Answers demanded from UK's GCHQ over snooping
Iran Press TV
Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:6PM GMT
A campaign group has urged the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), to answer questions regarding the involvement of British spies in snooping on citizen text messages.
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, which campaigns on privacy, civil liberties and levels of surveillance, said GCHQ "has serious questions to answer about whether it is operating under a perverse interpretation of the law cooked up in secret.'
The criticism came after latest leaks from American whistleblower Edward Snowden showed that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has collected almost 200 million text messages per day from around the world without a warrant.
It was also revealed that GCHQ used the NSA secret database, called Dishfire, to search the metadata of "untargeted and unwarranted" communications belonging to people in the UK.
This comes as British spy agencies are allowed to access the content of the message only with a warrant from a secretary of state.
However, the newly released documents suggested that British spies had access to data they wouldn't be entitled to under British laws.
"GCHQ should not be using foreign agencies to get around British laws. If an interception warrant for an individual is not in place, it is illegal to look at the content of a message," Pickles said.
In October 2013, civil liberties campaigners launched legal action against GCHQ over the alleged violation of the privacy of millions of people across the UK and Europe via online surveillance.
Organizations, including English PEN, Big Brother Watch and the Open Rights Group, along with German Internet activist Constanze Kurz filed papers against the eavesdropping agency at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The legal challenge came after classified documents leaked by Snowden in June last year revealed that GCHQ was secretly accessing the network of cables, which carry the world's phone calls and Internet traffic and has been sharing the data with the NSA.
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