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Tribunal: UK spy agency kept data on rights groups too long

LONDON (AP) — A British tribunal has ruled that the electronic eavesdropping agency GCHQ violated the rights of two overseas human rights agencies by failing to delete intercepted data on time.

The judges of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled Monday that GCHQ kept intercepted data from The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and The Legal Resources Center of South Africa for longer than allowed.

The tribunal did find that the original interception of the data was lawful and appropriate. The tribunal is charged with investigating and ruling on complaints about surveillance practices by public authorities, including Britain’s security services.

It is requiring GCHQ, which stands for Government Communications Headquarters and is the British counterpart of the U.S. National Security Agency, to confirm within 14 days that the data has been destroyed.

The ruling was in response to a complaint filed by Liberty, Privacy International and other civil rights advocates.

It follows an earlier ruling in December that generally backed GCHQ’s surveillance practices.

The eavesdropping agency posted a statement on its website Monday indicating it was “working to rectify the technical errors” identified in the new ruling.

It said it welcomed the tribunal’s assertion that the interception of data had been lawful and that the policy breaches weren’t serious enough to warrant compensation for the agencies involved.

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