Edward Snowden, a former CIA officer has claimed that US security agencies shared and exchanged online data and phone records with the UK security agencies. William Hague has not however clarified whether the UK has had access to a US programme, Prism. Prism is said to provide America’s National Security Agency and the FBI with access to top online companies including, Google, Yahoo, Skype, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and many more. The companies have however denied giving access to the US government.
Mr Hague said “It has been suggested that GCHQ uses our partnership with the United States to get around UK law, obtaining information that they cannot legally obtain in the United Kingdom. I wish to be absolutely clear that this accusation is baseless.” He added that the people of the UK should still have confidence in the security agencies and “their adherence to the law and democratic values”.
He did however state that the exchange of information between the allies was “essential to the security of the country” and also that it had “saved many lives”.
The information gathered from the US regarding people of the UK was “subject to proper UK statutory controls and safeguards”, added Mr Hague.
“Our intelligence-sharing work with the United States is subject to ministerial and independent oversight and to scrutiny by the Intelligence and Security Committee. Our agencies practise and uphold UK law at all times, even when dealing with information from outside the United Kingdom.”
Mr Snowden has been identified by the Guardian newspaper as the main source of leaks of US security programmes. However the issue of surveillance has been addressed previously by the Prime Minister at an event in Essex. Mr Cameron said that UK security agencies were under proper scrutiny and “That scrutiny is important and I will make sure that it takes place.” “I’m satisfied that we have intelligence agencies that do a fantastic job to keep us safe and operate within the law”, he then added.
The Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander has argued in Parliament that the British people need to be assured that “government agencies are law abiding”. Several points of views have been put forward by other government officials and MPs; however it is yet to be confirmed as to whether government security agencies can actually scoop up information about its citizens.