News / Europe

UK Says Eavesdropping is Legal, Defends US Spy Links

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague leaves after attending a Cabinet meeting at Number 10 Downing Street in London, Mar. 12, 2013.
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague leaves after attending a Cabinet meeting at Number 10 Downing Street in London, Mar. 12, 2013.
Reuters
Britain said eavesdropping by its GCHQ security agency was legal and no threat to privacy but would not confirm or deny reports it received data from a clandestine U.S. intelligence program.
    
British and U.S. newspapers have suggested that the U.S. National Security Agency handed over information on Britons harvested by a secret program called PRISM.
    
In his first remarks on the subject, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the two countries did share intelligence but that GCHQ's work was governed by a very strong legal framework.
    
"The idea that in GCHQ people are sitting around working out how to circumvent a UK law with another agency in another country is fanciful," Hague told BBC TV on Sunday. "It is nonsense".
    
Promising he would give a statement on the subject to the lower house of Britain's parliament on Monday, Hague said there was no threat to privacy or people's civil liberties.
    
He was limited in what he could disclose, he said.
    
"Of course we share a lot of information with the United States," he said, adding that the two countries enjoyed "an exceptional intelligence sharing relationship."
    
"But if information arrives in the UK from the U.S. It's governed by our laws."
    
Britain's two-party coalition government is under pressure to reveal more details of how Britain and the United States share intelligence after the reports, based on a leak, suggested such cooperation ran much deeper than was previously known.
    
'Snoopers' charter by the back door'
    
Critics said the collaboration amounted to a "snoopers' charter by the back door", accusing the security services of having much greater access to Britons' phone and electronic communications than they are allowed to under British law thanks to the clandestine U.S. program.
    
But Hague said such fears were misplaced.
   
"Intelligence gathering in this country, by the UK, is governed by a very strong legal framework so that we get the balance right between the liberties and privacy of people and the security of the country."
    
Any intelligence gathering was "authorized, necessary, proportionate and targeted," he added, saying he personally authorized GCHQ intercepts "most days of the week".
    
The fuss coincides with a public debate in Britain about giving the security services more powers to eavesdrop after a British soldier was brutally killed in London last month in an incident the government described as a "terrorist" attack.
    
Douglas Alexander, the opposition Labour party's spokesman for foreign affairs, welcomed Hague's promise to address parliament on the subject, but said he needed to be more open.
    
"I will be asking the foreign secretary in the House of Commons tomorrow to clarify the role of his department in overseeing those legal frameworks," Alexander said in a statement.
    
"It is vital that the Government now reassures people who are rightly concerned about these reports."
    
Britain's parliamentary intelligence and security committee has demanded a report from GCHQ on the subject. By coincidence, its members are due in Washington on Monday to conduct talks with lawmakers and officials in the U.S. intelligence community.
    
Hague said most Britons had nothing to fear.
    
"If you are a law-abiding citizen of this country... you'll never be aware of all the things those [intelligence] agencies are doing to stop your identity being stolen or to stop a terrorist blowing you up tomorrow," he said.
    
"But if you are a would-be terrorist or the center of a criminal network or a foreign intelligence agency trying to spy on Britain you should be worried because that is what we work on and we are on the whole quite good at it."

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid