The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has ruled that the UK's Government Communications Headquarters' (GCHQ) involvement in the NSA's notorious PRISM programme was entirely legal.
The ISC said that after a thorough investigation into the programme, the types of data collected and how it was collected did not circumvent UK law and it concluded that no wrongdoing had occurred.
"It has been alleged that GCHQ circumvented UK law by using the NSA's PRISM programme to access the content of private communications. From the evidence we have seen, we have concluded that this is unfounded," read the report from the ISC.
"We have reviewed the reports that GCHQ produced on the basis of intelligence sought from the US, 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 US, 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 news was welcomed by foreign secretary William Hague, who supported the ISC investigation. “The ISC has today cleared GCHQ of the allegations of illegal activity made against it. The Committee has concluded that these allegations are unfounded. I welcome these findings. I see daily evidence of the integrity and high standards of the men and women of GCHQ,” he said.
“The ISC is a vital part of the strong framework of democratic accountability and oversight governing the use of secret intelligence in the UK. It will continue to have the full co-operation of the Government and the security and intelligence agencies.”
Moving forward, though, the ISC said the GCHQ should reconsider its interpretation of the UK's human rights legislation.
"Although we have concluded that GCHQ has not circumvented or attempted to circumvent UK law, it is proper to consider further whether the current statutory framework governing access to private communications remains adequate," read the statement.
The infamous PRISM programme was uncovered earlier this year. It was run by the NSA and is designed to collect vast amounts of web and user data from tech and communication companies like Verizon, Google, Facebook and Yahoo. Yahoo recently spoke out about its involvement, having won the right to reveal its ongoing battle to resist the information requests.
The European Parliament is also launching a wider investigation into PRISM, led by the Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee and due to conclude at the end of the year.
Although the report is welcome news for the government and the GCHQ it is still facing questions about the Operation Tempora programme which saw the telecoms cables running into the UK monitored by the listening station.
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