Bulk interception warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 7th June 2016.

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Photo of Suella Fernandes Suella Fernandes Conservative, Fareham 3:00 pm, 7th June 2016

I totally agree. We are waging a foreign policy and international security war, but we are also waging war on the online fraudsters and the paedophiles. We are in a constant state of threat, and it is easy to delude ourselves if we do not face that threat directly.

Big data are presented to us as a modern phenomenon, but they are actually something that has been used before and that is quite old, and they lie at the heart of our heritage on national security.

Thirdly, the utility of bulk powers is clear. In its report, the Joint Committee made that clear after taking extensive evidence. At paragraph 340, we reported:

“We are aware that the bulk powers are not a substitute for targeted intelligence, but believe that they are an additional resource. Furthermore, we believe that the security and intelligence agencies would not seek these powers if they did not believe they would be effective and that the fact that they have been operating for some time would give them the confidence to assess their merits.”

The Committee concluded:

“we are content that the safeguards proposed by the Home Office, buttressed by authorisation by Judicial Commissioners and oversight from the Investigatory Powers Commissioner will be sufficient to ensure that the bulk powers are used proportionately.”

Therefore, after taking evidence from all sides of the debate, and from all the coalitions involved in this discussion, that was the considered conclusion of the cross-party Committee.

The operational case was clearly made by the Government, who put forward clear examples of the utility of bulk powers. In 2014, analysis of bulk data uncovered a previously unknown individual who was in contact with Daesh-affiliated extremists in Syria. The investigation allowed our agents to identify that he was based overseas, which meant that they would have been unlikely to identify his patterns of movement without bulk information. They saw that he had recently travelled to a European country and that he was planning an attack. That led to their being able to disrupt that attack.

In 2013, our agents used analysis of patterns of behaviour among paedophiles online. Our agents identified a UK national who had been visiting a website that sold images of child sexual exploitation. That website was hosted in a country that rarely co-operated with UK law enforcement agencies, rendering bulk powers absolutely essential in that investigation too. That individual was prosecuted and sentenced.

Lastly, bulk interception has been used to detect cyber-attacks against the UK, including large-scale thefts of data and serious fraud by cyber-criminals and hostile individuals. That was done using electronic signatures, which are similar to electronic fingerprints. Using those signatures, the agencies can scan the technical detail of internet communications for evidence of incoming attacks on the UK. They have been able to identify known forms of computer malware and new forms of cyber-attack. Cyberspace is so large, and technological change is so rapid, that bulk interception is the only way that our professionals are able to monitor them.

In conclusion, the terrorists, the paedophiles and the serious fraudsters all scheme in cyberspace these days. Technology that empowers us also, sadly, empowers them. Yes, we want world-class encryption and privacy, but we also want world-class security. We should trust the skill and restraint of those unsung heroes—the analysts, the cryptographers, the mathematicians and the codebreakers—who have used their genius to safeguard our security and who have maintained confidence and discretion in relation to the secrets they have seen. We, as elected Members, have a duty to explain their role to the public, but we must also trust their judgment, which is subject to weighty safeguards, checks and balances. These people have proved their heroism in our moments of need throughout history. Let us not further tie their hands and just hope that our enemies, who are plotting night and day to destroy our societies, do not, by chance, hit us; instead, let us empower our agencies. That is why I will be voting against the amendments.