The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) of the UK Parliament today published its much anticipated report on the secret capabilities of the UK intelligence and security agencies (MI6, MI5 and GCHQ), in particular their powers to intercept electronic communications and acquire communications data. 

The key recommendation of the report (entitled “Privacy and Security: A modern and transparent legal framework“) is that the UK’s current laws governing the activities of the agencies be replaced in their entirety by a new, and transparent, legal framework. The report proposes a new single Act of Parliament that improves transparency, strengthens privacy protections and increases oversight of the agencies’ use of their intrusive capabilities. While these proposals are in outline only, the report also makes specific recommendations about each of the capabilities in question. 

The UK Government has previously stated its intent to introduce fresh legislation in this area before the end of 2016. Nevertheless, as the ISC is the Parliamentary Committee with statutory authority for oversight of the agencies and the UK’s secret intelligence community, its recommendations are likely to set the direction of travel in policy terms and shape how the draft legislation is formulated. The publication of the report, in effect, fires the starting pistol on what is likely to be an intense debate over the provisions of the new law. 

The report is the result of an eighteen month long inquiry by the ISC, prompted by allegations made in relation to UK secret intelligence agencies following Edward Snowden’s leak of classified intelligence material in June 2013.  It contains a considerable amount of information that was not previously in the public domain, and weighs in at 149 pages, with 54 conclusions and recommendations. 

To access “Privacy and Security: A modern and transparent legal framework,” click here.