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Parliament says GCHQ did not break laws by taking part in PRISM

But says the laws need to be looked at
Wed Jul 17 2013, 13:48

THE UK INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY COMMITTEE has said that GCHQ did not do anything wrong in cooperating with the US PRISM data collection programme.

The controversial US PRISM programme initially implicated a number of internet firms such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft, but then it was revealed that the UK GCHQ also took part in the programme. Now an investigation conducted by the UK Parliament Intelligence and Security Committee has found that GCHQ "conformed to statutory duties", meaning it didn't break the law.

The Intelligence and Security Committee said the legal authority for GCHQ to take part in the US PRISM programme came from the 1994 Intelligence Services Act. The committee said that it had not found any evidence that GCHQ had broken UK law by accessing private communications.

The committee said, "Further, in each case where GCHQ sought information from the US, a warrant for interception, signed by a Minister, was already in place, in accordance with the legal safeguards contained in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000."

While the committee absolved GCHQ of conducting any illegal activities, it did say that a look into the laws is needed. The report said, "Although we have concluded that GCHQ has not circumvented or attempted to circumvent UK law, it is proper to consider further whether the current statutory framework governing access to private communications remains adequate," adding that in some areas "the legislation is expressed in general terms".

Parliament might have given the thumbs up to GCHQ but many will still be extremely uneasy about GCHQ's actions and question whether it really should be legally allowed to access private communications. µ


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