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Iran Press TV

Britain espionage on people unlawful: UK court

Iran Press TV

Fri Feb 6, 2015 3:38PM

A tribunal in the UK has ruled that Britain has unlawfully spied on its citizens by receiving intelligence from the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Britain's Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruled on Friday that UK's espionage agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), has violated the rights to privacy and freedom of expression by receiving information from the NSA.

"The regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications of individuals located in the UK, which have been obtained by US authorities … contravened Articles 8 or 10" of the European Convention on Human Rights, an "order" posted on the IPT'S website said.

Articles 8 and 10 refer respectively to the right to private and family life and the right to freedom of expression.

The IPT also ruled that mass surveillance of the internet by GCHQ was unlawful for seven years ranging from 2007 until the end of 2014.

The judicial body based its ruling on the UK government's regulation on spying on the fact that the public were unaware of safeguards that were in place.

This is the first time that the IPT, established 15 years ago, has upheld a complaint against GCHQ.

The case, prompted by revelations from the US whistleblower, Edward Snowden, was filed at the IPT by Privacy International, Liberty, Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and a number of other overseas human rights groups against the UK's espionage agency.

"For far too long, intelligence agencies like GCHQ and NSA have acted like they are above the law. Today's decision confirms to the public what many have said all along – over the past decade, GCHQ and the NSA have been engaged in an illegal mass surveillance sharing programme that has affected millions of people around the world," Eric King, the deputy director of Privacy International, said, adding, "We must not allow agencies to continue justifying mass surveillance programs using secret interpretations of secret laws."

He further thanked Snowden for his revelations, saying the ruling substantiate his revelations.

"The world owes Edward Snowden a great debt for blowing the whistle, and today's decision is a vindication of his actions,' he added.

According to leaks by Snowden, the British spying agency collects and stores vast quantities of global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls, and shares them with the NSA.

Rights organizations have argued that their private communications have been probably monitored under GCHQ's electronic surveillance program, Tempora.

They also asserted that information obtained through the Prism and Upstream programs of the NSA may have been shared with British intelligence services.

The IPT had previously ruled in October 2014 that the UK espionage program on individuals, including through mass surveillance of the internet, does not amount to violation of the privacy rights of citizens.

The court ruled that the British intelligence agencies "are not seeking, nor asserting that the system entitles them to seek to carry out what has been described as 'mass' or 'bulk' surveillance."


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