The rights group said on Monday that it is “highly likely” that its emails and phone calls have been unlawfully intercepted by the UK intelligence services.
“As a global organization working on many sensitive issues that would be of particular interest to security services in the US and UK, we are deeply troubled by the prospect that the communications of our staff may have been intercepted,” said Michael Bochenek, director of law and policy for the human rights group.
“We regularly receive sensitive information from sources in situations that mean their co-operation with Amnesty could present a real risk to their safety and the safety of their family.”
“Any prospect that this type of communication is being intercepted by the US and UK through their mass surveillance programs raises substantive concerns and presents a real threat to the effectiveness of Amnesty International’s work,” Bochenek added.
Amnesty International has issued a claim at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), Britain’s interception watchdog, asking it to hold a public hearing into its claims about the UK surveillance activities. The rights group, however, has criticized the way that the IPT reviews complaints about the activities of the UK’s intelligence services,
“In the face of such secret and extensive programs of mass surveillance the current legal framework governing surveillance in the UK is woefully inadequate,” the rights group said, adding, “It would be a ridiculous irony if the investigation into surveillance that has been carried out in secret was itself secret.”
Earlier reports by The Guardian had disclosed joint spying practices of the British spying agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and its American counterpart, the National Security Agency (NSA), citing leaked documents provided by US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
According to the reports, the GCHQ has secretly accessed millions of phone calls and electronic communications, using the NSA’s Tempora program.
In June, Snowden leaked two top secret US government spying programs, which revealed that the NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had been eavesdropping on millions of American and European phone records and the Internet data from major Internet companies such as Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Apple, and Microsoft.
The NSA scandal took even broader dimensions when Snowden revealed information about the organization’s espionage activities targeting friendly countries.