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Iran Press TV

British MPs accuse spying agencies of misleading parliament over Tempora

Iran Press TV

Wed Oct 16, 2013 9:34AM GMT

Britain's spying agencies have been accused of seriously misleading the country's parliament over how far they were able to intrude public's privacy without their consent.

This came after a former Labour cabinet minister warned that the spying agencies including the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), MI5, the country's domestic spying apparatus and its foreign spying counterpart MI6, have been carrying out mass surveillance without parliament's consent.

The warning was made by Nick Brown, a former chief whip who was a member of the parliamentary committee tasked with reviewing the government's draft communications data bill or the so-called "snoopers' charter."

Earlier in the spring, the coalition government failed to get enough endorsement for its "snoopers' charter" bill to become law amid Liberal Democrats' concerns that it would breach people's privacy.

The "snoopers' charter" was drafted in a bid to give GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 more powers to collect and save information about people's internet activities.

According to Nick Brown, a Labour MP, there was an 'uncanny' similarity between the GCHQ's secret surveillance programmes, entitled Tempora, which was disclosed by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden and proposals in the first part of the "snoopers' charter" bill.

'The similarity between part 1 of the proposed data communications bill and the events Mr Snowden is describing as already taking place is uncanny,' Brown said.

'It covers the same set of circumstances. The bill was trying to be permissive in that all material could be saved for a year. It now looks very much like this is what is happening anyway, with or without parliament's consent under GCHQ's secret Tempora programme," he added.

Tempora allows GCHQ to harvest, store and analyse millions of phone calls, emails and search engine queries by tapping the transatlantic cables that carry internet traffic.

Meanwhile, two other Liberal Democrat members of the joint committee demanded that the Home Office explain why it did not expose the extent of GCHQ's spying capabilities during the committee's inquiry.

The committee's probe concluded at the time that the "snoopers' charter" bill carried a risk of 'trampling on the privacy of citizens.'
'Those of us on the committee were never told by any Home Office officials about the fact the data was already available,' said one of Lib Dem MPs.

'In our report, we accused them of being misleading. It seems they were far more misleading than we could have realised at the time. Presumably, the home secretary knew that this was information they already had available, in which case she was not fully open with the committee. If she didn't know, that raises real questions about her role.'


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