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Iran Press TV

High Court rules surveillance legislation 'unlawful'

Iran Press TV

Fri Jul 17, 2015 1:53PM

The High Court has ruled that emergency data retention and surveillance legislation the coalition government introduced last year is unlawful.

The law is the latest government and intelligence legislation to be deemed illegal.

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, DRIPA must now be overturned because judges ruled it is inconsistent with the existing EU laws. The government must replace the law by the end of March 2016.

The ruling will be seen as a victory for Labour MP Tom Watson and the Conservative MP David Davis who brought the claim. The two had argued that the law violates article 8 of the EU human rights and lets police and intelligence services to spy on citizens without proper safeguards.

"The reality is that at this moment a government with full authorities for example in the UK has taken upon themselves the powers not only to spy on every aspect of life such email, telephone and social communication networks but at the same time it is combined with powers to potentially control people's finances. So we have the basis of a complete piece of state and that is significant because a government lies over time and what any opposition is going to be defined as a trouble maker at least or something like a terrorist", Rodney Shakespeare, London-based political commentator told Press TV.

'When we address this issue of spying, we are actually looking at whether we are moving into George Orwell's 1984 or are we already there except that most people haven't woken up to it because most people do not understand that they are being spied on,' Shakespeare added.

Liberty, a human rights lobby that backed the case called the provisions in DRIPA incompatible with the British public's right to respect for private life. "They fail to provide clear and precise rules to ensure data is only accessed for the purpose of preventing and detecting serious offences"

The court declared that section one of DRIPA "does not lay down clear and precise rules providing for access to and use of communications data".

"The court has recognized what was clear to many last year, that the Government's hasty and ill-thought-through legislation is fatally flawed," said Davis, one of the complaints.

After the ruling, Watson said, "It's a year to the day since DRIPA received royal assent. Good governance is about allowing the legislature the room to make law. In this case it didn't happen. Good opposition is about holding governments to account and that didn't happen either.

"So we find ourselves in a position where the courts have had to say to parliament go back and start again. In his final speech in parliament on this bill last year, David warned that this legislation would be junk in a year and it is."

The government is yet to comment on the ruling.

'Privacy breach'

Britain's GCHQ and its American counterpart, National Security Agency were at the center of a storm following leaks from former US intelligence contractor Snowden. The two agencies are accused of eavesdropping on not only some of the top world leaders but even ordinary citizens across the globe.According to the revelations, GCHQ received private communications intercepted by the NSA through its "mass surveillance" programs, Prism and Upstream.

'At the moment we are spied colossally on all aspects and nobody seems to be anywhere to do it because all the time we are told it is to save us from terrorists. No, no, no…. reverse the thing and make sure that the government then has been justified not only the breach of major operation but the specific use of individual searches. We should do it in open way otherwise there will be a complete loss of confidence', Shakespeare concluded.

GCHQ used bulk interception to uncover threats by finding patterns and associations to trigger leads, a tactic that the report said was a crucial. However, many analysts call the tactic simply a breach of privacy.

Despite hue and cry, an official report in June suggested the UK intelligence agencies should be allowed to keep mass spying activities including its metadata gathering powers. In a 373-page report, official reviewer of counter-terrorism laws also proposed some changes saying the power to issue interception warrants should be transferred from ministers to judges.

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