The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) spy agency has admitted to using its resources to spy on human rights organisation Amnesty International, which is now calling for an inquiry into the matter.
A report by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) into GCHQ's spying activity, the result of documents leaked by former NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, had previously identified two foreign organisations - the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the South African Legal Resources Centre - as GCHQ's targets, but in a revised finding today the IPT has admitted it made a mistake: EIPR was never targeted, but Amnesty International was.
'It’s outrageous that what has been often presented as being the domain of despotic rulers has been done on British soil, by the British government,' Amnesty International secretary general Salil Shetty said of the admission. 'How can we be expected to carry out our crucial work around the world if human rights defenders and victims of abuse can now credibly believe their confidential correspondence with us is likely to end up in the hands of governments? After 18 months of litigation and all the denials and subterfuge that entailed, we now have confirmation that we were in fact subjected to UK government mass surveillance.
'The revelation that the UK government has been spying on Amnesty International highlights the gross inadequacies in the UK’s surveillance legislation. If they hadn’t stored our communications for longer than they were allowed to, we would never even have known. What’s worse, this would have been considered perfectly lawful.'
The email sent to Amnesty International by the IPT does not, the organisation has claimed, identify the reason for why the organisation was targeted for surveillance activities, nor what was done with any information obtained as a result of said surveillance. Neither the government nor GCHQ has yet issued a statement on the matter.