Tribunal says UK spies acted illegally in harvesting NSA-gathered communications data

Features Associated Press

A court says British spies acted illegally when they scooped up data about Britons' electronic communications gathered by the U.S. National Security Agency.

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Britain's Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which deals with complaints against the intelligence services, ruled Friday in a case brought by civil liberties groups against the electronic intelligence agency, GCHQ.

It said before December 2014, the secret snooping arrangements contravened European Union protections of privacy and freedom of expression. But it said they were now legal, because the lawsuit had made public details of the practices.

The privacy groups brought the case after U.S. intelligence analyst Edward Snowden's disclosures about the mass harvesting of communications data by British and American agencies.

Two of the rights groups, Privacy International and Bytes for All, said the ruling was a partial victory.