MP calls for GCHQ judicial regulation

GCHQ should be under the regulation of judges, according to a senior MP.

David Davis, who ran for the position of Conservative Party leader in 2005 and lost to David Cameron, and has in recent years spoken out on surveillance and for online privacy, said that there should be some better regulation of the intelligence agency, in an interview published today by IT Security Guru.

“The problem is there is a whole series of laws and it is never clear which is being used and some are incredibly open-ended,” he said.

Davis referred to the 1984 Telecommunications Act, of which section 94 paragraph five states: “A person shall not disclose, or be required by virtue of any enactment or otherwise to disclose, anything done by virtue of this section if the Secretary of State has notified him that the Secretary of State is of the opinion that disclosure of that thing is against the interests of national security or relations with the Government of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, or the commercial interests of some other person”, Davis said that this pretty much gives the Secretary of State (Home Secretary) the right to tell telcos to do whatever she wants them to do, and they are precluded by criminal law from telling anybody this case.

Calling this “an incredible case”, Davis said: “The truth of the matter is that in most countries, the big telecommunications companies are either owned by the Government or heavily regulated by them and historically have always complied with Government on bugging, and it was quite a lot done by patriotic people who did it but kept it quiet.

“When it was limited to a man in blue overall connecting crocodile clips to a terminal, it didn’t matter and now as technology changes and after BT went into the public domain the Government needed to have control. Then right through to the things passed in Official Secrets Act of 1994 and there are levels of constraint and the authorising signatory is a politician and the sort of theory on it is that they are accountable, who never comment on security matters, so we don’t know what law it is.”

Asked what should happen to GCHQ, Davis said: “It should be under judicial control and I would be happy if it was set up as a separate regime out the control of Government and under a judge. I think we could kill off a lot of these problems if we put it under a judge’s control system, who would comment publicly. There are thousands that go on, how can one tiny organisation keep up?”

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