This started out as a brief introduction to the documentary, but there are a lot of pieces moving in the fight against the Stasi Surveillance State. It deals specifically with the activities of MI6 in England and at that tangentially with rampant disregard for the privacy rights of citizens, but since it’s from the BBC you may not have seen it and it’s worth the watch. The stories below are about recent court rulings against bulk collection of personal information and the new reports of abuse exceeding even the Unconstitutional Section 215 by the FBI.
‘Trust us’ mantra undermined by GCHQ tribunal judgment
by Alan Travis, The Guardian
Friday 6 February 2015 10.06 EST
For more than 18 months the response from the security services to the disclosure by Edward Snowden of the mass harvesting of personal data of British citizens has been to say: “Trust us, nothing we are doing is unlawful.”
But for the first time in its 15-year history the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT) – the only British court that can hold GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 to account – has put a question mark against that assurance.
The 12-page tribunal judgment in the case brought by Liberty and Privacy International does not rule that the British GCHQ bulk interception programmes were unlawful. But it has ruled that the secret intelligence sharing arrangements between Britain and the US, known as Prism and Upstream, did not comply with human rights laws for seven years because the internal rules and safeguards supposed to guarantee our privacy have themselves been kept secret.
It was only public disclosure of those rules for the first time as part of the first of two IPT rulings in December that brought the intelligence-sharing regime into compliance with human rights law in general, and article 8 of the European convention on human rights on the right to privacy in particular.
The declaration by the tribunal judges is quite clear that until that public disclosure was made on 5 December, the Prism and Upstream programmes under which the private personal data of people living in the UK was obtained by the American authorities contravened human rights laws.
N.S.A. Collection of Bulk Call Data Is Ruled Illegal
By CHARLIE SAVAGE and JONATHAN WEISMAN, The New York Times
MAY 7, 2015
The court, in a unanimous ruling written by Judge Gerard E. Lynch, held that Section 215 “cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program.” It declared the program illegal, saying, “We do so comfortably in the full understanding that if Congress chooses to authorize such a far-reaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, and to do so unambiguously.”
(T)he appeals court ruling raises the question of whether Section 215, extended or not, has ever legitimately authorized the program. The statute on its face permits only the collection of records deemed “relevant” to a national security case. The government secretly decided, with the FISA court’s secret approval, that this could be interpreted to mean collection of all records, so long as only those that later turn out to be relevant are scrutinized by analysts.
However, Judge Lynch wrote: “Such expansive development of government repositories of formerly private records would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans. Perhaps such a contraction is required by national security needs in the face of the dangers of contemporary domestic and international terrorism. But we would expect such a momentous decision to be preceded by substantial debate, and expressed in unmistakable language.”
FBI used Patriot Act to obtain ‘large collections’ of Americans’ data, DoJ finds
by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian
Thursday 21 May 2015 15.30 EDT
Section 215 of the Patriot Act permits the FBI to collect business records, such as medical, educational and tax information or other “tangible things” relevant to an ongoing counter-terrorism or espionage investigation. Since 2006, the NSA had also secretly used it to collect US phone data in bulk.
After Edward Snowden’s leaks allowed the Guardian to reveal the phone-records bulk collection in June 2013, deep political opposition coalesced around the bulk program – eclipsing the FBI’s acquisition of other data, which has long been an issue only for civil libertarians.
But a Justice Department inspector general’s report finally released on Thursday covering the FBI’s use of Section 215 from 2007 to 2009 found that the bureau is using the business-records authority “to obtain large collections of metadata”, such as “electronic communication transactional information”.
The specifics of that collection – which civil libertarians have called “bulky”, to signal that it is not bulk collection but not far off – are not provided in the redacted report. Yet electronic communication transactional information is likely to refer to records of emails, instant messages, texts and perhaps Internet Protocol addresses. Sections of the report refer to the FBI asking for “material related to internet activity” and mention “IP addresses and to/from entries in emails”.
While the FBI director, James Comey, stated on Wednesday that losing the Section 215 authority would be a “big problem“, the inspector general cast doubt on the overall security impact of the loss.
“#&91;T#&93;he agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders, but told us that the material produced pursuant to Section 215 orders was valuable in that it was used to support other investigative requests, develop investigative leads, and corroborate other information,” the DoJ report found.
“This report adds to the mounting evidence that Section 215 has done little to protect Americans and should be put to rest. As Congress debates whether to rein in the NSA, this investigation underscores how sweeping the government’s surveillance programs are and how essential systemic reform is right now,” said Alex Abdo, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Daniel Schuman of Demand Progress urged Congress to let the provision “fade into the sunset”, and warned that the administration-backed USA Freedom Act, which ends bulk collection while preserving the rest of Section 215, was a pathway to future abuse.