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Covert Human Intelligence Source


What is it?
A Covert Human Intelligence Source (CHIS) is essentially a person who is a member of, or acting on behalf of, one of the intelligence services or armed services who is authorised to obtain information from people who do not know that this information will reach the intelligence or armed services. A CHIS may be a member of the public or an undercover officer.

Basis in law
Under section 29 of RIPA, a designated person within the agencies or armed services may authorise use of a CHIS. He or she must be satisfied that:

The legislation also requires that:

How a CHIS is authorised
A CHIS authorisation is issued internally by a designated person. An authorisation is valid for twelve months and ceases to have effect beginning with the day on which it took effect, except for juveniles who are subject to special handling arrangements. Authorisations can be renewed for a further 12 months. Renewal takes effect at the time at which the authorisation would have cased to have effect but for the renewal.

Urgent oral authorisation may be given but, unless renewed, ceases to have effect after 72 hours beginning with the time when the authorisation was granted. Written applications must then be made retrospectively.

How is this used in Practice?
A CHIS authorisation could allow, for example, a person to be tasked with developing a relationship with a suspected terrorist organisation, in order to provide information about that organisation in the interests of national security.

The agencies are committed to strict confidentiality about the identity of a CHIS and maintain this commitment indefinitely. To reveal the role that a CHIS has played could leave the CHIS open to reprisals by a state or an organisation which could jeopardize the safety of the CHIS or his or her family.

Last updated: 23 Jan 16