At Amnesty International we were appalled at last week’s news that the UK government has been spying on our communications. This week, we are demanding answers. On Friday, we wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron to ask for an explanation why the UK government is spying on a human rights organisation.
This follows the first official acknowledgement last Wednesday of what many of us had long suspected: the British government is spying on Amnesty International’s communications. But what we still don’t know is almost more shocking. We don’t know which communications were accessed, or why, or how many times, and we don’t know whether this surveillance is ongoing.
And unless Cameron decides otherwise, we are unlikely to find out the answers to these questions any time soon. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), the body that oversees UK intelligence agencies, holds most of its hearings in secret. The only reason we know the little bit we do is because the government agencies breached their own internal guidelines on how long they could store our communications
In fact, the original judgment of the IPT found no such violation, and we were only notified by email 10 days later that this was an error. The tribunal had accidentally mixed up Amnesty International with another organisation.
Better oversight needed
This clearly underscores why more and better oversight of surveillance programmes is so sorely needed. This is especially true when you consider how long we have been trying to get some confirmation from the US and UK governments as to whether they are reading our communications.
In 2008, Amnesty International USA was party to a case seeking to challenge the US government intercepting their communications. In 2013 the US Supreme Court rejected the case, holding that Amnesty International USA “lacked standing” because the risk of surveillance was too “speculative”.
In other words, we had to be able to prove details about programmes the government kept secret before we could get in the courthouse door.
For More: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/07/matters-uk-spied-amnesty-150711064156558.html