UK Intelligence Agencies Ask Court To Say They're Immune From Having To Provide Evidence

from the that-doesn't-seem-right dept

While we mostly focus on US government attempts to hide secrets from the people, similar stories are obviously happening around the globe. Over in the UK, there's an ongoing legal fight over whether or not intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 can simply hide all evidence gathered abroad in cases that relate to that evidence. Apparently, a lower court had rejected this idea, but the intelligence agencies are appealing, and claiming that the general principle that a "litigant must see and hear the evidence used against him or her," should not apply to cases where these intelligence agencies collect information abroad. If that seems a bit scary, well, then you're paying attention. It's really quite troubling how much various governments have worked hard to avoid any form of oversight, and open up more and more avenues under which they can abuse the law with little or no repercussions.


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    The eejit (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 12:40am

    Dangerous intelligence agencies

    News at 11.

    Seriously, how can they possiblythink that this should fly?

     

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    theskyrider, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 2:53am

    airs of McCarthy

    "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?"

    "No Sir."

    "Intelligence says you are, and they have provided evidence."

    "I'd like to see said evidence."

    "You can't. I can't even see the evidence. But I am told that it is incontrovertible. You are guilty as charged."

    "But sir..."


    Good way to thin out the population, isn't it?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 4:02am

    if this happens and the people in the UK don't revolt against the government then they get what they deserve.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 4:23am

      Re:

      what makes you think we aren't trying to? You think the USA has a police state/ Try coming here. We've got the most CCTV's anywhere on the planet.

       

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      abc gum, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 4:35am

      Re:

      "blah blah blah ... then they get what they deserve."

      What a load of crap. This is not correct at all, obviously.

       

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        Hulser (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 5:07am

        Re: Re:

        "Every country has the government it deserves."
        - Joseph Marie de Maistre

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 5:49am

        Re: Re:

        OBVIOUSLY, you're going nowhere with your thinking. Governments exists at the will of the people. Should the government decide they are going to oppress the people then it is up to the people to throw down that government in favor of one that serves the will of the people. If you believe that this is a load of crap then you are merely another of the sheeple that the government continues to DESERVEDLY oppress.

         

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          Any Mouse (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 9:21am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Flag on the field. Use of 'sheeple' when trying to make a political statement. 10 yard penalty.

           

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          abc gum, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 5:09pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          By all means, lets blame the victim.

          I can imagine you saying something like:
          ... "Its your own fault that you are unable to dodge bullets"
          OR
          ... "You were asking for it wearing that miniskirt - and why didn't you put up more of a fight?"

          I agree with you that sitting around doing nothing is not productive, but blaming the victim is retarded and does nothing other than make you look good in the eyes of the perpetrator(s). So, I guess that makes you a suck up.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 4:27am

    The U.K. authorities are funny, they want everybody to obey but don't want to fallow their own rules or procedures.

    We all know where these leads to.

     

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    abc gum, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 4:38am

    Breaking news ... the content industry declares itself an intelligence agency - film at eleven.

     

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    Shon Gale (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 5:13am

    The UK, the EU they're all scary. It's like their people have blinders on. Plus the government always forgets that there are more of us than of them.

     

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    Idobek (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 5:27am

    The difference between MI5/6 and the Police

    I have some sympathy for MI5/6 in these cases. For their entire existence their mandate has been to gather intelligence in order to stop attacks against Britain. Until recently there hasn't been the automatic requirement that the intelligence gathered would be used in a court of law (or, indeed, for any other purpose) and, therefore, have to meet due process criteria.

    That's not to say there shouldn't be such a requirement be but it does mean a change of mandate that should be debated in Parliament.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 5:37am

    I can understand where they are going with this, and I can understand why. Putting all of the evidence into open court (or even in a closed court full of eyes and ears) may put other things at risk. Terrorists and other organizations dedicated to the destruction of the "western lifestyle" have no qualms about using this information to their advantage.

    That advantage might be to kill an informant, to move an entire project from one country to another, to relocate their bases, or to move their leaders to more secure locations.

    Essentially, those groups use the openness of the Western world as their spy organization. They don't have to send many spies, they can just send journalists. The information flow is all one way, the west finds out very little about them, usually at great risk, and they find out everything by freedom of information acts, open courts, and ideas like wikileaks.

    I can see where UK secret ops would want to keep their information private, out of the public eye, and off the public record. I suspect they are very tired of doing years of work to net 1 or 2 people, and having many others slither away as a result of the public airing of the information.

     

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      Killer_Tofu (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 6:15am

      Re:

      While you say that you understand, I hope you do not support it. If it is hard for them to do their job, so be it. Freedom is worth fighting for and caving into the government to make their jobs easier only means that the terrorists are winning. How do people not see that?
      The TSA? Yah, the terrorists won there. CCTVs everywhere? Terrorists are winning there too.
      They get you to live in fear. That is there goal, and people are handing them the win. I sir (or madam) will continue to fight for freedom and do not live in fear. I will fight this stupid security theatre they love to parade around. Giving up freedoms so that people feel safer doesn't make them safe. It makes them a sheep.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 6:18am

      Re:

      The problem is removing the information from an open court or even a closed court full of eyes and ears, so that a "litigant must see and hear the evidence used against him or her," IS the destruction of the "western lifestyle".

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 6:23am

      Re:

      "Terrorists and other organizations dedicated to the destruction of the "western lifestyle" have no qualms about using this information to their advantage."

      Actually, "the terrorists" aren't trying to destroy the western lifestyle. They want us to stop meddling in other nations, toppling and setting up regimes on a whim and indiscriminately killing folk (not just through guns, bombs, and drones, but also through starvation-through-sanction). And we (that is, those in control of the US government) want to control the planet's energy resources for the foreseeable future so that we can maintain world dominance.

      Obviously, their goals (peace and "leave us alone") and our goals (control and "do what I say") conflict.

       

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        Anonymous a-hole, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 7:07am

        Re: Re:

        Actually, "the terrorists" aren't trying to destroy the western lifestyle. They want us to stop meddling in other nations, toppling and setting up regimes on a whim and indiscriminately killing folk (not just through guns, bombs, and drones, but also through starvation-through-sanction).
        QFT. The mid-east countries who "hate the US" don't hate our freedoms; they despise our propping up of dictators and fucking their people over to get the oil and other resources - and the consequences be damned.

         

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    MD2000, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 6:05am

    The Answer Is Simple...

    If the government must choose to renege on its obligation to disclose all the facts it knows to the defense, then the solution is simple - the case gets dropped. That's what would happen if the police (sorry, "bobbies") deliberately chose to hide evidence, or the crown prosecutor.

    You have a choice as government - charge a person and reveal what you knowfor his defence to use, or choose not to charge a person for whatever reason.

    That would help the government determine how important it is that some information remain secret. Let the Justice Minister and the Foreign Affairs Minister argue it out first.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 7:35am

      Re: The Answer Is Simple...

      Can we revisit this when one of these people they let loose sets off a bomb in a crowded tube station?

       

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        Idobek (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 9:22am

        Re: Re: The Answer Is Simple...

        The question becomes: do we want to prosecute them or do we want to stop them?

        Another question that always occurs to me is: had they committed a crime before the event?

        And if so: should it really have been a crime?

        There is a grey area here and that is the one that the intelligence services operate in.

        If MI5's purpose is not to gather intelligence and prevent attacks against Britain, but to gather evidence and prevent crime, how is that different from the role of the Police?

        This is, and should, be a very difficult area for the executive and the legislature to navigate.

        I would hope that they come down on the side of liberty.

        Would I say the same if there was another Brighton Bomb? I don't know.

         

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        Beta (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 10:01am

        Re: Re: The Answer Is Simple...

        "Can we revisit this when one of these people they let loose sets off a bomb in a crowded tube station?"

        Let's revisit it when one of the people they locked up for years at Guantanamo Bay turns out to be innocent, and the secret evidence against him laughably thin... oh, wait...

        Let's revisit it after you (and other upstanding citizens) prove that you won't set off a bomb in a crowded... half a tick...

        Let's first wait for an example of what happens to a society that abandons due process for the sake of security and... hold on...

        Let's wait until we see a formerly great Western nation that used to call itself "the home of the brave" turned into a gaggle of trembling poltroons that fly into an unreasoning panic at the suggestion that someone might set off a bomb somewhere someday. There we are!

         

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    Overcast (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 6:35am

    Technology moves forward, medicine moves forward.

    Politics - moves backwards.

    Going back to the days of Feudalism faster and faster it seems.

     

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    Pickle Monger (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 7:03am

    Evidence collected abroad

    There are two issues here:
    1. Since the intelligence and counter-intelligence operatives normally deal with classified and compartmentalized information, revealing said information will most likely result in revealing the source of the information. At the very least (!), the governments/organizations that would've wanted to keep it secret will know there's some kind of a leak. So once something becomes a part of court record, the intelligence agencies will have their flow of information cut off.
    2. Should courts accept the evidence collected abroad in the first place? Was the information obtained with due process? Was there a threat of violence? Did money exchange hands? In the court of law, the accused has a right to confront witnesses against him/her. If an intelligence operative presents what has been learned, wouldn't that still be hearsay? Another important issue is "character of the witness". How can that be determined? Will the intelligence agencies have to present other information obtained from the same source as evidence?
    World may seem black and white when sitting at a computer in the comfort of your home or of an air-conditioned office but the reality is not quite the same unfortunately.

     

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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 7:29am

    Another Example

    Another example of people who think a free society and an orderly society are the same thing (much like people think a free market and a stable market are the same thing).

    Freedom is chaotic, unpredictable, and sometimes bad things will happen, but if you can't handle that, quit legislating to the lowest common denominator of society and just move to somewhere like North Korea. They'll provide you with all the order they can cram down your throat.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2011 @ 7:36am

      Re: Another Example

      oh look, strawman - either accept wide open everything, or move to North Korea. No grey in there.

       

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        Gabriel Tane (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 7:46am

        Re: Re: Another Example

        Sorry, what you're describing is a false dichotomy... not a strawman.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dichotomy

        Don't mean to be picky... logical fallacies are a study of mine. :)

         

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          Christopher (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 9:12am

          Re: Re: Re: Another Example

          With all due respect, this is not a false dichotomy. In order for there to be true freedom of people to do whatever they want, as long as they are not physically harming others or forcing others to do or not do things that they do not or do wish to do?
          There has to be a chance that bad things will happen. Meaning that people cannot be free when you hide things from their eyes.

           

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            Gabriel Tane (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 10:17am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Another Example

            I wasn't accusing you of either... was correcting AC's accusation. What he was describing was a false dichotomy, not a strawman.

             

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        The eejit (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 9:37am

        Re: Re: Another Example

        Correction, anarchy is not a lack of order. It's a lack of orders. We don't, alas, live in a world of black and white. This is why your point is invalid - it's setting up a false idea - that openness is the inverse of fascism. It's not.

         

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      Christopher (profile), Jan 25th, 2011 @ 9:09am

      Re: Another Example

      Agreed, Chris. In order for there to be freedom, there is going to be the chance that 'bad' things are going to happen, and people just have to learn to live with those risks and chances.

       

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