Hearing on mass government surveillance wraps up after 'farcical' week
The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) base in Gloucestershire © David Goddard/Getty Images
Meanwhile ‘power grab’ by security services condemned, as new surveillance law rushed through
Today's closure of a week-long hearing into allegations that the UK government has been illegally intercepting millions of communications - including those of Amnesty International - concludes an exercise that often descended into pure farce, the organisation said this afternoon.
Meanwhile, even as the hearing was taking place, the government rushed through draconian new surveillance laws under the guise of renewing existing ones.
Despite the government framing the need to pass the new legislation - the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act - as one created by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in a ruling made months ago, the new laws do not even seek to grapple with the reasons the ECJ found such activity to violate fundamental rights.
Amnesty International's Senior Director for Law and Policy said Michael Bochenek.
“This week’s hearing descended at times into the realms of farce and fantasy - thanks to the government’s insistence they would neither confirm nor deny any of their surveillance activities.
“Without being able to deal with concrete examples, discussing the lawfulness of mass surveillance became an exercise in absurdity. We were pursuing our challenge in a legal black hole.”
Commenting on the rushed-through legislation, Mr Bochenek added:
“The government has tried to cajole the public into believing the law is just a minor tweak to protect existing powers. They claim it doesn’t need proper scrutiny by their elected representatives, but this is in fact an unjustifiable power grab by the security services.
“Not only does it extend the government's dragnet well beyond UK shores to permit virtually limitless fishing expeditions, but it appears to be an attempt to give a lawful basis to unlawful government activity, before anyone has time to realise what’s happened.
“It is a lightning strike on the privacy of everyone within the government’s ever-extending reach.”
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