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Iran Press TV

'UK spies snooping on communications data in bulk'

Iran Press TV

Thu Mar 12, 2015 5:3PM

British lawmakers have, for the first time, acknowledged that the country's spy agencies are snooping on private communication data in bulk.

A report by Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee has found that the spies are reading thousands of private communications every day. But it says the interception does not count as blanket surveillance or reading everyone's emails.

'Given the extent of targeting and filtering involved, it is evident that while GCHQ's bulk interception capability may involve large numbers of emails, it does not equate to indiscriminate surveillance,' a committee member said.

The report does not specify the exact number of intercepted data. But it is the most detailed public disclosure yet of Britain's electronic snooping abilities.

'What this report demonstrates is that the investigating committee is more or less a mouthpiece for our spies. But they said something which is extraordinary stupid to me. They have said: "Because our intelligence agencies collect a vast amount of data but only see and read a small fraction. That does not constitute mass surveillance". I have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. The mass surveillance goes on. It doesn't change the fact that the mass surveillance is carrying on', Alan Hart, London-based author, journalist and researcher told Press TV.

Hart said the House of Commons' intelligence security committee would not have looked into the matter if US whistleblower, Edward Snowden had not made all those revelations about how much we are being spied upon.

'Privacy breach'

Britain's GCHQ and its American counterpart, National Security Agency were at the center of a storm following leaks from former US intelligence contractor Snowden. The two agencies are accused of eavesdropping on not only some of the top world leaders but even ordinary citizens across the globe.

According to the revelations made Snowden, GCHQ received private communications intercepted by the NSA through its "mass surveillance" programs, Prism and Upstream.

'There are a number of reasons why the government is spying on the citizens. It's not just because of the rise of terrorism like the ISIS. It's due to with the fact that the governments know that the citizens of their nations either they are British, American, French or whatever; [we] are all entirely fed up with our political systems. So, the system is not stupid. The system is anticipating that will come the day when people will express their anger and they will revolt', Hart concluded.

The parliamentary report says spy agencies do not seek to break the law, but that the legal framework should be simplified into a single act of Parliament. The agencies' surveillance powers have been under scrutiny since Snowden leaked details of spies' ability to monitor phone and online communications.

GCHQ used bulk interception to uncover threats by finding patterns and associations to trigger leads, a tactic that the report said was a crucial. However, many analysts call the tactic simply a breach of privacy.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of rights campaign group Liberty, has also denounced the parliamentary committee saying it was simply a 'mouthpiece for the spooks'.

'No doubt it would be simpler if we went along with the spies' motto of 'no scrutiny for us, no privacy for you' -- but what an appalling deal for the British public,' she said.

'No remorse'

The UK government, in the past, issued a robust defense of GCHQ saying any legal move would not alter in any way the work of the monitoring agency. In line with the government policy, the latest committee report also found that the intelligence agencies did not seek to circumvent the law.

The report, however, recommended that the current laws on intrusion be replaced by a new legislation. It said the legal framework surrounding surveillance is unnecessarily complicated and 'lacks transparency'.


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