Thursday, July 02, 2015

GCHQ spied on Amnesty International

Last month, we learned that Britain's GCHQ had been spying - legally - on human rights NGOs. Both the organisations involved were small - the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the South African non-profit Legal Resources Centre. But now it turns out that the investigatory powers tribunal made a mistake in its ruling: they'd been spying on Amnesty International:

In a shocking revelation, the UK’s Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) today notified Amnesty International that UK government agencies had spied on the organization by intercepting, accessing and storing its communications.

In an email sent today, the Tribunal informed Amnesty International its 22 June ruling had mistakenly identified one of two NGOs which it found had been subjected to unlawful surveillance by the UK government. Today’s communication makes clear that it was actually Amnesty International Ltd, and not the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) that was spied on in addition to the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa.

The NGOs were among 10 organizations that launched a legal challenge against suspected unlawful mass surveillance of their work by the UK’s spy agencies.

“After 18 months of litigation and all the denials and subterfuge that entailed, we now have confirmation that we were in fact subjected to UK government mass surveillance. It’s outrageous that what has been often presented as being the domain of despotic rulers has been occurring on British soil, by the British government,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

[Note: the surveillance itself was found to be lawful. However, GCHQ illegally retained data afterwards]

Amnesty is one of the biggest and best known human rights organisations in the world. And the IPT has just admitted that it is being treated as an enemy of the British state. Which speaks volumes about what sort of a country the UK is now, and how desperately its government and its spies need to be voted out and replaced by someone with a shred of ethics.