UK hearing on mass government surveillance wraps up after ‘farcical’ week

Today’s closure of a week-long hearing into allegations that the UK government has been illegally intercepting millions of communications, including those of Amnesty International, concludes an exercise that often descended into pure farce, the organization said. “This week’s hearing descended at times into the realms of farce and fantasy – thanks to the government’s insistence they would neither confirm nor deny any of their surveillance activities,” said Michael Bochenek, Amnesty International’s Senior Director for Law and Policy, speaking at the close of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal hearing. “Without being able to deal with concrete examples, discussing the lawfulness of mass surveillance became an exercise in absurdity. We were pursuing our challenge in a legal black hole.” Even as the hearing was taking place, the government rushed through draconian new surveillance laws under the guise of renewing existing ones. “The government has tried to cajole the public into believing the law is just a minor tweak to protect existing powers. They claim it doesn’t need proper scrutiny by their elected representatives, but this is in fact an unjustifiable power grab by the security services,” said Michael Bochenek. “Not only does it extend the government’s dragnet well beyond UK shores to permit virtually limitless fishing expeditions, but it appears to be an attempt to give a lawful basis to unlawful government activity, before anyone has time to realise what’s happened.“It is a lightning strike on the privacy of everyone within the government’s ever extending reach.”