Amnesty International UK is campaigning for the US government to drop espionage charges against Edward Snowden.
The human rights campaign group says that the 1917 Espionage Age under which Snowden is being charged is ‘outdated and ill-equipped’ and that the former NSA employee’s actions were carried out with the interest of the public in mind.
At the same time, Amnesty and Privacy International issued a joint statement warning that governments are moving ahead with mass surveillance plans, despite Snowden’s revelations.
Privacy International’s legal director Carly Nyst said: “Thanks to Edward Snowden, millions of ordinary people are now aware that not even their most intimate secrets are safe from government snooping.
“National and international expert bodies could not have spoken more clearly: the indiscriminate mass surveillance of communications is a violation of human rights. The game is up and the time has come for governments to reform their indiscriminate mass surveillance programmes.”
The Conservative government wants to introduce the Investigatory Powers Bill, new laws which will give greater surveillance powers to the security services. While the details of the Bill are unclear at present, it’s thought that it will be a repeat of the Communications Data Bill which was torpedoed by the Liberal Democrats.
Across the pond, the US government recently enacted the Freedom Act, which will see the bulk collection of American citizens communications data ceased – although the Guardian reports that the NSA plans to make use of a six month grace period.
Sherif Elsayed-Ali, deputy director of global issues at Amnesty International said: “It is disappointing that governments have not accepted that mass surveillance violates human rights. While the passage of the USA Freedom Act shows that it is possible to roll back surveillance, the prospect of more intrusive spying powers in France and the UK shows that government’s’ appetite for ever more information on our private lives is unsated.”
Earlier this year, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled that UK spy service GCHQ’s bulk collection of data was unlawful, due to a lack of transparency. Following a change in the law made in December 2014, GCHQ is now legally able to collect data on a wide scale.
Documents released by Snowden revealed that GCHQ shared data harvested from the TEMPORA programme was later shared with the NSA.
Last year, the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK’s RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) violated the human rights of British citizens. DRIPA (Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act) was hastily drawn up, meaning that UK ISPs are still required to collect data on customers for up to 12 months. This act, which is due to expire in 2016, is now being challenged in the courts by Conservative MP David Davis, Labour MP Tom Watson and the privacy campaign group Liberty.