It is late December, the House of Commons is about to take an extended break until January 12th, for no good reason, except to further reduce the amount of detailed scrutiny of the Government which they are supposed to do
As in previous years, we have been awaiting the publication of the Annual Reports of the supposedly Independent Commissioners, all former High Court Judges, who are meant to oversee and audit the operation of the the Government's snooping and interception powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
Just like last year, and the year before, there is no sign of the Annual Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner, nor that of the Intelligence Services Commissioner, covering the period up to the end of the calendar year of 2007.
See these previous RIPA Commissioners' Annual Reports published by the Cabinet Office.
See previous Spy Blog articles:
- Deja vu - Gordon Brown fails to publish the RIPA Commissioner annual reports - just like Tony Blair
- Where are the missing RIPA Commissioners' annual reports for 2005 ?
Remember that the wording off the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is very clear - these Annual Reports must be "laid before Parliament" before the end of the calendar year to which they refer.
If these Reports are not "laid before Parliament" today, Thursday 18th December 2008, the last day of this Parliamentary session this year, then Members of Parliament should hold the Prime Minister to account for yet another breach of the law, and for further demonstrating his contempt for Parliament.
We especially look forward to figures and analysis of the number of requests for Communications Traffic Data from fixed line and mobile phone telecommunications companies, which has been specially retained under the European Union Directive, which came into force on 1st October 2007, and which would not otherwise have been available under normal business practices and under now abandoned safeguards of the Data Protection Act.
We also look forward to figures and analyses of RIPA 2000 section 49 notices requiring disclosure which demand Cryptographic Keys or Plaintext de-crypted electronic data. These section 49 notices may come under the scrutiny of either the Interception of Communications Commissioner Rt.Hon Sir Paul Kennedy, or perhaps the Intelligence Services Commissioner, Rt.Hon. Sir Peter Gibson.
- How many times have the "no tipping off" secrecy provisions been invoked ?
- How many times has the "national security investigation" power been invoked, which threatens a potentially longer prison term (up to 5 years in prison rather than up to 2 years) for refusal to comply with such section 49 notices ?
- How many times has the Chairman of the Financial Service Authority been consulted about such notices about to be served on regulated financial institutions, as per the Code of Practice ?
- How many times have actual Cryptographic Keys been handed over, rather than de-crypted Plaintext, in response to RIPA section 49 notices ?
- How many refusals to comply with RIPA Section 49 notices have there been ?
- How many prosecutions for refusal to comply with a RIPA section 49 notice have there been ?
- How many convictions for refusal to comply with a RIPA section 49 notice have there been ?
Yet again, the deliberate delay in the publication of these two RIPA Commissioners' Annual Reports, contrasts with that of the other main RIPA Commissioner, the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Rose, who, like his predecessors, managed to publish his report in the June or July , following the Calendar Year to which it refers.
If these Annual Reports are not published today, then it will cast doubt on the integrity of the Home Secretary's promise of a public consultation starting in January 2009, over the Communications Data Bill, as these reports are directly relevant to that scheme.