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Issue #1644      June 25, 2014

Spooks monitor your every message

Every Facebook message, tweet and email sent in Britain is monitored by spooks, Britain’s spy chief Charles Farr was forced to admit yesterday. Mass surveillance by Britain’s intelligence agency GCHQ was exposed in a 48-page document published last week by campaign groups challenging the practices in court.

It was obtained by Privacy International, Liberty, Amnesty International and other groups in their legal bid to reveal the extent of GCHQ’s spying on their online activity. Liberty legal director James Welch said: “If there was any remaining doubt that UK snooping laws need a radical overhaul, there should be no longer.”

As director of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT) – part of the Home Office – Mr Farr is the government’s key witness in the case to be heard by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal next month. The groups published his written statement to the court as part of their campaign to reveal the actions of Britain’s spooks following the revelations of US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Mr Farr admits that the security services have been accessing information from people’s private communications on US-based websites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act the OSCT can access messages sent or received abroad without a warrant. As most social networks are hosted in the US it counts them as foreign – putting all of their data up for grabs.

“One of the main problems with the police and the security services is that they will inevitably stretch definitions and overstep the powers that Parliament gave them,” said Green Party peer Jenny Jones.

Ms Jones revealed how her online activity was recorded on a database of domestic extremists by the Metropolitan Police. She told the Morning Star that only “strict accountability to elected representatives will provide the brakes on this intrusion into ordinary people’s lives.”

Mr Farr claimed that spying becomes of “less importance” if agents do not read the intercepted messages.

“The suggestion that violations of the right to privacy are meaningless if the violator subsequently forgets about it not only offends the fundamental, inalienable nature of human rights, but patronises the British people,” said Privacy International deputy director Eric King.

Mr Farr’s document was released on the same day as GCHQ announced it will soon begin to share gathered intelligence with some of Britain’s largest companies in an attempt to prevent “threats” of cyber-espionage.

Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths said: “These revelations only confirm that all so-called ‘safeguards’ to protect civil liberties are a sham and that GCHQ is a wholly owned subsidiary of the US security state.”

Morning Star

Next article – A true police state

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