Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] announced [press release] on Monday that it has filed a complaint against the UK government over concerns that the country's intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) [official website] unlawfully accessed AI's communications. Following disclosures by Edward Snowden [BBC profile] about the US PRISM program [JURIST backgrounder] run by the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website], it was revealed that GCHQ may have also subjected people to blanket surveillance through a program called Tempora. AI filed the lawsuit with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) [official website], arguing that GCHQ's surveillance activities breached Article 8 and Article 10 of Human Rights Act of 1998 [text], which govern the rights of privacy and freedom of expression. The IPT's purpose is to review complaints related to UK's intelligence agencies, but the body is secretive. AI has requested that the IPT investigation into their complaint result in a public hearing on the claims. There are currently three other legal challenges [Guardian report] pending in the UK against the GCHQ, which have been brought by rights groups such as Privacy International and Big Brother Watch [advocacy websites].
The revelations following the disclosure of the NSA's surveillance programs have sparked worldwide debate and controversy [JURIST op-eds]. Last week, UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism Ben Emmerson [official profile] stated that he plans to launch an investigation [JURIST report] into the surveillance activities of the NSA and the GCHQ. US Senators announced new legislation [JURIST report] in September in a bipartisan effort to reform surveillance laws. Earlier that month the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] urged the Obama administration [JURIST report] to curb the FBI's surveillance powers, despite the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's [official website] release of a previously classified opinion justifying [JURIST report] the need for the NSA's surveillance program. In August the Council of Europe [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] over the UK reaction to the exposure of the US surveillance program, which included orders to employees to destroy certain government computer equipment. Claims stemming Snowden's revelations were filed [JURIST report] in the ECHR in October that allege that the NSA's massive online surveillance programs, which are able to read the content of e-mails and social media messages, have breached the privacy of tens of millions of people across the UK and Europe.