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Thursday, January 09, 2014

Lib Dems to call for review of mass surveillance by security services

The Guardian reports that the Liberal Democrats Party President is to co-sponsor a motion at our next conference that will propose judicial oversight of state surveillance and a regular release of the number of data requests made by the security services.

The motion will propose that these should be among the issues examined by a government "commission of experts" into all the recent allegations raised by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

It will also call for the commission to review the effectiveness of all legislation surrounding the security services, including the system of parliamentary accountability.

The paper says that the motion sponsors envisage the commission as being modelled on Barack Obama's privacy and civil liberties oversight board, a five-strong body of legal, industry and security experts appointed by the president and confirmed by Congress. The board has been advising Obama on his imminent response to Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor:

The comprehensive response is being submitted in a motion to the Lib Dem spring conference by the party's president, Tim Farron, and home affairs select committee chairman, Julian Huppert. Such high-profile support suggests it is almost certain to be passed.

The terms of the motion have been discussed with Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem home affairs minister Norman Baker, and represent the most substantive sign that the Snowden revelations may yet prompt a political response in the UK similar to the one under way in the US and continental Europe.

A spokesman for Clegg said: "The motion is very much in line with Nick's thinking and he agrees with its principles."

The motion says mass surveillance of citizens without suspicion is alien to British traditions. It proposes that the government should not undertake bulk collection of data and could only access the metadata, or content of communications of an individual, "if there is suspicion of involvement in unlawful activity".

It also calls for a ban on fresh powers of surveillance, accessing data, and accessing new technologies without explicit prior parliamentary approval.

The commission would look at the resources and accountability of the bodies responsible for overseeing the security services, including select committees, tribunals and commissioners.

The Liberal Democrats have already made an impact in Government in protecting our civil liberties. We need to build on that work and this motion points us to a way forward.
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