By disclosing the 1.5 page document, the government had met these requirements, it said.

In a small concession to the claimants, the tribunal left open to further argument the possibility that prior to the release of the document, the regime had not been compliant.

Nick Williams, counsel for Amnesty International, said this “very limited weakness” was a “red herring”.

“The wider regime has massive and substantive weaknesses across the board – for example, the ability of government to sweep up meta data and use and analyse that without safeguards,” he said.

The government has continued to publicly neither confirm or deny the surveillance practices revealed by Snowden so the tribunal judgement was made on the hypothetical basis that these practices existed.

However the IPT refused to hear arguments on the same hypothetical basis about whether such surveillance is proportionate.

It said it would only consider the issue of proportionality in relation to the individual cases.

The tribunal is now expected to look at whether the groups’ communications were actually intercepted and if so, whether this was done on a legal and proportionate basis.

This will be done in closed sessions and the groups will only be told the outcome if a breach of procedure is uncovered.

The claimants plan to take their challenge to the legality of the regime to the European Court of Human Rights, as IPT decisions cannot be appealed in the UK.

Earlier this year the Bureau of Investigative Journalism challenged the government’s surveillance practices on the grounds that journalists’ sources and communications are inadequately protected from government scrutiny and mass surveillance.

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