Experts call for ‘return to human intelligence’ after Snowden

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The UK’s national security boss, Robert Hannigan, should come clean on surveillance and stop attacking technology companies, privacy experts have said.

Intelligence agencies must use the debate sparked by Edward Snowden’s surveillance revelations to overhaul their attitude to privacy and oversight, said the group speaking at Dublin’s Web Summit in November.

“What’s urgently required is a real cultural shift amongst our politicians and among our civil servants in Whitehall as to the value of privacy: the fact that it’s a public and social good, and it’s a collective good as well,” said Bella Sankey, policy director at civil liberties organisation Liberty.

Sankey, speaking alongside the former MI5 intelligence officer and whistleblower Annie Machon, criticised Hannigan for his attack on technology companies, in which he claimed were “in denial” about the misuse of the internet by terrorists, and that “privacy has never been an absolute right”.

“Given everything we’ve learnt in the past 18 months, he chose not to address at all the very serious things that GCHQ stand accused of: blanket surveillance of the UK population with public knowledge and without parliamentary knowledge, [and] receiving warrantless bulk intercepts from the NSA on US and people around the world,” said Machon.

“Instead he chose to attack tech companies, to kind of instigate a PR smearing campaign in a threatening and non-constructive way. It’s astounding when GCHQ is in the dock that it has yet to respond on the substance of anything that we’ve learned.”

Sankey called for “a new settlement and a new consensus” with full engagement from agencies and politicians. “This whole notion that individual privacy is in tension with the security of everyone is really shot to pieces by what we’ve learned about what’s been going on,” she said.

Liberty has a case in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which is this very secretive quasi-court which is the means by which you challenge surveillance measures in the UK. And we’re hoping..

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