Tired Of Losing Legal Challenges To Its Surveillance, UK Government Secretly Changes Law So It Can Win

from the that's-cheating dept

Against all the odds, legal challenges to UK surveillance are succeeding, as Techdirt has reported. At the forefront of bringing cases against GCHQ is the rights group Privacy International. In May 2014 it asserted that GCHQ's activities were illegal under the UK's Computer Misuse Act (CMA), which criminalizes breaking into digital systems. A year later, and just hours before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal hearing of Privacy International's complaint against GCHQ, the UK government revealed the following:

only a few weeks after the claim was filed, the [UK] Government quietly introduced legislation on 6 June 2014 that would amend the CMA to provide a new exception for law enforcement and GCHQ to hack without criminal liability. The change not only affects Privacy International's claim, but also grants UK law enforcement new leeway to potentially conduct cyber attacks within the UK.
That is, the UK government was implicitly admitting that GCHQ's activities were, once again, illegal, but fixed that problem with the simple expedient of changing the law to make them legal. That on its own is questionable, although some might say that spies and the police need to have immunity when carrying out certain authorized acts. But the real issue here is another: the fact that this change was pushed through with none of the usual scrutiny or debate accorded to laws with important effects. As Privacy International explains, although the UK government published an explanatory note about the proposed amendment, it neglected to mention its true impact. Moreover:
It appears no regulators, commissioners responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, the Information Commissioner's Office, industry, NGOs or the public were notified or consulted about the proposed legislative changes. There was no published Privacy Impact Assessment. Only the Ministry of Justice, Crown Prosecution Service, Scotland Office, Northern Ireland Office, GCHQ, Police and National Crime Agency were consulted as stakeholders. There was no public debate.
This is essentially secret law-making, where the only people consulted are the ones who will benefit. That's troubling at the best of times, but especially so in the context of a government abusing its powers to avoid yet another embarrassing defeat in the courts.

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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 18 May 2015 @ 11:31am

    The UK system is different so I'm ignorant but here the Executive needs the Legislative support because it can't simply change it. How does it work in the UK? Can the change be challenged?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2015 @ 11:43am

      Re:

      The prime minister and cabinet are part of the legislature in the UK, and control the majority party.

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

      • identicon
        Michael, 18 May 2015 @ 11:51am

        Re: Re:

        Checks and balances...

        It all balances for the people that can write big checks.

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

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 19 May 2015 @ 7:16am

        Re: Re:

        The prime minister and cabinet are part of the legislature in the UK, and control the majority party.

        Which, in theory, should get the PM the Executive branch and the Commons. In theory, there's a senate/House of Lords out there also made up of appointees who're not necessarily beholden to the PM or the party. Canada's senate bills itself as the voice of sober, second thought. In reality it's all moribund.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2015 @ 12:18pm

      Re:

      Yes, but not by anyone outside parliament, because this was done with the lesser consensus and in secret, without any uninvested party being involved (namely, the public whose data these clowns are literally stealing.)

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

  • identicon
    mcinsand, 18 May 2015 @ 12:02pm

    4th amendment

    Thankfully, we have the Fourth Amendment in the US, so behavior like this can't happen.

    (/sarc set to 11)

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2015 @ 1:11pm

      Re: 4th amendment

      Thankfully we have a huge stupid electorate moaning and groaning about stupid things instead of the loss of their liberty.

      ~2 Party system... i mean 2 patsy system.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2015 @ 12:06pm

    cant imagine where they got the idea from to do this, can you??

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2015 @ 12:18pm

    Its like the little child lying to cover up a previous lie only to find he or she has to keep lying indefinitely. All the while the parent is just rolling his or her eyes because they know the child is lying and that the child isn't going to get away with it unless the parent lets it slide.

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

  • icon
    MikeC (profile), 18 May 2015 @ 12:20pm

    How Inefficent

    In the US we don't need to change the law, we just have a lawyer at the DOJ interpret the law for us and then classify that interpretation, so no one knows it was done.

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

  • identicon
    Hans, 18 May 2015 @ 12:47pm

    We Yanks don't have that problem...

    Luckily we solved that problem over here with our fancy Constitution thingy with its extra-bonus Bill of Rights.

    Now whenever the Executive wants to do something illegal, they just get Dick Cheney to say the law means whatever the Executive wants it to mean!

    Then when "we the people" catch wind of it and start pointing out it's illegal, they make "Freedom Act" to make it legal.

    Er, wait... just that's just like over there in the UK... Derp.

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

  • identicon
    David, 18 May 2015 @ 12:48pm

    I have altered the deal.

    Pray I don't alter it further. -- James Cameron

    Relying on just "1984" to meet the dystopian desires of the UK government would be shortsighted.

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

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 18 May 2015 @ 1:55pm

    Legal Does Not Equal Moral

    Expediency and tyranny holding hands in perfect harmony as the pliably supine cretins operating within the UK government fold like cheap lawn furniture in the face of secret police state laws.

    Never forget that everything the National Socialists did in Germany was legal. Same goes for the USSR or any other tyranny in found human history.

    The real question is:

    Are these secret laws moral?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2015 @ 2:03pm

    It's official, the UK parliament is being run by Darth Sidious!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2015 @ 3:10pm

    One thing that will not happen: Change

    One thing that will happen: Big scandal revealing blackmail and surveillance of political opposition of those in power. Opposition and public will be outraged finally and other party will come to power.
    New party has the power and suddenly does not see reason to change laws in meaningful ways. Instead will use same tactics to insure place at the top.
    Rinse and repeat.

    I hate to be cynical, but I don't see this changing in any good way for many years to come with our current selection of politicians and power players. Doesn't mean that we shouldn't try though.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2015 @ 4:28pm

      Re: One thing that will not happen: Change

      The UK is a two party system, sadly.

      We've got the Tories currently in power, who're trying to pass that snooping bill now that nobody (read: Liberal Democrats) can stop them, as well as making vague "extremism" illegal.

      The other party the dumb sheeple of the UK vote for is Labour, who passed that nasty little RIPA act, as well as making possession of certain drawn pornography illegal.

      The UK is really one of the most repressive first world countries on the planet.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 May 2015 @ 12:37am

    Since France, the UK and the USA are all becoming police state tyrannies do you suppose countries like Russia and North Korea will become bastions of freedom and democracy?

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

  • identicon
    Just Another Anonymous Troll, 19 May 2015 @ 6:32am

    Typical 6-year-old logic. If I can't win I'll make up new rules until I can.

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

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 25 May 2015 @ 2:50pm

    This is why...

    Most UK citizens call the prick in charge 'Scamoron'.

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


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