Really? What sort of powers? When did this happen? Who made the offers? Who turned them down? I’ve never heard of a government agency refusing an invitation to expand its authority. And if I were an ordinary Brit, I’d want to know what “disproportionate” measures my government offered to the intelligence services. Nobody followed up on this comment. Somebody should.
The other curious thing was Lobban’s preoccupation with child sexual abuse. When a member of the panel asked how the Internet has changed the work of the intelligence agencies, Lobban replied:
It’s not simply about terrorism. It’s also about serious crime. I could mention some of the work we do with the child exploitation online protection agency in terms of working with them to uncover the identities, track down some of those who are involved in online sexual exploitation of children within the U.K., including from overseas. There’s a recent case where we managed to do that, where we used our intelligence capabilities to identify those, and, with the help of a foreign partner, then to bring them to justice. And two people are now in jail.
Later, again unprompted, Lobban returned to this subject:
There is a fragile mosaic … of strategic capabilities which allow us to discover, to process, to investigate, and then to take action. … It allows us to reveal the identities of those involved in online sexual exploitation of children. Those people are very active users of encryption and of anonymization. That mosaic is in a far, far weaker place than it was five months ago.
Lots of people are willing to put up with mass surveillance, at least at the data collection stage, in order to stop terrorists. But will they put up with it to catch sexual abusers? Doesn’t that open the door to broader collection of communications to detect crime generally? Someday, perhaps, a member of Parliament will put that question to Britain’s intelligence agencies. Today was not that day.