Former MI5 officer Big Brother claim

A FORMER MI5 officer today told The Evening Star that Suffolk police attempts to obtain phone numbers from a journalist's mobile phone was an indication of how we are now living in a Big Brother state.

A FORMER MI5 officer today told The Evening Star that Suffolk police attempts to obtain phone numbers from a journalist's mobile phone was an indication of how we are now living in a Big Brother state.

Annie Machon, who is due to visit Ipswich with her partner David Shayler for a talk later this month, said the police were using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) passed in 2000 to routinely demand information.

On Friday The Evening Star reported that Mark Bulstrode, its former crime reporter, had his private phone records probed by detectives after approaching the force with information about the re-opening of an historic investigation.

The mobile phone probe instigated by Detective Superintendent Roy Lambert, which happened without Mr Bulstrode's knowledge, brought scathing condemnation from civil liberty and journalism groups.

Ms Machon said: “Since the introduction of RIPA the police have found it much easier to get information.

“They no longer need authorisation from a minister to look at mobile phone records or look at electronic records.

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“There are supposed to be safeguards, but theses are fairly toothless and do not stop the interceptions in the first place.”

Ms Machon said journalists' phone records had been investigated in this way in an attempt to trace leaks about the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting earlier this year - but this was the first time she had heard about this happening in Suffolk.

“There is no doubt that the state is now able to look into the lives of its citizens more than they have been in the past.

“When I was working with MI5 there were stronger safeguards - they were still attempts to push the boundaries but individuals were better protected.”

Ms Machon hit the headlines in 2002 when Mr Shayler was prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.

He was sentenced to six months' imprisonment in November 2002 - and the couple have remained fierce critics of the government's security service.

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