Bulk interception warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:13 pm on 7th June 2016.

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Photo of Anne McLaughlin Anne McLaughlin Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Civil Liberties) 1:13 pm, 7th June 2016

I will come on to that point shortly.

The fundamental point is this: why should we as Members of Parliament be expected to vote through legislation that is to be reviewed? That seems an unprofessional way—to say the least—to do business, and I would feel very uncomfortable crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. I also appeal to Labour colleagues to be a little more circumspect about trusting this Government with their votes today.

Let us take a look at one of the countries I mentioned earlier that has already reviewed bulk powers—the USA. The Snowden revelations revealed that the National Security Agency was running a bulk domestic telephone records programme. The NSA and others put up a strong case for maintaining it. The NSA produced a dossier of 54 counter-terrorism events in which, it said, bulk powers contributed to success in countering terrorism, but two entirely independent American bodies reviewed all 54 counter-terrorism cases and determined that only 12 had any relevance to the use of bulk powers under section 215 of the USA Patriot Act 2001.

One of those groups—the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, which is a very well respected, high-powered and independent body, set up under the auspices of President Obama—concluded:

“Our review suggests that the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of section 215…was not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional section 215 orders.”

The other body—the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board—concluded similarly. It said that it had

“not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program”— meaning the use of bulk powers—

“made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.”

It went further, saying that it was

“aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

Whatever I think the outcome of the review will be—none of us knows, because it has not happened—it is none the less a recognition that the Government have failed to convince both the House and wider society of the necessity of the powers.