Statewatch press release, 29 January 2003

UK: Surveillance of communications doubles under Labour

A special analysis on the surveillance of telecommunications by Statewatch shows that the authorised surveillance in England, Wales and Scotland has more than doubled since the Labour government came to power in 1997.

Figures published by the Interception of Communications Commissioner for England, Wales and Scotland (no figures have ever been made available on Northern Ireland) for 2001 appear to show that the number of interception warrants issued dropped from 1,900 in 2000 to 1,445 in 2001. But the true picture is quite the reverse. Changes to warrants, “modifications”, which previously required a new warrant have been excluded from the figures – when these are added it shows that the total number of warrants issued in 1996 (the last full year of the Conservative government) was 1,370 and for 2001 the total was 3,427. Moreover, even these figures are a major under-estimate due to changes introduced under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments:

“The official figures are a travesty. Figures are provided which show that surveillance warrants have doubled since Labour came to power in 1997 – they are now more than double the figures in the Second World War. But no figures are given on other major changes brought in under RIPA 2000 that would show the real extent of interception.

The new method of issuing warrants and changes to them is said to make life easier for officials but at the same time it hides from public view the true extent of surveillance.”

For the full analysis and figures see:

For further information please ring:

0208 802 1882 (UK)

00 44 208 802 1882 (International)

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