Human rights watchdog seeks details on foreign surveillance

ICCL and other bodies ask governments to disclose details of arrangements for sharing data

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has asked for details of how the State shares foreign intelligence information.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has asked for details of how the State shares foreign intelligence information.


A leading human rights watchdog has asked the Government and the State’s policing and defence agencies to release details of how they share intelligence surveillance with other governments.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) on Tuesday submitted requests under the Freedom of Information Act to the Department of Justice, An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces seeking information on the State’s information sharing agreements with other countries.

It informed the agencies that the arrangements “dramatically implicate the privacy of every person, both nationals and non-nationals”.

“However, to date those arrangements are largely shrouded in secrecy,” it said in correspondence to all three bodies.

The requests were submitted as part of a global public information campaign aimed at uncovering international information-sharing agreements between intelligence agencies.

The campaign is being coordinated through the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO), of which ICCL is a member.

The group says international information-sharing agreements between intelligence agencies potentially allow those agencies to sidestep domestic legal constraints by funnelling surveillance data into a transnational intelligence network.

Mass leaks

“The Snowden files and other mass intelligence leaks have yielded crucial information about the mechanics of domestic state surveillance. They also revealed more about intelligence cooperation through the Five Eyes, the post-war surveillance alliance established between the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, ” the ICCL said.

“However, surveillance regimes now operate on a global scale, extending far beyond Western democracies.

“We still know very little about the Five Eyes and other information-sharing relationships between governments, including intelligence alliances in the global south. By submitting requests for information in a geographically diverse array of states, INCLO hopes to expose these undisclosed alliances and learn more about their exact practice.”

Eight member organisations filed freedom of information requests with their governments today, in what they said was an attempt to shine a light on this “critical seam of the global surveillance regime”.

In his correspondence, ICCL executive director Liam Herrick is seeking all details of the circumstances in which Ireland may share foreign intelligence surveillance data with another country.

Electronic surveillance

He is also seeking details of the circumstances in which Ireland may request or acquire electronic surveillance data from another jurisdiction.

“This is the first multinational coalition demanding that governments release any and all information regarding agreements between intelligence agencies, and provide answers about a practice largely shielded from accountability,” ICCL said.

The action builds on a report by the INCLO last year entitled Surveillance and Democracy: Chilling Tales from Around the World.

The organisation said it would publish all documents released on foot of the requests submitted on Tuesday.