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Parliament calls for radical overhaul of “embarrassing” intelligence agency oversight following Snowden revelations

MPs want a complete overhaul of the way that UK intelligence agencies handle data after the “embarrassing” way in which Edward Snowden’s revelations have brought to bare the weak oversight and legal accountability of the country’s security and intelligence agencies.

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The reforms, which have been proposed by the parliamentary cross-party home affairs select committee, would involve immediate changes to the way intelligence agencies handle data in the future and the oversight that comes with MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

Its report states that the current system is severely outdated as it was designed before the Internet era and was branded as so ineffective that it has damaged the credibility of UK intelligence agencies and even the government itself.

The response to Snowden’s revelations has been so strong as security and intelligence agency oversight weaknesses were specifically identified as a reason that Snowden took the action that he did.

"One of the reasons that Snowden has cited for releasing the documents is that he believes the oversight of security and intelligence agencies is not effective. It is important to note that when we asked British civil servants – the national security adviser and the head of MI5 – to give evidence to us they refused,” stated the MPs, according to The Guardian.

Snowden’s revelations of mass Internet surveillance by the National Security Agency were also called out as an “embarrassing indictment” of current measures in the committee’s report.

Among the changes identified by the report are an entire overhaul of the “part-time” and under-served system of oversight commissioners currently in place and greater transparency for the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which is the only one that can currently look into complaints against the UK’s security agencies.

In addition, the MPs desire a system of democratic scrutiny that changes the way members are elected to the Intelligence and Security Committee [ISC] and the end of its exclusive oversight role.

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Lastly, it wants a parliamentary review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act [RIPA] 2000 with updated technology and an improvement of its oversight safeguards to bring it to a modern standard.