Hague defends GCHQ in whistleblowing row

WILLIAM Hague has denied that spy agency GCHQ circumvents the law in order to snoop on citizens, insisting that the UK has one of the world’s strongest systems of checks and balances to prevent unnecessary intrusions.

Speaking to MPs yesterday, the foreign secretary said claims that GCHQ uses Prism – a US monitoring system that gives agencies access to personal data held by internet companies including Google and Facebook – to bypass the UK legal system were “baseless” and that intelligence-sharing agreements with the US were subject to the same regulations as other spy work.

“Any data obtained by us from [the US] involving UK nationals is subject to proper UK statutory controls,” Hague said.

His defence of GCHQ came after former CIA worker Edward Snowden blew the lid on Prism. Snowden leaked documents to the Guardian that reportedly reveal how the FBI and US National Security Agency easily gain access to millions of people’s data.

Snowden, whose identity was revealed on Sunday night, has sought refuge in Hong Kong. Some US politicians called for him to be extradited and prosecuted yesterday and the US Justice Department started a criminal probe into Snowden’s activity. His management consultancy employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, saw its shares fall by as much as five per cent yesterday.

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