For the first time since the Investigatory Powers Tribunal’s (IPT) establishment in 2000, a complaint against a UK intelligence agency has been upheld. The IPT, which oversees Britain’s secret agencies, is one of its most secretive and deferential courts. In a judgment last week, the IPT announced that the intelligence-sharing rules between the United States National Security Agency (NSA) and its British equivalent Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) governing the exchange of information collected through ‘mass surveillance of internet communications’ were against UK human rights law.
The tribunal ruled that “the regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications of individuals located in the UK, which have been obtained by US authorities … contravened Articles 8 or 10 [of the European Convention of Human Rights]”. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) confers the right to respect for private and family life and Article 10 of the ECHR confers the right to freedom of expression.