The GCHQ in the UK has admitted that it hacks computers and other devices at home and overseas and does so without individual warrants, Privacy International has revealed.
Court documents that have been released by the organization confirm that the intelligence agency is engaged in these sorts of highly divisive activities, relying on “thematic warrants” to justify its work in this regard.
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which is listening to complaints brought to it by the human rights watchdog, heard director general of the GCHQ state that “CNE (computer and network exploitation) is a critical tool” in protecting the UK from threats.
Ciaran Martin, who earlier in his statement described some of the functionality of CNE – including the ability to implant trojans onto devices, all without users knowing – said that this capability is “increasingly” important to what GCHQ does.
This, Mr. Martin continued, is especially true when it comes to potential threats outside of the UK.
“CNE may, in some cases, be the only way to acquire intelligence coverage of a terrorist suspect or a serious criminal in a foreign country.”
The expert elaborated: “CNE may, in some cases, be the only way to acquire intelligence coverage of a terrorist suspect or a serious criminal in a foreign country …
“CNE has long been an an essential part of GCHQ’s capabilities … [and] will become become more important in the years ahead.”
Caroline Wilson Palow, general Counsel at Privacy International, views this kind of activity as unlawful.
She explained that the “light touch authorization and oversight regime” that is at the heart of GCHQ’s operations is something that “should never have been permitted”.
Ms Palow concluded by saying that she hopes the tribunal will rule in favor of Privacy International and determine the intelligence agency’s activities to be illegal and incompatible with UK law.
by Narinder Purba