GCHQ spying on rights groups ‘illegal’

The GCHQ’s secret surveillance of two international human rights groups was illegal, according to the judicial tribunal handling complaints against the intelligence services.

The government’s monitoring agency kept emails for longer than necessary and violated its own internal procedures, according to a judgment by the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT). However, IPT ruled that the first interception was lawful in both cases.

The IPT analysed complaints by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the South African non-profit Legal Resources Centre which claimed their communications had been illegally retained and analysed by the intelligence agency. The tribunal made “no determination” on further accusations brought forth by other non-governmental organisations, including Amnesty International, Liberty and Privacy International who suggested that either their emails or phone calls were not intercepted or that they were intercepted legally.

The IPT ruling said: “[We are] concerned that steps should be taken to ensure that neither of the breaches of procedure referred to in this determination occurs again. For the avoidance of doubt, the tribunal makes it clear that it will be making a closed report to the prime minister.”


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