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'Prosecute spies who abuse power' says watchdog

The Intelligence and Security Committee Credit: PA Wire

The law should be changed so that spies who abuse their power to access personal information can be prosecuted, an intelligence watchdog has said.

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) revealed in its long-awaited report that MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have disciplined or dismissed staff for inappropriately accessing personal information through bulk data collection.

But the Committee said it was concerned to find that there is not a specific criminal offence that can be brought against those who misuse interception capabilities and that the law should be changed.

The Interception of Communications Commissioner, The Right Honourable Sir Anthony May revealed there was a "very serious case" last year, in which GCHQ employee deliberately undertook a number of unauthorised searches for related communications data.

The abuse of the systems amounted to gross misconduct and the individual was fired, the Commissioner said.

Intelligence report branded 'clueless' by Liberty director

Shami Chakrabarti calls ISC report "clueless" Credit: PA Archive

The director of human rights campaign group Liberty said that the Parliament report into intelligence agency snooping is "ineffective" and "clueless".

Shami Chakrabarti said that the Intelligence and Security Committee is a "mouthpiece for the spooks" and that agencies have acted unlawfully.

The ISC has repeatedly shown itself as a simple mouthpiece for the spooks - so clueless and ineffective that it's only thanks to Edward Snowden that it had the slightest clue of the agencies' antics.

The Committee calls this report a landmark for 'openness and transparency' - but how do we trust agencies who have acted unlawfully, hacked the world's largest sim card manufacturer and developed technologies capable of collecting our login details and passwords, manipulating our mobile devices and hacking our computers and webcams?

No doubt it would be simpler if we went along with the spies' motto of 'no scrutiny for us, no privacy for you' - but what an appalling deal for the British public.

– Shami Chakrabarti
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