Here are my thoughts on the super-sensitive CHIS (Criminal Conduct) Bill #CHISBill, published today in time (just) for 2nd reading in @HouseofCommons on Monday…. /1
CHIS = covert human intelligence source…: put simply, an agent who for whatever reason (personal, financial, even patriotic) agrees to help the police, MI5 or others spy on suspected criminals. They are authorised under #RIPA… /2
CHIS play a vital role in disrupting terrorism and organised crime. Over the past year, CHIS operations by @metpoliceuk alone are claimed to have led to 3500 arrests, recovery of 100 firearms and 400 other weapons, seizure of 400 kg of Class A drugs, and £2.5m cash. /3
But what happens if a CHIS (e.g. to maintain cover) takes part in the criminality they are supposed to be informing on - by helping a banned terror group, handling stolen goods, supplying drugs - or worse? /4
Under the so-called "James Bond clause", MI6 agents can be authorised to break UK law abroad:…. But police/spooks pre-authorising people to break UK law in the UK? That sounds different. /5
Last December, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal was divided on the issue of whether MI5 had an implied statutory power to authorise CHIS participation in criminality… /5
The stakes were high - just look how the judgment started. Especially as the power is claimed not just by MI5 (as in that case) but by @HMRCgovuk, @NCA_UK, several other public authorities and every police force in the land. /6
The Government won 3-2, but the case is being appealed and no one could be confident of the result. So the Government has decided to seek Parliament's express authority, in the form of #CHISBill. /7
They are right to do so. Police and security forces must always have a democratic licence to operate. It's (to coin a phrase) A Question of Trust ……. /8
But Parliament also has a duty to scrutinise this Bill. Here are a few questions that colleagues in @HouseofCommons and then @UKHouseofLords will want to ask. /9
First, are we happy that all these bodies need not only to be able to run CHIS, but to authorise criminality by them? /10
Secondly, are we content that the processes for authorising CHIS to commit crime are sufficiently sound - in every one of these bodies, not just the biggest? The bottom line is self-authorisation with internal safeguards: lots of detail here.…. /11
Thirdly, should the Act at least specify types of serious crime that can never be authorised? The Canadian CSIS Act s20(1)… does (how's it working, @cforcese?) Or would hard limits allow gangs to smoke out CHIS by inviting them to step over the line? /12
Fourthly, how does all this square with human rights? The Government has set the ball rolling here:…. /13
Finally, it's great that @IPCOffice will be keeping an eye on the use of these powers - after the event. /14
But should they be entrusted either with prior approval of authorisations (as for some other forms of covert surveillance, such as phone-tapping)… ... /15
... or at least be notified of authorisations in real-time, so that they can raise the alarm if someone is way out of line? /16
To recap - the principle of this Bill deserves our strong support. But the detail matters, and we need to apply ourselves to it. /17 end
Correction: it’s s20(18) of the Canadian CSIS Act
And another: Commons second reading is Monday 5 October

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More from @bricksilk

Jun 13
The #NIProtocolBill is here, together with the claimed legal “justification” which is the doctrine of necessity. Sounds thin to me, not to say threadbare.…
The Govt’s legal position is summarised here….
In short - necessity rarely excuses a breach, and only when (inter alia) the State’s act is the only way to safeguard an essential interest against a grave and imminent peril, and when no other essential interest is seriously impaired by the breach:…
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Apr 5
Useful 🧵 on today’s #CJEU Dwyer judgment - a notorious murder in Ireland that was only solved because location data was routinely saved for 2 yrs in case police needed access in a criminal investigation. /1
This enabled the crime to be pinned on a previously unsuspected architect, whose professional movements over a long period corresponded with those of the incriminating phone. /2
I was an expert witness in the case so will not comment further on a judgment that largely follows #CJEU precedent, whatever you think of it (other approaches are available: see #ECtHR). /3
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Mar 21
Good news: Govt has agreed to reinstate my extensive amendments to clause 9 of #NABB (citizenship deprivation):…. Those changes take the sting out of it, as I tried to explain here…. /1
Some would have preferred to remove clause 9 altogether - but given the national security reasons advanced for it (and the flat rejection of numerous other @UKHouseofLords amendments), that was never going to be accepted by the Govt or the elected House. /2
Others would have liked to curtail the substantive citizenship deprivation power, perhaps by taking it back to its 2003 limits: I had some sympathy for this, but it was never voted on and is a much broader issue than the clause 9 issue of withholding notice. /3
Read 8 tweets
Jan 20
Some interesting (if incomplete) answers yesterday from @ukhomeoffice to my written questions on citizenship deprivation, which will be relevant to debates on #NBBill clause 9….
Why was the power to deprive on “conducive to the public good” grounds exercised more than 100 times in 2017, far more than in any other year (though figures for 2019-2021 are not yet available)?
And an interesting admission that the notification requirement which HMG seeks to remove by clause 9 of the bill has only once stood in the way of the deprivation power (in the D4 case which @SayeedaWarsi and I referred to in our 2nd reading speeches…).
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Furore over HMG public order defeats should not distract from other important changes to #PCSCBill made by @UKHouseofLords last night: urgent review into spiking and injections,making misogyny an aggravating factor in sentencing many crimes (as a racial element already is) … /1
… imposing a statutory duty duty of candour on police, and scrapping the Vagrancy Act 1824 which makes it a crime to beg or sleep rough. /2
Those changes will go back to @HouseofCommons, which can accept them, amend them or play us at ping-pong (which they always win if they are sufficiently determined: we always defer in the end to the elected House). /3
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Just attended an online Covid briefing with Sir Patrick Vallance, Chris Whitty &c. Only MPs and peers - almost 450 of us. Questions were uniformly concise, courteous, pertinent, well-informed and non-political: better on each count than we usually hear at press conferences. /1
Lots of fair challenges, esp on messaging. How can omicron be "doubling daily" when figures look stable? Publish staff absence rates, given it's a crucial issue? Map vaxed/non-vaxed hospital cases against vaxed/non-vaxed numbers in each age cohort, to make the case for vax? /2
Parliamentarians are right to push these points on behalf of an engaged and intelligent public - the scientists benefit, even when they have answers, and MPs can use what they learn to inform constituents and hold government effectively to account. /3
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