Britain in danger of becoming a surveillance state'

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London, Jan.29 : With the phones of at least a thousand people being tapped every day, Britain is in danger of becoming a "surveillance state", the Telegraph has said, quoting an official report.

According to the official report, councils, police and intelligence services are tapping and intercepting phone calls, e-mails and letters of hundreds of thousands of people every year. he report further states that a total of 653 state bodies are involved in this interception business.

Prepared by Sir Paul Kennedy, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the report has fuelled fears in Britain of the need for greater legal protection to prevent the abuse of surveillance powers.

David Winnick, a Labour member of the Commons home affairs committee, said: "Most of these operations are needed and done for good reasons, but the numbers do raise concerns about the safeguards we have put in place to protect people from constant intrusion."

The report shows that in the last nine months of 2006, there were 253,557 applications to intercept private communications under surveillance laws. It is understood that most were approved. In that period 122 local authorities sought to obtain people's private communications in more than 1,600 cases.

Councils (474) are among more than 600 public bodies with the power to monitor people's private communications. Senior council officers are given the power to authorise surveillance in order to catch fly-tippers, benefit fraudsters and rogue traders. However, intelligence agencies must seek the permission of ministers while police need approval from chief constables.

Sir Paul, a senior judge with access to secret intelligence material, says his report covers interception activities over a total of 264 days, during which time new applications for interception were made at a rate of 960 each day. This did not include warrants personally issued by the Foreign Secretary and the Northern Ireland Secretary - thought to be several thousand - which are kept secret.

ANI

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