Re: Legal =/= moral or right
@DCFusor: The issue is, "do we want public servants following the law, or do we want them making their own private decisions?" That's not a strawman, that's precisely the point the OP raises. I'm just pointing out where else that logic might lead.
@GrumpyKiwi: If you don't consent to the laws, then lobby to change them. If your lobbying isn't successful, then that is the verdict of the democratic system you live in: "the governed" as a group have decided to consent, even if you as an individual dissent. You don't get to opt out of laws once passed, any more than you get to decide what the speed limit on any given road "should be".
@Harry Stottle: First, are you seriously comparing breaches of privacy with Nazi war crimes? If so I'm gonna have to declare the thread Godwinated, because that's ridiculous. Moreover, the Nuremberg defence relates to "following orders", which is separate from "following the law".
The most recent treaty on the subject, the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, says:
1. The fact that a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court has been committed by a person pursuant to an order of a Government or of a superior, whether military or civilian, shall not relieve that person of criminal responsibility unless:
(a) The person was under a legal obligation to obey orders of the Government or the superior in question;
(b) The person did not know that the order was unlawful; and
(c) The order was not manifestly unlawful.
2. For the purposes of this article, orders to commit genocide or crimes against humanity are manifestly unlawful.
When international law feels it necessary to spell out that "genocide or crimes against humanity" are "manifestly unlawful", I find it very hard to imagine a court bracketing "mail tampering" in the same category. In other words, the Nuremberg precedent is not relevant here. Not even close.
The Windrush scandal is different again. Capita unlawfully sent letters to people who shouldn't have received them. The issue there is precisely that they weren't following the law, but rather bowing to pressure from (presumably, though the detailed chain of blame is still coming out) politicians.
For myself, I want to see public servants following the law, as debated in parliament, and written, and published, and adjudicated by independent courts. I don't want them each obeying the little voice in their own heads, because that makes them basically unaccountable to anyone. And some of those voices are frankly scary.