View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

Tory peer voices alarm over GCHQ snooping, former DPP condemns self-serving rhetoric of spy chief

By Darren Boyle

A  Tory peer and former Home Office minister David MacLean has blasted GCHQ for passing over internet browsing details of UK citizens to the US security services.

Maclean, who is now known as Lord Bencathra, said he was “deeply, deeply concerned” about the situation highlighted in The Guardian following Edward Snowden’s leak of classified documents.

Speaking to The Guardian, Bencathra said Parliament should investigate what is happening with this data and should decide whether these surveillance programmes should continue or prohibited.

He criticised the lack of transparency from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ on the issue.

“Some people were very economical with the actuality. I think we would have regarded this as highly, highly relevant. I personally am annoyed that we were not given this information.”

Bencathra, who seen as being on the right of the Conservative Party, has raised questions about the Tempora surveillance programme exposed by the Guardian which enables GCHQ to monitor private internet traffic.

“We dislike leaks. Yes, we disapprove in many ways of what the Guardian has done, but at the same time we are deeply, deeply uneasy about what has been going on.

Content from our partners
How PA Media is helping newspapers make the digital transition
Publishing on the open web is broken, how generative AI could help fix it
Impress: Regulation, arbitration and complaints resolution

“I don’t want people like Mr Snowden endangering national security. But I do not want our national security apparatus operating in what seems to me to be outside the law or on the very edge of the law.

“Or if it is just within the law, certainly without Parliament knowing. Many of us are happy to have certain information collected by the state but,  by God, we’ve a right to know the perameters under which they are operating.

“Doing a deal with American security services to share information they have lifted about Brits I think is something the British public, through parliament, should either stop or consent to.”

Bencathra’s opposition was supported by former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Ken MacDonald:

“Andrew Parker, the new director general of MI5, should be slower to employ this foolish, self-serving rhetoric, which naively begs a perfectly legitimate question: how should we ensure that those privileged to be granted special powers to intrude into everything that is private, serve a real public interest, rather than the dangerously false god of securitisation for its own sake?"

He told The Guardian: “Spooks, who once sat in cubicles steaming open the glued-down flaps of a few dozen suspect envelopes, now have more fertile plains to furrow and the marvellous means to do it. Now they can steam open everything.

“So it seems very obvious that when it comes to surveillance and techniques of domestic spying, the law should be the master of technology. Anything else risks a spiralling out of control, an increasing subservience of democracy to the unaccountability of security power.

“This means, at the very least, that as technologies develop, Parliament should consider afresh the rules that govern their use by state agencies.”

Meanwhile in the Daily Mail again attacked the Guardian over its handling of the Snowden revelations.

It claimed the Guardian’s sent classified documents to the US by Fed-Ex courier service.

Alex Carlile QC told the Daily Mail: “I think it is astonishing that top-secret material has been placed in a public parcel delivery system.”

He suggested the Attorney General should consider taking legal action against the Guardian as a result of the leaks.

However the Daily Mail said the Guardian has refused to confirm how the data was transferred to the US. 

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network