The Guardian reports: GCHQ is probably intercepting legally privileged communications between lawyers and their clients, according to a detailed claim filed on behalf of eight Libyans involved in politically sensitive compensation battles with the UK.
The accusation has been lodged with Britain’s most secret court, the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT), which examines complaints about the intelligence services and government use of covert surveillance. Most of its hearings are in private.
The allegation has emerged in the wake of the Guardian’s revelations about extensive monitoring by GCHQ of the internet and telephone calls, chiefly through its Tempora programme.
The system taps directly into fibre optic cables carrying the bulk of online exchanges transiting the UK and enables intelligence officials to screen vast quantities of data.
The eight Libyans, members of two families now living in the country’s capital, Tripoli, say they were victims of rendition. They claim they were kidnapped by MI6 and US intelligence agencies, forcibly returned to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime and tortured. At that time, in 2004, when Gaddafi relinquished his nuclear weapons programme, intelligence relations between Tripoli, London and Washington were close.
A landmark legal action between Abdel Belhaj, 47, and the UK government is due to be heard at the high court shortly to resolve the kidnap and torture allegations.
But lawyers working with the human rights group Reprieve fear their ability to fight the case will be undermined because their legal correspondence may be surreptitiously monitored. [Continue reading…]