Lord Carlile QC speaks at the BUCSIS-Bletchley Park Conference on 20 May 2009

Lord Carlile QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, was one of two keynote speakers at the BUCSIS-Bletchley Park Conference, held at Bletchley Park, on 20 May 2009 under the Chatham House Rule. In view of the importance of his comments and our wish that they should receive a wider readership, Lord Carlile has very kindly agreed that they might be published in full on our Blog and attributed to him; we are most grateful to him.

This is what he said:

‘He had fulfilled his position for almost eight years and was concerned that intelligence collection and its use should be undertaken in a proper and civilised way. From his vantage point, it had to be stated that two parts of current counter-terrorism legislation were being over-used at present.

The first was Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 which allowed the police to stop people at ports, and sometimes to detain them for a maximum of nine hours. Often this is done on intelligence, sometimes on the basis of behavioural analysis (a sophistication of what used to be called ‘copper’s nose’). This had led to innocent people being detained. Some Muslims in this country felt heavily discriminated against because of this.

The answer, he suggested, lay in gaining ever better intelligence and using it more effectively.

The second problem was Section 44 of the same Act. This allowed the police to stop and search individuals for terrorism material without suspicion of any specific offence. Whilst it was used for its purpose, namely to look for terrorist materials and articles, it was also being used for general policing purposes.

Individuals were thirty time more likely to be stopped by the Met than in other big cities. In Scotland, this section was rarely used apart from during the G8 summit.

In London, however, some 7,500-8,000 people were stopped each month which meant that during over five years there was a statistical chance that everyone would be stopped. 60 per cent of those stopped described themselves as ‘White British’.

Yet no one had been prosecuted for a terrorism offence as a result of section 44. It followed that counter-terrorism legislation was being used for purposes other than those intended. This must be reversed if it was to retain public confidence.

The fact was that the British public did not naturally trust their politicians or security services.

The ‘WMD Dossier’ had certainly affected trust in British intelligence even though it had nothing to do with terrorism.

For this reason there was a requirement to have top quality intelligence. GCHQ [which grew out of Bletchley Park] meets this requirement. It isn’t in itself an intelligence service but its work feeds into MI5 and MI6 and it is right that it should do its work effectively and within the Human Rights context.

Its recent public statement about its activities was to be welcomed. Indeed, the message should go out now that ‘you should tell us as much as you think you can’.

In respect of data trawling or mining, it was plain that in controlled circumstances it was needed to enable the authorities to follow the travel plans of individuals. But with broader communications data there was a question about what should be done with it, and where and how it should be retained.

In short, he concluded, the themes of this conference were much needed. How the circle might be squared was a question well worth asking.

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