ORG’s response to IPT ruling that UK intelligence sharing was unlawful

Today the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) found that the secret intelligence sharing between the UK and the US were unlawful prior to December 2014 because the policies governing these arrangements were secret. These policies were made public last December during a case brought by Privacy International, Bytes for All, Liberty, and Amnesty International.

Open Rights Group strongly welcomes the highly significant ruling, which is the first time the IPT has found the UK’s intelligence services to be in breach of human rights law. 

However, the finding relates to historic practices only. The IPT has already said it believes intelligence sharing is currently lawful, since the disclosure of the secret policies during the IPT proceedings. In the same December judgment, the IPT also found that GCHQ’s TEMPORA programme of mass surveillance is in accordance with the law.

 Elizabeth Knight, Legal Director at Open Rights Group commented,

“This ruling is a very welcome first step. It shows that secret polices are not an acceptable basis for highly intrusive intelligence sharing practices. However, the IPT has not gone far enough. These flimsy policies are not enough to comply with the requirements of human rights law, even now they are public. And GCHQ’s own TEMPORA programme of mass interception is clearly both unlawful and disproportionate. We hope the European Court of Human Rights will go further than the IPT and find that mass surveillance breaches our human right to privacy.”

Open Rights Group has an application pending at the European Court of Human Rights, which challenges both intelligence sharing and GCHQ’s TEMPORA programme based on non-specific, blanket warrants. The case, brought along with Big Brother Watch, English PEN and Constanze Kurz, has been on hold awaiting the outcome of the IPT case. The case will soon proceed now the IPT has given its ruling.