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Alan Rusbridger to appear before Parliament to defend Snowden leaks

By Darren Boyle

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger will appear before the Commons home affairs committee to defend his decision to publish the Edward Snowden files.

The series of stories showed the extent of GCHQ’s snooping on email, phone and text communications.

The revelations have led to an investigation by Congress in the US and caused friction between President Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel after it was revealed the National Security Agency had regularly hacked her phone.

A Guardian spokeswoman said: “Alan has been invited to give evidence to the home affairs select committee and looks forward to appearing next month.”

Earlier this week, the heads of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ all appeared before parliament this week claiming the Guardian weakened Britain’s national security.

GCHQ boss Sir Iain Lobban said terrorists had changed how they communicate with each other while criminals and even paedophiles have benefited by the revelations.

Tory MP Julian Smith has been a vocal critic of the Guardian’s decision to publish some of the files.

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He has even written to the head of the Metropolitan Police Sir Bernard Hogan Howe to investigate whether Rusbridger has broken anti-terror legislation.

Smith has written to Dame Liz Forgan, Chair of the Scott Trust asking for a suitable date to appear before a cross party group of MPs and peers.

Earlier, Smith and 27 other Conservative MPs wrote directly to Rusbridger asking for further clarification on the newspaper’s coverage of the Snowden files.

Julian Smith MP (Credit Amnesty International)

In his letter, Smith (pictured above) asked: “Your right to report on these leaks is fundamental to the freedom of the press. Yet we are deeply concerned about the way you have sometimes chosen to do so.

“In our view, as Members of Parliament, there can be no doubt that the level of detail you are publishing runs the risk of compromising the vital work of the institutions, processes and people who protect the safety of this country from an increasingly wide, asymmetric and complex range of threats.”

He continued: “We also have serious concerns that he GCHQ files and documentation that we understand that you duplicated and sent to both the New York Times and foreign bloggers, contain information, which, if accessed by terror groups or unfriendly or hostile foreign powers, could risk British national security.”

A spokeswoman for the Guardian said: "We welcome the fact that the intelligence chiefs acknowledged that htey need to be more open as a result of the Snowden disclosures, but we surprised that unlike in the US and Europe there was no substantive discussion at all about anything Snowden revealed. 

"The disastrous loss of classified data was not the responsibility of journalists but of the intelligence community itself. It is only the involvement of global newspapers that prevented this information from spilling out across the web and genuinely causing a catastrophic leak. 

"We understand that the agencies will always warn that any form of disclosure has a damaging impact on their work – but this cannot mean the end of all questioning and debate."

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