The Guardian reports: GCHQ staff, intelligence officers and police have been given immunity from prosecution for hacking into computers, laptops and mobile phones under legislative changes that were never fully debated by parliament, a tribunal has been told.
The unnoticed rewriting of a key clause of the Computer Misuse Act has exempted law enforcement officials from the prohibition on breaking into other people’s laptops, databases, mobile phones or digital systems. It came into force in May.
The amended clause 10, entitled somewhat misleadingly “Savings”, is designed to prevent officers from committing a crime when they remotely access computers of suspected criminals. It is not known what category of offences are covered.
The act is primarily deployed to provide legal cover for domestic investigations. It is thought that individual warrants are not being obtained to justify each inquiry. Different legislation – section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act, nicknamed the “James Bond clause” – is believed to permit activities abroad that would otherwise be illegal. [Continue reading…]