|Friday August 17, 2018|
Why legal action threatens the spooks
|It has long seemed almost inevitable that there would be a series of legal actions launched against GCHQ and others as a result of the wanton disregard of civil rights, privacy and freedom of expression displayed by the highly paid government employees in what is laughably called 'intelligence'.
Recently, however, the signs are that when the first actions start to go before the courts, they may not be coming from the trade unionists and political activists targeted by 'intelligence' but from the victims of terror atrocities, or at least from surviving relatives.
The Omagh bombing happened long before the American Patriot Act that introduced the worldwide intensive, intrusive and in many cases illegal surveillance and harassment programme designed to clamp down on dissent and control the internet. But the bombing that caused 29 deaths (more if you include unborn twins) and more than 200 injuries, could cast a long shadow over the 'intelligence' services. See BBC report.
This is because on August 10, 2017, relatives of the victims issued a writ against northern Ireland's chief constable taking issue with the failure to convict anyone of murder after the car bombing.
What is at stake is the idea that the police and possibly the spooks, are not a law unto themselves but have to account for their failings (something already tacitly accepted by the commissioning of an official report by David Anderson QC into the Manchester Arena bombing). Anderson found that the bombing could have been averted if the 'intelligence' services had kept their eye on the ball.
Quite clearly if time and resources are being wasted chasing trade unionists and political activists and at the same time terrorists are able to commit atrocities because 'intelligence' officers are too busy to deal with them, the possibility arises that legal action similar to the Omagh writ will be undertaken by groups of relatives of victims. In addition to the Manchester Arena bombing failings were also alleged in the Parsons Green tube bombing and the London Bridge attack. Of course, in these cases it would not be a question of bringing the offenders to court but of forcing the 'intelligence' services to account for their actions.
Judges are also edging towards giving British citizens what they have never had before: an explicit right to privacy. Most media attention in the Sir Cliff Richard case has focused on the threat to media freedom, but it was not just the BBC that had to pay out- the police did too. If the forces of law and order discovered that if they used any of the information that they have spent many billions obtaining, they risked landing in court on a privacy charge, would it not render the whole system of surveillance pointless?
|Posted by Jonathan Brind.|
|Friday August 17, 2018|