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Iran Press TV

UK objects probe into cyber espionage

Iran Press TV

Sat Nov 9, 2013 3:10PM GMT

Britain has refused to endorse a declaration by the 47 members of Europe's human rights agency on Internet freedom after objecting to an investigation into the gathering of 'vast amounts of electronic data' by intelligence agencies.

During a Council of Europe ministerial conference in the Serbian capital city of Belgrade dubbed Freedom of Expression and Democracy in the Digital Age on Friday, the British government blocked a 14-page document which was due to be published later in the day, The Guardian reported.

The document titled Political Declaration and Resolutions states that the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, which established the European Convention on Human Rights, should examine whether the gathering of data by intelligence agencies is consistent with the Convention.

'We invited the Council of Europe to ... examine closely, in the light of the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights, the question of gathering vast amounts of electronic communications data on individuals by security agencies, the deliberate building of flaws and 'backdoors' in the security system of the internet or otherwise deliberately weakening encryption systems,' says the disputed part of the draft declaration.

The refusal to endorse the Council of Europe declaration is perceived as a sign of the UK government's resolve to protect the work of the British eavesdropping agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

The UK has sought to defend its intelligence-gathering activities in the wake of recent revelations by American whistleblower and former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden about the joint spying practices of GCHQ and its American counterpart, the NSA.

According to Snowden's leaked documents, the GCHQ was secretly accessing millions of phone calls and electronic communications, using the NSA's Tempora program to circumvent UK law.

On Thursday, MI6 chief Sir John Sawers spoke out in support of GCHQ activities, saying, "The leaks from Snowden have been very damaging, they've put our operations at risk."

He added, "It's clear that our adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee, al-Qaeda is lapping it up."


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