GCHQ Snooping Powers - A History Of The Big Brother State

The Huffington Post UK  |  By Posted: 2/04/2012 09:04 Updated: 2/04/2012 10:39

The news that ministers want to give the government's main listening centre GCHQ greater powers to intercept our phone calls and emails has caused a furore, with civil liberties campaigners seeing it as a "spies charter".

Some Tory MPs are annoyed at what they see as the kind of Big-Brother style encroachment that David Cameron had pledged to row back from when he stood for election.

And others look at the coalition agreement signed by Cameron and Clegg, which pledged to stop the surveillance state from increasing.

Ever since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington just over a decade ago, the government has been attempting to introduce greater powers for the police and intelligence agencies, and the backlash has damaged prime ministers and trust in the police. Here is a history:

2002: Mass Surveillance
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In early 2002 the government amended the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to allow much greater access to people's phone and email records.

The changes were the forerunner to what's being proposed now. Those changes a decade ago allowed governments to know who was emailing each other, or ringing or texting each other, but stopped short of routinely accessing the content of those communications.

Dropping that safeguard could be among the changes being proposed now.