Surveillance: Lawyer says No

Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones, chaired by Tom Watson MP as received QC’s advice on the legality of British Intelligence’s mass surveillance, reported here in the Guardian and the lawyer says the programmes are probably illegal and that any warrants signed by politicians will be in breach of UK Law,  the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the EU Acquis. Watson points at this article from his blog here. The legal justification is based on RIPA, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and Jemima Stanford QC states that it is not fit for purpose given the changes in technology in the last 10 years.

  • It doesn’t permit the capture of intra UK email content.
  • Mass surveillance is a disproportionate act breach citizens rights of privacy
  • The UK Government has a duty to ensure that any government’s it shares intelligence with use it in accordance with our own laws, including the data protection (DP) laws and laws pertaining to acts of war and peace. The DP Laws require that purpose is controlled and public; they also require that personal data records are open to data subjects to inspect and that they are only kept for as long as necessary.
  • The issue of outsourcing the storage of illegally discovered and retained data to avoid domestic legal scrutiny is addressed and advised to be illegal. You can’t have the Yanks look after your illegally acquired intelligence.
  • She also argues that any sharing of intelligence with the US which leads to illegal lethal actions such as drone attacks would open the individual members of staff at GCHQ open to charges of accessory to murder.

MQ 9 Reaper, from Wikipedia

In my article last last year, “Who watches the Watchmen?”, I reviewed the House of Commons debate on Intelligence Supervision and explored the arguments of legality, Watson in his speech explored the likelihood that RIPA would be found inadequate in the light of European law and the Human Rights Act. He was time limited in his speech to the Committee but published his notes on his blog in an article called, “Oversight of the Intelligence and Security Services”.

He has written an open letter to Douglas Alexander MP, Labour’s Shadow spokesman on Foreign Affairs challenging him to put the Labour fornt bench on the side of the British citizens and on the side of the law. I hope he does.

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