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UK Spy Agency Fails In Attempt To Bury Records Of Its Criminal Activity

Published: December 27, 2020
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Source: Tech Dirt

Hi, kids! Do you like state-ordained violence? Want to see me [redacted] in each one of my [redacted]? Wanna copy me and do exactly like I did? [Bond theme intensifies.]

The Snowden leaks gave us some of the first looks behind the Vantablack curtain surrounding intelligence efforts engaged in by US allies in the UK. The Snowden sneak peek enabled legal challenges that routinely found UK intelligence agencies were violating the rights of UK citizens, as well as those the UK government has unilaterally declared rightsless.

More rights violations and general wrongfulness has been uncovered. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal doesn’t like what it’s been seeing from MI6, which has apparently let its sources and informants run wild. The Tribunal doesn’t say what criminal violations have been committed in the name of national security, but its limited ruling expresses its displeasure with attempted MI6 interference and its apparent blessing of criminal actions.

MI6 agents and informants may be committing crimes in the UK, a watchdog has revealed.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal disclosed the ruling despite government attempts to keep the matter secret.

It also said questions raised should be disclosed to campaigners, who have been asking for greater legal clarity over what the intelligence agencies can do.

It comes a day after the intelligence services watchdog raised its own questions about some MI6 activities.

The ruling [PDF] doesn’t say anything about the criminal acts. Instead, it focuses on MI6’s attempt to derail the judicial process. Ongoing legal proceedings have demanded a level of forthcoming-ness British intelligence agencies aren’t accustomed to. MI6 reacted badly. This resulted in MI6 employees trying to talk the court into shutting further transparency down. The court rejected this… publicly.

Fifthly, in March 2019, it was recognised that the direct communication which took place with the tribunal was inappropriate. An apology was given and it was clearly recognised that nothing like this should happen in the future. At the hearing before us, Sir James Eadie acknowledged that everyone had recognised that something serious had gone wrong.

These conversations dealt with revelations British intelligence agencies felt shouldn’t be shared with the public.

On 5 March 2019, two members of the respondents’ staff contacted the tribunal secretary to state that the documents should not have been provided to the tribunal. On 7 March 2019, the tribunal secretary wrote to the respondents at the request of the President and stated that it was inappropriate to seek to intervene in the way that they had sought to do.

The government wants to hide something. Possibly that "something" is included in a recent report by IPT’s oversight. The recently released report doesn’t dig into the details, but makes it clear something approaching abhorrent was ordained by intelligence community handlers.

On renewal, six months after the original submission, SIS set out a number of indicators that the agent may have been involved in, or have contemplated, the serious criminality referenced above. We concluded that, on the basis of this new information, SIS’s ‘red lines’ had most likely been breached, but the renewal submission failed to make this clear. Whilst the submission referred to SIS’s ‘red lines’ and provided information about criminality that may have occurred and noted an increased risk in the case, it did not make expressly clear that SIS’s ‘red lines’ had probably been crossed.

That’s the determination. Bad things were done but it was not made clear that bad things were done in written reports. It’s a policy violation. It’s also probably a human rights violation, but as far as its oversight can see, it’s mostly problematic because the proper James Bond paperwork wasn’t filled out correctly.

The IPT’s refusal to bury this decision shows it’s willing to tackle the most problematic aspects of national security openly, for the most part. The fact that MI6 tried to bury everything via a bypass of the adversarial process is an indication it won’t be handling things honestly in the future. When the bad stuff comes out -- as it always does eventually -- UK spooks will try to bury it.

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