Farewell privacy: Sir David Omand says the Government needs Big Brother powers
Source: Mail Online.co.uk, 25th February 2009
By: Tamara Cohen
Personal data of innocent citizens must be made available to the Government to combat terrorism, according to an influential former security chief.
Sir David Omand, Whitehall’s former and security and intelligence coordinator, called for unprecedented Big Brother powers to allow access to private details – including phone records, emails and travel information – to be given to the intelligence services.
Setting out a hugely controversial blueprint for the future of national security he said ‘moral rules’ about individual privacy would have to be broken.
His 17-page report calls for the creation of a vast state database to gather information about terrorist groups which are increasingly recruiting and operating online.
But he argued that a citizen’s right to privacy would have to be sacrificed to allow ‘intrusive’ intelligence techniques.
‘Finding out other people’s secrets is going to involve breaking everyday moral rules’, he wrote.
‘This is personal information about individuals that resides in databases, such as advance passenger information, airline bookings and other travel data, passport and biometric data, immigration, identity and border records, criminal records,and other governmental and private sector data, including financial and telephone and other communications records.’
‘Modern intelligence access will often involve intrusive methods of surveillance and investigation, accepting that, in some respects, this may have to be at the expense of some aspects of privacy rights.’
The paper ‘National Security Strategy and Implication for the UK Intelligence Community’ was published last week by the influential New Labour think tank, the Institute of Public Policy Research.
Sir Omand left the senior civil service in 2005 but his views still hold great sway in the corridors of power.
He added: ‘This is a hard choice and goes against current calls to curb the so-called surveillance society – but it is greatly preferable to tinkering with the rule of law, or derogating from fundamental human rights.
‘Being able to demonstrate proper legal authorisation and appropriate oversight of the use of such intrusive intelligence activity may become a major future issue for the intelligence community, if the public at large is to be convinced of the desirability of such intelligence capability’
Sir Omand said such information maybe held in national records,covered by Data Protection legislation, but it might also be held offshore by other nations or by global companies.
‘Access to such information…might well be the key to effective pre-emption in future terrorist cases.
‘Such sources have always been accessible to traditional law enforcement seeking evidence against a named suspect already justified by reasonable suspicion of having committed a crime.’
‘However, application of modern data mining and processing techniques does involve examination of the innocent as well as the suspect to identify patterns of interest for further investigation’