The Henry Jackson Society welcomes the publication of A Question of Trust, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation’s study of surveillance legislation.
The report acknowledges the clear danger posed by criminals exploiting communications networks in order to facilitate terrorism, exploit children, commit cyber-crime and carry out a whole host of other serious offences.
In dealing with this threat, A Question of Trust is right to confirm key requirements:
- The need for the retention of the powers contained in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (DRIPA), which currently has a sunset clause for 2016.
- The potential ‘enhancement’ of the government’s ability to access data as initially laid out in the Communications Data Bill of 2012 (subject to certain conditions).
- The ongoing need for the government to be able to access communications data in bulk.
Also welcome is the suggested strengthening of oversight with regards to the creation of an Independent Surveillance and Intelligence Commission; a strengthened Investigatory Powers Tribunal; and the recognition that cooperation between US communication service providers and the state must be improved.
However, HJS is cautious over the recommendation that all interception warrants be authorised by a judge, as opposed to a Secretary of State; and warns of the potential risk in an excessive overhaul of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which provides the statutory framework for the government’s use of covert techniques.
Robin Simcox, Research Fellow at The Henry Jackson Society and author of new HJS report Surveillance After Snowden: Effective Espionage in an Age of Transparency, said: “David Anderson’s report is a thoughtful, balanced contribution to the surveillance debate which the government must consider very carefully.
“The independent reviewer has laid out the need for our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to possess a broad range of power in order to carry out their vital work. He has also suggested a series of sensible reforms to improve oversight and increase public trust in the government’s use of surveillance.
“There must also be some caution. For example, RIPA is fundamental to the work of intelligence and law enforcement agencies and discarding sections of it carries risks. Furthermore, the extent to which judges and magistrates are better qualified to approve warrants than Secretaries of State is debatable.
“Yet the debate over such issues in the future will be better informed as a result of this report.”