A recent ruling by the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) resulted in this celebratory tweet by Privacy International.
Victory! All #GCHQ-#NSA intelligence sharing under #PRISM prior to Dec 2014 ruled illegal, #UK tribunal says: https://t.co/3hCOKEOS1B— PrivacyInternational (@privacyint) February 6, 2015
A victory indeed. As Bytes for All reported, the 6 February 2015 decision marked the first time that the Tribunal, the only UK court empowered to oversee GHCQ [Government Communications Headquarters], MI5 and MI6, has ever ruled against the intelligence and security services in its 15-year history. It effectively said that the GCHQ acted unlawfully in accessing millions of private communications collected by the USA's NSA (National Security Agency) up until December 2014.
The claimants in the case are Privacy International (PI), Bytes for All, Liberty, and Amnesty International.
The case was only possible thanks to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden whose leaked documents provided the facts needed to challenge the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship. His greatest fear was that "nothing would change." The IPT ruling vindicates his admirable acts and shows the power of public scrutiny and transparency of State power, said PI.
In the words of Carly Nyst of Privacy International (PI), "it is a rare thing to bring truth to bear on the most powerful and secretive arm of the state." It is therefore wonderful to see that the case has gotten some good coverage by the UK media.
Our story on GCHQ losing court case is the most read on the Guardian. Before "10 best sex scenes" @privacyint sells more than sex. cc @e3i5— Eva Blum-Dumontet (@Arcadian_O) February 6, 2015
@privacyint @e3i5 @richietynan @GusHosein @carlynyst @RispoliMike @mattr3 Made the front page of the @standardnews ! pic.twitter.com/BfwEZwPu1O— Chris Weatherhead (@CJFWeatherhead) February 6, 2015
A bittersweet success
While the accolades continue to come in, the claimants in the case cannot rest on their laurels. First of all, PI and Bytes for All will now ask the court to confirm whether their communications were unlawfully collected prior to December 2014 and, if so, demand their immediate deletion.
Meanwhile, challenges of the "lawfulness" of the GCHQ's practices will continue at the European Court of Human Rights.
While IPT ruling is welcomed, we must continue the fight. Disclosure of rules does not make #GCHQ practices lawful https://t.co/USGgvLIgJS— PrivacyInternational (@privacyint) February 6, 2015
As PI explains, the IPT judgement represents "both the triumph of civil society and privacy advocates in holding truth to power, and the failure of the justice system to constrain that power."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond...
As the fight continues on European soil, a challenge to the NSA's surveillance in the U.S. hit a roadblock on 10 February when a district court refused to even consider if it's constitutional.
The case concerns the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) long-running lawsuit against mass surveillance, Jewel v. NSA, filed on behalf of AT&T customers whose communications and telephone records are being vacuumed by the NSA.
Important: the court has not found that NSA surveillance is legal. Rather, state secrecy prevents our clients from getting a day in court.— EFF (@EFF) February 10, 2015