Statewatch article: RefNo# 25620
The “alternative” 2002 annual report on surveillance
Statewatch Bulletin; vol 13 no 5 August-October 2003
The reports by the government on surveillance activities for the year 2002 are now available. In Statewatch vol 13 no 3/4 the latest figures for the size of the Special Branch were given together with an account of their relationship with MI5. This showed that the Special Branch, which with MI5 forms the "political police" in the UK, has doubled in size - from 1,638 in 1978 during the Cold War and the conflict in Northern Ireland to 4,247 in 2002.

The annual report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2002 gives figures for warrants issued for the surveillance of communications and show that on a conservative estimate this has more than doubled since Labour came to power in 1997. These figures are a gross under-estimate as no figures are given for Northern Ireland, MI5 (the internal Security Service), MI6 (the external Secret Intelligence Service) or GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters). Until the Labour government came to power in 1997 the previous highest figure for the number of warrants issued for surveillance was 1,682 in 1940 during the Second World War. In 2002 a total of 3,748 were issued/modified/or renewed.

The annual report of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner (2002-2003) reveals for the first time an overall figure for the number of agents/informers - known as “covert human intelligence sources”, CHIS - were employed by the law enforcement agencies (excluding MI5 and MI6). In the year April 2002 to March 2003 over 11,000 "covert human intelligence sources" were active.

There have been a number of significant changes to the way that the number of warrants for telecommunications interception are presented which disguise its true extent. Prior to 1998 the highest annual number of warrants was 1,682 in 1940 during the Second World War. In 2002 the number of warrants (and “modifications”) was 3,748 - and the surveillance of telecommunications has more than doubled since Labour came to power in 1997.

It can be simply stated that the UK population is under surveillance as never before in its history.

Intelligence Services Commissioner annual report

The annual report of the Intelligence Services Commissioner (2002) gives no figures at all. Moreover it highlights that changes brought about under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA 2000) which deleted obligations from the main Acts covering MI5 (Section 4 of the Security Service Act, 1989) and MI6/GCHQ (Section 8 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994) mean that previous obligations to produce "annual reports" on their overall activities is now replaced by reports covering (with virtually no information) only their surveillance activities under RIPA - representing another, unreported, loss of (theoretical) democratic accountability.

The Rt Hon Lord Justice Simon Brown was appointed the Commissioner under the 1989 and 1994 Acts on 1 April 2000 and changed roles on 2 October 2000 to work under RIPA - his three-year term of office has been extended by the Prime Minister until 2006.

The annual report for 2002 contains a description of the Commissioner's role and very little (if any) detail. It does contains a definition of "covert human intelligence sources" (CHIS) as:

Covert human intelligence sources are essentially people who are members of or act on behalf of one of the intelligence services to obtain information from people who do not know that this information will reach the intelligence service

CHIS are undercover agents or people recruited by them to spy on a group or organisation.

Like all the other Commissioners no complaints to the Tribunal, also headed by Lord Justice Mummery, were upheld.

Commissioner for surveillance

The Chief Surveillance Commissioner deals with: "all covert activities, except phone-tapping, carried out by all public authorities, except the intelligence services"

This Commissioner thus deals with covert<

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