ISPs, Parliament Launch Lawsuit Against Britain's GCHQ Over Spying
July 2, 2014

ISPs, Parliament Launch Lawsuit Against Britain’s GCHQ Over Spying

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

In a twist that seems more fitting of a John Grisham courtroom-based drama than a James Bond adventure the British spy community is reportedly being sued by a number of Internet Service Providers as well as members of Parliament.

Last year classified documents released by former National Security Agency (NSA) analyst Edward Snowden revealed a number of American surveillance programs, while also exposing the fact that Great Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the intelligence and security organization that is responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) to the British government and armed forces, was involved in its own mass surveillance of the Internet.

The British media, including The Guardian newspaper and the BBC, are reporting that ISPs from six nations have joined forces with the advocacy group Privacy International to file a legal complaint against the GCHQ. The ISPs include the American Riseup and May First/People Link; the United Kingdom's GreenNet; the Netherlands' Greenhost; Germany's Chaos Computer Club; Zimbabwe's Mango; and South Korean Jinbonet.

The ISPs have called out the GCHQ's surveillance efforts, and allege that this was a breach of the Computer Misuse Act of 1990 and further interfered with the privacy rights of the employees under the European convention of human rights.

"People have a fundamental right to communicate with each other free from pervasive government surveillance,"'s Devin Theriot-Orr told The Guardian. "The right to communicate, and the ability to choose to do so secretly, is essential to the open exchange of ideas which is a cornerstone of a free society. GCHQ must stop its illegal monitoring activities."

The claims were filed with the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT), the court in London that can assess complaints about the activities of the GCHQ and misuse of surveillance by government organizations.

The ISPs allege that the GCHQ worked with the NSA and had a range of network exploitation and intrusion capabilities that included a 'man-on-the-side' technique, which bypasses modern encryption software and covertly injected data into existing data streams to create connections that will enable the targeted infection of users. The two intelligence agencies also reportedly used an automated system, which was codenamed Turbine, and it allowed the agencies to scale up network implants.

"These widespread attacks on providers and collectives undermine the trust we all place on the internet and greatly endangers the world's most powerful tool for democracy and free expression," Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, told The Guardian newspaper. "It completely cripples our confidence in the internet economy and threatens the rights of all those who use it. These unlawful activities, run jointly by GCHQ and the NSA, must come to an end immediately."

In addition, two Green Party lawmakers in the UK have also sued the British Government, claiming that their communications were intercepted by a government-run surveillance program.

Bloomberg News has reported that lawyers for Caroline Lucas, a member of the House of Commons, and Jenny Jones, a member of the House of Lords, claim that the politicians were monitored as part of the GCHQ's Tempora program.

"It is clear that GCHQ is engaging in bulk interception of communications carried on fiber optic cables," lawyers for the politicians said in court documents, as reported by Bloomberg News.

Members of Parliament are protected by a public policy known as the Wilson Doctrine that bans electronic surveillance.