Ethics and independent oversight of intelligence agencies called for

Calls for restraint from the UK's intelligence agencies, and establishment of outside oversight are coming from unusual quarters, with the ex-head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, saying that there should be a new scrutiny body made up of ‘citizens groups' while Sir David Omand, former director of GCHQ has also called for better oversight of intelligence operations.

“As a result of pressure from civil rights organisations following Snowden, governments are rightly re-examining processes and legal frameworks for intelligence activity and seeking to improve oversight mechanisms,” commented Ormond in a recent paper issued by the Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG) Understanding Digital Intelligence and the Norms That Might GovernThe GCIG is a two-year initiative launched by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Chatham House.

Meanwhile Dearlove explicitly criticised the parliamentary intelligence and security committee – which oversees GCHQ, M16 and M15 - at a meeting of the Global Strategy Forum thinktank, calling for its replacement by a body including NGO's and ‘people who really understand technology'. The committee is currently widely seen by civil rights organsiations as being a rubber stamp for the agencies' activities by politicians, whereas Dearlove says it should be representative of different threads of opinion. He adds that it should also be given significant authority as, according to Dearlove, there is a lack of trust in politicians.

Omand's report in turn called for new ethical norms, based on human rights considerations, saying that modern domestic and external intelligence activity should consider three layers of security activity on the Internet: securing the use of the Internet for everyday economic and social life; the activity of law enforcement — both nationally and through international agreements — attempting to manage criminal threats exploiting the Internet; and the work of secret intelligence and security agencies using the Internet to gain information on their targets, including in support of law enforcement.

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