As yet, no substantive response from the Home Office to my questions on the Indymedia disk seizure…
A conversation with someone affected by it last night has added another element that I think will need to be explored. I was told that there were personal emails stored on the servers as well as websites. If this is the case, then we do need to look at whether breaches of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act have taken place.
Part I of the Act is quite explicit in declaring that the interception of communications is illegal and subject to serious penalties except in certain very limited circumstances. This is explained as:
Interception of communications means the interception of a communication in the course of its transmission by means of a postal service or telecommunications system. In the UK interception is conducted under warrant. Such warrants are authorised personally by the Secretary of State. A warrant may only be authorised when the Secretary of State believes it both proportionate and necessary
- in the interests of national security;
- for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime or
- for safeguarding the economic well-being of the UK.
In the UK, interception warrants are intelligence gathering tools. RIPA prohibits material derived from interception warrants being adduced as evidence in court. The UK’s lawful interception regime is subject to oversight by the Interception of Communications Commissioner (see Part IV).
If emails have been intercepted outside this legal process then a serious criminal offence may have been committed. This may depend on whether the seizure of disks containing emails is considered to be “interception” as opposed to pulling them off the wires as they are being transmitted. My recollection of the debates on the Act is that emails are protected from interception wherever they are in the system so this would cover taking them from a store on a disk.
For an example of Police action taken under this Act, see the Cliff Stanford case.