10 July 2013
Privacy International starts legal action against UK govt
Privacy International has launched legal action against the UK government in relation to claims it spied on citizens across the country.
The writ, filed in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, challenges the authorities for their alleged failure to have a publicly accessible framework where communications data is located and supposed indiscriminate interception of information relating to the everyday lives of people across Britain.
Documents on the Guardian website leaked by ex-National Security Agency (US) fugitive Edward Snowden reportedly show the government-backed GCHQ body conducted a mass spying operation to reduce the chances of a terrorism attack - but this has been criticised by privacy campaigners.
Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, said: "One of the underlying tenets of law in a democratic society is the accessibility and foreseeability of a law. If there is no way for citizens to know of the existence, interpretation, or execution of a law, then the law is effectively secret.
"And secret law is not law. It is a fundamental breach of the social contract if the Government can operate with unrestrained power."
Mr Snowden is currently in transit at an airport in Moscow after fleeing Hong Kong following extradition attempts by the US government, which wants him to face charges of espionage in its court system.
However, following more than two dozen applications for asylum in countries across the world, the fugitive has been offered protection by authorities in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
The Bolivian government were recently enraged after its presidential aircraft was prevented from entering French and Spanish airspace following rumours Edward Snowden was on board the plane.
Evo Morales' craft was forced to land in Austria, where EU officials conducted a search, which found no evidence of the wanted man's presence.
It is unclear how Mr Snowden will reach the South American nations that have offered him sanctuary, as the US and its allies are intent on prosecuting him.
If Mr Snowden is found guilty of espionage in the US, he could face the death penalty.
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Posted by Chris Stevenson