“Law-abiding” citizens have “nothing to fear” from the British intelligence services, the foreign secretary says.
William Hague said reports that the UK’s eavesdropping centre GCHQ had circumvented the law to gather data on British citizens were “nonsense”. But he refused to confirm or deny claims GCHQ has had access to a US spy programme called Prism since June 2010.
Mr Hague confirmed he would give a statement to Parliament on the allegations on Monday.
Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show, the foreign secretary declined to say whether or not he had personally authorised GCHQ to engage with the US internet monitoring programme Prism. But he said GCHQ’s operations were subject to stringent legal checks and scrutiny.
He said: “That legal framework is strong, that ministerial oversight is strong.
“The net effect is that if you are a law-abiding citizen of this country going about your business and personal life, you have nothing to fear about the British state or intelligence agencies listening to the content of your phone calls or anything like that.
“Indeed you will never be aware of all the things that these agencies are doing to stop your identity being stolen or to stop a terrorist blowing you up tomorrow.”
The government has come under pressure to respond to allegations that Prism has allowed GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process for obtaining personal material such as emails, photographs and videos, from internet companies based outside the UK.
Mr Hague – the minister responsible for GCHQ – said it would “defeat the object” to reveal how GCHQ or the security services work, because it would help terrorist networks, criminal networks, and foreign intelligence agencies.
– BBC News