Press release

Review of bulk powers published

The government welcomes the publication of the report into the operational case for the use of bulk powers as contained in the Investigatory Powers Bill.

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David Anderson QC – the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation – has today published the findings of his review into the operational case for the bulk powers contained in the Investigatory Powers Bill.

Mr Anderson, supported by an expert team of his own choosing, has assessed the specific question of whether the operational case for these powers has been made. The review team has critically appraised the need for bulk capabilities, considering whether the same result could have been achieved through alternative investigative methods. The government and the security and intelligence agencies have provided all necessary access, information and assistance for Mr Anderson to undertake his review successfully.

The government welcomes Mr Anderson’s full and comprehensive report, which makes absolutely clear the critical importance of bulk powers. The report concludes that:

  • Bulk interception is of “vital utility” to the security and intelligence agencies and that alternative methods fall short of providing the same results. In one case assessed by the review team, in which a kidnap had taken place in Afghanistan, the report finds that: “Without the use of bulk interception, it was highly likely that one or more of the hostages would have been killed before a rescue could be attempted.”

  • Bulk acquisition of communications data is “crucial in a variety of fields, including counter-terrorism, counter-espionage and counter-proliferation” and its use cannot be matched by data acquired through targeted means.

  • An operational case for bulk equipment interference has been made in principle and there are likely to be cases where “no effective alternative is available”.

  • Bulk personal datasets are of great utility to the security and intelligence agencies and in vital areas of work, there is “no practicable alternative”.

  • The government is giving careful consideration to Mr Anderson’s report, which will play a central role in informing Parliament’s consideration of the bulk provisions in the Bill at Lords Committee.

Prime Minister Theresa May said:

I am grateful to David Anderson for this report, which follows a detailed and thorough review in which the government has provided unfettered and unprecedented access to the most sensitive information about our security and intelligence agencies’ capabilities.

Mr Anderson’s report demonstrates how the bulk powers contained in the Investigatory Powers Bill are of crucial importance to our security and intelligence agencies. These powers often provide the only means by which our agencies are able to protect the British public from the most serious threats that we face. It is vital that we retain them, while ensuring their use is subject to robust safeguards and world-leading oversight which are enshrined in the Investigatory Powers Bill.

Published 19 August 2016