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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > February 2016 > The power to intrude

The power to intrude

Has the government found a balance between privacy and security with the Investigatory Powers Bill?

For Islamist terrorists, the prospect of prosecution and punishment is no deterrent. They expect to be killed, either by their own bombs or by those enforcing the law. So public protection depends on thwarting potential terrorists before they can attack. And that, in turn, depends on intelligence—much of it obtained through covert means.

Improving the UK’s intelligence gathering was a priority for Alex Carlile QC, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords, immediately a er the Paris attacks on 13th November last year. Between 2001 and 2011, he acted as the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation and called on parliament to pass the Investigatory Powers Bill before the end of 2015.

But that was never going to happen. The government had published a dra of its bill a few days earlier, to allow plenty of time for parliamentary scrutiny. More to the point, the bill adds relatively little to the powers that the UK’s security and intelligence agencies already have at their disposal. Its aim is to modernise those powers, make them easier to understand and to strengthen oversight.


“Until recently, the intelligence services could have traced your contacts by asking your phone provider for your billing records”

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s February issue: Lawrence Summers questions Robert J Gordon’s thesis on the impact of the digital revolution, John Sawers, the former Chief of MI6, highlights how technology is making the work of spies harder and Frank Furedi examines the student movements demanding protection from the offensive and uncomfortable. Also in this issue: Gershom Gorenberg on Israel, Ben Judah on the complexity of London and Elizabeth Pisani on the impact of fake drugs. Plus Sam Tanenhaus on Obama’s gun control plans.