GCHQ/MI5/MI6: Parliamentary report recommends new law for security agencies - but will that stop the surveillance state?

The Intelligence and Security Committee's long-awaited report on the surveillance powers of the security agencies has recommended a new law "governing the intelligence and security Agencies." Privacy International has responded to the report by pointing out: "no amount of technical and legal jargon can obscure the fact that this is a parliamentary committee, in a democratic country, telling its citizens that they are living in a surveillance state and that all is well."

The report: Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament: Privacy and Security: A modern and transparent legal framework (pdf): "While we have considered the entire range of intrusive capabilities available to the Agencies, public controversy has centred on GCHQ’s interception of internet communications which some have alleged means that GCHQ are ‘hoovering up’ the communications of everyone in the UK. Such ‘blanket surveillance’ would not only be unlawful, but also unacceptable. We have therefore scrutinised GCHQ’s capability to intercept internet communications in detail, including how GCHQ collect communications and the circumstances in which they may then examine those communications."


Government response: The prime minister has moved swiftly to "close a hole in the oversight of Britain's intelligence agencies" by giving the intelligence service commissioner "statutory powers of oversight of bulk personal datasets". See: David Cameron to close gap in oversight of mass surveillance (The Guardian, link) and see: Written Statement made by: Prime Minister (David Cameron) on 12 Mar 2015 (pdf)

Lack of oversight of new surveillance laws: 12 March also saw the release of the latest report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner (ICC) - who reiterates that there is no provision in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) 2014 for the ICC to review either the power of the Secretary of State "to give a retention notice to a public telecommunications operator requiring... [the retention of] relevant communications data," or for the ICC to oversee whether "DRIPA 2014 makes provision for the imposition of wider retention requirements than could be imposed under the Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009". See: Report of the Interception Communcations Commissioner - March 2015 (covering the period January to December 2014) (pdf)

For a brief overview of some of the figures in the ICC's report, see: Interception errors had serious consequences for individuals (Computer Weekly, link): "Law and enforcement and intelligence agencies made 267,373 requests for communications data, resulting in 517,236 authorisations to intercept or produce private data last year."

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