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Iran Press TV

British ministers battle to maintain surveillance powers

Iran Press TV

Fri Jun 12, 2015 2:38PM

A battle over privacy is taking place across the board as Downing Street avoids proposal to strip ministers of surveillance powers.

Downing Street has neither accepted not rejected plans for ministers to be stripped of their powers to authorize surveillance warrants after suggestions from a report on intelligence agency snooping.

The 373-page report entitled 'A Question of Trust" by Anderson QC said current legislation on surveillance is "fragmented" and "obscure". The report, commissioned by David Cameron himself, suggests a new body should be responsible for issuing warrants and not ministers.

However, a spokesperson for the PM said authorities need to be able to "respond quickly and effectively to threats of national security or serious crime". Likewise, Theresa May did not endorse the proposal and said: "Today, I am not in a position, and do not intend, to say that the government are going to do one thing or another."

David Davis, a Conservative MP who is highly engaged in the privacy campaign, said: "I think the government will lose that battle if they choose to fight." He expected half-a-dozen Conservative rebels would back parties like Labour who endorse the report's recommendations and "bring our system into line with the rest of the world".

Anderson, the UK's independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said the current Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) is no longer useful.

"A comprehensive and comprehensible new law should be drafted from scratch, replacing the multitude of current powers and providing for clear limits and safeguards on any intrusive power that it may be necessary for public authorities to use," he said.

However, the report does showcase its support for the retention of bulk data collection by intelligent agencies.

"The capability of the security and intelligence agencies to practice bulk collection of intercepted material and associated data should be retained (subject to the ruling of the courts) but used only subject to strict additional safeguards," Anderson said. The safeguards include "a tighter definition of the purposes for which it is sought, defined by operations of mission purposes".

In the report, Anderson does not propose legislating on the issue however suggests it is "far preferable, on any view" to propose a "law-based system in which encryption keys are handed over [by service providers or by the users themselves] only after properly authorized requests."

Eric King, the deputy director of Privacy International, said: "David Anderson's strong recommendations for improvement are the first step towards reform, and now the burden is on the government, parliament and civil society to ensure that reforms go further and ensure that once and for all, our police and intelligence agencies are brought under the rule of law."


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