Allegations that GCHQ (the UK government communications headquarters) used a US programme to circumvent the law and spy on British citizens have led to renewed calls for the agency to disclose what its policy is on providing intelligence to support CIA drone strikes.
Although there have been reports that GCHQ supports the CIA’s covert drone programme in Pakistan, the Government has refused to either confirm or deny what its policy is.
A judicial review of British Government policy has been brought by Noor Khan, from North Waziristan, whose father was killed in a 2011 strike on a civilian meeting. However, ministers continue to fight the case, although it seeks only to clarify what the Government’s policy is on supporting drone strikes, and whether that policy is legal.
A recent decision by the Peshawar High Court (PHC) in Pakistan declared the CIA’s drone campaign to be a war crime, and ordered the Pakistani Government to take steps to put an end to it. By sharing intelligence in support of the campaign, GCHQ may be breaching both domestic and international law.
Cori Crider, Strategic director of the leagal charity Reprieve said: “These latest allegations should set alarm bells ringing over how far GCHQ respects the law when it comes to intelligence-sharing. This should be a particular concern when the result of that intelligence-sharing is the death of civilians as a result of the CIA’s illegal drone war. Ministers’ refusal to comment is not good enough – the British public have a right to know whether their Government is supporting a campaign which has been described as a ‘war crime’ by the Pakistani courts.”