The Investigatory Powers Tribunal has reruled that GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 engaged in indiscriminate and illegal bulk cable-tapping surveillance for 15 years – and has once again refused to do anything about it.
In a 113-paragraph judgment handed down today filled with assurances that he was “anxious to assist in achieving improvements” in spying practices, Sir Michael Burton, president of the IPT, found that for a decade and a half, the spy agencies were operating outside section 94 of the UK’s 1984 Telecommunications Act.
Remarkably, although Sir Michael stated that “there had been an unlawful delegation of the power conferred by s.94(1)” from the Foreign Sec to the agencies, he also ruled that there was no need to do anything about it because “the Foreign Secretary had from 2010 imposed a requirement that any variation in the scope of data to be provided under a direction required his approval”.
Privacy International, the charity which first brought this case two years ago, lost its attempt to overturn an earlier ruling that legal oversight of GCHQ’s bulk spying regime was fit for purpose. It also failed to have the agencies’ dragnet surveillance practices declared incompatible with Article 8 of the EU Convention on Human Rights, which is a privacy right.