Warrants that may be issued under this Chapter

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 12th April 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Shadow Minister (Home Office) 11:00 am, 12th April 2016

In passing, this is just really to explain what the amendment is intended to achieve. In order to understand what is in clause 13(2), we need to look to clause 14(4) to (6), which set out what secondary data means for the purposes of this part and, thus, is to be read into clause 13.

Clause 14(6) states:

“The data falling within this subsection is identifying data which…is comprised in, included as part of, attached to or logically associated with…is capable of being logically separated…and if it were so separated, would not reveal anything of what might reasonably be considered to be the meaning”,

so it is integrally bound up with the content of the communication but capable of being separated from it.

So far as clause 13 is concerned, if there is a targeted interception warrant, the warrant deals specifically with content and secondary data, recognising the integral link between the two. That is right and we do not quarrel with that.

Clause 13(3) is different, providing that:

“A targeted examination warrant is a warrant which authorises the person to whom it is addressed to carry out the selection of relevant content for examination, in breach of the prohibition in section 134(4) (prohibition on seeking to identify communications of individuals in the British Islands).”

The purpose of clause 13(3) is different. We move from the targeted warrant to the bulk warrant—an examination warrant that provides authority to examine the content that would otherwise be in breach of clause 134(4). In order to understand that, I take the Committee to clause 119, to which that relates.

Clause 119 deals with bulk interception warrants, which can be issued if conditions A and B are satisfied. Condition A deals with

“the interception of overseas-related communications” and with “obtaining…secondary data”. The definition of secondary data is the same in that part of the Bill as it is in the part that we have just looked at. I will not test the Committee’s patience by going to that definition, but it is a consistent definition of secondary data.

Condition B sets out that the bulk warrant authorises “the interception”, which is the content,

“the obtaining of secondary data”,

which is the same as a targeted warrant but in relation to the bulk powers, and

“the selection for examination, in any manner described…of…content or secondary data” and “disclosure”. The bulk warrant allows the interception of the content and secondary data. In and of itself, it provides for the examination on the face of the same warrant.

For content, it becomes more complicated because there is a safeguard, which is in clause 134(4)—safeguards in relation to examination materials. Having provided a broad examination power, there is then a safeguard for that examination power in clause 134(4). A number of conditions are set for examining material that has been obtained under a bulk interception warrant. They are set out in subsection (3) and the first is that

“the selection of the intercepted content for examination does not reach the prohibition in subsection(4)” which is that

“intercepted content may not…be selected for examination if— any criteria used for the selection of the intercepted content…are referable to an individual known to be in the British Islands at that time, and the purpose of using those criteria is to identify the content”.

The long and short of it is that, going back to clause 13, a targeted intercept warrant authorises the examination of both content and secondary data.

For a bulk warrant—this is where clause 13(3) kicks in—there is provision for an examination warrant which provides an ability to look at the content, which in all other circumstances would be a breach of the prohibition in clause 134. The content of communications of individuals in the British Isles can be looked at when it has been captured by a bulk provision, but only when there is a targeted examination warrant. That is a good thing.

What the amendment gets at is this. What is not in clause 13(3) is any provision for an examination warrant in relation to secondary data, so for the targeted provisions these two are treated as one: secondary data integral to the content of communication. When it comes to bulk, they are separated and only the content is subject to the further provision in clause 13(3).

That is a material provision and is a big part of the legislation because, unless amendment 57 is accepted, a targeted examination warrant is not required for secondary data, which are capable of being examined simply under the bulk powers. The purpose of the amendment is to align subsections (2) and (3) and ensure that the targeted examination warrant is not required for both content and secondary data in relation to individuals in the British Isles. The result otherwise would be that, for someone in the British Isles, their secondary data could be looked at as long as it was captured under a bulk provision without a targeted warrant. That is a serious drafting issue of substance.

Our approach to some of the wider retention of bulk powers is this. Although we accept that a case can be made for retaining data that will be looked at later, the wide powers of retentional bulk are a cause of concern on both sides of the House. When it comes to examining what has been caught within the wider net, there are specific safeguards. In other words, as long as there is a specific targeted safeguard when someone wants to look at bulk or retained data, that is an important safeguard when they are harvesting wide-ranging data. That is a very important provision in relation to secondary data.

Amendments 59 and 60 go to a different issue. They are separate and I ask the Government to treat them as separate. The first is about content and secondary data as a hom-set and whether they should be protected in the same way throughout the regime of the legislation, however they are initially intercepted. That is an important point of principle that I ask the Government to consider seriously because it goes to the heart of the question of targeted access.

The second amendment relates to individuals in the British Isles. At the moment, clause 13(3) provides specific protection in relation to the content of communications for people in the British Isles. It is clear from clause 134(4) that that means not residing in the British Isles, but actually in the British Isles. Under clause 13(3), once I get to Calais, I fall out of the protection of that provision, as does everybody else in this Committee, because it is a question of whether someone is physically in the British islands. Therefore, a targeted examination warrant for the content of my communications gathered by bulk powers would not be needed once I got halfway across the channel. Until I went through the analysis, I did not fully appreciate that, and serious consideration is required for both content and secondary data. More generally within amendment 59 are provisions relating to individuals not normally in the British islands or within the countries specified in amendment 60.

I am sorry to have referred to other clauses, but I could not work this out until I went through that torturous route. The net result is a disconnect between content and secondary data, which goes to the heart of protection when it comes to bulk powers. Clause 13(3) is really important for bulk powers and is one of the most important provisions in the Bill, so we have to get it right.

The limit of clause 13(3) to individuals in the British islands is unsustainable and needs further thought. Amendments 59 and 60 intend to remedy that defect. If there is an appetite in the Government to look carefully at those provisions, there may be a different way of coming at the problem, but it is a real flaw in the regime as it is currently set out. I apologise for taking so long to get to that, Ms Dorries. It required a cold wet towel on one afternoon last week to work my way through this, but once we go through the exercise, we realise there is a fundamental problem that either has to be fixed or adequately answered.