Today the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO) launches a global public-information campaign to uncover information-sharing agreements between intelligence agencies. Eight of INCLO’s member organizations have filed Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to their governments in Argentina, Canada, Hungary, Ireland, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States in an attempt to shine a light on this critical seam of the global surveillance regime. 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.
In Argentina, the Citizen Initiative for Control of the Intelligence System (ICCSI in Spanish) – to which INCLO member CELS belongs – requested information of Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) Director Gustavo Arribas regarding:
-the existence of intelligence-sharing agreements between Argentina and other countries
-the system for administering AFI’s “reserved” funds, to fulfill the obligation to make their use transparent
-the regulations that AFI has implemented to comply with the categories of security declassification of information and their timeframes
-the system for intelligence-related telephone wiretapping: what kind of wiretapping is being done, in what quantity, and what mechanism is being implemented to safeguard the information obtained.
The Edward 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.
Intelligence-sharing arrangements potentially allow intelligence agencies to sidestep domestic legal constraints by funnelling surveillance data into a transnational intelligence network. We still know very little about the Five Eyes and other information-sharing relationships between governments. 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.
This action builds from INCLO’s report “Surveillance and Democracy: Chilling Tales from Around the World.” Through personal accounts of citizens targeted by their own governments, the report illuminates surveillance apparatuses in the North and South as well as varying efforts for reform.
In some countries, public pushback has achieved significant progress in restoring transparency and re-establishing privacy norms in domestic contexts. However, information-sharing agreements remain a critical blind spot, potentially providing intelligence agencies a backdoor to evade legal safeguards and retain surveillance data. This initiative is the first step to uncovering the extent of this threat.
To see all the FOI requests in detail, click here.
As member organizations receive responses, we will publish any documents released to INCLO’s website. INCLO also hopes to support other organizations seeking to file FOI requests in order to build capacity and encourage further public inquiry.