PRIVACY GROUPS HAVE combined to force the UK government into admitting that it has a relationship with US security agencies that provides access to citizens' data.
This kind of thing has been mooted, and Liberty, Amnesty International and Privacy International are claiming the scalp on the facts.
"Britain's intelligence services do not need a warrant to receive unlimited bulk intelligence from the US National Security Agency and other foreign agencies, and can keep this data on a massive searchable database for up to two years, according to secret internal policies revealed today by human rights organisations," they said in an announcement.
The privacy organisation papers (PDF) reveal that, while the Intelligence Services Committee has claimed officially that warrants for bulk data are always in place before data is shared, this is not the case.
"Details of previously unknown internal policies [reveal] that intelligence agencies can gain access to bulk data collected from US cables or through US corporate partnerships without having to obtain a warrant from the Secretary of State," they said.
"This position seems to conflict with reassurances by the Intelligence Services Committee in July 2013 that whenever GCHQ seeks information from the US a warrant is in place."
A UK government spokesperson declined to comment on the release of the papers, saying: "We do not comment on ongoing legal proceedings."
The NSA was more open. The agency did not confirm the arrangement, but admitted that it works with other intelligence agencies in gathering information.
"NSA works with a number of partners in the course of its authorised foreign intelligence mission. Whenever NSA shares intelligence information, we comply with all applicable US laws and policies, including rules designed to safeguard US person information," said the NSA in a statement suggesting that UK laws are not its priority.
Liberty said that the government's admission is its first acknowledgement and should be seen as an indication of the kind of surveillance state we live in.
"We have said all along that the law doesn't effectively protect us from mass surveillance by the intelligence services," said James Welch, legal director at Liberty.
"The line the government took at the hearing was that there were adequate safeguards, they just couldn't be made public.
"Leaving aside whether secret safeguards can ever be adequate, this reluctantly made disclosure suggests otherwise." µ
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