UK Spy Chiefs Quizzed

November 7, 2013 by  

UK Spy Chiefs Quizzed, The heads of the UK’s spying agencies are being quizzed by MPs and peers in an unprecedented televised hearing.

GCHQ director Sir Iain Lobban, MI5 director general Andrew Parker and MI6 chief Sir John Sawers are fielding questions from the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Intelligence chiefs have given evidence in private for many years.

The questioning follows leaks by ex-US security contractor Edward Snowden which raised concerns about spying.

Committee chairman Sir Malcolm Rifkind began the hearing by saying it was a “very significant step forward in the transparency of our intelligence agencies”.

The agency chiefs explained what they saw their role as in a post-Cold War world and whether they were worth the £2bn in taxpayers money they receive each year.

MI5 chief Andrew Parker said it was a “proportionate investment against the threats the country faces,” adding: “The suggestion somehow that what we do is somehow compromising freedom and democracy – of course we believe the opposite to be the case.

“The work we do is addressing directly threats to this country, to our way of life and to the people who live here.”

MI6 chief Sir John Sawers was quizzed about why the security services had failed to predict the fall of the Soviet Union, 9/11 and the Arab Spring.

He said that was not their job, telling the committee: “We acquire the secrets that other countries don’t want us to know… we are not all-knowing specialists in what’s going to happen next month or next year.”

Documents leaked to the Guardian newspaper by Mr Snowden – who is currently in Moscow where he has sought sanctuary from the US – revealed that agencies are able to tap into the internet communications of millions of ordinary citizens through GCHQ’s Tempora programme.

Leaks also suggested its American counterpart, the National Security Agency, had bugged the phone calls of several world leaders.

‘Mass spying’
The Intelligence and Security Committee has already carried out a limited investigation into claims that GCHQ used the American National Security Agency’s vast Prism programme, which gathers information from internet companies, to circumvent UK laws.

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