Humiliating Admission By UK Government That Yet More Of Its Surveillance Was Unlawful

from the well,-not-*completely*-legal dept

A couple of weeks ago, we reported on a small but important defeat for the UK government when the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruled that intelligence sharing between the NSA and GCHQ was unlawful. Now, in a sign that the cracks in the UK’s impenetrable silence on its surveillance activities are beginning to spread, the Guardian reports on the following surprising development:

The regime under which UK intelligence agencies, including MI5 and MI6, have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for the past five years is unlawful, the British government has admitted.

Here’s why the UK government has suddenly started owning up to these misdeeds:

The admission that the regime surrounding state snooping on legally privileged communications has also failed to comply with the European convention on human rights comes in advance of a legal challenge, to be heard early next month, in which the security services are alleged to have unlawfully intercepted conversations between lawyers and their clients to provide the government with an advantage in court.

Remarkably, the confession has brought with it an unprecedented explanatory statement:

“In view of recent IPT judgments, we acknowledge that the policies adopted since [January] 2010 have not fully met the requirements of the ECHR, specifically article 8 (right to privacy). This includes a requirement that safeguards are made sufficiently public.

“It does not mean that there was any deliberate wrongdoing on their part of the security and intelligence agencies, which have always taken their obligations to protect legally privileged material extremely seriously. Nor does it mean that any of the agencies’ activities have prejudiced or in any way resulted in an abuse of process in any civil or criminal proceedings.”

This surprise admission shows once again the value of taking legal action against government surveillance, even when the odds of succeeding seem slim. Twice now the UK has revealed details purely as a result of challenges. Perhaps even more importantly, twice now the UK government’s standard response to leaks — that it wouldn’t confirm or deny anything, but the British public could rest assured that whatever may have happened was completely legal — has been shown to be false.

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Comments on “Humiliating Admission By UK Government That Yet More Of Its Surveillance Was Unlawful”

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29 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Mixed messages

So on one hand, they admit that what they did, spying on the communications between lawyers and their clients, was unlawful, yet on the other hand, they claim that…

It does not mean that there was any deliberate wrongdoing on their part of the security and intelligence agencies, which have always taken their obligations to protect legally privileged material extremely seriously. Nor does it mean that any of the agencies’ activities have prejudiced or in any way resulted in an abuse of process in any civil or criminal proceedings.”

So unlawful, but not actually wrong… well, good to know the UK government has finally come forward and admitting that they see nothing wrong in breaking the law. Really, it’s a refreshing bit of honesty from a government spokesman.

Ananke says:

Re: Mixed messages

From a strictly logical perspective, it’s true. It doesn’t mean that the wrongdoing was deliberate. That’s not to say that it wasn’t deliberate, only that this admission doesn’t logically require that the wrongdoing was deliberate.

Of course, it also doesn’t have the logical consequence that it wasn’t deliberate – and it very much has the inference that it was.

The semantic content of their caveat is, unsurprisingly, null.

Anonymous Coward says:

i wonder how long it will now be before the UK government admits to the ability it had to listen in on conversations via mobile phones because of their infiltration in to sim cards?
also, i would like to know how what is going on at the moment is different to what was going on up to December 2014? the UK government spying then was ruled illegal up to December, but isn’t since, so what is the difference in what they are doing, how and why?
i then would like to know exactly what this spying has done to keep the UK citizens safe? i’ll bet those citizens are no more safe than they would have been without the spying, just like the US citizens if the NSA hadn’t been spying us.
how many terrorist attacks have been foiled, and i mean genuine attacks, not the made up shit ones that the NSA and FBI have come out with! i’ll bet there are none! and the reason being i’ll again bet that the terrorists wouldn’t be so stupid as to contact each other in ‘plain view’ methods or with ‘plain view’ text! on top of that, the amount of data that is collected 1 day, would take years for even a computer to sift through looking for key words! i somehow doubt that any terrorist group would plan and converse about an attack that was planned for 2025, would you?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well, that is the problem a lot of us has with these methods. There just doesn’t seem to be any evidence to support these methods or anything close to this.
If they wanted to convince us that they are justified in any of it, you would think they would provide examples of attacks they have actually stopped.
Instead they provide claims that are false and vaguely stating that they have stopped attacks that would chill our bones, without providing examples.
I get that they can’t give out all the details and I am not demanding they release the names and addresses of all the agents involved, but if the world is really that dangerous to upend all of our principals, they could certainly give us something concrete.
So either there is nothing to provide us with, or they think that they don’t need to convince us and just do what they damn well please.
It looks more and more like it is both.

Maybe they are just terrible at marketing.

Baron von Robber says:

Ignorance of the law is no excuse!*

*except for the following:
LEOs, district attorneys, judges, elected officials and their families, elected officials family’s families, celebrities that are likable, the 1% and their families, kittens, puppies, employees of 3-letter-orgs (both acknowledged and disavowed) and their families with pets included, Bob, and that guy the looks familiar but who’s name you can’t quite place.

TasMot (profile) says:

And So, the result of all of this not-deliberately breaking the law

will be nothing, absolutely nothing. The sad state of affairs is that the organizations that were put in place to catch law-breakers, commonly known as criminals, are now so far above the law that anything they do is retroactively OK. As long as they can “claim” it was not deliberate. It’s OK for them to be law-breaking criminals, just not anyone they target. That target may not have broken the law (fill in your favorite investigative journalist or their significant other who is traveling through an airport) but they can be hassled into the poor house or even thrown in jail for a while, but since they are not the ones who are supposed to uphold the law, it is bad. If you are supposed to uphold the law, it seems to be OK to break the law, as long as you can issue a press release that basically says “oops”, didn’t mean it.
This is a sad sad time.

Gordon says:

'Fair Trial'

If government lackeys [i]”unlawfully intercepted conversations between lawyers and their clients to provide the government with an advantage in court”[/i] does this also raise questions about the possibility of receiving a fair trial under such circumstances?

Not that I forsee any trials collapsing or verdicts being revisited, of course.

Anonymous Coward says:

It does not mean that there was any deliberate wrongdoing on their part of the security and intelligence agencies, which have always taken their obligations to protect legally privileged material extremely seriously. Nor does it mean that any of the agencies’ activities have prejudiced or in any way resulted in an abuse of process in any civil or criminal proceedings.”

WTF

Thats exactly what it means, what are we, in fucking opposite world or something, thats EXACTLY what your actions communicate……….you’ve done wrong, trying to salvage ANYTHING tells me you have’nt really learned, which means unless meaningfull change happens to stop abuse, you’ll end up doing it again……thats assuming you ever stop………the empires have created the environment where such things are deemed “necasary”, it is entirely your fault, and were suppose to suffer for your global childish games, BOTH SIDES, will we fuck

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

your looking at revolution most likely then. The current “free world: governments are hell bent on enslaving their citizens. removing the rights they have ignoring the rights they have. The times of kings is not over apparently.

Maybe they saw all these 3rd world dictatorships and thought “I got to get in on that action”

Anonymous Hero says:

Defense Opening Statement - Open and Shut Case!

“Your honor, and ladies and gentlemen of the jury. I’d like to thank you for being here today.

In view of recent rape cases, I acknowledge that my client’s policies as a serial rapist have not fully met the requirements of British law.

It does not mean there was any deliberate wrongdoing on my client’s part, as he have always taken his obligations to follow the law extremely seriously.”

SIS MI5 GCHQ says:

British intelligence are criminals

GCHQ are using mass surveillance to gather up potential blackmail information on politicians and judges. GCHQ are a criminal agency just like the NSA. They are also involved in an illegal program called organized stalking which is used to psychologically harass members of the public and they are using the information that they are gathering up from the mass surveillance to do this.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Perhaps even more importantly, twice now the UK government’s standard response to leaks — that it wouldn’t confirm or deny anything, but the British public could rest assured that whatever may have happened was completely legal — has been shown to be false.”

Absolutely true! This is best possible closing statement for this article. Not only is the UK government lying. The Intercept’s story about the NSA stealing all the private SIM card encryption keys for cellphones by stalking and hacking SIM card manufacturing employees. Proves the NSA and White House are also lying when stating that they only target “unlawful” individuals.

Of course we already knew this after Angela Merkel was spied on. I don’t believe she’s a terrorist. The truth of the matter is the NSA and GCHQ spy on everyone. They don’t need a reason to spy, and they’re not bound by any laws. Quite simply, they’re rogue agencies running amok worldwide.

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