back to article UK ministers, not judges, to sign off on Brit spies' surveillance

Under the UK's forthcoming Investigatory Powers Bill, warrants required to justify the intelligence services' snooping will continue to be signed by those in government – and not by independent judges – in spite of recommendations by an independent review into Blighty's counter-terrorism legislation. Following from a …

  1. adnim

    It's

    not like this is the first independent review to be ignored.

    Perhaps they should have sponsored their own, after all they know best, I prefer my propaganda to come from a previously verified source.

  2. Blank-Reg
    Big Brother

    1 - New report recommending judicial oversight

    2 - GCHQ cretins lean on 'soft' Gov ministers to ignore recommendations for fear of Judiciary

    3 - Gov ministers play into their hands (nice spending habits you have, shame if it became public)

    4 - Report successfully ignored

    5 - Immoral dataslurp and snooping continues!

    Plus ça Change...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Plus ça change, but ça Oswald Mosley.

  3. Vimes

    From the Sun article:

    “Who is held to account by the public if a bomb gets through because they refused to sign off a warrant?”

    Who is held to account for the widespread abuse we've had to put up with?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      And from that we can deduce that the home secretary signs anything and everything put in front of her, just in case?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Hmmm....I wonder if I can slip a couple of expenses claims into the stack.....

        1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          You are an MP and I claim my duck pond.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "the home secretary signs anything and everything put in front of her, just in case?"

        Just like all her predecessors

        1. Vimes

          Re: "the home secretary signs anything and everything put in front of her, just in case?"

          If memory serves Philip Hammond (as foreign secretary) showed a lack of knowledge when it came to what the warrants he was signing actually applied to.

          Why would the home secretary be any different?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "the home secretary signs anything and everything put in front of her, just in case?"

          Unless it's investigating one of her partners in crime.

      3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Big Brother

        And from that we can deduce that the home secretary signs anything and everything put in front of her, just in case?

        I feel a good Hindenburg joke coming up

        (It goes like this: Random story with a guy eating sammich .... when the guy in the story finishes it, a secretary will tell him not to leave the lunch paper around because President Hindenburg will probably sign it.)

    2. Vimes

      Come to think of it...

      (same quote again)

      “Who is held to account by the public if a bomb gets through because they refused to sign off a warrant?”

      What happens when warrants *ARE* signed and the bombs still get through?

      Remember 7/7? They had some of them under surveillance then too...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Remember 7/7? They had some of them under surveillance then too..."

        Perhaps you should look up how many plots have been foiled in the last few years in the UK. As the IRA used to say - the bombers only have to get lucky once, the authorities have to get lucky all the time.

        1. Vimes

          Perhaps you should look up how many plots have been foiled in the last few years in the UK

          And how many of those were based on half-truths, exaggerations and general twisting of the truth so that it suits them?

          https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2015/09/total-bollocks-from-mi5/

        2. nijam Silver badge

          > Perhaps you should look up how many plots have been foiled ...

          Is there any evidence that the number of plots foiled is more than, say, zero. (And by evidence, I mean actual evidence, not propaganda from those protecting their own budgets.)

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "Is there any evidence that the number of plots foiled is more than, say, zero."

            That raises an interesting point. The Govt. and their security minions like to frighten us "'cos terrists" and yet the few times they deign to prove how "good" they are at foiling terrorists, it's always the numpties they parade in front of us, the sort of wannabe terrorists who would most likely have accidentally blown themselves up (if they even managed to make a viable explosive device in the first place)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Who is held to account for the widespread abuse we've had to put up with?"

      I know its a trendy meme these days to pretend we're all victims of The Man, but just out of interest, exactly what abuse have you personally had to put up with?

      1. Vimes

        exactly what abuse have you personally had to put up with?

        I was referring to the abuse of the systems which in turn could easily end up in the abuse of the individual or group of individuals.

        In any case your question is one that can rarely ever be answered - all of these activities are highly secretive normally for good reason, making any investigation by members of the public next to impossible. Just because we don't know it's going on though doesn't make it any less of an abuse.

      2. Vimes

        One of the few public examples that affects all of us:

        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/09/25/gchq_tracked_web_browsing_habits_karma_police/

        Spying on people indiscriminately and probably without legal authorisation. Would that not fall within the definition of an abuse of power?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        GCHQ purposedly kept vulnerabilities in SSL undisclosed for 2 years so that they could use them for spying on our own population during which time data was stolen, systems were hacked, etc. So for a significant number of people and businesses they have suffered losses directly because 'the man' has put snooping above protecting the people of this country.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    well following this logic why not just have government ministers deciding on whose guilty and not?

    Surely that will clear up loads of things, just send all the unemployed to work camps, the cripples to death camps and the foreigners to internment camps.

    Also I suspect judges are far more accountable than the secret services and government... what with the whole law thing...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You're being silly.

      You put the foreigners in the work camp also. No need for internment camps.

      There. Fixed it for you.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: following this logic

      Worked fine in the USSR and the GDR, should work fine in the UK!

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "the Attorney General's advice was very clear. It would be totally irresponsible of government to allow the legal system to dictate to us on matters as important as terrorism. Not only would they tie things in knots very quickly, but they are not elected and answerable to nobody."

    Translation: "We're above the law"

    1. Vimes

      The legal system is defined by parliament. If anybody is responsible for judges having to interpret laws it's the ELECTED politicians that didn't properly define them in the first place.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      I thought that was the idea behind separation of powers in the first place.

      "Not only would they tie things in knots very quickly, but they are not elected and answerable to nobody."

      No, they are not elected. But gov.uk disagrees about this anonymous government minister claiming judges are not accountable...

      The principles of judicial accountability

      It also talks about judges being able to act independently from the ruling party. Maybe that's the problem...

      1. dotdavid

        Separation of powers? Sounds dangerous. We'd better introduce a Reintegration Of Powers Act (ROPA)

    3. Vimes

      but they are not elected

      I wonder how many people would actually vote to have Theresa May as home secretary if they were ever presented with the choice? Or any previous home secretary for that matter...

      1. W T Riker

        True Judges are not elected, but then government ministers are only elected to serve a short term and then they go and sit on the backbenches or right their memoirs or some such. What arrogance to think that by being elected makes them right.

        To become a Judge one must have a relevant legal qualification and practiced in law for a least 5 years. Let me see a part-timer with a political agenda vs a legally trained professional - mmm!

        Any time a sitting government removes independent judicial review from a legal process involving its citizens should be viewed as suspect.

  6. fruitoftheloon
    FAIL

    Offensive eh?

    Well, in the rather unlikely event of Plod actually asking the folk they supposedly protect, methinks quite a few folk would find the opinions and statements of Andrew Gould to be f'ing offensive, I know I do.

    I mean who does he work for? Ah that explains a lot...

    /surprised...

  7. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Once again...

    ...it's clear that the principle of separation of powers isn't understand by those in power. Funny, that. I think there's a famous aphorism which encapsulates the situation, but I just can't bring the words to mind...

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Once again...

      "...it's clear that the principle of separation of powers isn't understand by those in power"

      No, quite the contrary, they understand it too well... that's why they'd like to get rid of it...

  8. sandman

    It all makes sense now

    As part of our deal with China, we'll employ the same sort of snooping set-up with the same level of accountability. I wonder if Theresa May has any outfits with Mandarin collars?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: I wonder if Theresa May has any outfits with Mandarin collars?

      Can't really answer that.

      But I am pretty sure that she has "a little list"...

    2. Vimes

      Re: It all makes sense now

      Isn't Huawei making it's presence felt in the UK?

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: It all makes sense now

        Mind you, would you say Huawei are more or less competent than BT?

        If we're going to have an ex-state owend telecoms provider who's fully in the government's pocket, why not go for the one that occasionally makes decent kit?

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: It all makes sense now

      "As part of our deal with China, we'll employ the same sort of snooping set-up with the same level of accountability."

      You got that arse about face. The Chinese are here to "invest" as cover for payment to us so we can teach them a thing or two about snooping and surveillance. They are jealous as all hell over GCHQs facilities and powers.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Holmes

    What with all the judges resigning over compulsory court fees,

    Where would you find one anyway?

    1. Vimes

      Re: What with all the judges resigning over compulsory court fees,

      <pedantic> I believe it's been magistrates that have been resigning, and not judges?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What with all the judges resigning over compulsory court fees,

        I stand corrected, your honour.

        Which ones are the notorious alcoholics, again? ;-)

        Oh no, wait, that's Lords.

        Sorry.

        M'lord.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Someone isn't familiar with the concept of "its not a bug, its a feature"

    "If she is having to sign off 10 warrants a day, she can’t possibly do it with the proper scrutiny needed."

    Almost like they intended it that way??

  11. speedbird007

    Mandarin collars

    I think that our Tressa will be using these collars more and more to hide her neck, because the neck shows true age but faces can be lifted. Alternatively proud of her brass neck so won't bother 'cos good for leadership race.

  12. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Mature debate. OK, you abuse both the legal authority and engage in illegal activities under the McCarthyism of 'ISIS under the matress'. If you can't do your job legally, you are no better than terrorists.

    Your reply please Mr. Gould?

  13. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    You just can't get quality serving staff, nowadays.

    Wow, an undemocratic Parliamentary Party coup to silence and neutralise both the Lords and the masses. Go luck with that folly in search of fool support. More than that though will certainly be needed to halt revolutionary reaction and all manner of attacks, both real and virtual, on dishonourable members and administrators, methinks.

  14. sysconfig

    "[...] but they are not elected and answerable to nobody."

    That's right...

    They don't need to lie to any electorate to become a judge -- their experience, knowledge and track record matter. Alien concepts to politicians, of course.

    They don't answer to public opinion, Daily Mail, mumsnet, or indeed lobbyists.

    They don't need to please our so-called political allies, either.

    But the actual problem, from gov's point of view, is of course that they cannot easily be controlled; this is *exactly* why we have judges, and with them, the separation of powers.

    They say history repeats itself...

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: "[...] but they are not elected and answerable to nobody."

      Seems like Compassionate Conservatism has morphed into a Feral Federal Fascism, sysconfig, and history tells us all what happens to those in that sort of a lead whenever they cannot hide, and there are no secret places to hide away today, are there.

      1. dogged

        Re: "[...] but they are not elected and answerable to nobody."

        You know it's bad when amanfromMars1 makes absolute sense.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm nearly speechless at this.

    You have judicial oversight because it makes you accountable, it makes the judges accountable because they have to explain their reasons as well, if you want to snoop on someone then you must have a reason and the judge will review and accept that in 99% of cases as long as you have good reason. To take that away is like putting it all behind closed doors with no oversight and zero accountability.

    Is it just me or are we really heading for a totalitarian world? First get rid of judges powers then the house of lords leaving only the Norsefire party to rule.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Big Brother

      "Is it just me or are we really heading for a totalitarian world? First get rid of judges powers then the house of lords leaving only the Norsefire party to rule."

      Judges? We've never had judges, or a House of Lords. The Party has always been in power. EastAsia have always been our allies.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hope this public consultation goes better than the last one huh

    You know, the one where they spaffed everyones names, emails and opinions all over the web

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    V for Vendetta

    It's nearly November the 5th...

  18. Camilla Smythe

    Yo Gobshit Granny May

    I did not vote for you along with the rest of your want to be stasi and neither did 64% of the population.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_general_election,_2015

    The other 36% were 'persuaded' by 'you and yours' lies, their own vested interests or just general shitstupidfuckery.

    Reg...

    Stop publishing pictures like this,

    https://regmedia.co.uk/2015/07/06/theresa_may_648.jpg?x=648&y=348&crop=1

    "Not only would they tie things in knots very quickly, but they are not elected and answerable to nobody."

    It really really incites me to take a break from downloading tentacle pron and go out on a head/cunt kicking spree.

    1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Re: Yo Gobshit Granny May

      > The other 36% were 'persuaded' by 'you and yours' lies ...

      Or perhaps, a lot of them looked at the options and thought ... "hell no, but the alternatives are far worse !". Lets face it, none of the available option at voting time had any plans to do other than this - but the others would have foooked up the economy far more badly while also foooking us over in the name or terrorism.

      1. Camilla Smythe

        Re: Yo Gobshit Granny May

        In part. Granted..

        "Or perhaps, a lot of them looked at the options and thought ... "hell no, but the alternatives are far worse !". Lets face it, none of the available option at voting time had any plans to do other than this - but the others would have foooked up the economy far more badly while also foooking us over in the name or terrorism."

        Your latter part is left for the newly elected people with a 'mandate', when they arrive, to say it was those in here before us who fucked it up but we are going to make it better.

        Your latter part is left for the newly elected people with a 'mandate', when they arrive, to say it was those in here before us who fucked it up but we are going to make it better.

        Your latter part is left for the newly elected people with a 'mandate', when they arrive, to say it was those in here before us who fucked it up but we are going to make it better.

        Your latter part is left for the newly elected people with a 'mandate', when they arrive, to say it was those in here before us who fucked it up but we are going to make it better.

      2. Ben Norris

        Re: Yo Gobshit Granny May

        That is actually just what Cameron has brainwashed you to think. Labour had a far better record on the economy and spent LESS than this Conservative government. Leading upto the banking crisis the Conservatives were fighting regulation while Labour were trying to increase it, so repeatedly blaming Labour for lack of regulation really only fools the naive voters. The tories say they want to make work pay, meanwhile opposing minimum wage rises, tax credits, etc. Overall they have made a right cock up of the economy, the only thing they have succeeded at is lining fatcats pockets at the expense of the rest of us.

  19. Adam 52 Silver badge

    Responsibility

    This is Theresa May, who despite being Home Secretary for 5 years takes no responsibility for the Home Office but instead publically criticises her underlings for carrying out her policies.

    Who was appointed to her post by a Prime Minister who himself was selected by a few party members.

    Who was elected by 16,000 people out of a country of 60 million in a safe seat.

  20. Mark 85

    Blind leading the blind, blindly then?

    <sarc>I'm shocked, I tell you. After comments about the US now you're outraged </sard>.

    You lads on the right side of the pond have a tough go right now. For once you're not following the US into hell but leading the way. I suppose that over here, the next thing will be no judges, no secret courts, but either the AG or the Secretary of State gets to sign off on the data slurp requests.

    Why is it getting so hot and any why are we in this handbasket?

    1. Mike Pellatt

      Re: Blind leading the blind, blindly then?

      No, not really.

      You guys elect your judges in many states - which would take away May's argument over that straight away (if it had any validity in the first place). However, do tell me how well that one's working out for you.

      1. Mark 85

        Re: Blind leading the blind, blindly then?

        It's a bit of a different clusterf*ck than what you have going on, but still a clusterf*ck. Our judges are elected by the same people that elect our... hmm.... leaders, as they think they are.

  21. Graham Cobb Silver badge

    Sorry, Theresa, you are as subject to the law as I am

    It would be totally irresponsible of government to allow the legal system to dictate to us on matters as important as terrorism.

    WHAT?!!!!

    That is what the legal system is FOR! It dictates to all of us on the basis of the law!

    We can all disagree with a law, and try to get it changed. Government ministers are in a particularly powerful position to do so. However, unless and until they have changed it, they must follow the law -- that is what all the recent celebrations of Magna Carta were about: the sovereign must be subject to the law.

    Just because you don't like the Human Rights Act, and don't like the concepts that every warrant must be (i) necessary, and (ii) proportionate, that does not give you the power to bypass the law.

    It is totally irresponsible of government to try to bypass the legal system on matters as important as terrorism.

  22. PaulR79
    Big Brother

    I understand it finally!

    "Each intrusive power must be shown to be necessary, clearly spelled out in law, limited in accordance with human rights standards and subject to demanding and visible safeguards."

    Each power is needed otherwise we can't snoop and take all we want to stitch people up or cover our tracks later. It's limited in what human rights standards we pay attention to and we demand that all visible safeguards are able to be ignored as we see fit.

    There we go. All loose ends tied up in a suitably "think of the children... terrorists.... someone" way.

  23. Bota

    And people still ask why I'm leaving this shit hole country.

    1. Mark 85

      Is there any country that's not a "shit hole"?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not sure.

    One of my big concerns is how much legislation is now being decided by judges. By that I mean that a government (Labour or Tory or coalition) creates legislation and rolls it out, and then someone (for example) challenges it on 'human rights' grounds and a judge decides that according to that legislation government can't do what it was going to do.

    Parliament is either sovereign or it isn't. This isn't America where the judiciary is political and its job is to implement the constitution according to the letter of the law. I am uncomfortable with the government spying on people because I know they'll abuse any powers they give themselves but I'm also uncomfortable with expecting the judiciary to police the executive in this way.

    I don't know if there's a good or clever or better answer. A healthy dose of Reading 1984 And Not Treating It Like A Fucking Manual would certainly help our politicos, but beyond that - I don't know.

    1. Vimes

      Re: I'm not sure.

      Do you have any examples of human rights trumping legislation that you think is unreasonable, or is this another 'he was allowed to stay in the country because he had a cat' moment?

    2. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: I'm not sure.

      Parliament is either sovereign or it isn't.

      I understand your concern (even though I don't share it). I am no expert, however my understanding is that Parliament is still sovereign. I believe Parliament can repeal the Human Rights Act, and abrogate any treaties it likes, any time it likes. At which point, the judiciary will no longer be testing legislation against human rights.

      Of course, the fallout would be immense. It would involve leaving not just the EU but probably much of the civilised world. Judges might resign. It is also possible that the Queen would consider refusing to allow it, prompting a constitutional crisis. But, if I understand correctly, Parliament is still sovereign. Parliament has chosen to hamstring itself, and it could, in principle, choose to cut those strings.

      If there are concerns over the sovereignty of Parliament, the answer most definitely is not to hand powers to Theresa May instead!

    3. Graham Marsden

      @Flatpackhamster - Re: I'm not sure.

      > legislation is now being decided by judges

      I think you misunderstand what has happening for a long time.

      The Government (of whatever colour) decides it wants some legislation, so it knocks something together, makes great claims about it to the press, then enacts it in law.

      Unfortunately, it then turns out to be vaguely worded and imprecise, which, of course, the Police, Security Services, Local Councils et al love, because that gives them the opportunity to abuse it (jail for not handing over your passwords? That was supposed to only be for anti-terrorism. Spying on people who may be trying to sneak their kids into a school they shouldn't? Ditto)

      It's not until someone finally decides to stand up to the Authorities and can afford challenge this sort of nonsense in the Courts that we get some idea of what the law actually is and how it can be applied *without* breaching our Human Rights and Civil Liberties.

      But, oh, the price that has to be paid first...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Flatpackhamster - I'm not sure.

        If the legislation is poorly drafted then it's for Parliament to sort out. That's their job. They should be holding the government to account.

        I don't agree that abrogating the ECHR would lead to dogs and cats living together and mass hysteria, btw. We managed quite adequately before we had legislation allowing terrorists to sue our soldiers for shooting them. If you want an example of feature creep, then RIPA is a good one but the extension of the powers of the judiciary through their interpretation (not implementation but interpretation) of the HRA is just as good.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Flatpackhamster - I'm not sure.

          Governments held to account???

          When does that ever happen?

          I see more accountability in communist china than I do in the west...

          Over there if your corrupt, you end up in front of a firing squad... Over here, its maybe a slap on the wrist and at worse, you loose your job!

  25. Red Bren
    Big Brother

    To whom is the Home Secretary answerable?

    Certainly not the electorate, if the warrants are requested, authorised and executed in secret?

    While we laugh at the "piggy fiddler" allegations, we forget the David Cameron was the protégé of Leon Brittan. It took Theresa May three attempts to appoint an independent chair to the child abuse inquiry that Brittan should have been questioned by. The security services already have leverage over this government because they know (maybe literally) where the bodies are buried. By removing all judicial oversight, they can keep a watchful eye on us all, and ensure they have plenty of embarrassing material on anyone else who might try and curb their powers in the future.

  26. Graham Marsden
    Meh

    "If she is having to sign off 10 warrants a day...

    "...she can’t possibly do it with the proper scrutiny needed."

    Right, so you understand it...!

  27. Slx

    This is an excellent illustration of why countries need separation of powers and written constitutions.

  28. earl grey
    Facepalm

    what could possibly go wrong

    where's the facepalm icon?

  29. itzman
    Holmes

    Trust judges more than politicians?

    Its a tough call. Frying pans and fires..

    1. MrXavia

      Re: Trust judges more than politicians?

      Really we have to trust GCHQ, MI5 and MI6....

      But what we need is a much clearer remit for out intelligence and security services..

      I trust they are after the right people, but the problem is politicians are after security theatre, anything that they can say to make us feel safer...

      In actual fact I would not trust a politician to do anything human...

      1. Omgwtfbbqtime
        Thumb Down

        "anything that they can say to make us feel safer..."

        WRONG!

        It's more anything they can to make is feel more afraid of terrorism/paedos etc so we call for them to take away what is left of our freedom.

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Re: Trust judges more than politicians? ... @MrXavia

        Yes, MrXavia, there is a real fight on as to who and/or what controls and leads the ignorant masses into an increasingly intelligence led future with media command and control powers. The likes of Congresses and Senates and Parliament are for scapegoats and sheep herders.

    2. DLKirkwood

      Re: Trust judges more than politicians?

      Just slightly.

  30. DLKirkwood

    Welcome to America in the UK.

    Nip this in the bud before it gets worse.

    Americans failed to act far too long and its such a mess now Corporations are calling all the shots and there seems to be NO recourse for consumers anywhere these days. Band together and threatened to vote out any bribe taking politician that allows the citizen majority voice to go unheard.

    Many intelligent people are finally standing up and putting money on Bernie Sanders, who is not accepting any campaign money from corporation, only from citizens. Like Obama there are still lemmings who are led by the nose and do what their party tells them despite the fact they have no clue how their representative votes on any issue but keeps ranting that abortion is murder, or the terrorists are ready to strike again (right before election time).

    Too lazy or stupid to get off social media and do a little investigating they put blind trust in the very parties that sold out their jobs and stole their livelihood and deposited it into their own bank accounts. As Mycroft Holmes once said to Sherlock, I live in a world of goldfish.

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