Tribunal which oversees British intelligence services admits that it mistakenly ruled that GCHQ had not targeted the human rights group for surveillance
Underscoring "gross inadequacies" in the UK intelligence system, the group which oversees British spy services admitted on Wednesday that the government had targeted Amnesty International for surveillance and unlawfully misused its data—a startling turnaround of a ruling made just 10 days earlier, in which the tribunal declared that Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had not spied on the world's largest human rights organization.
On June 22, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruled that two international NGOs, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and the Legal Resources Center in South Africa, had been subjected to illegal surveillance by the GCHQ.
But its announcement on Wednesday reveals that it had misidentified (pdf) Amnesty for EIPR. IPT president Michael Burton informed the human rights group of the transgression by email, which he called an "error."
However, the IPT also stated that GCHQ had not violated any laws in spying on the human rights group—only that it had exceeded the time limit on retaining the communications data it intercepted.
"The Tribunal made the finding that there had been a breach by virtue of the exceeding of time limits for retention (and which have now been delivered to the Commissioner for safekeeping, insofar as not destroyed) in fact related to Amnesty International Ltd... and not the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights," he wrote.
Amnesty's secretary general, Salil Shetty, had a different word for the revelations: "outrageous."