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The police and security services must have the tools to protect us

By Tim Montgomerie
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In the last 24 hours a couple of commentators have bravely defended the Government's plan to ensure crime and terrorist-fighting arms of the state have access to digital communications records. Matt d'Ancona wrote that "the objective of this reform is not to deprive us of our privacy, or make real the telescreen of Nineteen Eighty-Four but to ensure that those who protect us are not technologically outpaced by those who would destroy us." Earlier today Dan Hodges argued that "the most prominent modern miscarriages of justice... have resulted not from the state accumulating too much intelligence on its citizens, but too little."

Theresa May and Ken Clarke have just sent a letter to all Tory MPs setting out why the Government is doing what it is doing:

"Communications data – information such as who called whom and at what time – is vital to law enforcement, especially when dealing with organised crime gangs, paedophile rings and terrorist groups.  It has played a role in every major Security Service counter-terrorism operation and in 95 per cent of all serious organised crime investigations.  Communications data can and is regularly used by the Crown Prosecution Service as evidence in court.

But communications technology is changing fast, and criminals and terrorists are increasingly moving away from landline and mobile telephones to communications on the internet, including voice over internet services, like Skype, and instant messaging services.  Data from these technologies is not as accessible as data from older communications systems which means the police and Security Service are finding it increasingly hard to investigate very serious criminality and terrorism.  We estimate that we are now only able to access some 75% of the total communications data generated in this country, compared with 90% in 2006. Given the pace of technological change, the rate of degradation could increase, making our future capability very uncertain."

It is a persuasive document. Download a PDF what they've written.

Evil people have always existed but they now have easier access to portable and potentially devastating weapons. With appropriate safeguards I want the security services to have the tools they say they need in order to protect us.


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