This lack of information, and therefore accountability, is a warning that the supervision of our intelligence services needs as much updating as their bugging techniques. The state should not feel itself entitled to know, see and memorise everything that the private citizen communicates. We cannot even rely on incompetence as a bulwark for our freedoms. The state increasingly has the capability to retain everything as the cost of computer memory collapses.
I have been shocked but also mystified by Snowden’s revelations. Throughout my time in parliament, the Home Office was trying to persuade politicians to invest in “upgrading” Britain’s capability to recover data showing who is emailing and phoning whom. Yet this seems to be exactly what GCHQ was already doing. Was the Home Office trying to mislead?