Why we’re taking legal action over the Prime Minister’s secret order to British spies

Reprieve and Privacy International have launched legal action after the government refused to reveal the subject matter or contents of a secret order governing the activities of the British security services. Here’s why. 

We know this secret policy – the ‘Third Direction’ – covers a large area of covert activity that is at least as serious and intrusive as interrogating detainees overseas and the mass collection of personal data.

The discovery of this secret order has raised an important question – if controversial policies on torture and mass surveillance have been published, what else can the government possibly hiding?

Human rights obligations

We are concerned that the activities overseen under the secret Third Direction may breach the UK’s domestic and international obligations under the Human Rights Act and European Convention on Human Rights.

If it involves the use of lethal force, harsh interrogation techniques, incommunicado detention without trial, surveillance, blackmail or censorship, then the human rights implications could be enormous.

We’re launching legal action against the government because the British public has a right to know what the security agencies are doing in our name. We know from past British involvement in illegal black site secret prisons, torture and rendition that when the law is cloaked in secrecy, abuses can flourish.

A license to breach fundamental human rights

We’re concerned that The Third Direction may give our Government license to breach fundamental human rights. So we’re asking the Prime Minister to publish the Third Direction so we can ensure that legal and ethical red lines are not being crossed.

We recognise the need for the security services to operate without the world knowing their operational secrets, but it is simply wrong for the law which governs their activity to be kept under wraps. .

The Prime Minister needs to stop hiding behind this secret Third Direction and have the courage and leadership to tell the British public what her government is up to. She could avoid this legal action by publishing the Third Direction in an appropriate  form.