The Bulk Powers Review, conducted by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson, and a small team of security cleared experts, concluded that there was “a proven operational case” to give intelligence and law enforcement agencies bulk surveillance powers.
But William Binney, a former technical director at the NSA, told Computer Weekly that the Anderson Review had failed to consider the underlying technology behind bulk powers, which will be introduced in the Investigatory Powers Bill.
“This report reads like a novel,” he told Computer Weekly. “Most of it should be filed in the fiction section. It is mostly obfuscation of the underlying technical issues, which they seem to want to avoid.”
The Investigatory Powers Bill introduces four key bulk powers: bulk interception of phone and internet communications outside the UK, the bulk acquisition of phone call and internet metadata of UK citizens, bulk equipment interference (hacking), and bulk personal datasets – databases about the population, which by the government’s admission contain details of mostly innocent people.
“The bulk powers they are to assess are those that the NSA and GCHQ have used since 2001,” said Binney. “So this bill and study are to review and then authorise something that they have been doing for 15 years and, yes, we are joining the Russians and Chinese in monitoring our populations.”