Surveillance: wtf?

The _Telegraph_ reports today that there are more than a thousand phone-tapping applications made (and granted) every day in Britain. The paper is particularly worked up because it is not just the intelligence services and the police but local councils which have the power to do this. That seems to me all of a piece with the general dysfunction of the post-imperial state: it’s hard to be good at anything when you don’t know what you’re for. And I have taken for granted that everyone will tape everything ever since the fights over RIPA. What did make my mind reel, though, were the last sentences of the piece.

bq. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said: “It beggars belief that in a nine-month period, based on these figures, the entire City of Westminster could have had their phones tapped – yet Britain remains one of the few Western countries that won’t allow this evidence to be used in court … to prosecute criminals and terrorists.”
But Sir Paul [Kennedy, the information commissioner] confirmed that MI5 and other intelligence agencies remain opposed to any change in the law.

What possible creditable reason can there be for collecting all this informaiton without ever using it in court?

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3 Responses to Surveillance: wtf?

  1. The Welsh Jacobite says:

    The figures in question do not relate to “phone tapping” (i.e. intercepting the content of comms) they relate to “communications date” (i.e. information about comms), which is held to be much less intrusive. A typical example would be a request for subscriber information where a telephone number is ex-directory.

  2. acb says:

    Ah. Thanks. That might very well explain why all the other papers put the report on page 8 or thereabouts.

  3. The Welsh Jacobite says:

    Furthermore, comms data can be used in court – and routinely is.

    It’s worrying that Shami Chakrabarti doesn’t (apparently) know what she’s talking about.

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