The European Court of Human Rights received a legal challenge against the British government Tuesday demanding Britain provide information about alleged secret collaborations with foreign intelligence agencies.
Anti-surveillance group Privacy International filed the case after the government refused to release documents outlining alleged spying alliances between the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The campaign group asserted the U.K. has violated the right to access information by refusing to publish documents that stipulate how surveillance is shared with and obtained by what has come to be known as the "Five Eyes partners" - alleged by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden last year.
Privacy International said it had filed freedom of information requests that were met with blanket refusals from Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) - among them requests for such “mundane information” as the cafeteria menu at its headquarters.
Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, said in a statement that the government continued to “dodge the question” just how integrated the operations of GCHQ and America's National Security Agency are.
He said that the documents were “critical” to allow for proper scrutiny of spy agencies.
“The hushing up of the extent of the alliance is shameful,” said King.
“The public deserve to know about the dirty deals going on between the 'Five Eyes,' who trade and exploit our private information through this illicit pact. For trust to be restored, transparency around these secret agreements is a crucial first step."
According to Privacy, the "Five Eyes" arrangement lies at the heart of the Snowden leaks and has an impact on the implementation of human rights around the world.
It said that by failing to provide the details of relationships with foreign intelligence agencies, the government has left many questions around the circumstances and manner in which individuals can be spied on unanswered.
It also said that it was not clear which governments GCHQ provides access to information it collects on individuals' phone and internet communications, and little was known of the safeguards that are in place to ensure such information is not misused by foreign governments.
“This absolute exemption is unlawful and contrary to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights,” said Lawyer Rosa Curling of solicitors Leigh Day.
She added that the convention provided the right to “freedom of expression which includes the right to receive information.”
In June this year, human rights organizations accused the U.K. government of having devised a legal framework that allegedly justifies secretly monitoring all Internet traffic routed through foreign companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter - a claim Home Secretary Theresa May has denied, saying that the U.K. was not involved in mass surveillance.
Former intelligence analyst Snowden leaked files last year containing revelations about the scope and nature of the NSA's and GCHQ’s surveillance activities around the globe.
The Anadolu Agency contacted GCHQ but they replied that they didn't comment on ongoing legal cases.
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