GCHQ has admitted that it uses secret services in its covert surveillance programs and has apologised for the misuse of them.
It’s been revealed in a leaked internal GCHQ document that the agency uses secret service employees to track people and pass on their location, as well as tracking communications and collecting intelligence.
The document also outlines how GCHQ used the covert services to track political dissidents, including the Irish Republican Army and the Black Liberation Army.GCHQ’s new secret service memo also acknowledges that the organisation does not always comply with its own policies, which could have resulted in its use of the secret services by other governments.
The document also reveals that in 2015, GCHQ stopped using secret service personnel after it was forced to remove some of them after being accused of spying on political dissidents.
In an email to the UK Guardian, G20 Commissioner Julie Bishop confirmed the agency had used secret service officers, saying: “I think there are many examples in the past where they have been employed and I can confirm that in one case the organisation used its staff to conduct surveillance on an individual.”
I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the individuals affected, but I also want to stress that the use of a private contractor for surveillance was never approved by GCHQ.
“A spokesperson for GCHQ confirmed that the company had used private contractors for surveillance, but added that they were only used in certain instances.”
It is the company’s policy that we only employ contractors in circumstances where there is clear and unambiguous public interest, and when we do, they are always authorised and subject to our strict internal controls.
“The GCHQ team of staff are trained to use all available legal means to ensure the accuracy and proportionality of our surveillance activities, and all of our personnel are monitored by a team of internal and external investigators to ensure compliance with the law and to ensure that GCHQ’s work is conducted in a manner that is compliant with our legal obligations.”
The leaked document was first reported by the Guardian and confirmed that G20 leaders had been briefed on the operation.
The organisation was accused of using secret services to spy on dissidents, and that the programme was uncovered when an independent parliamentary inquiry into GCHQ was launched.
The Government said the programme would not be used again, but that GCH’s use of secret services was not approved by the agency.