Reports reveal that Britain’s domestic intelligence service, the MI5 can allow its agents to engage in multiple criminal activities, including murder, torture and kidnap.
This authorization came after a London court allowed the MI5 the power to operate in criminal groups, as part of United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new government’s measures to renovate laws pertaining to espionage.
MI5 to engage in Criminal Activities
Judges presiding over the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled in a majority verdict that MI5 has the authority to allow its informants and agents to operate in criminal groups, even if the policy itself advises no legal immunity.
The case was focused on the authorizations that had been disclosed by the Prime Minister Theresa May last year.
As cited by Bloomberg, Judge Rabinder Singh said, “The case raises one of the most profound issues which can face a democratic society governed by the rule of law.”
The use of covert agents is an essential tool for MI5 as it carries out its job of keeping the country safe
This verdict has arrived at a time when Boris Johnson seeks to refurbish law and bring them in line with the United States as part of a campaign to crackdown on hackers, spies and saboteurs working for foreign powers, such as Iran, North Korea and Russia. The judges observed that disallowing MI5 from operating agents in criminal organizations “would strike at the core activities of the Security Service.”
The tribunal referred to the MI5’s own regulations for agents and their handlers, which notes that authorization “will be the service’s explanation and justification of its decision,” if the agent’s activities come under the scrutiny of the police or other prosecution authorities.
Reprieve, amongst other human rights campaigning organizations, had urged the court to grant an injunction “restraining further unlawful conduct”. However, the request was dismissed in a 3-2 decision. The Reprieve stated that this was the first dissenting opinion to ever be published in the 20-year history of the tribunal.
Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve, said in a statement, “The IPT’s knife-edge judgment, with unprecedented published dissenting opinions, shows just how dubious the government’s secret policy is.” Foa said that the groups intended to obtain permission to appeal.
A spokesperson of Britain’s Home Office said in a statement, “The use of covert agents is an essential tool for MI5 as it carries out its job of keeping the country safe.”