The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), which provides oversight for UK intelligence services, admitted yesterday that its judgement made on 22 June wrongly failed to declare that Amnesty International had been subject to unlawful surveillance by GCHQ. The IPT revealed this in an email sent to the ten NGO claimants involved in the earlier legal challenge to UK government surveillance. As Amnesty International explained: “Today’s communication makes clear that it was actually Amnesty International Ltd, and not the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) that was spied on in addition to the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa.”
The Intercept has obtained a copy of the email sent to the NGOs, which shows that the IPT made the finding that “there had been a breach by virtue of the exceeding of time limits for retention”—the communication files were kept too long. That is, as far as the IPT was concerned, spying on one of the world’s most-respected NGOs was not in itself problematic.
Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, commented: “The revelation that the UK government has been spying on Amnesty International highlights the gross inadequacies in the UK’s surveillance legislation. If they hadn’t stored our communications for longer than they were allowed to by internal guidelines, we would never even have known.” If the records been destroyed according to the rules, the IPT would have made “no determination” as to whether surveillance had taken place—its standard way of neither confirming nor denying allegations that spying has occurred.
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