London, Feb.28 (ANI): A watchdog in Britain has warned the country's bureaucratic establishment to abstain from misusing controversial surveillance powers on the pretext of fighting terrorism and combat crime.
According to The Guardian, several civil servants have indulged in undercover "spying" operations that breach official guidelines.
Documents obtained under Freedom of Information show some government departments and agencies have used these powers incorrectly or without proper controls.
They also show that the official government watchdog has twice threatened to inform Prime Minister Gordon Brown about the serious abuses of powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).
The watchdog highlighted how:
Officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) did not have proper authorisation when they went undercover posing as anglers to glean information about imported fish;
A manager responsible for authorising surveillance at the NHS anti-fraud agency routinely gave officials "carte blanche" in surveillance operations;
Tracking devices were attached to vehicles in a bid to monitor the disposal of waste, after the Environment Agency received apparently incorrect advice from the Home Office
Potential prosecutions were jeopardised because those conducting the surveillance operations were not properly trained and had not followed procedures
A large array of public bodies are also using surveillance powers, including the Charity Commission, Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the BBC.
The disclosures come amid mounting criticism of the expansion of state powers to spy on citizens.
The RIPA was introduced in 2000 to regulate surveillance carried out by public bodies to prevent crime, terrorism and protect public safety.
Local councils have been accused of going too far by "snooping" on people suspected of dog fouling, fly-tipping or fraudulently applying for a school place.
The Home Office minister Vernon Coaker has said some surveillance has been "inappropriate", while Sir Simon Milton, chairman of the Local Government Association, wrote to every council in England last year urging them to cease using the powers for "trivial" matters. (ANI)