Civil liberties group Privacy International (PI) has criticized a controversial report on state surveillance, calling for improved regulatory oversight so spy agencies can be held to account.
The privacy rights group
demanded the reforms after a report on state-sponsored snooping
was published on Monday.
Conducted by foreign policy think-tank the Royal United Service Institute
(RUSI), the study was titled ‘A Democratic License to
broader Independent Surveillance Review.
PI agreed with some of RUSI’s findings but insisted that
government-backed mass surveillance remains a deep concern.
The privacy rights group warned that Britain’s legal framework
governing state surveillance relies on UK spy base GCHQ to
self-report errors. It called for a “better resourced, more
technically equipped oversight body” with the power to take
“GCHQ to task.”
It also demanded
“root and branch
reform” to bring
spies and the agencies they work for “under democratic
“The RUSI report, from start to end, emphasizes how
technological change has rendered the current legal system
governing surveillance obsolete,” PI Deputy Director Eric
King told RT on Tuesday.
“Every day, the highly technical GCHQ finds new ways to
eavesdrop, while our oversight tries to cope with technical blind
spots,” he said.
This surveillance versus
privacy rights debate has long infiltrated British politics, as
campaigners continue to criticize GCHQ’s invasive snooping
Despite contentious leaks by ex-NSA computer analyst and
whistleblower Edward Snowden, RUSI’s report claimed there is
“no evidence that the British government knowingly acts
illegally in intercepting private communications.”
It argued further that there is no proof that UK snoops
collect data in bulk as
a means of perpetually peering into the private lives of British
RUSI’s study made a series of recommendations on how state
surveillance should be conducted in the future, saying that the
current legal framework for intercepting communications is
The think tank adds this legal framework “has not kept pace
with developments in communications technology, and does not
serve either the government or members of the public
The think tank is calling for “a new, comprehensive and
clearer legal framework” to regulate state surveillance.
At a confidential intelligence conference held at Ditchley Park
in Oxfordshire in June, the views of a number of high-ranking
intelligence officials came to light.
Investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, who attended the
conference, said on his website that Snowden had transformed the
global intelligence landscape.
“Perhaps to many participants’ surprise, there was general
agreement across broad divides of opinion that Snowden — love him
or hate him — had changed the landscape,” he said.
According to Campbell, a number of senior officials felt that
shift “towards transparency, or at least ‘translucency’”
was long overdue and deeply necessary.