Britain’s GCHQ embroiled in spy scandal

ËœUK govt. used U.S. spying data to monitor Britonsâ„¢

British eavesdropping agency (GCHQ) has become embroiled in the U.S. Prism programme scandal, in which spying agencies had been given access to intelligence gathered by U.S. surveillance of phone records and internet servers including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype.

Chairman of parliamentâ„¢s intelligence and security committee (ISC), Sir Malcolm Rifkind said that GCHQ listening post was to give the committee full details of GCHQâ„¢s link to the U.S. Prism programme.

“The ISC is aware of the allegations surrounding data obtained by GCHQ via the US Prism programme. The ISC will be receiving a full report from GCHQ very shortly and will decide what further action needs to be taken as soon as it receives that information”, said Sir Malcolm.

According to leaked documents seen by British media outlets GCHQ had access to Prism since at least June 2010 and the U.S. network was said to have generated 197 intelligence reports through the system in the 12 months to May 2012 – a 137 percent increase on the previous year.

The Cheltenham-based intelligence-gathering centre was allowed to misuse the Prism programme to circumvent the legal process usually required to obtain personal material like emails, photographs and videos from internet companies based outside the UK, the reports said.

Former shadow home secretary David Davis said the programme appeared to allow the state to “spy on who they like”, adding: “It is actually quite a scandal”.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights group Liberty, said: “These reports suggest a breach of trust on the grandest scale with the U.S. government, Internet Service Providers and our own UK intelligence community showing contempt for privacy, legality and democracy itself.

“Don’t we still believe that spies should be accountable to the public they serve and protect? This is the kind of arrogance behind the attempted ‘snoopers’ charter’. Have those who failed to persuade in the parliament chamber decided to smuggle blanket surveillance in through the back door?”

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary William Hague moaned to the House of Commons: Å“Claims that GCHQ used private data from United States security agencies to circumvent the law are baseless”.

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who revealed the existence of the Prism system, has condemned the U.S. government’s attempts “to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberty”.

Details about the programme and GCHQ’s involvement emerged following a leak by the former CIA worker at the National Security Agency (NSA).

Snowden, 29, revealed his identity after fleeing to Hong Kong, telling reporters: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

MOL/HE

This article originally appeared on: Press TV