Categorized | USA

Surveillance watchdog calls for ‘democratic control’ of spies

NOVANEWS

Civil liberties NGO Privacy International (PI) has criticized a report on state surveillance, calling for improved regulatory oversight rather than self-reporting by spy agencies.

The civil liberties NGO was commenting on a Royal United Service Institute (RUSI) report published on Monday.

Titled ‘A Democratic License to Operate’, the study was conducted by the foreign policy think-tank as part of Britain’s Independent Surveillance Review.

PI agreed with some of RUSI’s findings but insisted that government-backed mass surveillance remains a deep concern.

“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 added.

Privacy International warned that the current system relies on GHCQ 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 called for “root and branch reform” to bring snoops and the agencies they work for “under democratic control.”

This surveillance versus privacy rights debate has long infiltrated British politics, as campaigners continue to criticize government spy base GCHQ’s invasive snooping practices.

Despite contentious leaks by ex-NSA computer analyst and whistleblower Edward Snowden, RUSI’s report said there is “no evidence that the British government knowingly acts illegally in intercepting private communications.”

It argued further that there is no proof that the British state’s ability to collect data in bulk is used by snoops as a perpetual window into the private lives of UK residents.

RUSI’s study makes a series of recommendations on how state surveillance should be conducted in the future, saying that the current legal framework for intercepting communications is unclear.

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 satisfactorily.

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, posted on his website, “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.”

According to Campbell, a number of senior officials felt that shift “towards transparency, or at least ‘translucency’” was long overdue and utterly necessary.

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