"Secret plan to spy on all British phone calls": UK fronts G8 plan for records to be kept for 7 years

Support our work: become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.

The Observer newspaper today (3.12.00) today published details of demands by the police, security and intelligence agencies in the UK for powers to have access to all phone calls, e-mails and internet activity. It report is based on a document which came into its possession from the UK National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) setting out demands on behalf of the police force, Customs and Excise, the Security Service (MI5), the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6, SIS) and GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters).

The demand for a new law for all records to be held and maintained for at least seven years comes out of the discussions held in the G8 group on High-Tec Crime. Public pronouncements on how long records of all communications should be held varies from one to six months. The period of seven years requested by the NCIS matches the demands of the FBI in the G8 discussions where it is being argued that every country has to have the same, extensive, time-limit because otherwise it will be impossible to track communications. It is said that if a communication, say a telephone call, involves four different countries (A, B, C & D) intelligence-gathering will be useless if countries B & C do not hold full data for the same time period.

The G8 discussions have centred on the "problems" created for law enforcement and security and intelligence agencies by the 1995 and 1996 EU Data Protection Directives which require communications data to be destroyed once it is surplus to commercial needs - after a few days or weeks. Faced with this situation the agencies attending the G8 meetings are campaigning at national level for their governments to opt out of the Directives in order to establish de facto "international standards for data retention" (NCIS).

Text of NCIS submission on Communications Data Retention Law: NCIS (cached from www.cryptome.org)
Report from Statewatch bulletin on the G8 discussions: G8

"Secret plan to spy on all British phone calls", Observer, 3 December 2000

Kamal Ahmed, political editor, wrote that:

"Britain's intelligence services are seeking powers to seize all records of telephone calls, emails and internet connections made by every person living in this country.

A document circulated to Home Office officials and obtained by The Observer reveals that MI5, MI6 and the police are demanding new legislation to log every phone call made in this country and store the information for seven years at a vast government-run 'data warehouse', a super computer that will hold the information.

The secret moves, which will cost millions of pounds, were last night condemned by politicians and campaigners as a sinister expansion of 'Big Brother' state powers and a fundamental attack on the public's right to privacy.

Last night, the Home Office admitted that it was giving the plans serious consideration.

Lord Cope, the Conservative peer and a leading expert on privacy issues, said: 'We are sympathetic to the need for greater powers to fight modern types of crime. But vast banks of information on every member of the public can quickly slip into the world of Big Brother. I will be asking serious questions about this.'

Maurice Frankel, a leading campaigner on per sonal data issues, called the powers 'sweeping' and a cause for worry.

The document, which is classified 'restricted', says new laws are needed to allow the intelligence services, Customs
and Excise and the police access to telephone and computer records of every member of the public.

It suggests that the Home Office is sympathetic to the new powers, which would be used to tackle the growing
problems of cybercrime, the use of computers by paedophiles to run child pornography rings, as well as terrorism
and international drug trafficking.

Every telephone call made and received by a member of the public, all emails sent and received and<

Our work is only possible with your support.
Become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.


Spotted an error? If you've spotted a problem with this page, just click once to let us know.

Report error