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Legal Analysis Requested By Members Of Parliament Says GCHQ Surveillance Is Illegal Too

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | January 29, 2014

We’ve seen a few times now how legal analysis suggests that the NSA’s surveillance activities are clearly illegal. However, over in the UK, the government has appeared to be even more protective of the surveillance by GCHQ, and even more insistent that the activities have been legal. While there’s a thriving debate going on in the US, many UK officials seem to have pushed back on even the possibility of a similar debate — and there has been little suggestion of reform. While it’s still unclear how much reform there will be of the NSA, the UK government hasn’t indicated even an openness to the idea.

But now, similar to the recent PCLOB report in the US, a legal analysis of the GCHQ, written at the request of a bunch of Members of Parliament, has argued that much of what GCHQ is doing is illegal under UK law:

In a 32-page opinion, the leading public law barrister Jemima Stratford QC raises a series of concerns about the legality and proportionality of GCHQ’s work, and the lack of safeguards for protecting privacy.

It makes clear the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa), the British law used to sanction much of GCHQ’s activity, has been left behind by advances in technology. The advice warns:

  • Ripa does not allow mass interception of contents of communications between two people in the UK, even if messages are routed via a transatlantic cable.
  • The interception of bulk metadata – such as phone numbers and email addresses – is a “disproportionate interference” with Article 8 of the ECHR.
  • The current framework for the retention, use and destruction of metadata is inadequate and likely to be unlawful.
  • If the government knows it is transferring data that may be used for drone strikes against non-combatants in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan, that is probably unlawful.
  • The power given to ministers to sanction GCHQ’s interception of messages abroad “is very probably unlawful”.

There’s a lot more in the report, described at that Guardian link above, which is well worth reading. It makes you wonder how much longer the UK government can pretend that everything is perfectly fine with the GCHQ’s activities.

January 29, 2014 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , ,

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