Mark Collins – British Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Review Committee Shows Some Teeth (cf. Canada)

Further to this post,

Canadian SIGINT/CSE: “2014-15 Annual Report: The watchdog shows his teeth”

the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee has reported on the government’s proposals to beef up the powers of security and intelligence agencies (cf. our former government’s legislation, bill C-51–more below)–at The Economist:

Snoopers scolded
A parliamentary committee blasts government surveillance plans

“SUPINE” and “deferential” have been some of the adjectives applied to the Intelligence and Security Committee, the nine-member body of MPs and peers which oversees Britain’s spy agencies. Unlike its counterparts in America’s Congress, it has a small staff, and it has failed to make much impact on issues such as the alleged participation of British officials in torture or rendition of suspected terrorists.

Not any more. The committee’s report this week on the government’s draft bill on investigatory powers—termed the “Snoopers’ Charter” by critics—adopted a tone of blistering disdain. It accused the government of hurrying the bill through, said its language was in places “incomprehensible” and that the powers it authorised were far too sweeping. It bemoaned the lack of explicit protection for journalists’ sources and lawmakers. In particular, it said that the protection of individual privacy, not the promotion of spookdom, should be the centrepiece of the bill…

… it is hard to see how, given the withering criticism it has received, the draft bill can proceed in its current form. A hurried rewrite risks running into the same difficulties as the current version. The fundamental problem is that the government has not been able to define the meaning of vital terms such as “necessary”, “proportionate” or “urgent” in a way that even sympathetic lawmakers find convincing.

Despite the government’s pickle, the bigger point is a positive one, about Britain’s system of intelligence oversight [it’s not semi-real time oversight, it’s review]. The same privacy advocates who once derided the Intelligence and Security Committee as a poodle are now cheering its resolve.

Then note this:

Canada looking to British model for national security committee: Goodale [public safety minister]

My views:

New Liberal Government on Parliamentarians and Security/Intelligence–Could be Worse

As for C-51:

Terrorism, Intelligence and Bill C-51: “The Fight Over Canada’s Patriot Act”
[April 2015]

Liberals aim to balance national security with rights and freedoms in Bill C-51 revamp
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says Canadians will be consulted on changes to controversial bill drafted by Conservatives after 2014 terror attacks.

Lots of work for the new government to do; one hopes they don’t mess things up.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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