13 June 2017
Today the Irish Council for Civil Liberties submitted FOI requests to the Department of Justice of Equality, the Department of Defence and the Defences Forces seeking information on Ireland’s information sharing agreements with other countries. These requests were submitted as part of a global public-information campaign aimed at uncovering international information-sharing agreements between intelligence agencies. The campaign is being coordinated through the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO), of which ICCL is a member.
International information-sharing agreements between intelligence agencies potentially allow those agencies to sidestep domestic legal constraints by funnelling surveillance data into a transnational intelligence network. Eight of INCLO’s member organisations have filed Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to their governments in an attempt to shine a light on this critical seam of the global surveillance regime. This is the first multinational coalition demanding that governments release any and all information regarding agreements between intelligence agencies, and provide answers about a practice largely shielded from accountability.
The Snowden files and other mass intelligence leaks have yielded crucial information about the mechanics of domestic state surveillance. They also revealed more about intelligence cooperation through the Five Eyes, the post-war surveillance alliance established between the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. However, surveillance regimes now operate on a global scale, extending far beyond Western democracies. We still know very little about the Five Eyes and other information-sharing relationships between governments, including intelligence alliances in the global south. By submitting requests for information in a geographically diverse array of states, INCLO hopes to expose these undisclosed alliances and learn more about their exact practice.
This action builds from INCLO’s report “Surveillance and Democracy: Chilling Tales from Around the World,” released last year. Through personal accounts of citizens targeted by their own governments, the report illuminates surveillance apparatuses in the Global North and Global South as well as varying efforts for reform. Public pushback has achieved significant progress in restoring transparency and re-establishing privacy norms in domestic contexts. However, information-sharing agreements remain a critical blind spot, potentially providing intelligence agencies a backdoor to evade legal safeguards and retain surveillance data. This initiative is the first step to uncovering the extent of this threat.
As member organisations receive responses, INCLO will publish any documents released to INCLO’s website. INCLO also hopes to support other organisations seeking to file FOI requests in order to build capacity and encourage further public inquiry.
Read participating members’ FOI submission (including ICCL’s on behalf of Ireland) and track any information released on INCLO’s website at http://www.inclo.net/pdf/iisp/FOI_requests_(x3)_%20INCLO_joint_action_June_2017.pdf
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