Top lawyer finds GCHQ spying is illegal & UK spies who help US drone strike may be accessories to murder



The headline is wrong - only a judge can ‘find’ something illegal.

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The headline is fine. This is mostly for an American audience, so I’ll use these examples:

Read this, please as well:


I’m beginning to think pedantry is an incurable disease here at Boing Boing comment threads nowadays. Now I guess you’d like to have a lengthy, trite semantic argument over the usage of the word “find” and take over this thread instead of this perhaps breaking into a discussion of the lawyer’s opinion on spying, etc. and all the greater implications of this? What a bore.


I’m not a legal expert, but it seems that QCs are considerably lower in rank than AGs (there were more than 150 QCs in Scotland alone in 2005). Still, this is an official legal opinion requested by a minister that would carry some weight in UK law, so I don’t see why using the word “find” would be out of place here.

Opinions are usually published at the direction of the court, and to the extent they contain pronouncements about what the law is and how it should be interpreted, they reinforce, change, establish, or overturn legal precedent. If a court decides that an opinion should be published, the opinion is included in a volume from a series of books called law reports (or reporters in the United States). Published opinions of courts are also collectively referred to as case law, which is one of the major sources of law in common law legal systems.


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I’m also not sure that Cory was intending to use the term “find” in any way to trick the reader into thinking it was some kind of final high court decision considering all anyone has to do is follow the link or just read the part of his sentence where it says “top lawyer”, the words “may be” or just read the rest of his verbiage in the post. :wink:

I was just trying to show (but probably not very well) that many people use that terminology when describing “findings” from lawyers who are tied to the government and are asked for opinions.

If Cory was trying to swindle everyone, I would think he’d hatch a better plan. :wink:

But, in other news… it appears that the tide may be turning against suspicionless spying in the free world.

The problem is that this doesn’t seem to be a government lawyer acting in her official capacity to form government policy. It seems more akin to a corporate tax lawyer “finding” that a specific tax-avoidance strategy is legal (or not): it’s little more than a legal opinion. Actually, it’s not even that, because she appears to make multiple statements about what the law should be, and not what the law actually is (an example of this would be her conclusion that RIPA’s ca. 2000 treatment of metadata should be ignored given the role metadata plays in today’s society). In this sense the document is more of a policy brief than a pure legal opinion, and while it may be useful to legislators, in no way does it form official government policy; it’s simply an opinion that the legislators are free to use (or not) as they move forward.

I have no clue on the substantive merits of her actual legal analysis, and I would probably reserve judgment on it until legal commentators have weighed in. The Guardian piece offers no commentary whatsoever, and in this context we might want to remember that according to John Woo (who was actually shaping official policy in the US) and his thoroughly discredited “findings,” torture only begins when organs start to fail.


John Yoo

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It’s a legal opinion rather than a ruling - the government then would produce an opposite argument in favour of allowing their spying on UK citizens and their forwarding data to allow the US to target drone strikes onto foreign civilians, managed from RAF bases - a judge would look at each legal opinion and then produce a ruling in a judicial review. I’d be surprised if the UK would prosecute its GCHQ staff, to say the least. It’s rare for the police to be prosecuted when they gun down unarmed UK citizens on the street in error - the prosecution is only under health and safety law and results in a fine

“Top lawyer opines that GCHQ spying is illegal & UK spies who help US drone strikes may be accessories to murder”

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We could make a gentleman’s agreement that correcting grammar/spelling is fine if you also comment on the story. I definitely like when discussions are more about the topic and less about grammar but, If people’s mistakes are not called out they miss the chance to improve their writing.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not at least mention the story, as per my suggestion. I applaud this decision and would like to see more like this out of our judicial branch here in the US. Cheers!

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If people's mistakes are not called out they miss the chance to improve their writing.
I think "finds" was fine as is, but it is what it is.

I applaud this decision and would like to see more like this out of our judicial branch here in the US. Cheers!

I completely agree. I hope perhaps some other countries step up to the plate as well. But, I think the huge elephant in the room that’s getting relatively ignored is all the corporate spying that goes on. What’s not reported very much is the fact that the technology corporations keep lobbying the government to be able to keep collecting data on people. So when these same tech companies howl about NSA spying, I feel like they’re talking out of both sides of their mouths.’s Counterspin program covered this issue as well as Democracy Now.

I’m aware that it’s not at the same level as a ruling, but I was suggesting that it was more than just an opinion in the common sense of the term. This is why it’s important to know what words like “find” and “legal opinion” mean in this context. In what capacity was the legal opinion sought? Would it be recognised in court as part of a challenge to the legality of GCHQ activities? Would it prompt a review of the activities by the government? It’s nice that a senior lawyer feels that GCHQ actions are or should be illegal, but on a scale of internet comment to high court ruling, how significant is it?

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