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Liberty demand formal inquiry into claims that GCHQ snooped on private staff correspondence

Pressure group file claim with Investigatory Powers Tribunal

The snooping watchdog Liberty has demanded an inquiry into claims that GCHQ unlawfully accessed private communications.

Documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden suggest government intelligence services GCHQ were able to snoop on the public using secretly accessed fibre-optic cables carrying communications data. Snowden claimed the agency is able to tap into and store data from the cables for up to 30 days, to be used for analysis under an operation codenamed 'Tempora'.

Pressure group Liberty believes their staff may have been targeted by the government and have filed a claim against the British Intelligence Services over their involvement in the Prism scandal. On their website, the group announced: “Liberty will ask the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) whether the British Intelligence Services have used Prism and/or Tempora to bypass the formal UK legal process which regulates the accessing of personal material.

“Liberty believes that its electronic communications – and those of its staff – may have been unlawfully accessed by the likes of the Security Services and GCHQ.”

GCHQ is said to have accessed information about UK citizens via the US National Security Agency's secret Prism monitoring programme. The Cheltenham-based agency responded today by insisting they are “scrupulous” in complying with the law.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has also dismissed claims that it used Prism to circumvent the law as “baseless”.

Liberty has issued a claim “contending that rights under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act (the right to respect for one's private and family life, home and correspondence) have been breached”.

Legal director James Welch said: “Those demanding the Snoopers' Charter seem to have been indulging in out-of-control snooping even without it - exploiting legal loopholes and help from Uncle Sam.

”No-one suggests a completely unpoliced internet but those in power cannot swap targeted investigations for endless monitoring of the entire globe."