ISC’S Statement in 2013 Affirming the Legality of the GCHQ’s Use of Prism

On the basis of its investigatory powers under the Justice and Security Act 2013, the ISC responded to the Snowden revelations by taking oral evidence from the Director of the GHCQ, obtaining reports by the GCHQ on intelligence from the United States, and engaging in discussions during a visit to the United States with the NSA and “our Congressional counterparts.” Based on this, the ISC, chaired by the Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, MP, issued a Statement on July 17, 2013, available here, affirming the legality of the GCHQ’s use of the NSA’s Prism Program. In particular, the ISC found that the reports that the GCHQ produced on the basis of intelligence that it had sought from the US conformed to the GCHQ’s legal authority under the Intelligence Services Act of 1994. The ISC further found that in accord with the legal safeguards of RIPA, “in each case where GCHQ sought information from the US, a warrant for interception, signed by a Minister, was already in place.” The ISC called, however, for further scrutiny of the law governing GCHQ investigations, stating that “legislation … expressed in general terms” had left the GCHQ to develop its own guidelines for complying with UK human rights law.

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