The UK’s Spy Agency Is Even More FOIA-Proof Than the NSA

The Government Communications Headquarters—essentially the British equivalent of the National Security Agency in the US—is, perhaps ironically, not known for being very communicative.

Privacy International, a UK charity, is trying to get them to open up a little. This week, it filed a legal challenge to the European Court of Human Rights after GCHQ refused to reveal details about the ‘Five Eyes’ agreement, a piece of legislation that dictates how intelligence can be shared among different partner countries.

GCHQ issued a blanket refusal to Privacy International’s Freedom of Information request on the matter. That’s entirely unsurprising. The thing is, whatever the content of your request, GCHQ doesn’t have to respond.

Under section 84 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, GCHQ, along with some other intelligence agencies, is exempt from complying with FOI requests. Further, under sections 23 and 24, the law “precludes any government authority from disclosing information if it was directly or indirectly supplied by GCHQ,” according to Privacy International’s filing.

Basically, that means any details you want about GCHQ or the work they do, you’re probably not going to get them via a Freedom of Information request. Even though that’s pretty much the only way for the public to ask for information.

In a letter written in March to Sir Iain Lobban, the director of GCHQ, Privacy..

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