back to article Law changed to allow GCHQ hacking ... just as GCHQ hauled into court for hacking

Government legislation to exempt GCHQ from prosecution on charges of illegal hacking has been passed and come into effect – apparently torpedoing an ongoing claim against the surveillance agency being heard by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Last July, a coalition of internet service providers and international …

  1. Vimes

    'It's not illegal when the government does it'.

    Sounds like something Nixon would say.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Good thing he's dead, then.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Devil

        It seems that Tricky Dick's body might be dead, but his spirit lives on--kind of like Sauron.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Well... his spirit has shown up in the US via Clinton, Bush, Reagan, and now Obama. It seems to work and there's no reason why it shouldn't have spread to other countries,

          1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

            Don't forget "Echelon" Carter. There's also Eisenhower and the creation of the NSA & since Nixon was his understudy.... Really though this predates thethe Republic with the interception and "undetectable" opening and copying of the mail so this all has standing as precedent.

            1. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Good point on Ike. I forgot about him...

    2. Colonel Panic

      This is what the Human Rights Act is for

      The thing about "rights" is they are not actually rights at all. They are government dont's.

      This provision is basically the equivalent of legalising burglary, if you're a rozzer.

      Given that our parliament is too supine to exercise proper oversight, we need the courts to protect us.

      The much maligned Article 8 (the one that the Daily Mail hates so much) as well as protecting your right to family life, protects your home and your privacy.

      There may well be a strong argument that the exemption introduced is incompatible with Article 8.

      If you get rid of human rights, you are trusting your government.

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: This is what the Human Rights Act is for

        People who are disenfranchised will create their own legal solutions. And there is no getting them back. What eventually happens is that prisons have to swell to accommodate them but sooner or later people just get used to being outlaws. Easier to live with now that Australia has its' version of a dem...oh...wait

      2. druck
        FAIL

        Re: This is what the Human Rights Act is for

        Colonel Panic wrote:

        The much maligned Article 8 (the one that the Daily Mail hates so much) as well as protecting your right to family life, protects your home and your privacy.

        There may well be a strong argument that the exemption introduced is incompatible with Article 8.

        You might want to actually read it, and take note of the comprehensive list of exceptions to the rights.

        Right to respect for private and family life

        1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

        2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

  2. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    If you can't win...

    Just move the goal posts...

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: If you can't win...

      They're learning from the badgers

  3. Graham Marsden
    Big Brother

    Well, what a surprise!

    The Tories have a track record of changing the law when they look to be on the losing side of an argument.

    Now our broken electoral system has given them another five years, expect to see plenty more of this.

    1. Vimes

      Re: Well, what a surprise!

      Grayling as justice secretary was a great fan of this. He even managed the trick of getting his changes thrown out in court because they conflicted with changes he himself had previously put in place.

    2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Well, what a surprise!

      To be fair, I bet the Labor Party would not be above this either. They're track record on surveillance/civil liberties/intrusive regulation and inspections was pretty crappy when Blair and Brown were living on Downing Street.

      1. nematoad Silver badge

        Re: Well, what a surprise!

        "To be fair, I bet the Labor Party would not be above this either."

        What, you mean the Australians have had a hand in this?

        Oh, I see, you probably meant the Labour Party.

        1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Well, what a surprise!

          I'm American, so I have joined the war against unnecessary use of "buy-a-vowel" in my vocabulary. Makes things a little less labor-ious. :)

    3. JonP

      Re: Well, what a surprise!

      The Tories have a track record of changing the law

      Just for balance, Labour were just as bad (remember the double jeopardy law they changed so they could re-try the suspected Lawrence murderers). It was also Labour who introduced most of the surveillance legislation in the first place.

      Broken electoral system or not (and I tend to agree) I reckon this would have happened if Labour had won.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Well, what a surprise!

        Broken electoral system or not (and I tend to agree) I reckon this would have happened if Labour had won.

        Indeed. Because what we have isn't democracy, it's drip drip drip dictatorship.

    4. Velv Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Well, what a surprise!

      This has been buried by ALL members of the previous parliament, so you can't blame any one party over another.

      1. Graham Marsden

        Re: Well, what a surprise!

        I should point out that I have no love for Labour and I'm entirely sure they would have come up with their own way of weaselling out of this...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Well, what a surprise!

          I should point out that I have no love for Labour and I'm entirely sure they would have come up with their own way of weaselling out of this...

          Then why make it party specific in the first place? This would only matter if there were any significant objections from what can now rightly be called the shadow side, and as far as I can tell there have been none.

          What matters is the retrospective excusing of something that was wrong at the time when it took place. To me, that publicly declares transparency and accountability as dead and buried, which is a significant portion of why you can call a nation democratic. From a privacy perspective, this effectively puts the UK on a list of places not to be.

          1. Graham Marsden

            Re: Well, what a surprise!

            > Then why make it party specific in the first place?

            Because they were the ones I was thinking of at the time, for instance with IDS getting the law retroactively changed to stop people sueing the Government for illegallly forcing them to work for free at Poundland etc.

          2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

            Re: Well, what a surprise!

            What matters is the retrospective excusing of something that was wrong at the time when it took place.

            This is precisely the main issue I have with this matter. Never mind whether you think this law change is right or wrong.

            All legal action should be conducted under the law as it stood when the event took place. Laws should never apply to events before they came into force.

            To make an example: Today, it is illegal for me to drive without insurance. Say I did so anyway, but tomorrow that law was changed. I should still be prosecuted, as I broke the law. It does not matter that it is no longer illegal. The fact is that I broke the law.

            Similarly, today it is legal for me to drive with a certain level of alcohol in my blood. If I was pulled over, and found to have a BAC just under that limit, but then the law was changed tomorrow to zero tolerance, I should not be prosecuted as I did not break the law at the time.

            What matters is the law at the time.

  4. Roo
    Windows

    I sincerely hope that our legislators have nothing to hide...

    ... because if they do have something to hide they won't be in a position to deliver on their manifesto (as if they gave a toss anyway).

    On the bright side it looks like Dave & Theresa have saved me bother of wasting 10 minutes voting in ~4-5 years time.

  5. John G Imrie Silver badge

    May 3,

    May 3, May 3, humm

    Was there something going on around there that would have filled up all the newspapers and the TV schedule?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: May 3,

      Ok, some of us aren't locals. What WAS going on on the 3rd? An election?

      1. edge_e
        Facepalm

        Re: May 3,

        The election was the 7th.

        big things on the 3rd were

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-32572838

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-32578038

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-32572408

        but he was probably referring to this

        http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/royal-baby-born-recap-wait-5628278

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "There was no public debate"

    Does that mean this bill was not debated or voted upon by MPs, and not published in Hansard or whatever?

  7. edge_e
    Black Helicopters

    This raises another serious issue

    How are we,the public, expected to keep up with all this legislative change?

    After all, you can't use ignorance as a defence when you inadvertently break the law.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: This raises another serious issue

      I think that at least in this case, the intent was that the public would definitely NOT be able to keep up with this particular legislative change.

      Instead, how about a nice lengthy, public debate on whether traditional fox-hunting should be allowed? Or perhaps whether bangers and mash should be designated as the official comfort food of the United Kingdom? Maybe a long discussion on an act honoring Britain's Roman heritage through the return of bread and circuses for the masses?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scrutiny?

    How can the government make legislation with public scrutiny?

    1. Vimes

      Re: Scrutiny?

      They have been able to do so to some degree for quite some time. Google the term 'statuatory instrument' if you don't believe me.

  9. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    I can only hope

    There is grounds to challenge on the basis of the human rights act. That would really piss them off.

    1. Velv Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: I can only hope

      What Human Rights Act?

  10. gerdesj Silver badge

    Wouldn't it be nice

    ... if our spies spent more time spying on the baddies instead of pissing around creating ever more elaborate mass surveillance programmes for domestic use.

    The next James Bond film is going to be really boring as our hero, bathed in the glare of a monitor, hacks into yet another thousand home routers in Cornwall. Gasp at Q's exploding iPad and the souped up Google BMW on autopilot running off the road when some light drizzle buggers up its sensors.

    Cheers

    Jon

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Wouldn't it be nice

      "... if our spies spent more time spying on the baddies instead of pissing around creating ever more elaborate mass surveillance programmes for domestic use."

      But that would be against their current charter, after all - the 'baddies' aren't the enemy - the public is. None of the 'baddies' can remove their power, and they are doing their damnedest to ensure the public cannot either.

      Do I hear the tones of an operatic female vocal indicating substantial body mass?

  11. Adrian 4 Silver badge

    Surely the suspected criminals here are no less guilty if the law is changed after the fact ? They broke the law AT THE TIME. That's what makes the act criminal. What it is now is irrelevant.

    The government might, in the same way they did for Alan Turing, offer a post-trial and perhaps post-mortem pardon if they judge the criminal acts to be non-criminal in the light of later laws. But the point is, the civil servants deliberately flouted the law as they knew it, and, unlike Turing, in the course of their work. That's what makes them, and their managers, unfit for office. They can't be trusted.

    1. SolidSquid

      UK law does actually allow for the laws to be changed retroactively. Whether they should take advantage of that is another issue entirely, but if they can get it through Parliament then it can both criminalise (yes, you can do something legal and then it suddenly becomes illegal after the fact) and de-criminalise past behaviour

      1. ScottAS2

        Enjoy it while it lasts

        Retroactively criminalising acts (or even increasing the punishment for them) is another thing that's outlawed by the Human Rights Act/ECHR: Article 7 specifically deals with it.

  12. JustWondering
    Unhappy

    Everyone is doing it.

    Here in the Northern Colony, our government is in the midst of passing legislation which will retroactively shield the RCMP from impending charges. Our government says our national police force works for the government. I always thought they worked for the citizens but it appears the times are changing.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have some speeding tickets..

    .. from when I went 5 mph over the limit a couple of years back. Now that road has its speed limit removed. Does that mean I can get my money back now?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All you need to know about UK Government

    “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens 'as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone'. It's often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that's helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.

    “This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach."

    And those quotes, even though they came from David Cameron could have been from either of the political parties in the UK (no, there's no such thing as Lib Dem any more, UKIP are about to implode and SNP hmm, OK, three parties)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: All you need to know about UK Government

      “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens 'as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone...'

      Exactly, the public should be utterly outraged at this abuse of the law and be completely intolerant of Cameron/May's (further) attempts to erode our rights.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. FSM

    Eric King, the Deputy Director, criticised the "underhand and undemocratic manner in which the Government is seeking to make lawful GCHQ's hacking operations."

    He then went on to say, "SURPRISE MOTHERF**KER"

  17. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    When there's one rule for them, and another for those, do fools only follow such rules.

    What's good for the goose is good for the gander. No one rules and has command and control of cyberspace ...... although it is increasingly being realised the space to be in command and control of for power down on Earth.

    It is though an irregular and unconventional place which does not suffer from a lack of intelligence in agents/state and non state actors at their work, rest and play.

    1. Tail Up
      IT Angle

      Re: When there's one rule for them, and another for those, do fools only follow such rules.

      https://youtu.be/s6VaeFCxta8 - A-HA, Hunting High And Low + @ 2:42

      Would one argue that the song and its visible voilee dress is full of some kind of enchanting beauty?

      "This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear" - Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strength_(Tarot_card)

      To keep one's shark away of arrows would be a well and quite understandably excusing temporary decision and an intelligent step forward until it's not perfectly clear what to do. T = K90 C already, and rising, we've missed the lucky fall. Well, LOVE*, one's sunglasses, are enough well silver-plated to worry about some weird extra quantum passing by (-:

      just cheer one up bro if

      https://youtu.be/ssx5yHwiEOs , Camouflage (Naweed Remix) - Love Is A Shield

      *Live Operation Virtual Environment, @SATOR

  18. Will 28

    Retrospective Law?

    I thought that it wasn't legal to apply changes to laws retrospectively? This was why that broadcaster was given a very light sentence for child abuse, because he'd done it when the law was less severe.

    Perhaps there's some difference when an act is amended, or perhaps when it's done through the statutory powers they used. Please let me know if you know the actual answer?

  19. Waspy

    name a 20th Century dictator...

    Cameron seems to be Increasingly using the language of former fascist and communist dictators with his drive to protect freedom by restricting freedom. Gchq's shenanigans are only another facet of this whole sorry rhetoric.

    I'm waiting for the UK enabling act next

  20. johnnymotel

    Roll on the spirit of meanness...

    Another Tory "fuck you and stick this middle finger where it hurts"

    Also, it's getting close to that time when I have to leave this dear place with its sick government.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Secret law...

    If it's good enough for Emperor Obama, it's good enough for Prefect Cameron.

    For the glory of the Empire. Strength and honour.

    :/

  22. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Read the statement carefully

    "There have been no changes made to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 by the Serious Crime Act 2015 that increase or expand the ability of the intelligence agencies to carry out lawful cyber crime investigation."

    Note that nothing whatever is said about increasing or expanding the ability of the intelligence agencies to carry out _un_lawful_ cyber crimes. That ability stays as high as before.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Read the statement carefully

      Out of all the changes made to the CMA, Section 10 seems the most likely candidate...

      10 Saving for certain law enforcement powers.

      Section 1(1) above has effect without prejudice to the operation—

      (a)in England and Wales of any enactment relating to powers of inspection, search or seizure; and

      (b)in Scotland of any enactment or rule of law relating to powers of examination, search or seizure.

      [F1and nothing designed to indicate a withholding of consent to access to any program or data from persons as enforcement officers shall have effect to make access unauthorised for the purposes of the said section 1(1).

      In this section “enforcement officer” means a constable or other person charged with the duty of investigating offences; and withholding consent from a person “as” an enforcement officer of any description includes the operation, by the person entitled to control access, of rules whereby enforcement officers of that description are, as such, disqualified from membership of a class of persons who are authorised to have access.]

      For reference, Section 1.

      It's so loosely defined that the TV Licence man could legally hack into your computer if they wanted to. And spooks, of course. Perhaps the disingenuous statement means there's nothing that specifically names the intelligence services, but they certainly fall within the scope of this change.

      1. JeffUK

        Re: Read the statement carefully

        Only if an act of parliament is passed allowing the TV license man to hack into your PC...

        You missed the bit where it says :

        enactment” means any enactment, whenever passed or made, contained in—

        (a)

        an Act of Parliament;

        (b)

        an Act of the Scottish Parliament;

        (c)

        a Measure or Act of the National Assembly for Wales;

        (d)

        an instrument made under any such Act or Measure;

        (e)

        any other subordinate legislation (within the meaning of the Interpretation Act 1978);

  23. billse10

    don't you hate it when reality starts to look like lyrics ...

    Don't offer us legal protection

    They use the law to commit crime

    I dread to think what the future'll bring

  24. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The Silk Smoothed Road to Nowhere is a Slick Path into CHAOS with Deep Pools in Dark Webs

    I dread to think what the future'll bring .... billse10

    A veritable ESPecially gifted, extraordinarily rendered smarter army/force of virtual opponents and real enough Guy Fawkes's would appear to the chosen preference for competing insolvent systems of remote second and third party intellectual property management, billse10.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: The Silk Smoothed Road to Nowhere is a Slick Path into CHAOS with Deep Pools in Dark Webs

      And who's to say that will not be/is not the current present servering morph of secret intelligence security in smarter prosperous pursuit and lively opposition to fascist imposition of worthless punitive austerity..... which is most surely what one would reasonably expect from leading providers of actionable mentored intel from monitored information systems admins.

      Or perhaps such a consumptive is presumed and assumed by established legacy systems as being automatically defaulted to server their continuity in office for power of command and control by order of some sort of arrogance based upon the thought that ignorance in such matters will remain widespread and aid the adventure?! In an age with myriad spaces with remote distant learning facilities and capabilities is that a fine final folly furnishing fools all manner of fickle feasts that funnel fate to deliver destiny's revolutionary rough justice and bitter sweet revenge for dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

      It is certainly the Greater IntelAIgent Gamesplay of Future NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive Systems Administration for Present Production Placements of Registering Virtual Realities with Quantum Communication Command of Controlling Creative Computers...... phishing and phorming for SMARTR Machine Existences with Global Operting Devices.

      And a great fit for a revitalised and revitalising BBC/RT Type Operation with Creative AI Direction worthy of global support, it is too.

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

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