British Spy Agency Has Warrantless Access to Americans’ Communications Scooped Up by NSA

Sunday, November 02, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

A British intelligence service has been accessing, without a warrant, bulk communications data collected by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).


The snooping by Britain’s leading spy agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), means the Internet and phone data of Americans is being handled by another country without legal oversight. This was set up under agreements between the British government and Washington, as well as other foreign governments sharing data with GCHQ. But news of this access surfaced only after government documents were submitted to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a British surveillance watchdog, at the request of Privacy International, Liberty and Amnesty International.


GCHQ is allowed to store the raw data collected from the NSA for up to two years. However, “this can be extended unilaterally if a senior official believes it to be necessary and proportionate for national security purposes,” James Ball wrote at The Guardian.


Privacy International, which is challenging the spying programs of GCHQ and the NSA, warned this latest news has serious implications. “We now know that data from any call, internet search, or website you visited over the past two years could be stored in GCHQ’s database and analyzed at will, all without a warrant to collect it in the first place,” Privacy International deputy director Eric King told The Guardian. “It is outrageous that the government thinks mass surveillance, justified by secret ‘arrangements’ that allow for vast and unrestrained receipt and analysis of foreign intelligence material is lawful.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

GCHQ Views Data without a Warrant, Government Admits (by James Ball, The Guardian)

British Spies Allowed to Access U.S. Data Without a Warrant (by Dustin Volz, National Journal)

National Journal: NSA Outsources Surveillance of Americans to British Intelligence (by Thomas R. Eddlem, New American)

GCHQ Arrangements Policy (Privacy International) (pdf)

Security Services Held to Account Over Blanket Surveillance in Open Court for the First Time (Liberty)

U.S. and UK are Abusing Anti-Terrorism Laws, Claim the Laws’ Authors (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Does NSA Avoid U.S. Legal Restrictions by Hiring British Intelligence to Gather Information on Americans? (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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