Call on the UK Government to Publish ‘The Third Direction’
TruePublica Editor: If it had not been for Edward Snowden, citizens of the western world, particularly in Britain and America would be no wiser to the illegal activities of their government in terms of extreme mass surveillance. This infrastructure is enormous and has been built costing an undisclosed sum of tens of billions without any public debate. In the eyes of government and the political elite supported by their corporate paymasters, citizens are the enemy. Here is a hint of what may be coming next from Privacy International and Reprieve.
Documents obtained by Privacy International reveal the existence of a secret oversight function given to the Intelligence Services Commissioner (ISC), in operation since at least 2014. The details of this function, referred to as the ‘third direction’, remain redacted and only came to light following disclosure of the confidential annex of the Intelligence Services Commissioners’ 2014 report. Privacy International is calling for clarity around the previously undisclosed third direction, especially since the first two directions concern controversial functions of the intelligence services — the collection of bulk personal datasets and the detention and interviewing of detainees overseas.
The importance of this revelation is underscored by the nature of the two previously secret directions, both referred to in the 2014 confidential annex. The first direction governs the oversight of the highly controversial bulk personal datasets, whose existence was not known until March 2015, despite being in operation for over a decade. Bulk personal datasets are any data sets that are held by companies, organisations, and individuals, such as library card holders or patients with the NHS, that the government requests, copies, and looks through. The government describes such datasets as personal information from citizens who are “unlikely to be of intelligence or security interest”. The second direction relates to the Agencies’ “Consolidated Guidance” regarding the Detention and Interviewing of Detainees Overseas and has been the subject of concern relating to risks of UK action resulting in torture or other ill-treatment.
From Reprieve: Working with Privacy International, Reprieve has discovered the existence of a secret policy, or ‘direction’, from Downing Street. We know it concerns covert activities being conducted right now by Britain’s intelligence agencies, but that’s all we know – for now.
It is called ‘The Third Direction’.
The first two directions concern torture and cyber surveillance – issues which clearly have huge implications for human rights. The Third Direction is entirely shrouded in secrecy.
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We’re worried that The Third Direction may give our Government license to violate fundamental human rights. We don’t yet know what it relates to, but it could be one of several things – including the UK’s use of lethal force, incommunicado detention, or extreme interrogation techniques overseas.
We understand that some details of operations, operatives or other sensitive matters may need to be kept confidential in the interests of national security. But blanket secrecy of an entire area of law and activity makes it more likely that the Government will make mistakes or become involved in grave abuses – and get away with it.
Public scrutiny of the government is an essential part of British democracy. That’s why we’re calling on Theresa May to open up about The Third Direction.