Monday, May 05, 2014

Challenging the panopticon

The UK's Green politicians are launching a legal challenge to GCHQ, alleging that they have been unlawfully spied on:

The claim by Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, the Green party's two representatives in parliament, adds to a growing number of legal challenges over the large-scale harvesting of emails, phone calls and other internet traffic by GCHQ.

Their complaint focuses on a rule introduced by 1966 by the then prime minister, Harold Wilson, instructing Britain's intelligence agencies not to tap the telephones of MPs and peers unless there is a national emergency.

A government minister acknowledged last July that this explicit ban, still in force and known as the Wilson doctrine, also applied to electronic surveillance.

Lucas and Jones say: "The Wilson doctrine is a fundamental doctrine of public policy. It not only protects the rights and privileges of elected politicians, but it also protects the privacy of their communications with their constituents, who may very well be complaining or whistleblowing about the very government departments and agencies and other agents of the state who try to carry out surveillance on them."

They say there is a strong likelihood that GCHQ spies "have intercepted and are intercepting [their] communications as members of the Houses of Parliament".

[Link added]

Hopefully they'll be successful. Meanwhile its worth noting that our MPs enjoy no such protection from the SIS (and hence from GCSB). If John Key wants SIS to spy on his political opponents, all he has to do is sign a warrant. This would be easy to fix with a couple of amendments to the SIS and GCSB Acts prohibiting either body from spying on Members of Parliament. If any party wants to bring such an amendment, I'm happy to draft it for them.