Interception of telephone calls, email and post by police and the intelligence services has more than doubled since Labour came to power and is higher than at any time since the start of the second world war, according to research to be published this week.
The total number of communications surveillance warrants issued in England, Wales and Scotland has risen from 1,370 in 1996 to 3,427 in 2001, in stark contrast to official figures which claim that the number has fallen significantly in recent years. By comparison, the previous peak year was 1940, during the second world war, when 1,682 warrants were issued.
Even these figures massively underestimate the true scale of interception, according to Statewatch, an independent civil liberties group, which conducted the analysis. Changes in the method of counting warrants for the official figures as well as changes in how they are issued mean that the total is likely to be "much, much greater", the research concludes.
Tony Bunyan, editor of Statewatch, said: "The official figures are a travesty. The new method of issuing warrants and changes to them is said to make life easier for officials, but at the same time it hides from public view the true extent of surveillance."