Secretive UK Court That Approves Of GCHQ Surveillance Says That GCHQ Surveillance Doesn't Violate Human Rights
from the because to say otherwise would implicate itself dept
For a while now, we’ve been covering various legal challenges in Europe related to the GCHQ’s surveillance activities. One of the main cases, brought by Amnesty International and Privacy International, argued that the surveillance violated the European Convention on Human Rights (specifically article 8, on right to privacy, and article 10, on freedom of expression). While it was always expected that the case would eventually go to the European Court of Human Rights, the first step was the Investigatory Powers Tribunal in the UK — a secretive court that reviews complaints about surveillance, but (as with nearly all “secretive courts” charged with “oversight” on the intelligence community) almost always sides with the intelligence community. Between 2000 and 2012 the IPT only sided against the intelligence community 10 times out of 1468 cases brought (about half of one percent of all cases). In other words, this is a court that (in secret) regularly okays GCHQ’s surveillance efforts on UK citizens.
So take a wild guess what happened when it was asked to determine if such surveillance violated human rights? It said of course no human rights were violated when the GCHQ spied on people. This is not a surprise. Anything else would have been a surprise. To put it simply, if the IPT had ruled in favor of these groups, it would have been implicating itself, effectively admitting that its own approvals of GCHQ activity enabled the violation of human rights. And that wasn’t going to happen. But that’s not how surveillance state defenders are discussing this result:
A government security source told the BBC: “We are delighted that a third independent body has confirmed that GCHQ does not seek to carry out mass surveillance.”
Independent body? Right. It’s the “independent” body that has a history of saying the very actions now being scrutinized are perfectly fine. It may be “independent” of the GCHQ itself, but it’s not “independent” of the surveillance GCHQ carried out.
The groups who brought this case say that they’ll appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which is what everyone expected to happen in the first place. This little rubber stamping by the IPT was just a procedural issue that had to be taken in the first place.