The documents leaked to the Guardian by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden illustrate how the Government Communication Headquarters feared the possibility of being challenged under the Human Rights Act if details of privacy invasions leaked.
The intelligence agency also attempted to keep the lengths to which telecommunications agencies had gone to concealed. It was found that they gone “well beyond” the legal requirements in aiding intelligence agencies in their procuring of data – not only in the UK but overseas too.
The memos show how GCHQ attempted to prevent intercepted communication to be used as evidence in UK criminal trials: something all three main political parties have been advocates of, but the intelligence community very much against.
The most recent was an attempt by the Labour government, whose proposal was obstructed in 2009 by GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 which, according to the documents, feared a potentially “damaging” public debate, “which might lead to legal challenges against the current regime.”
In May 2012, a further document illustrated the risks the British intelligence services would be susceptible to should their interceptions be made admissible. Documents seen by the Guardian demonstrate a sincere fear of “the damage to partner relationships if sensitive information were accidentally released in open court” and how the “scale of interception and retention required would be fairly likely to be challenged on Article 8 (Right to Privacy) grounds.”
The GCHQ also assisted the Home Office with waging the PR war over the “intercept as evidence” reform, by “lining up talking heads (such as Lord Carlisle [sic], Lord Stevens, Sir Stephen Lander, Sir Swinton Thomas)," according the leaked memo.