The Guardian reports: GCHQ’s mass surveillance spying programmes are probably illegal and have been signed off by ministers in breach of human rights and surveillance laws, according to a hard-hitting legal opinion that has been provided to MPs.
The advice warns that Britain’s principal surveillance law is too vague and is almost certainly being interpreted to allow the agency to conduct surveillance that flouts privacy safeguards set out in the European convention on human rights (ECHR).
The inadequacies, it says, have created a situation where GCHQ staff are potentially able to rely “on the gaps in the current statutory framework to commit serious crime with impunity”.
At its most extreme, the advice raises issues about the possible vulnerability of staff at GCHQ if it could be proved that intelligence used for US drone strikes against “non-combatants” had been passed on or supplied by the British before being used in a missile attack.
“An individual involved in passing that information is likely to be an accessory to murder. It is well arguable, on a variety of different bases, that the government is obliged to take reasonable steps to investigate that possibility,” the advice says. [Continue reading…]