Britain’s spy agencies should continue using surveillance powers to collect large amounts of data from emails, the UK government’s reviewer of terror legislation says.
The report, which was published on Friday by terror laws watchdog David Anderson QC, assesses the operational case for four of the powers in the Investigatory Powers (IP) Bill currently going through Parliament.
MI5, MI6 and GCHQ use bulk capabilities, including bulk interception, bulk acquisition, bulk equipment interference and bulk personal datasets.
The capabilities have a “clear operational purpose,” said Anderson, who serves as the government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.
He said that bulk powers “play an important part in identifying, understanding and averting threats in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and further afield.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May, who ordered the review when she was home secretary, welcomed the findings, claiming that the report showed how the powers are of “crucial importance.”
“These powers often provide the only means by which our agencies are able to protect the British public from the most serious threats that we face. It is vital that we retain them, while ensuring their use is subject to robust safeguards and world-leading oversight which are enshrined in the IP Bill,” May said in a statement.
Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham also welcomed the review, calling on May to “accept the report in its entirety and deliver on the separate concessions extracted by Labour in” the House of Commons.
Meanwhile, Joanna Cherry, a British MP, criticized the report and said that Britain was already collecting bulk data without any justifiable reason.
“We shouldn’t be too congratulatory of the (IP) bill as we have now gone further than any other Western democracy.”