Privacy groups hit out at 'clueless' MPs over surveillance report

Posted On: 
12th March 2015

Civil liberties groups have criticised a report from the Intelligence and Security Committee clearing intelligence agencies of breaking laws around data collection. 

The MPs and peers supported a new single Act of Parliament to replace the existing legal framework, but said they had discovered no evidence that MI5, MI6 or GCHQ had sought to circumvent the law.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, dismissed the ISC’s report, saying the committee has “repeatedly shown itself as a simple mouthpiece for the spooks – so clueless and ineffective that it’s only thanks to Edward Snowden that it had the slightest clue of the agencies’ antics”. 

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Jim Killock, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, said the ISC “lacks the sufficient independence and expertise to hold the agencies to account”. “This report fails to address any of the key questions apart from the need to reform our out-of-date surveillance laws,” he added.

But Hazel Blears, the most senior Labour MP on the committee, highlighted evidence from privacy groups suggesting they did not believe preventing terror attacks justified the “bulk interception” of communications data.

At an evidence session last year, the representatives of civil liberties groups Big Brother Watch, JUSTICE, and Liberty all confirmed that they believed a possible failure to apprehend suspects or prevent their activities was a “price we should be willing to pay”.

Dr Eric Metcalfe, who was speaking on behalf of JUSTICE, said: “Yes. Just as you would solve a lot more crimes if you had CCTV in everyone’s houses, and if you opened everyone’s mail and e-mail and read it on a daily basis.

“Yes, you would solve a lot more crimes and a lot more terrorists would be in jail; that would be a good thing, but it would be bad for our society as a whole.”