British intelligence spies on lawyer-client communications, government admits (GigaOM, 6 Nov 2014) – After the Snowden leaks, British lawyers expressed fears that the government’s mass surveillance efforts could undermine the confidentiality of their conversations with clients, particularly when those clients were engaged in legal battles with the state. Those fears were well-founded. On Thursday the legal charity Reprieve, which provides assistance to people accused of terrorism, U.S. death row prisoners and so on, said it had succeeded in getting the U.K. government to admit that spy agencies tell their staff they may target and use lawyer-client communications “just like any other item of intelligence.” This is despite the fact that both English common law and the European Court of Human Rights protect legal professional privilege as a fundamental principle of justice. Reprieve noted that the government had previously claimed three times that it could not disclose the information it has now disclosed (PDF) in heavily redacted form. According to that information, the acceptability of spying on lawyer-client communications is largely backed up by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which was recently revised to allow surveillance of all sorts of online channels , as well as of phone calls and emails.
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