount of taxpayer money Dick is being paid, or discuss anything about her position.
“As the details of Ms. Dick’s exact role and responsibilities relate to security matters, they are exempt for public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act,” the spokesman said.
The Intercept has filed a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office, the public body that enforces the U.K.’s freedom of information laws, about the British government’s refusal to release details about Dick’s job.
Last week, the commissioner’s office confirmed it would consider the case. It will now look into how the Foreign Office handled the request and decide whether the government should be ordered to hand over the relevant details.
Photo: AP/Press Association