Posted on November 8, 2017 at 1:19 PM
MI5, MI6, and GCHQ are facing lawsuits regarding their surveillance sharing policies.
Yesterday, the first case was presented to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) by several civil rights advocacy groups regarding the British Intelligence’s reckless surveillance policies. The three separate cases were presented to seven judges in Strasbourg. All cases concerned the way in which the intelligence agencies GCHQ, MI5, and MI6, shared their surveillance with international intelligence and governmental agencies.
The cases were prepared by several civil rights advocacy groups, including Amnesty International, Privacy International, the Big Brother Watch, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Legal Resources Centre, and several advocacy groups from Pakistan and Egypt.
A collaborative effort was already undertaken by 10 human rights advocacy groups where they presented the case to the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT) in London. Th IPT has previously confirmed that GCHQ specifically conducted covert surveillance on both Amnesty International as well as Legal Resources Centre. Despite, the ruling, the IPT concluded that the surveillance was still considered legitimate according to British laws.
The case pertained specifically to surveillance and espionage information that were shared freely between agencies in the UK and US. According to the civil rights advocacy groups, the unregulated sharing of information constituted a detrimental threat to personal privacy.
The case presented in Strasbourg mainly focused on international governmental agencies’ abilities to collect mass amounts of information using programmes such as Tempora, Upstream, and Prism. These programmes have previously been confirmed by Edward Snowden.
According to the civil rights groups’ representative, Dinah Rose QC, the GCHQ has the ability to gather and store huge amounts of information about several individuals who pose no threat or reason to be monitored whatsoever. Rose stated that the intelligence agencies’ increased surveillance activities breach several laws of privacy, human rights, as well as freedom of expression.
In addition, the human rights groups added that the IPT, who is responsible for overseeing all data gathered by British intelligence agencies, lacked a responsible manner for keeping data confident. In addition, the group argued that the IPT could not be held accountable and that its policies were flawed.
However, the representative for the British government, James Eadie QC, noted that if the British Intelligence should be forced to limit their data collection in any way, it could limit their capabilities of protecting the British people.
Eadie continued to state that those opposed to the somewhat intrusive nature of surveillance, need to consider that the British Intelligence’s surveillance methods are in place in order to protect British and European citizens, especially in the light of the growing number of terror attacks. Eadie argued that while privacy is a right which should be respected, the right to life is one which requires more urgency.
According to Amnesty International’s senior legal counsel, Nick Williams this case is likely to become a watershed case for civil rights around the globe.
In addition, Griff Ferris from Big Brother Watch stated that individuals who pose no threat to national security should be allowed to go about their lives without unnecessary and intrusive surveillance.
Martha Spurrier, the director of Liberty added that civil rights advocacy groups were created in order to create awareness and fight any abuses of power on the part of the government or intelligence agencies. She added that the UK’s increasing surveillance efforts have grossly infringed upon every individual’s right to privacy.
The EU court’s ruling will not only affect the British Intelligence Agency’s surveillance powers and abilities in the future, but it will likely also affect the IPT, which has been at the receiving end of increasing criticism in the last year.