Houses of Parliament PRISM Edward Snowden

Parliamentary Committee rules GCHQ spying program with NSA's PRISM was legal

By Mark Leiser, Research Fellow

July 17, 2013 | 2 min read

Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has issued a report into the legality of the intelligence gathering and information sharing by using the NSA’s PRISM program.

The report states that GCHQ conformed to its statutory obligations by using the NSA’s PRISM program to access the content of private communications of UK nationals..

The ISC reviewed the GCHQ reports produced with American intelligence. The ISC said the evidence showed that any intelligence sought had "conformed with GCHQs statutory duties" under the Intelligence Services Act 1994. The committee said in its statement:

"It has been alleged that GCHQ circumvented UK law by using the NSA's PRISM program to access the content of private communications. From the evidence we have seen, we have concluded that this is unfounded.

"We have reviewed the reports that GCHQ produced on the basis of intelligence sought from the U.S., and we are satisfied that they conformed with GCHQ’s statutory duties. The legal authority for this is contained in the Intelligence Services Act 1994.

"Further, in each case where GCHQ sought information from the U.S., a warrant for interception, signed by a Minister, was already in place, in accordance with the legal safeguards contained in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000."

The committee was given reports from GCHQ which gives us fascinating insight into just what was handed over to the Americans under PRISM. Unfortunately the committee created as many questions as they answered. Some of the topics covered in the ISC’s scrutiny into GCHQ’s access include “the content of communications, the legal framework which governs that access, and the arrangements GCHQ has with its overseas counterparts for sharing such information.”

Houses of Parliament PRISM Edward Snowden

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