Britain’s watchdog that oversees interception of communications by intelligence agencies and other public authorities has rejected claims by former US contractor Edward Snowden that the agencies routinely engage in intrusion into private lives of citizens.
In a report presented to parliament on Tuesday, Anthony May, Interception of Communications Commissioner, said that “public authorities do not misuse their powers…to engage in random mass intrusion into the private affairs of law abiding UK citizens”.
He said: “It would be comprehensively unlawful if they did. I have considered whether there is a material risk that unlawful intrusion might occur…Subject to some further investigation, I conclude there is no material risk”.
The commissioner is required to present a report to the Prime Minister every year on the subject of interception of communications. Snowden’s revelations in 2013 caused a furore across the world, raising concerns about privacy. May, a former high court judge, also rejected the claim that British intelligence agencies circumvent domestic oversight regimes by receiving from US agencies intercept material about British citizens which could lawfully not be acquired by intercept in the UK.
May wrote: “I am quite clear that any member of the public who does not associate with potential terrorists or serious criminals or individuals who are potentially involved in actions which could raise national security issues for the UK can be assured that none of the interception agencies which I inspect has the slightest interest in examining their emails, their phone or postal communications or their use of the internet, and they do not do so to any extent which could reasonably be regarded as significant”.