Prosecutors in the Manning case portrayed the use of the unix utility
wget as if it were a dark art of criminal hackers.
Once again, the issue concerns what sort of oversight can we possibly have when the legality of surveillance rests on blanket search warrants, rather than warrants targeting specific individuals and groups. The statutory authority for these warrants clearly rests on interpretations that go against the spirit of the law. In the UK the relevant statues are
- 1994 Intelligence Services Act
- Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).
It seems that the warrant authority relies on paragraph 4, Section 8 of RIPA. Read it and decide for yourself whether you think this gives a legislative mandate to GCHQ’s programmes.
The statutory analog in the US is of course the Patriot Act. Section 205 of the Act is what is being used by the administration to justify PRISM, an interpretation of the law that one of the Act’s authors, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, claims was not congress’ intent.
Back to the UK, the other aspect of its “oversight” is the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), made up of 9 MP’s. Unlike the Senate and House intelligence committees in the US–who in theory at least represent a check to executive authority–the nine members of the ISC are appointed by the PM.
It’s worth remembering that the British Government’s blanket search warrants were one of the grievances of the American colonialist and inspired the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution.