The Guardian reports that Privacy International are going to court to get the UK Government banned from using the USA’s ‘intelligence’ obtained via their Prism programme, and to suspend the UK’s equivalent programme, the GCHQ’s Tempora programme.

Privacy International argue that the UK agencies’ use of NSA supplied data is illegal since there is no warrant and no notification and no appeal; which is a problem when there is no ‘probable cause’. In order for GCHQ to intercept someone, they’d need a warrant issued under RIPA. This looks to be  an example of the two agencies outsourcing the surveillance of their own citizenry, since they are prohibited from doing so. i.e. GCHQ is spying on Yanks, and the NSA returns the favour by spying on Brits. Both agencies need a warrant to spy on their own citizens, but not on foreigners.

The Tempora programme, GCHQ’s tap on the internet, is attacked for non-proportionality. GCHQ are tapping the undersea cables that carry the internet and keeping it all for between 3 and 30 days, if the data is unencrypted and longer if encrypted. Privacy International claim that this is equivalent to “blanket surveillance” and hence illegal under UK & EU law.

The sting is in the tail of the article as the Government have somehow forced PI to take their concerns to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which meets in secret. We’ll have to see if they can get it out into open court. The right to privacy is established by Article 8 of the European Charter of Human Rights; instantiated in Law in the UK by the Human Rights Act.

Article 12 – No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. – from the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Bugging our data at rest and in motion

The story has been broken by a number of article in the Guardian over the last month or so, originally by Glen Greenwald published in in an article called, “NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others” in which the NSA’s access to the top US owned and hosted social networks was reported, allowing the NSA access to chat, mail and search history. Four days later, Willliam Hague, the British Foreign Sectrary is reported, again in the Guardian speaking in Parliament defending the intelligence services and the regulatory regime that controls and manages it. This is based on the Intelligence Services Act 1994 and Regulation of Investigatory Powers Axt (RIPA) 2000. The problem is, as is the case in the USA, that the hearings and warrants are all secret. The Guardian article looks at Hague’s words on the intelligence and security committee, interception, independent commissioners, accountability and specifically GCHQ.

Matthew Ryder is quoted, directly: “It is not the breaking of laws that is most troubling in this area, but the absence of them. Foreigners storing their personal data on US servers have neither the protection that their own domestic laws would give them from their own governments, nor the protection that US citizens have from the US government. It is foreigners, potentially UK citizens in the UK, who are the targets of programmes like Prism.

On 21st June, the Guardian broke the story “Mastering the internet: how GCHQ set out to spy on the world wide web” about Tempora, what became GCHQ’s internet buffer and explained how it works, sort of, in a story called, “How does GCHQ’s internet surveillance work?” and the implications described in, “GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world’s communications”.

How blind is the lady?

The Guardian finished the day, by publishing comments in contradiction to Hague’s comments earlier in the month suggesting that the UK’s regulation was lighter than that in the USA and evidence that the division of labour between the two agencies had been designed with this in mind; although it seems that the UK spooks were frightened that the US thought that they weren’t pulling their weight. The article goes into some detail about how GCHQ obtains legal authority but it comes down to the Foreign Secretary signing a general Section 8 RIPA warrant.

The following day, the Guardian publishes an article, “MI5 feared GCHQ went ‘too far’ over phone and internet monitoring”, the headline says it all and questions the effectiveness of doing it while looking to catch terrorists.


These newspaper articles were published in June & July 2013, this omnibus article was written in Oct, while refreshing my memory for a presentation I was writing.

Citizens not Suspects
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