Nick Pickles On William Hague and Internet Privacy

privacy17:12 Monday 10th June 2013
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[N]ICK FAIRBAIRN: Let’s bring in Nick Pickles, who’s the Director of Big Brother Watch, who describe themselves as “defending civil liberties and protecting privacy”. Evening to you Nick.
NICK PICKLES: Good evening.
NICK FAIRBAIRN: Just give us your reaction first of all to that statement from William Hague.
NICK PICKLES: Well I think we’re in a place now where the Foreign Secretary has reassured the Commons that British law was followed. But I think as MPs like Julian Huppert will probably say, there’s still more work to be done to reassure the public that the law was followed, that people who should have been aware were aware, and indeed how going forward we can maintain public confidence in the Government surveillance operations.
NICK FAIRBAIRN: What are your key concerns then? Is it the concern that you want to make sure that things are kept on the right side of law, the right side of that line?
NICK PICKLES: Absolutely. Direct surveillance on people who are under suspicion, and as part of an investigation, is something that we absolutely need to make sure the security services have the powers to do, and I think specifically in this case there’s a hundred and ninety seven reports that have been passed between the NSA and in Britain. And it’s understanding, as you alluded to earlier, were these requested by Britain? Were they given to us because the Americans discovered something involving a UK citizen? I think that question still hasn’t been answered, and answering that question is very very important to understanding the legal framework that’s been applied here.
NICK FAIRBAIRN: William Hague was quoted, wasn’t he, I think it was yesterday saying if you’re a normal law abiding citizen in this country, then really you have absolutely nothing to worry about. And isn’t that what it comes down to? It’s crucial isn’t it that the population are protected, and is it not fair to say that you can find a few different tactics of doing that, as long as you’re protecting your people? Is that not the top and bottom of it?
NICK PICKLES: Well look at what happened in the US recently. You had the US administration, a leak that was embarrassing for the Government, and they then went to service providers and requested the details of who hundreds of journalists had been communicating with, to try and find out their source. And the danger is particularly in the way this system has been working in the US. And I think this is is all honesty a scandal in America. I think Britain’s involvement is very limited. The question is that the powers that have been used to acquire this information in America, well some of the Congressmen who were involved in writing the law, have come out in the past few days and said that this definitely wasn’t the interpretation of the law that we intended to grant you. So I think there’s a real danger that unwittingly Britain may have used information that was acquired outside the scope of US law.
NICK FAIRBAIRN: So he’s moved to reassure people this afternoon. Are you reassured?
NICK PICKLES: Well I think ultimately the Americans are the people who know the answers to lots of these questions. The Foreign Secretary has set out the way that our intelligence services are regulated , and I think he was right to do that. The public will be reassured. I think his job is made much harder by the fact that actually most of these questions fall at the door of the Americans.