12 Mar 2015

‘Snooping’ laws: what can we expect from MP’s spying report?

The power of UK security agencies to access private communications will be examined in a parliamentary report due to be published on Thursday.

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) inquiry into privacy and security was announced in July 2013 after Edward Snowden, a US intelligence operative, revealed details of mass surveillance by GCHQ and its American counterpart, the National Security Agency (NSA).

Documents handed to newspapers including The Guardian and The Washington Post revealed the agencies are able to tap into the internet communications of millions of ordinary citizens through different programmes such as GCHQ‘s Tempora and the NSA’s Prism.

The ISC initially carried out a limited investigation into claims that GCHQ used the Prism programme to circumvent UK laws and cleared the agency of any wrongdoing.

However, it launched a wider inquiry into whether the laws governing surveillance are adequate for the internet age.

The committee – now without its former chair Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who stepped down following a Channel 4 investigation that exposed allegations of inappropriate lobbying – is expected to release its findings on Thursday.

The intelligence agencies will hope the report, as Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond put it, “draws a line” under the Snowden revelations.