Secretive UK Court Declares GCHQ Mass Surveillance Program Unlawful

GCHQ was operating illegally for at least seven years between 2007 and 2014

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) has ruled that GCHQ illegally spied on British citizens.

The tribunal, which was created in 2000 to keep Britain’s intelligence agencies in check, stated that GCHQ’s access to intercepted information obtained by the US National Security Agency (NSA) breached human rights laws.

It marks the first time that the IPT  has ruled against an intelligence agency in its 15-year history.

Snowden’s legacy

Justice, court, legal © Evlakhov Valeriy Shutterstock 2012The court found that the information contravened Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects citizens’ rights and families to a private life.

It also determined that GCHQ had breached Article 6, which protects the right to a fair trial.

In total, the ruling appears to suggest that the intelligence agency was operating illegally for at least seven years between 2007 (when the Prism intercept program was first introduced) and 2014.

“The Tribunal has handed down judgement in relation to the regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications in a case brought against the intelligence agencies in respect of alleged interception activity involving UK and US access to communications,” reads the IPT announcement on its site.

“The Complainants are Liberty, Privacy International, Amnesty International and seven overseas human rights groups.”

The ruling could now open up the possibility for requests of deletion from anyone who believes GCHQ is holding unlawful information on them.

A GCHQ spokesperson said: “By its nature, much of GCHQ’s work must remain secret. But we are working with the rest of Government to improve public understanding about what we do and the strong legal and policy framework that underpins all our work.

“We continue to do what we can to place information safely into the public domain that can help to achieve this.”

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