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Government Crime United Kingdom

GCHQ Officials Given Immunity From Hacking Charges 118

An anonymous reader writes with news that members of British intelligence agency GCHQ have been granted immunity from prosecution for any laws they might have violated while hacking into citizens' computers or cellphones. The immunity was granted by changes to the Computer Misuse Act that weren't noticed until now, and not discussed or debated when implemented. While different legislation has long been thought to grant permission for illegal activities abroad, civil rights groups were unaware that domestic hacking activities were covered now as well. The legislative changes were passed on March 3rd, 2015, long after domestic spying became a hot-button issue, and almost a year after Privacy International and several ISPs filed complaints challenging it.
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GCHQ Officials Given Immunity From Hacking Charges

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 16, 2015 @11:24PM (#49708857)

    ......this just formalizes it for the plebs .

    • "My sight is failing," she said finally. "Even when I was young I could not have read what was written there. But it appears to me that that wall looks different. Are the Seven Commandments the same as they used to be, Benjamin?"

      For once Benjamin consented to break his rule, and he read out to her what was written on the wall. There was nothing there now except a single Commandment. It ran:

      ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
      BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS

  • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Saturday May 16, 2015 @11:27PM (#49708877)

    "James Bond has a license to kill, does he not?"

    "That's right."

    "Shoot someone, get off scot-free?"

    "Yes, why?"

    "So then, why do computer crimes carry a worse sentence than murder?"

    • "All ur bases are 'ours', and you can't touch this." Nothing but fucking penis envy, and it has fuckall to do with our national security and everything to do with corporate espionage whilst the people are stuck with the check for building all this bullshit...

    • It's a trend. A realization of how cheap surveillance of any kind has become, and the will to be on top of it all. The idea is, "We'll protect you from those evil hackers, if you let us in to all of your personal information". Which kind of defeats the purpose doesn't it? Welcome to the Internet of Things where you should just shut up and not mind your protectors peering into all aspects of your life for your own safety in this dangerous world.

      TLDR; You wouldn't want the "bad guys" to hack your computer

    • Uh... because James Bond is fiction?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 16, 2015 @11:32PM (#49708901)

    What the UK is doing really frightens me, for the people that live there, and for the rest of the world.

    That's not the future I want.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @12:47AM (#49709081)

      But you understand don't you that they have to take away your rights and privacy in order to keep you safe. I'm sure you feel safe now, don't you?

      • One advantage of an unwritten Constitution; the Courts might give you back your rights at some later point.

        • by Loki_1929 ( 550940 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @04:30AM (#49709627) Journal

          Protip: If someone has to give them to you, they aren't rights; they're privileges.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            I just watched Ex Machina last night...BEST ENDING EVER.
          • by rbrander ( 73222 )

            Yeah, I think that's the point: the 4th amendment has become a privilege. Not just phone calls and emails, not having your pockets searched is a, well, white privilege.

            • Protip: the UK doesn't have a 4th Amendment.

              They have an "unwritten constitution." They believe this makes rights more resilient, because even if somebody tries to take them away, and uses a legal process, the courts might just give them back at any time without needing specific justification.

              Americans generally discount that idea, but lots of legal experts do disagree on the results, both theoretical and actual.

          • You don't show any understanding of rights with that statement.

            Did you think rights just floated down from the sky, mana from heaven?

            All rights are given. That doesn't mean that, as you claim, there is no such thing as the word "rights" and every time anybody says "rights" they really meant "privileges." It does mean that words have context, and that the meanings don't always align with extremist principles.

            • Did you think rights just floated down from the sky, mana from heaven?

              No, they're inherent to the fact that we're living, sentient beings with dignity and value.

              All rights are given.

              No, rights cannot be "given" because something given can be taken away. Privileges are given and privileges can be taken away. Rights are inherent (see above) and can only be infringed inasmuch as we allow them to be.

              That doesn't mean that, as you claim, there is no such thing as the word "rights" and every time anybody says "rights" they really meant "privileges."

              Strawman; no such claim has been made. Precisely the opposite. On the other hand, sometimes people say "rights" when they mean "privileges" and vice versa.

              It does mean that words have context, and that the meanings don't always align with extremist principles.

              There's nothing extremist about living, sentient,

    • What the UK is doing really frightens me, for the people that live there, and for the rest of the world.

      That's not the future I want.

      Then kill the fascist bastards and form a new government. That's what's going to happen very soon in the US if things don't change.

      Strat

      • Won't happen in the US ever. Won't happen in the UK either. What might happen is an English version of Tiananmen square. Both governments will see it happening before it happens and it will be put down quickly. Thinking otherwise is little more than an invitation to be put down sooner than later.

        • Won't happen in the US ever. Won't happen in the UK either. What might happen is an English version of Tiananmen square. Both governments will see it happening before it happens and it will be put down quickly. Thinking otherwise is little more than an invitation to be put down sooner than later.

          Yes, abandon all hope.If we lick their boots convincingly, maybe we'll be the last into the gulag.

          Strat

          • Really?? Are you that stupid that you think the only way to change government is via violent revolution? I suppose you also think that whatever warlord replaces it will be the kind and gentle type that will gie you everything you ever wanted too.

            I think people like you are dangerous to any thriving society and downright deadly to any less than thriving society. You will attract other idiots and eventually get them killed while justifying the jackboot tactics the government would use in response. Some twit i

            • by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @12:10PM (#49711357)

              Really?? Are you that stupid that you think the only way to change government is via violent revolution?

              Not at all. The four boxes (soap, ballot, jury, ammo) are to be used in that order. So far we've tried soap, ballot, and jury.

              Next, I would try peaceful non-compliance, but I'm not naive enough to believe that the government would not respond violently.

              I think people like you are dangerous to any thriving society and downright deadly to any less than thriving society.

              We do not live in a "thriving society", we live in a fascist oligarchy that is descending into collapse. You are delusional if you believe otherwise.

              You will attract other idiots and eventually get them killed while justifying the jackboot tactics the government would use in response.

              So, with heavily-armed domestic paramilitary units assaulting the homes of citizens for things like student loan debts and misdemeanors, just how much farther does the government need to go before you would justify self defense? After you've been rounded up and sent to a camp is a bit late.

              Some twit in office will look at your writings and you will convince them that spying on citizens is just and reasonable.

              News flash, Bunky. They have believed that for decades.

              Let's just hope they think you are little more than a retarded monkey that doesn't need to get on the list.

              Nice ad hominem. Down to the last resort of those who cannot defend their position, eh? Let's hope they don't believe that everyone will roll over and lick their boots as you seem adamant to do, as that guarantees they will proceed at full speed.

              You will justify this by your own words.

              Yeah just sit down, shut up, and comply, right? Attitudes like that are historically what have enabled tyranny to fester.

              Let me translate it into a language you'll comprehend;

              "Baa-aaa-aaahhhh!"

              Strat

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 16, 2015 @11:35PM (#49708909)

    Good thing Aaron Swartz got similar immunity from any laws broken.

    Oh, wait, my bad. That's not what happened. Instead they tried to destroy his life. For fuck-all social harm, and arguable social good, compared to the NSA and GCHQ who have caused incalculable harm to our society.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 16, 2015 @11:37PM (#49708919)

    This immunity from criminal prosecution also forms a large part of their claim that spying on Brits for a foreign power IS LEGAL.

    They are NOT permitted to do bulk surveillance of British internet traffic,they are not supposed to spy on politicians, journalists, lawyers, campaigners,....but they DO bulk surveillance of internet traffic on all of those people, and hand access to that data to NSA staff. They claim its legal because they have immunity from prosecution.

    The Snoopers charter was not passed into law, it was rejected despite lies told by Jacqui Smith MP. It was rejected repeatedly, rejected in the House of Lords when it was slipped into an amendment. Theresa May, (a Jacqui Smith clone from the other party) tried and failed to get it made law. She's said she'll try it again now they got elected. But as it stands, it was REJECTED and domestic surveillance is not legal.

    We have a weird situation where a spy agency is spying on MPs in Britain, making that data available to the US, who in turn leverage British politics to get their way. The politicians who are compliant to US wishes (Theresa May et al), in turn are now trying to legalize the very surveillance that helps them get in power.

    This is happening all across the 5 eyes countries.

    If you scratch your head and wonder why East German STASI spied on East Germans for Russia, look no further than GCHQ's actions.
    MPs who oppose the passing of Snoopers charter can have their data, their families data, their friends data, all pulled by the US spooks and it can be used against them courtesy of GCHQ, and you cannot prosecute GCHQ for any of it, because of the immunity amendments.

  • by l0ungeb0y ( 442022 ) on Saturday May 16, 2015 @11:38PM (#49708923) Homepage Journal

    We all know Western Civilization has fallen to Fascism, so why not just come out and announce it? Why bother with these pieces of meaningless paper such as "Laws" and "Constitutions"? It's clear the rule of Law only applies to the Subjects, not the Wealthy or the Government. How about Marshall law? How about jackboots and arm bands and "show me your papers" and "up against the wall"? We're pretty much there anyway, but we all seem so intent on playing this bullshit game and pretending we still live in a free society.

    When will someone just fucking go ahead and blink already????

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 17, 2015 @12:07AM (#49708993)

      It really does seem to be the case. Every day on we see example after example of entirely different rules for (dare I say) about 1% of the population-- from Clapper just plain not being prosecuted for lying to congress to the CIA spying on torture investigators in congress without consequences to Patreas getting a slap on the wrist for leaking to his mistress to a heavy-handed campaign against whistleblowers but at the same time... zero Wall Street prosecutions and zero prosecutions for war crimes and other crimes for the propaganda campaign that took us into Iraq and the billions of waste that occurred there etc etc while on the other hand they (I say they and not we) are prosecuting kids who change computer desktops without "authorization", making education overly expensive w/predatory lending rates, tuition and bankruptcy laws, over-prosecuting and criminalizing people like Aaron Swartz... trade agreements being fast tracked and done in secret... mass surveillance, civil forfeitures... the list goes on and on and on.

      Something has gone very very wrong in the last 20-30 years. Oh, and we have global warming to look forward to as well. Woo.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @12:53AM (#49709101)

      No need to show papers when you're being tracked 24/7. As long as you behave you'll be able to retain a modicum of freedom and if you don't look you'll never notice the bars.

    • We all know Western Civilization has fallen to Fascism, so why not just come out and announce it?

      The UK, the US, Italy, Hungary and Russia does not make up the Western Civilization. Though the list was a big longer than I though when I started writting this comment.

      • Hey, give it time, Rome ain't been built in one single day either. What you have there is three major players of world economy and two who already learned that the only way they can stay propped up is to fall in line. Just wait how things develop when more governments notice that they can either become Italy or Greece.

    • We all know Western Civilization has fallen to Fascism, so why not just come out and announce it?

      Because compulsive lying is one of the classic symptoms of sociopathy. Every oppressive regime lies. They don't believe their own lies, and they know nobody else does either. They do so anyway, because getting people to repeat lies makes them their own jailers. The system can't jail or kill everyone, and in fact can't do anything on its own; it must convince someone else - a police, a soldier, whatevever - to d

      • And of course the third is that Western Civilization is not currently fascist. We wouldn't be talking about this openly on a public forum if it was. Increased surveillance by various intelligence agencies is worrisome and could potentially lead us to an unpleasant place once again, but we're nowhere near it yet. Not every political decision you don't like is a sign of fascism any more than every shoulder ache is a sign of a heart attack.

        Exactly. It's not like they will . . . hang on, their's someone at the door. brb.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Saturday May 16, 2015 @11:39PM (#49708929) Homepage
    As a member of the GCHQ I should take time to explain this to my fellow britons and the international community as a whole. You see, whilst portrayed to be a loveable middle-class eccentric bunch the average pint-pounding football-chanting briton, or as we know them 'bastard' isnt to be trusted with so much as a modicum of personal freedom. We've learned nearly every citizen to be a terrorist on some level (children are actually just very small terrorists.) and have taken great measures to protect actual god fearing pension clutching cloistered elite, whom we've found to be the real true citizenry of our great nation. So, in summation, Everything from VAT to the automated system of bollards and yes, even the chavs we strategically scatter along each and every mode of public transit charged with tactically dispersing vom, is part of this plan. Naturally retroactive immunity from prosecutorial oversight was necessary as in order to obtain critical knowledge of terrorisms. the knowledge that you, yes you, Chester Cleveston on Ellington road, have thrice now failed to finish a pint of Boddingtons because the foamy bit at the bottom puts you off, helps keep normal godfearing patriots of the jack accidentally gifting you a pint despite knowing full well you're a salaried man and can easily afford his own. So, in summation, should you be at this moment to have found yourself with a monocle perched upon your cheek then disregard this 'news.' However if you've just finished your sixth chesterfield and are at this moment urinating on a police car, you'll find solace and comfort in knowing we're here to protect you from Darryl Mansclover, working at the Lydsgate post office, who every morning puts lemon as well as milk in his tea in keeping with his savage tradition of domestic terrorism.
  • Good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @12:28AM (#49709029)

    Maybe all of this government sponsored asshattery will encourage more people to get off their asses and invest more effort into fixing all of our broken shit.

    If governments want to piss away their capabilities hacking their own people because they can then let them do it and fuck themselves over.

    • WE SLEEP

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      The problem is our whole system is set up to make is powerless. The call it "creating strong governments" but actually it's just tyranny of the minority.

      Protests are shut down or pushed out of the way, and the participants put on a watch list for harassment. They don't bother reporting such things on the news, so most people aren't even aware of them happening. New political parties have little chance of getting and power, maybe a single MP at best.

      Crypto-anarchy and eventually violent overthrow seem like t

  • be put alone in a corner where they feel very very unwell?
    Something like a podest, where they have to stand on, maybe chained and everyone is free to spit at them.
    At one point, enough will be enough.

  • You may admit agent 00000111 for his debriefing. Oh, and send away all those nasty little people in police uniforms.
  • Anarchy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 7-Vodka ( 195504 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @02:28AM (#49709339) Journal
    I'm beginning to think the anarchists have a point.

    "As long as there are rulers, we can't have rules"

    Because they're always going to make exceptions for themselves and their cronies, and use the rules to stick it to everyone else, while loudly decrying that they speak *for* us.....

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @03:13AM (#49709481)

    Quite obviously so. Otherwise, if what they were doing was legal, they would not need immunity. This also means Britain does not have "rule of law" anymore, because with that everybody is subject to the law. One more step into the abyss.

  • by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Sunday May 17, 2015 @06:14AM (#49709895)
    by allowing them to hack unfettered, eventually they will come across someone who will hack back. By giving them immunity, it removes any possibility of legal recourse; the only path left for those who've been wronged by GCHQ hackers is now to follow far more illegal paths for retribution. "From Hell's heart, I strike at thee"...once the courts deny this, it will become an even more dangerous game.

    One would think that Britain has had enough past experience of what happens when their rulers remove accountability from specific segments of their subjects. When the Courts won't listen, the next step is often quite bloody.
  • by koan ( 80826 )

    civil rights groups were unaware that domestic hacking activities were covered now as well

  • Or declared illegal. Even retroactively.
    After all, our German Nazi-regime was ruling (and killing) (mostly) perfectly within its own laws.
    Later on, after we lost the war, some people actually got the rope for their crimes (admittedly, only those who didn't run fast enough, weren't killed already, couldn't blame someone else or didn't have anything to bargain with (like a prospect of owning nuke-bearing ICBMs or a list of Soviet spies)).
    So, if a future government, supported by enough people, wanted to o

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