SECRET PLAN TO SPY ON ALL BRITISH PHONE CALLS & E-MAILS
The Observer, London, 3 December 2000, www.observer.co.uk
Britains intelligence services are seeking powers to seize all records of telephone calls, e-mails and Internet connections made by every person living in the UK. The.document, circulated to Home Office officials and obtained by The Observer, reveals that MI5, M16 and the police are demanding new legislation to log every phone call made in this country and store the information for seven years at a vast government-run "data warehouse" with a supercomputer that will hold the information.
The secret moves, which are expected to cost millions of pounds, have been condemned by politicians and campaigners as a sinister expansion of "Big Brother" state powers and a fundamental attack on the publics right to privacy.
We are sympathetic to the need for greater powers to fight modern types of crime. But vast banks of information en every member of the public can quickly slip into the world of Big Brother," said Lord Cope, the Conservative peer and a leading expert on privacy issues.
Maurice Frankel, a leading campaigner on personal data issues, called the powers "sweeping" and a cause for worry.
The document, which is classified "Restricted, says new laws are needed to allow the intelligence services, Customs and Excise and the police access to telephone and computer records of every member of the public. It suggests that the Home Office is sympathetic to the new powers, which would be used to tackle the growing problems of cybercrime, the use of computers by paedophiles to run child pornography rings as well as terrorism and international drug trafficking. When contacted by The Observer, the Home Office admitted that it was giving the plans serious consideration.
Every telephone call made and received by a member of the public, all e-mails sent and received and every web page looked at would be recorded. Calls made on mobile phones can already be pinpointed geographically, as can those made from land lines. The police would be able to use "trawling" computer techniques to look through millions of telephone and email records. Campaigners say innocent people could have highly personal information accessed.
The document admits the moves are controversial and could clash with the Human Rights Act which gives people the right to privacy, with European Union law, and with the Data.
Protection Act which protects the public against official intrusion into private lives.
"A clear legislative framework needs to be agreed as a matter of urgency" says the document, which is dated 10 August 2000 and is thought to have been sent to Home Office Minister Charles Clarke.
"Why should data be retained?" it asks. "In the interests of justice, to preserve and protect data for use as evidence to establish proof of innocence or guilt. For intelligence- and evidence-gathering purposes, to maintain the effectiveness of UK law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies to protect society.
The document is Written by Roger Gaspar, the Deputy Director-General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS),. the government agency which oversees criminal intelligence in the United Kingdom. Gaspar, as head of intelligence for NCIS, is one of the most powerful and influential men in the field. The report says it is written "on behalf of ACPO [the Association of Chief Police Officers], HM Customs and Excise, Security Service, Secret Intelligence Service and GCIHQ [the Governments secret listening centre based at Cheltenham]".
Gaspar argues telephone companies should be ordered to retain all records of phone calls and Internet access. At the moment, many telephone and Internet service providers keep data for as little as 24 hours.
"In the interests of verifying the accuracy of data specifically provided for either intelligence or evidential purposes, CSPs [communication service providers such as telephone and Internet companies] should be under an obligation to retain, the original data supplied for a period of seven years or for as long as the prosecuting authority directs," the document says.
"Informal discussions have taken place with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner. Whilst they acknowledge that such communications data may be of value to the work of the agencies and the interests of justice, they have grave reservations about longer-term data retention."
The document says that the new data warehouse would be run along similar lines to the National DNA Database of profiles of known criminals..
A spokesman for NCIS refused to be drawn on the report. "I am not going to comment on a classified document that is in unauthorised hands," he said.