back to article MI5 head calls for comms data access

Jonathan Evans, the director general of MI5, has said it needs access to communications data to strengthen national security. In the first newspaper interviews given by a serving MI5 director general, Evans robustly defended the government's plans to allow MI5 and the other security and intelligence agencies to intercept …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Alternative Headline

    "Spy would like to spy on more people"

    No, really?

    Next up:

    "Government wants stricter control over populace"

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Obviously then

    I will use a SIP provider based outside the UK, talking to my mates (in the UK) who also use ex-UK SIP based providers.

    Evans man, you are talking bull (and it;ll be probably recorded as such !!!!).

    Mines the secret one

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They already do this through GCHQ at Cheltenham. What they want is the right enshrined in law to use it as evidence in court.

  4. john loader

    They need to know everything

    When will we all be chipped so that MI5 can see exactly where we are - it would mean that the Intelligence(?) Agencies would have even more data to fight terrorism. Then there's the TV that watches you - sorry, George rwell go there first.

  5. JBR


    //rant over//

    A quick drive along the high st of our village (rural, approx 2000 people) and my N95 picks up 5 unencrypted wireless networks

    Add in email encryption or a VPN or Tor etc etc etc and the security services are stuffed. I know they have a job to do but all this legislation would achieve is to grind the small guy a little more under the jackboot of state bureaucracy. And we know what local council are like...

    "we have an email sent by yourself which expresses doubt at the point of recycling. Our compliance officer will be round tomorrow"

    (say in a whiney nasal Ken Livingstone or Germaln accent for best effect)

    Hats off to the people protecting us from being bombed but this pandering to the Daily Mail reading headless chickens needs to stop

    all politics can be summed up by

    "something must be done... this is something... we should do this" (thanks to Yes Prime Minister"

  6. amanfromMars Silver badge

    And what is Cap'n Scarlett's Take on the Message if IMPudent Silence is not Arrogant Default

    "Evans also told the Guardian that the public would not want a society in which the security service monitors them all the time."

    Done properly, they would never know, and every society would be more secure and secured against the crazy idiot and/or the fallen fool/the Oppressed and the Repressed. However, doing it properly in and with IT is an Art Phorm worth literally ,Trillions. That makes ITs Artist Virtually Priceless, and therefore worth every Red Cent they were Granted.

    What next? ..... A palace to barrack them in? And why ever not if they cut the mustard and cut out all of the old crap.

  7. George
    Thumb Down

    So you haven't got access already guys?

    What they really want is legitimate access to everything rather than going through the longer legal route that has worked for so long.

    And thats to say that they couldn't get it covertly anyway, and if they can't that is very worrying since how do we defend ourselves if we can't even intercept basic email and files. I can't imagine MI5 trying to hack in to some where and when it comes up with password required saying "oh no we're screwed Jeeves"

    I still don't think we should just open up our data to any government organisation as it always gets abused. Look at the Terrorism Act its been used to spy on people over filling bins.

    Just to say I have nothing to hide, worked in defence so clean as anybody can be BUT doesn't mean I want the government to access my data.

  8. Ash

    You're having a giraffe

    "Evans also told the Guardian that the public would not want a society in which the security service monitors them all the time."

    Too late.

  9. Frank

    But then again...

    "..Evans also told the Guardian that the public would not want a society in which the security service monitors them all the time.."

    But then again, what's that got to do with any decision making about security service powers?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He he knows the plots,he doesn't need this power

    1. He doesn't know if terrorist plots had eased or not because if he knew of them, he'd be prosecuting them. He he already knew of them, he doesn't need this interception power either!.

    2. Hence this is marketing. Most likely it's another case of enforcement officers working with a particular politician to drive policy, similar to how ACPO seems to coordinate it's press lobbying with the Home Office passing of legislation to Parliament to pressure MPs in the vote using the press.

    3. "If we are to maintain our capability" is a lie, to make you think the world has changed and they've somehow *lost* this ability. Rather the reverse is true, the technology of mass surveillance is new and they want it. Never before have they had the computing power to perform surveillance of everyone all the time 24/7.

    4. Having that is a danger to democracy.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Such records show who called who and at what time."

    When I bought a prepaid SIM card recently at Carphone Warehoiuse I had to register some name and address. But little did they do to validate my data except to check whether it was a valid post code. How do they know I'm not a terrorist? Er, must have been my trustworthy appearance...


  12. HeavyLight
    Paris Hilton

    Thank goodness

    that nobody has told MI5 about IM...

    (Paris because at least she has a fucking clue!)

  13. alain williams Silver badge

    Where is the proof ?

    ''the threat of an immediate attack in Britain by al-Qaida inspired extremists has diminished because a string of successful prosecutions has had a "chilling" effect.''

    Easy to say, but what is the proof for this? Can he demonstrate cause and effect?

    Such an assertion is good for his job security & obscene departmental budget, but is if fact or fiction ?

    I assert that I don't have elephants nesting in my trees because I plant daffodils. What do you mean you want to know why ?

  14. Anonymous Coward


    Can I be the first to say 'if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear'.

    There, Ive done it....I get my coat....

  15. Pete Silver badge

    Just wait until -V i a g r a- becomes a codeword

    What happens when the baddies start concealing their nefarious emails in plain SPAM?

    Presumably the spooks won't want to follow up on the billions of offers that people receive daily for all these wonderful sex products. So on that basis, it becomes the perfect place to conceal sensitive data. Just imagine what a few simple substitutions could do, to turn an innocuous piece of junk mail into a call-to-arms.

    However, the baddies would have to be very careful about which SPAMS they should take as orders, and which ones are truly just trying to get them to donate to con-artists, otherwise we could end up in the mother of all terrorist attacks.

  16. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    He is

    Just another Labour marionette - he will say whatever Jasqui Smith will want him to say and what she will want him to say we already know, so he might have saved himself the trouble of straining his lungs and the voice cord.

  17. Nigel Callaghan
    Black Helicopters

    They already have access...

    It's easy:

    1) See a judge

    2) get a warrant

    3) start tapping

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "UK links to the recent Mumbai attacks"

    That'll be MI6 then. Somebody tell the buffoon this, as I doubt he reads El Reg.

  19. g e

    The six degrees

    Of Osama Bin laden ...

    You know it's true ;o)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Darn Right I Don't Want to Be Monitored!

    I understand the necessity of keeping comms data for criminal investigations. Patchy as the current system seems to be it seems to work fine. An article I read from the Daily Mail

    made interesting reading (though I can't vouch for its technical accuracy):

    The £12 billion price tag of the proposed IMP makes the £9 million the current system has cost pale in comparison. However, I find the fact that making requests for the information doesn't require judicial authority a bit dubious. And MI5's head shoots himself a bit in the foot by saying the risk of terrorism has reduced. I rather suspect these powers are (despite what he says) to monitor the general populace's internet activities.

    I suspect the data will be gathered & data-mined rather like the NSA does in the US. I can easily imagine an automated system where visiting a certain website, searching for a certain word or phrase, or e-mailing a certain person could trigger an alarm requiring further human analysis. The end of internet anonymity as we know it.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My top threats to UK domestic security

    Well if he can list his top threats, then perhaps I can.

    1. Quantitative easing. i.e. not just setting zero interest rates (= creating infinite free money), but forcing more money than is being pulled into the market to create a bubble. The result would be the collapse of sterling, and financial collapse as seen in the Soviet Union and Zimbabwe, starvation, disease etc. etc. The idea that other major civilisations can collapse and UK not is just nonsense, there is already no reason to hold sterling Rachel.

    2. Rogue politicians bypassing Parliamentary control. A direct threat to democracy this one, when a politicians thinks that they are right and they are the only person who understands their own rightness, they represent a danger to democracy. J Smith fits this bill, constant games to bypass Parliament, move decisions to Minister level, appealing to the Press to influence Parliament etc.

    3. Rogue civil servant, as UK has empowered the civil service and simultaneously replaced people with machines and clerks with software, the ability of a rogue civil servant to abuse their position has increased. No longer do they need permission from people, if the software doesn't stop them, they are not stopped. i.e. the rise of a Hoover figure who is so powerful he cannot be sacked. Only worse because Hoover kept his power by having cronies everywhere, whereas this person would have surveillance machines (cronies die, machines don't).

    4. Mass surveillance of public, used to suppress dissent. e.g. the MI5 officer lists Israel's actions in Gaza as providing ideological justification that is a threat to the UK. As though UK is the Israel and criticism of Israel is somehow unhealthy in the UK now. I find that a very chilling comment he made.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Let loose the dogs of government hell.

    Such records as who called who and at what time, already exist. We don't need a centralised government database to record this. The powers should continue be granted on a warrant basis; if the spooks want to watch someone, they need to gain autnorisation from someone in authority to do it ... otherwise they've got no justification for routinely gathering everyones communications data. Powers - yes - but target them against people they've already got reason to watch.

    For this to be comming from our current, "Warrant? We don't need no stinkin' warrant," security services is, actually, a bit of a joke.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I dunno

    I think stopping going to war in foreign countries that don't pose us a military threat, proping up various governments and generally being dicks would help reduce the threat to the country alot more then yet another magical database.

    If I recall the yanks had lots of information prior to 11/9 problem was they had so much junk they never spotted the little bits of good stuff floating in the oceans of useless garbage. MI5 just wants even more useless garbage... great going guys, but then if MI5 is already suspecting someone they can get the records from the telcos anyway, seen as we're being told they wont be allowed to go "fishing" with the database...

    Smells like someones lying, problem is both sides (ministers and the "security" services) both lie so much it's hard to figure out which is lying right now about this case.

    Anyway people like this shouldn't be allowed to call for anything, they should shut the hell up and keep the hell out of the papers, if they have such a huge problem they should quit and then complain. Police chiefs, security tsars, trust managers, generals, etc, they shouldn't talk to the media... fags. It's just lobbying and playing on peoples concerns, they shouldn't be getting involved in media hype and politics >.>

  24. Tom Chiverton

    Of course they want it

    Of course they want access to it - doesn't mean they should get it.

    Join your local group now...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Half a MILLION times?

    Just reading that Dailymail story is chilling:

    "Police can see the phone records without having to apply to the courts, with senior offices issuing a Section 22 notice under the powerful Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act."

    "The process has become an everyday part of police inquiries and many forces and MI5 have automated systems to retrieve mobile data – prompting calls for the service to be free of charge."

    "Last year, Section 22 powers were exercised more than 500,000 times."

    Incredible that such a thing happens in a democratic society.

  26. dervheid


    "if the spooks want to watch someone, they need to gain authorisation from someone in authority to do it "

    Just replace the "someone in authority".

    Step forward Jackboots Smith.

    It's what she wants, isn't it.

  27. Adam Silver badge

    re: Half a MILLION times

    Yes, the system of getting call and subscriber records is automated and happens daily.

    Or would you rather the 999 call that starts "Help! He's got a knife..." and then dies gets ignored?

    The vast majority of RIPA requests fall into this category and get approved by the control rooms inspector.

  28. Guy Herbert

    @ Nigel Callaghan - you are mistaken

    You are probably thinking of free countries. No judges are involved in the UK in interception - that's on the Home Secretary's warrant - or surveillance (bugging, comms data etc) - that's self-authorised by whatever public authority is exercising the power. As long as the latter are following the code of practice the Surveillance Commissioner is happy, he never enquires into the merits of individual cases.

    @ AC 10:39 (and his followers)...

    Nope: Surveillance product can already be used in court. No change is being proposed to the rule about interception product, which cannot even be mentioned or implied to exist in court. That's because they don't want to permit discovery of interception product. Comms data and specific bugging can be much more readily ringfenced.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SSL and VPN Encryption

    Sorry, but these wont work because GCHQ have the keys to all commercially available encryption. You would need to develop your own proprietary encryption.

  30. 3x2


    <..> can be retrieved by the police, MI5 and other agencies. <...>

    Yes and it's the "other agencies" that I have a problem with. I might be more amenable to the IMP if RIPA hadn't given everyone else unfettered, unregulated access at the same time. The Police and State Security are one thing but nobody has yet explained why some half wit in my local Council needs access - they have no role in investigating serious crime or terrorism.

    Come back with the IMP once RIPA has been overhauled otherwise it just looks more and more like East Germany every day.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @help he's got a knife

    "Or would you rather the 999 call that starts "Help! He's got a knife..." and then dies gets ignored? The vast majority of RIPA requests fall into this category and get approved by the control rooms inspector."

    Vast majority? Bullshit.

    No they don't. You're not for a second telling me that there were half a million calls to 999 where the person is able to call, able to ask for help but unable to give their location. That nobody else present can give their location and that the 999 operator then gets a senior policemans written consent to obtain data under RIPA section 22.

    If that WAS the intended usage for RIPA then why does RIPA make it a free for all for officers and civil servants. It does NOT restrict usage of this RIP act to just life threatening emergencies where there's no time for a warrant. If you're saying this is the justification, then even then, it's not a justification for RIPA because RIPA does not require a life threatening emergency as a condition for it's use..

    RIPA has no place in a civilised free democracy.

    The conditions are

    "(a) in the interests of national security;

    (b) for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or of preventing disorder;

    (c) in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom;

    (d) in the interests of public safety;

    (e) for the purpose of protecting public health;

    (f) for the purpose of assessing or collecting any tax, duty, levy or other imposition, contribution or charge payable to a government department;

    (g) for the purpose, in an emergency, of preventing death or injury or any damage to a person’s physical or mental health, or of mitigating any injury or damage to a person’s physical or mental health; or

    (h) for any purpose (not falling within paragraphs (a) to (g)) which is specified for the purposes of this subsection by an order made by the Secretary of State. "

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Self regulation does not work

    I'm reading this report on RIPA in total disbelief, it seems that half a millions requests were made that were reported to the inspector. A 'warrant' is now nothing more than a semi official letter. A code is given to the officer which enables him to get the information from the ISP.

    The inspector gets the list of warrants issued from the people who issued them. i.e. self regulation, how does he know he has the full list? He visits a few ISPs for a chat but does not obtains the corresponding list of all requests made from them and does not match up the two lists. They are apparently not under any obligation to report any requests they receive to him or to anyone representing the interests of the the person being spied on.

    He also refuses to break down the types of requests made and by whom, but broadly asserts that it's for anti-terrorism and crime purposes which apparently a judge would stop. Because he says they couldn't obtain this info WITHOUT RIPA.


    "During the year ended 31 December, 2007, public authorities as a whole,

    made 519,260 requests for communications data to Communication Service

    Providers (CSP). I do not intend to give a breakdown of these requests because I do

    not think that it would serve any useful purpose, but I can say that the intelligence

    agencies, police forces and other law enforcement agencies are the principal users

    of communications data."

    "As I said in my first Report last year, the interception of communications

    is an invaluable weapon for the purposes set out in section 5(3) of RIPA. It has

    continued to play a vital part in the battle against terrorism and serious crime, and

    one that would not have been achieved by other means"

    Yeh those pesky terrorism sympathising judges wouldn't give you a warrant.

    Good grief, it's like East Germany in the 70s.

  33. Adam Silver badge

    @help he's got a knife

    "Vast majority? Bullshit.

    No they don't. You're not for a second telling me that there were half a million calls to 999 where the person is able to call, able to ask for help but unable to give their location. That nobody else present can give their location and that the 999 operator then gets a senior policemans written consent to obtain data under RIPA section 22."

    Yes I am. Any call to 999 is treated as a call for help, deliberate or not. Remember there are several million silent 999 calls each year - any one of them might be the next Hannah Foster - so if there's any suspicion at all a subscriber check is done.

    How do you suppose someone else present is located unless you get the location of the original call? Remember that people calling 999 aren't always in the most stable frame of mind and quite often drunk.

    On top of that every call centre has got its collection of regular nutcases who put 999 into their speeddial.

  34. amanfromMars Silver badge

    It's not what you, it's who you tell it to? When IT's a Problem, Tell Everybody .

    "Good grief, it's like East Germany in the 70s." A lot of 70s East Germans would tell you of Realising Beta Days then, when compared to Now.

    And you would not believe it, but a live version one of those pesky robotic flying bugs the Snoops and Spooks are trialling, has just landed on my Screen.

    Time for Medication? Nurse! When IT Pleases You, if You Please. :-)

    A Touch of Self-Regulation demonstrated there, meThinks. :-)

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stasi Secrets, a positive suggestion

    I have a positive suggestion to make to solve this RIPA problem:

    1. A RIPA info request has a checkbox on it "Do not disclose"

    2. To check that "Do not disclose" box the officer has to swear to obtain a warrant.

    3. By default the subject of the RIPA communications info request is contacted about the request and told all the details of it. If you have nothing to hide, UK Stasi, then you have nothing to fear by this. Why shouldn't a person who made a 999 call receive an SMS telling them their cell details were given to he police? If it's done honestly and legally then they have the right to know and the right to sue if they believe it was done illegally.

    4. If the 'Do not disclose' box is checked, the ISP cannot disclose for 1 month and the officer/rozzer/busybody/spook has to go to a judge, and get a proper warrant.

    5. If the warrant is not received by the ISP/telecoms company within 1 month, then the telecoms company/ISP then informs the person of the RIPA request and sends a copy of an irregularity to the RIPA watchdog for investigation.

    6. If the judge decides the rozzer is doing illegal stuff, as judges often do, and refuses the warrant, then the person is informed and the watchdog notified.

    If you have nothing to hide, then what do you have to fear?

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @999 calls

    "Any call to 999 is treated as a call for help, deliberate or not."

    Yet half of 999 calls are not emergencies:

    "Remember there are several million silent 999 calls each year - any one of them might be the next Hannah Foster - so if there's any suspicion at all a subscriber check is done."

    The regulator said not, he said : "I can say that the intelligence agencies, police forces and other law enforcement agencies are the principal users of communications data."

    i.e. not the call centre that handles 999 calls which is neither police, nor law enforcement nor intelligence agency.

    I put it to you again, if the UK Stasi have nothing to hide then there is no reason to hide behind 'Hannah Foster' and the person should not be informed they were the subject of a RIPA section 22. Why should 'Hannah' not receive an SMS saying their mobile phone location was the subject of such and such a RIPA request from such and such agency?

    What are you hiding?

  37. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    "It's for National Security"...

    ... is just another version of "Won't Someone Think of the Children"!

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    "British links to the recent Mumbai attacks"?? Que? Oh yessss of course there were British links, check back GCHQ's phone records to the supposed "terrorists"'s your £1m Mr Armajabad, have fun....

    when will the general populace see through the whole "Al Queda Menace" foolishness for exactly what it is, a complete and utter lie? There is no material connection between any of the attacks of recent years execpt those we are told exist and 'material exists' but cannot be shown due to it's 'sensative nature'....sounds suspect no?

    "make a man fear enough and he will sell his freedom most cheaply"

    don't sell your freedom away too easily, act before it is too late.....sitting on fora complaining about it will not do anything though, people need to act in concrete terms

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    999 calls

    999 calls from landlines display the address of the phone they are coming from. I know, I wrote some of the ICCS software that does it.

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