LibLink: Julian Huppert calls for greater public scrutiny of spying

Julian Huppert Sherlock HolmesWriting in the Guardian yesterday, Julian Huppert called for greater public scrutiny of national security. It was not just the work of the intelligence services that was scrutinised in parliament last Thursday, he says, but secretive intelligence and security committee which oversees the services.

This sort of public scrutiny is exactly what we need to restore confidence in our intelligence service, whose work keeps us safe. It does make you wonder why this should have been such a massive event: shouldn’t public scrutiny be at the heart of the way our intelligence and security service operates anyway?

Huppert says that he is not asking for details to be discussed, just principles.

Should we be spying on our own citizens? Is it reasonable and proportionate that every click we make online is monitored and saved for an eventuality that may never come? Is it right and proper that we spy on our allies, tapping into their personal phones? Can our embassies be used as listening posts?

These are questions, Huppert says, that can and should be debated in public.

On Snowden leaks of National Security Agency documents, he comments:

They demonstrate the NSA is insecure and can’t protect its own information. If it is true that what was leaked contained information that was directly damaging to our security, as opposed to just being very embarrassing, why were hundreds of thousands of contractors able to access it all? Why were names of UK agents so widely available?

Huppert concludes that we need substantial reform of our oversight mechanisms. The intelligence and security committee should become “a creature of parliament, not the executive”.

We also need an independent body – perhaps like President Obama’s privacy and oversight board, which includes civil society representatives. We need more transparency about… the legal basis for the actions of the intelligence and security agencies. We are also dealing with outdated, over-broad and excessively complex legislation – this needs an independent review.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at

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This entry was posted in LibLink and News.


  • That’s a STUNNING photomanip.

  • The problem is that the spy chiefs have this idea that disclosing their methods would make their jobs harder and thus the methods should not be disclosed. The problem is that this leads to things like the NSA thinking it has the right to attack the use of encryption by everyone which is far too much collateral damage. The police use their powers to harrass people who take photographs of them.

  • Nigel Jones 10th Nov '13 - 7:32pm

    Thank you Julian again for taking a Liberal approach. We require our security services to operate in secrecy, but how and to what extent must be a decision of Parliament. Security chiefs can advise, but at the end of the day our public representatives decide the general principles under which they operate and their recent suggestions that this cannot be debated in case it affects our security misses the point and even suggests that they want to make these general decisions , not us. They are our servants.

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