Skip to main content

Was the Government's Snooper's Charter inevitable after The Anderson Report?

A long-expected report by the independent reviewer of anti-terrorism laws has come down decisively in favour of sweeping new state powers of electronic surveillance.

David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has decided that the UK needs "comprehensive and comprehensible" rules to replace "fragmented" and "obscure" current legislation - a verdict welcomed by the government but immediatley attacked by critics as yet another blank cheque for a 'snooper's charter.'

Home Secretary Theresa May responded to the publication today of Anderson's report in the Commons, welcoming the proposals and promising MPs they will offer a "firm basis for consultation" on new legislation planned for the autumn.

The government asked Anderson and his team to produce the 300 page document as part of the government's plans to modernise what types of activity security agencies can capture in their pursuit of criminals and terrorists, the BBC is reporting.

By modernise, it means to catch up with what Internet communications and social media can now offer.

Thus, Anderson says that:

  • definitions of communications data should be "reviewed, clarified and brought up to date"
  • security and intelligence agencies should have powers to carry out "bulk collection" of intercepted material but there must be "strict additional safeguards"
  • judges should authorise requests to intercept communications, limiting the home secretary's current role in deciding which suspects are so monitored.

He does, however, state that any new 'snoopers' charter' ideas must be subjected to "rigorous assessment" of whether they would be legal or effective.

Multiple Threats

"Modern communications can be used by the unscrupulous for purposes ranging from cyber-attack, terrorism and espionage to fraud, kidnap and child sexual exploitation," says the report, A Question Of Trust.

"A successful response to these threats depends on entrusting public bodies with the powers they need to identify and follow suspects in a borderless online world."

May told MPs that threats the government needs to deal with include not just terrorism from overseas and home grown in the UK "but also industrial, military and state espionage".

"In the face of such threats, we have a duty to ensure that the agencies whose job it is to keep us safe have the powers they need to do the job," she added.

Debate is sure to be fierce on this topic

(c) 2015