Secretive UK Court That Approves Of GCHQ Surveillance Says That GCHQ Surveillance Doesn't Violate Human Rights

from the because-to-say-otherwise-would-implicate-itself dept

For a while now, we’ve been covering various legal challenges in Europe related to the GCHQ’s surveillance activities. One of the main cases, brought by Amnesty International and Privacy International, argued that the surveillance violated the European Convention on Human Rights (specifically article 8, on right to privacy, and article 10, on freedom of expression). While it was always expected that the case would eventually go to the European Court of Human Rights, the first step was the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in the UK — a secretive court that reviews complaints about surveillance, but (as with nearly all “secretive courts” charged with “oversight” on the intelligence community) almost always sides with the intelligence community. Between 2000 and 2012 the IPT only sided against the intelligence community 10 times out of 1468 cases brought (about half of one percent of all cases). In other words, this is a court that (in secret) regularly okays GCHQ’s surveillance efforts on UK citizens.

So take a wild guess what happened when it was asked to determine if such surveillance violated human rights? It said of course no human rights were violated when the GCHQ spied on people. This is not a surprise. Anything else would have been a surprise. To put it simply, if the IPT had ruled in favor of these groups, it would have been implicating itself, effectively admitting that its own approvals of GCHQ activity enabled the violation of human rights. And that wasn’t going to happen. But that’s not how surveillance state defenders are discussing this result:

A government security source told the BBC: “We are delighted that a third independent body has confirmed that GCHQ does not seek to carry out mass surveillance.”

Independent body? Right. It’s the “independent” body that has a history of saying the very actions now being scrutinized are perfectly fine. It may be “independent” of the GCHQ itself, but it’s not “independent” of the surveillance GCHQ carried out.

The groups who brought this case say that they’ll appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which is what everyone expected to happen in the first place. This little rubber stamping by the IPT was just a procedural issue that had to be taken in the first place.

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: amnesty international, privacy international

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Secretive UK Court That Approves Of GCHQ Surveillance Says That GCHQ Surveillance Doesn't Violate Human Rights”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
David says:

Bye bye

Cameron has been as forthcoming as spelling out the conditions under which the UK would be willing to leave the EU. They are not even hard to satisfy.

So remove this cancer on the free world from the European Union and then reorganize the communication and the governing law to lock the bulldogs away safely in their own pen where they can sniff each other’s butts all they like.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Bye bye

It is a chain of hostage situation going on on the islands:

– Cameron is promising a vote on EU if he wins next election, taking EU as hostage in his bid for continuing as prime minister.
– ECHR is completely independent of EU and is their main fear in terms of losing the current surveillance, but in a twist EU is being taken hostage in his bid for stopping EUHCR.
– In EU many of the british conservatives are operating the conservative group EU-sceptics. They have been rained upon by gold from the other groups in EU to satisfy the scepticism across Europe. In a bizarre twist the group has now been taken hostage by Cameron.

Am I the only one seeing the downfall of Cameron in next UK election as the only way to keep them from completely selfdestructing?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“third independent body”
That we appointed, pay for, and seek the permission of to blatantly spy on our own citizens. They give it a rubber stamp so we can pretend due process & rights still exist as we curtail everything our citizens do in an effort to stop the “terrorists” & keep them safe. As they had far to many rights, we curtailed them to make the job easier. Pay no attention to the overreach or everything we share with our allies, it is all part of the global vision we have of knowing everything about everyone so no one feels they can stop us.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Independent body?

A government security source told the BBC: “We are delighted that a third independent body has confirmed that GCHQ does not seek to carry out mass surveillance.”

I’m curious about what their definition of “independent” is here. It looks to me like they’re using the bogus US definition whereby they try to convince us that the Senate Intelligence Committee and the FISC are “independent bodies”. In other words, they’re lying.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:


This is becoming one of the most dangerous notions in our language, that we can interpret laws that are intended for one thing to mean another, and in a case like this, interpret human rights to not include a protection from a given behavior. Or interpret the behavior so that it doesn’t really violate a human right.

I believe according to that the US doesn’t torture, on the grounds that we’ve interpreted torture to not mean those things we do to people.

(Or we’ve outsourced our enhanced interrogation so as to allow for a creative use of the pronoun “we”).

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...