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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.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 3:59am

    We need a court to police our surveillance courts. And once that has been subject to regulatory capture, we will need a court to police the court which polices surveillance courts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 8 Dec 2014 @ 4:22am

      Re:

      It is specialist courts that are the problem.

      They are easily captured because the same people turn up on one side of the fence again and again.

      Just let an ordinary, general purpose, court decide.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 8 Dec 2014 @ 9:02am

        Re: Re:

        It is specialist courts that are the problem.

        I think that phrase is far too charitable. With no-one challenging the gov't, and no-one speaking for the defence, and no-oversight on the court's decisions, this is not a court. It's a captured tribunal, merely a necessary bureaucratic hurdle.

        The lawmakers failed us again.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      The Wanderer (profile), 8 Dec 2014 @ 5:50am

      Re:

      "And now every Hawtch-Hawtcher in all of Hawtch-Hawtch
      Is watching on Watch-Watcher-Watchering-Watch,
      Watch-Watch-Watch-Watching the Watcher who's watching that bee..."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 4:28am

    So, UK Gov want to stay on banlist, AKA do not beg me to help them...
    OK, can and WILL do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 8 Dec 2014 @ 4:41am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 5:10am

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rikuo (profile), 8 Dec 2014 @ 4:43am

    In other news, Ireland's Justice Minister just signed into law allowing foreign intelligence agencies to tap into our telecommunications.
    http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/foreign-law-enforcement-agencies-allowed-to-ta p-irish-calls-653609.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 4:56am

    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."

    If you are already doing it, there is no seek.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 Dec 2014 @ 5:00am

    "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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 5:12am

    Perhaps they do not understand what the word independent means.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 6:36am

    Investigatory Powers Tribunal court in the UK sounds a lot like the FISC in the US. Which isn't surprising. The UK basically models their systems on pre-existing US systems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 8:06am

    the court arrived at that conclusion because the UK government has already removed freedom and privacy from the people, so there was no new evidence to present. oh, and dont forget that this was a secret court, doing much the same as the FISC, just giving blanket approval!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 8 Dec 2014 @ 8:44am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 9:13am

    It's 'funny' that all these secretive courts are willing to turn the other cheek when there is no direct accountability...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 9:53am

    it wont matter what is ruled in the EUCHR, the UK government has already ignored EU rulings on data retention, a little thing like a HR trial wont worry them!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 10:58am

      Re:

      oh yes it will! they did not ignored EU rulings on data retention they just got a new law in (BTW that set to go to EUCHR aswell and be overruled!) UK government fears the EU that is why they want to leave! wake up! they are very worried!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 8 Dec 2014 @ 10:59am

    "Interpretation"

    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").

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Dec 2014 @ 2:01pm

    just like torture doesn't violate human rights because we said so while sticking our fingers in our ears and screaming lalalala.

    There goes the free world into another tyranny

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zonker, 8 Dec 2014 @ 5:01pm

    But can't you just exercise your "right to be forgotten" and have all links to your name removed from the GCHQ surveillance database?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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