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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Comments on “UK Intelligence Agencies Ask Court To Say They're Immune From Having To Provide Evidence”

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theskyrider says:

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?

Idobek (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:


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.

MD2000 says:

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.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:


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.

Anonymous Coward says:


“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.

Pickle Monger (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous a-hole says:


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.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

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.

Christopher (profile) says:

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.

Idobek (profile) says:

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.

Beta (profile) says:

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!

abc gum says:


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”
… “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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