EFF announces that it will argue on Friday before a federal court that the National Security Agency (NSA) is violating the Fourth Amendment by copying and searching data that it collects by tapping into the Internet backbone. Jewel v. NSA was filed in 2008 on behalf of Carolyn Jewel and other AT&T customers. EFF has amassed a mountain of evidence to support the case, including documents provided by former AT&T technician Mark Klein, which show that the company has routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA. Other whistleblowers—including Thomas Drake, Bill Binney and Edward Snowden—have revealed more detail about how this technique feeds data into the NSA's massive databases of communications.
The regime under which UK intelligence agencies, including MI5 and MI6, have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for the past five years is unlawful, the British government has admitted.
The admission that the activities of the security services have failed to comply fully with human rights laws in a second major area – this time highly sensitive legally privileged communications – is a severe embarrassment for the government.
It follows hard on the heels of the British court ruling on 6 February declaring that the regime surrounding the sharing of mass personal intelligence data between America’s national security agency and Britain’s GCHQ was unlawful for seven years.
Since its launch on 16 February 2015, over 25 000 people have joined an international campaign to try to learn whether Britain’s intelligence agency, GCHQ, illegally spied on them.
This opportunity is possible thanks to court victory in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), a secret court set up to hear complaints against the British Security Services. As previously reported in the EDRi-gram, Privacy International won the first-ever case against GCHQ in the Tribunal, which ruled that the agency acted unlawfully in accessing millions of private communications collected by the US National Security Agency (NSA), up until December 2014.
Because of this victory, now anyone in the world can try to ask if their records, as collected by the NSA, were part of those communications unlawfully shared with GCHQ. We feel the public has a right to know if they were spied on illegally, and Privacy International wants to help make that as easy as possible.
More than half a million authorisations for police and intelligence officers to see communications data were issued last year, according to the commissioner who oversees interceptions by the security forces and local authorities.
The 517,236 authorisations and notices to look at communications data – but not the content – is not the highest figure ever recorded. The commissioner, Sir Anthony May, found that there was no “significant institutional overuse of communications data powers”.
The vast majority of the authorisiations, 88.9%, were granted by police forces and law enforcement agencies, 9.8% by the intelligence agencies and the remaining 1.3% by local authorities and other public authorities.
Spies have been dismissed and disciplined for inappropriately accessing private information on citizens in recent years, the intelligence and security committee (ISC) report on privacy has found.
The report reveals a small number of staff at the intelligence agencies misused their surveillance powers, but it is not specific about how the information was wrongly accessed.
“Deliberate abuse of access to GCHQ’s systems would constitute gross misconduct (depending on the circumstances) – to date there has only been one case where GCHQ have dismissed a member of staff for misusing access to GCHQ’s systems,”the report states.
The legal framework surrounding surveillance is "unnecessarily complicated" and "lacks transparency", a Parliamentary committee says.
The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report also says there should be a single law to govern access to private communications by UK agencies.
Its inquiry has considered the impact of such activities on people's privacy.