Independent Surveillance Review

RUSI was commissioned by the UK government to lead the Independent Surveillance Review, which informed the government’s thinking on the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.

Pexels / Scott Webb

The Independent Surveillance Review was initiated following the unlawful disclosure of classified information in June 2013 by Edward Snowden. As national security and public safety compete with the realities of digital society, the Independent Surveillance Review suggested a new licence to operate for the security and law-enforcement services.

The panel for the Independent Surveillance Review comprised:

  • Professor Heather Brooke
  • Lesley Cowley OBE
  • Lord Evans of Weardale KCB DL
  • Professor John Grieve CBE QPM
  • Professor Dame Wendy Hall DBE FRS FREng
  • Professor Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield FBA
  • Baroness Lane Fox of Soho CBE
  • Professor Sir David Omand GCB
  • Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve CH CBE FBA FRS
  • The Rt Hon the Lord Rooker
  • Sir John Scarlett KCMG OBE
  • Professor Ian Walden

The Independent Surveillance Review panel met with a broad range of organisations and individuals, held 17 evidence sessions and received a number of submissions. The Independent Surveillance Review panel was chaired by Professor Michael Clarke, former director-general of RUSI. RUSI provided a secretariat to support the scheduling of meetings, to undertake research and to draft the final report.

Pexels / Scott Webb

Aims and objectives

The terms of reference for the Independent Surveillance Review were as follows:

  • To advise on the legality, effectiveness and privacy implications of the UK surveillance programmes, particularly as revealed by the ‘Edward Snowden case’.
  • To examine potential reforms to current surveillance practices, including additional protections against the misuse of personal data, and alternatives to the collection and retention of bulk data.
  • To make an assessment of how law-enforcement and intelligence capabilities can be maintained in the face of technological change, while respecting principles of proportionality, necessity and privacy.

Project output

Access the key publication produced as part of this project.

A Democratic Licence to Operate: Report of the Independent Surveillance Review

Project impact

RUSI’s research directly influenced the drafting of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which became law in 2016.

RUSI’s Whitehall Report is extensively cited in The Routledge Companion to Media and Human Rights and academic journals such as the International Journal of Communication.

Explore related projects


Big Data and Policing


Data Analytics and Algorithms in Policing


Machine Learning Algorithms and Police Decision-Making