The Report of the Interception Commissioner for 2004 (.pdf)
produced by the Rt. Hon. Sir Swinton Thomas is now available online.
Why it has taken until November for the Government to publish this latest annual report , submitted on 12th July 2005, is a mystery, especially since the previous annual report was published in the July of the year to which it refers.
How can this be as "as soon as practicable after the end of each calendar year" as the Act requires ?
This report touches on some of the issues we have been worried about in the Terrorism Bill 2005 which seeks to amend the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
As with all such reports, there is a secret annex which has not been made public.
With regards to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act Part III Investigation of Electronic Data Protected by Encryption etc. which is still not yet in force:
"However, the use of information security and encryption products by terrorist and criminal suspects is not. as I understand, as widespread as had been expected when RIPA was approved by Parliament in the year 2000. Equally the Government's investment in the National Technical Assistance Centre - a Home Office managed facility to undertake complex data processing - is enabling law enforcement agencies to understand, as far as necessary, protected electronic data."
Sir Swinton sheds no light on why it is necessary or desirable to reduce the democratic scrutiny of renewed or extended Interception Warrants or Certificates under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, as is currently being pushed through Parliament in the Terrorism Bill 2005 clause 31 Interception warrants.
Sir Swinton Thomas certainly does not make such a recommendation to remove the scrutiny of the Home Secretary in person, and to delegate this to a faceless, unaccountable official:
"However the Secretary of State may refuse to grant the warrant if he or she considers, for example, that the strict requirements of necessity and proportionaility are not met, and the agencies are well aware that the Secretary of State does not act as a "rubber stamp"
On the question of the use of Intercept evidence under "Section 17: Exclusion of matters from legal proceedings" he says:
"I am left in no doubt that the balance falls firmly against any change in the present law and that any amendment of Section 17 of the Act would, overall, be damaging to the work of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies."