28 March 2012
Three main sources of official information are published annually:
The Report of the Interception
of Communications Commissioner:
- previously each service provider used by an individual or organisation required a separate warrant. This was changed so that a warrant is now issued for each individual/organisation/premises and applies to all service providers used by them (phones, mobiles, internet providers, post etc). In simple terms a single warrant replaced maybe four or five separate warrants. And a single warrant can be issued against a whole organisation/premises covering hundreds of people. In theory this change should have meant that the number of warrants/modifications issued should have fallen but they did not, they grew.
- the time period of a warrant was extended, for example, warrants that used to cover three months are extended to six months.
Year Warrants Modifications Total
1998 2,031 172 2,203
2009 1,706 5,896 7,602
Since 1998 the surveillance of communications has more than trebled.
This report also gives the figure for "authorisations" given to access "communications data" - which refers to data concerning a phone-call, e-mail, fax, mobile phone-call (and location) and internet usage (which also reveals the "content" of the "communication"). The number of "authorisations" are phenomenal:
- 1 January 2005 - 31 March 2006:
439,054 giving an adjusted annual figure of : 351,243
- 1 April - 31 December 2006: 253,557, giving an adjusted annual figure of: 338,076
- The year 2007: 519,260
- The year 2008: 504,073
- The year 2009: 525,130
The bulk of "authorisations" are made by the police who have automated access to service providers records.
No figures are given for subsequent
requests for access to the "content" of communications.
Nor for the number of successful prosecutions resulting for the surveillance.
For a full explanation of the 1998 changes see: UK: Changes in telephone-tapping warrant procedures disguises true figures
For the full statistics see: Telephone tapping/interception (and mail-opening figures) 1937-2009 ongoing
The Report of the Chief Surveillance
In the Annual Report (2009-2010) the Commissioner says that there were:
- 2,705 "property interference
authorisations" plus 717 renewals, a total of : 3,422
- 384 "intrusive surveillance authorisations" (eg: bugging bedrooms) plus 643 renewals, a total of 1,027
- 15,285 "directed surveillance authorisations" by the police ("Covert", but not intrusive) plus 2.708 are already in place, a total of 16,973
- 8,477 "directed surveillance authorisations" given by "other public authorities" plus 1,287 already in place, a total of 9,764
- 5,320 "covert human information sources" for the police, with 3,722 already in place, a total of 9,042
For more details see: UK Chief Surveillance Commissioner 2003-2009
The Intelligence Services
Commissioner: 2009 report
RIPA Part II covers covert surveillance (intrusive and directed) and CHIS ("undercover officers, agents and informants and the like"). While "property warrants" are issued by the Secretary of State (Foreign Office and Home Office) under Section 5 of the Intelligence and Security Act.
No figures at all are given for "property warrants" or "intrusive" or "directed" surveillance or for CHIS (who are described as "authorised to obtain information from people who do not know that this information will reach the intelligence service").
Tony Bunyan, August 2010
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