Telephone monitoring ‘don’t let the customers know’

Have you ever
wondered why telephone intercepts are not used in court? We are consistently
told that our Security Services use telephone intercepts as part of the arsenal
of powers available to them in the ‘War on Terror’, and in tracking suspected

But did you know
that everyone was being listened to and monitored and that the
Mobile and Fixed line telephone companies handed
over your calls without question.

It would appear
that this is kept out of the news, and the courts, because the telephone
companies don’t want their customers to know just how free they are with your
personal information and phone calls. 

This article
from Gizmonaut shows how the Interception of Communications Commissioner sums
it up for the Select Committee’s who posed various questions to him over his
latest report.


Swinton Thomas, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, authored the Report
of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2005-2006
February 2007:

vi. The Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are very important in this
process and their staff do essential work. They are very co-operative and
dedicated. I talk to them regularly and they are totally opposed to the concept
of intercept being admissible in Court. The present regime provides a high
degree of protection to the CSPs and particularly to those members of their
staff who work in this sensitive field, and their strong co-operation referred
to could easily be undermined. Here again, I think that it is essential for
people holding views on this subject to talk to the CSPs, and to listen to what
they say, and understand the basis of their strong opposition to any change in
the present law.

the minutes of evidence taken before the joint committee on human rights on 2007-03-12
(uncorrected transcript of oral evidence to be published as HC 394-i)

Nia Griffith:
mention in your annual report that communication service providers are strongly
opposed to intercept being admissible in court. Can you tell us why that is and
should their agreement be a precondition to relaxing the ban?

Sir Swinton Thomas: I visited all
the major telephone companies and internet companies at least once a year and
more often with some of them, as was necessary. There are two aspects. The
companies themselves who are extremely co-operative in providing the material
which is needed for the intercept are very concerned about their capacity and
the way in which they go about dealing with these issues being made public.
There is probably a commercial aspect to that which is difficult for me to deal
with in public. I dare say that if you have a chairman of a company dealing in
communications, he would say, “Quite frankly, we would prefer that our
customers did not know that we were passing all your calls across to a
government agency
” [my emphasis], which is a fairly natural response.
A more important one is that they think – and I think they are right – that if
there was a change in the law all the ways in which they go about providing
material would be open to examination and cross-examination, which is something
they do not want to happen. Members of the general public probably know very
little about it. […] 

the main issue regarding use of intercepts in court really that it's not good
for business if we, the public, know that our calls are passed to NTAC, GCHQ or
a similar agency?

reason could be that the intercepts themselves may not have been conducted by a
UK security service.

The system known
as ‘ECHELON’ is an interception system which operates worldwide on the basis of
cooperation proportionate to their capabilities among several states (the UK,
the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), giving it an added value in
comparison to national systems: the states participating in ECHELON (ECHELON
states) can place their interception systems at each other’s disposal, share
the cost and make joint use of the resulting information.

Possible threats
to privacy and to businesses posed by a system of the ECHELON type arise not
only from the fact that is a particularly powerful monitoring system, but also
that it operates in a largely legislation-free area. Systems for the
interception of international communications are not usually targeted at
residents of the home country. The person whose messages were intercepted would
have no domestic legal protection, not being resident in the country concerned.
Such a person would be completely at the mercy of the system. 

See here report
by European Parliament
Committee on the ECHELON Interception System

you say on a phone is heard by someone.


NuLab – Destroying Britain from the inside out.


About IanPJ

Ian Parker-Joseph, former Leader of the Libertarian Party UK, who currently heads PDPS Internet Hosting and the Personal Deed Poll Services company, has been an IT industry professional for over 20 years, providing Business Consulting, Programme and Project Management, specialising in the recovery of Projects that have failed in a process driven world. Ian’s experience is not limited to the UK, and he has successfully delivered projects in the Middle East, Africa, US, Russia, Poland, France and Germany. Working within different cultures, Ian has occupied high profile roles within multi-nationals such as Nortel and Cable & Wireless. These experiences have given Ian an excellent insight into world events, and the way that they can shape our own national future. His extensive overseas experiences have made him all too aware of how the UK interacts with its near neighbours, its place in the Commonwealth, and how our nation fits into the wider world. He is determined to rebuild many of the friendships and commercial relationships with other nations that have been sadly neglected over the years, and would like to see greater energy and food security in these countries, for the benefit of all. Ian is a vocal advocate of small government, individual freedom, low taxation and a minimum of regulation. Ian believes deeply and passionately in freedom and independence in all areas of life, and is now bringing his professional experiences to bear in the world of politics.
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