A UK intelligence services watchdog tribunal heard on Wednesday that MI6 may have authorised spies to commit crimes in the UK, possibly without any limits on their extent.
According to campaigners, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal found that the UK’s foreign intelligence secret service MI6 and GCHQ, its intelligence communications service, may have breached their remit by operating under a policy to break the law in the UK that the government had unjustifiably asked them to keep secret.
Justice organisation Reprieve confirmed in an email to The Epoch Times that the revelations emerged during an ongoing legal challenge mounted by civil liberties groups.
They are challenging the secret policy, also known as the “third direction,” which is operated by the UK’s domestic intelligence agency MI5, and does not expressly prohibit the authorisation of certain serious crimes.
Ben Jaffey QC, who is representing the civil liberties campaigners, told the tribunal: “Until yesterday morning we had absolutely no idea that [MI6] or GCHQ considered they have power to commit crime in the UK … It was very difficult to believe this was occurring.
“MI6 and GCHQ couldn’t possibly be conducting criminality in UK, as the third direction only refers to the Security Service [MI5]. There’s no provision for oversight of crime by [MI6] or GCHQ. I couldn’t believe the position is without statutory oversight, as this is a more or less guaranteed breach of the [European Convention on Human Rights],” he said.
‘Intelligence Services Act’The Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) said in a statement that “MI6 appears to be operating this policy [in the UK] despite Parliament having only given them powers to break the law overseas, under section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act.”
The bill aims to confirm a set of safeguards, including human rights compliance, creating a statutory basis for undercover agents to engage in criminality to secure the trust of those they are investigating.
‘Unilaterally Assumed Power’Maya Foa, Reprieve’s executive director, said in a statement, “We’ve learned today that MI6 unilaterally assumed the power to authorise unchecked agent law-breaking on UK soil, going far beyond the rules set for them by Parliament.”
“In light of this secret power-grab, Parliament should think twice about giving assent to the government’s CHIS bill, which places no express limits on agent lawbreaking even for crimes like murder, torture, or rape,” she said.
The Home Office did not respond to a request for comment by The Epoch Times.