[QODLink]
Europe

UK spymasters defend surveillance tactics

Intelligence bosses say they are not compromising freedom as they give public evidence in parliament for the first time.

Last updated: 07 Nov 2013 17:51
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
In the past, hearings involving UK intelligence chiefs have been behind closed doors [Getty Images]

Britain's spy chiefs defended their activities as they gave public, televised evidence to British MPs for the first time amid a fierce debate over intelligence tactics following leaks of mass spying on citizens and foreign allies.

Andrew Parker and John Sawers, the heads of Britain's domestic agency MI5 and its foreign spy service MI6, and the director of the GCHQ, Iain Lobban, fielded questions from Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee on Thursday.

Parker defended his spies, and their methods. "The suggestion that somehow what we do is somehow compromising freedom and democracy - we believe the opposite to be the case,'' he said.

Leaks by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden showed that British spies are involved in mass surveillance of the communications and internet activities of British citizens, hoovering up the details of tens of millions of calls and messages a month. They also spied on foreign allies and shared their information with counterparts in the United States.

No evidence

"The leaks from Snowden have been very damaging, they've put our operations at risk. It's clear that our adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee, al-Qaeda is lapping it up,"  Sawers told the committee.

British spy agencies have provided no information to the public how Snowden's revelations have harmed their activities. Nor have they proved how spying on millions of British citizens, foreigners and foreign governments has given them any advantage against their adversaries.

Lobban came closest to giving a concrete example at the hearing, saying that GCHQ had caught groups in the Middle East and elsewhere discussing how to switch to more secure means of communication after the Snowden leaks broke. 

"I am not going to compound the damage by being specific in public," he said, instead promising politicians a private briefing on the details.

The committee previously has taken evidence in private from the security chiefs. Their appearance on Thursday was being televised with a slight delay.

305

Source:
Reuters
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.