Today human rights organisation Liberty announced it has issued a claim against the British Intelligence Services over their suspected involvement in the PRISM and Project Tempora privacy scandal.
Earlier this month it emerged that the US Government has been routinely intercepting the electronic communications of non-Americans outside of the US via the PRISM programme, covertly run by the National Security Agency (NSA). It now emerges that GCHQ, the UK’s eavesdropping agency, may have subjected people in the UK to blanket internet surveillance in any event.
Liberty believes that its electronic communications – and those of its staff – may have been unlawfully accessed by the likes of the Security Services and GCHQ.
Liberty will ask the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) whether the British Intelligence Services have used PRISM and/or Tempora to bypass the formal UK legal process which regulates the accessing of personal material. The human rights group has issued a claim in the IPT, contending that rights under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act (the right to respect for one’s private and family life, home and correspondence) have been breached.
The PRISM/Tempora scandal came to light after former CIA technical assistant Edward Snowden exposed the secret US Government programme which seeks to monitor online communications across the globe. Leaks suggest the US administration has the ability to directly access content held by the world’s largest internet companies and that the NSA has established an infrastructure enabling it to intercept almost everything. Furthermore, the US Foreign Intelligence Service Act treats all non-US citizens as possible enemy suspects – entitled to none of the basic privacy protections afforded to US nationals.
Liberty is also concerned that the British Intelligence Services have used PRISM and Tempora to evade legal checks and balances and monitor people in the UK. They may be treating internet communications as international rather than domestic to evade closer scrutiny and receiving material from their US partners to evade scrutiny altogether.
The revelations come soon after the supposed scrapping of the “Snoopers’ Charter” – the UK Government’s official attempt to stockpile information about the online habits of the entire country.
James Welch, Legal Director for Liberty, said:
“Those demanding the Snoopers’ Charter seem to have been indulging in out-of-control snooping even without it – exploiting legal loopholes and help from Uncle Sam.
“No-one suggests a completely unpoliced internet but those in power cannot swap targeted investigations for endless monitoring of the entire globe.”