Civil rights NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) has launched a legal challenge to find out if its information was shared between the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
The organisation is unhappy that a ruling by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) in February did not reveal the full extent of intelligence sharing.
Human Rights Watch, together with three individuals, has now lodged a new legal challenge.
“Given the mass surveillance capabilities of the NSA and GCHQ, a huge number of people could have been affected by the unlawful spying,” said Human Rights Watch in a statement.
For now, the organisation is focusing on those who handle the most sensitive information. In July it emerged that GCHQ had spied on Amnesty International, so HRW lodged a complaint on behalf of itself, a security research expert, an investigative journalist and a lawyer.
“We are bringing this case because those who work to protect human rights and expose abuses and war crimes depend on confidentiality of communications,” said Dinah PoKempner, HRW general counsel.
The complaints have been filed with the IPT, the only British court charged with overseeing intelligence agencies. Its ruling earlier this year declared the actions of the intelligence and security services illegal up to December 2014. Ten human rights groups brought that case including Privacy International, Bytes for All, Liberty and Amnesty International.
However the IPT has rejected the possibility of a class-action-type lawsuit and says that anyone concerned that they may have been spied on must submit their complaint individually.
The three individuals in the current complaint were selected as being typical, following the Privacy International campaign “Did the GCHQ Illegally Spy On You?”
That campaign has now moved on to phase two – helping people with the paperwork to submit their own complaints.
Who’s better at spying, GCHQ or the NSA? There’s only one way to find out: fight! the Big Brother Awards. Voting to find the biggest privacy violators for this year’s awards is now open. The "winner" will be announced on 15 October. ®