UK forced to admit GCHQ can access foreign-gathered data without warrant

RT
October 29,2014

Reuters / Kacper Pempel
Reuters / Kacper Pempel

The UK government has admitted for the first time that its spy agency, GCHQ, can access raw data mined by America’s NSA and others without a warrant. It was made to comply following post-Snowden legal action from rights organizations.

The secrets leaked by the iconic former NSA contractor led Amnesty International, Liberty and Privacy International to compel the UK government to submit documents to government surveillance watchdogs revealing secret “arrangements” between GCHQ and foreign spy agencies, The Guardian reported.

The documents reveal that such access to foreign partners’ bulk data is acceptable when it’s not “technically feasible” to acquire a warrant, and if the good that comes out of it is “necessary and proportionate” to the cause.

British citizens are safeguarded from warrantless spying by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), but the document itself states there are exceptions.

This is stated explicitly: “[A] Ripa interception warrant is not as a matter of law required in all cases in which unanalyzed intercepted communications might be sought from a foreign government.”

And yet this doesn’t appear to be entirely legal, given how last July the parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee ruled that a warrant would need to be obtained from a minister each time GCHQ accessed data from its foreign counterparts.

The loopholes embedded in the practice can also be perceived as inevitably threatening British citizens’ rights: when overseas data is obtained in bulk, the British spy agency saves time by not having to filter out results relating to their own nationals. This is perfectly legal.

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