New leaked documents reveal private Westminster emails are collected and searchable by GCHQ
CONFIDENTIAL EMAILS between parliamentarians and the public have been intercepted and searched by the UK spy agency for years, according to newly released, formerly top secret documents.
Scottish journalist Duncan Campbell, following up documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden, made the revelations of state snooping on sensitive political discussions in a new investigation.
The documents reveal that “details of private email correspondence between MPs and constituents are being collected by GCHQ as a matter of routine.”
GCHQ is the UK secret service organisation for communications, spying and surveillance; which was found to have used illegal methods following the Snowden revelations of mass surveillance on UK and US citizens.
The documents also expose GCHQ’s ability to scan and search the private emails for keywords, despite the ‘cyber defence network’ that claims to make political communication private.
The story has caused concern across party lines in the week before Westminster debates the Snooper’s Charter, a bill designed to expand government surveillance powers.
Speaking to the Campbell investigation for Computer Weekly, former Tory minister David Davis MP said “The House of Commons administration has serious questions to answer. On whose authority was ‘consent’ granted to view members’ emails? How did they manage to obtain that consent from every one of the 650 members whose constituents’ confidentiality is affected?
“The government too has questions to answer as to why it did not explain this when asked on many occasions about the effect of the Wilson doctrine.
“The government should also make it clear to parliament the extent to which scanning of all mail by a US-controlled company has made parliamentary communications vulnerable to agencies of a foreign power, namely the American NSA.”
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson MP added: “This will shock many of my parliamentary colleagues and provides a further illustration of why it is right for the government to give additional protections in law to MPs, lawyers and journalists.”
SNP spokesperson Gavin Newlands MP said: “The SNP share the concerns that have been expressed over the partial removal of protection offered to privileged correspondence. It is of the upmost importance to any modern democracy that parliamentarians are able to communicate with constituents and advisers in complete confidence.”
Julian Assange and ex-MI5 operative Annie Machon have said that the Scottish independence movement will have been targeted by UK secret services.
Evidence emerged that GCHQ has targeted Amnesty International and political campaigners.
SNP MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, Paul Monaghan, asked whether he had been spied on by UK Government agencies. His request for information was denied.
Picture courtesy of Ministry of Defence
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