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Germnay demands answers from Britain over GCHQ surveillance

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Germnay demands answers from Britain over GCHQ surveillance

Post  Panda on Wed 26 Jun - 9:46

Germany demands answers from Britain over GCHQ surveillance
The German government has expressed its rising anger over Britain's monitoring of global phone and internet traffic and has directly challenged the legality of the controversial surveillance project.

The move by the Germany government to highlight its discomfort over the actions of GCHQ is the first time Britain has been asked to publicly justify its mass surveillance operation Photo: PA
By By Bonnie Malkin
12:48AM BST 26 Jun 2013
On Tuesday, justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger sent two letters to the British justice secretary, Chris Grayling, and the home secretary, Theresa May, demanding to know the extent to which German citizens have been targeted and warning that democracy could not flourish when states employ a "veil of secrecy" to obscure their actions.

Describing the revelations over GCHQ's surveillance operation as "like a Hollywood nightmare", Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger asked for clarification of the legal basis for Project Tempora and demanded to know whether the programme has been authorised by any judicial authority, according to the Guardian. She also asked for information on the specific nature of data that was collected and whether "concrete suspicions" triggered the data collection.

"I feel that these issues must be raised in a European Union context at minister's level and should be discussed in the context of ongoing discussions on the EU data protection regulation," Ms Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger wrote.

The move by the Germany government to highlight its discomfort over the actions of GCHQ is the first time Britain has been asked to publicly justify its mass surveillance operation.

The Home Office said it would not comment on "private correspondence", while the Ministry of Justice said only that it would respond to the letter in due course. William Hague, meanwhile, has shrugged off criticism, saying Britain should have nothing but pride in its "indispensable" intelligence-sharing relationship with the US.

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But condemnation of the practice continues, with a senior Conservative warning British intelligence agencies had "violated the rights" of the public if they have handed personal information to the US without proper legal checks.

David Davis accused GCHQ of circumventing "inconvenient laws" by handing information to the US. Writing in The Guardian, he said: "As the Prism controversy has exposed, there is nothing to stop GCHQ from handing over our personal information to US security services so they can pick through it at will."

He said such actions "would constitute an extremely serious violation of the rights and freedoms of British citizens".

The British inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, also waded into the controversy yesterday, accusing the West of hypocrisy and questioning the ability of governments to keep the personal data they have collected safe.

"In the Middle East people have been given access to the internet but they have been snooped on and then they have been jailed," he told The Times.

"Obviously it can be easy for people in the West to say 'Oh those nasty governments shouldn't be allowed access to spy', but it is clear that developed nations are seriously spying on the internet."

GCHQ could be formally investigated by a watchdog to see if it unlawfully accessed communications.

Liberty, the civil rights group, complained to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal over what it described as "out-of-control" spying and asked to examine whether human rights and official safeguards have been breached.

Documents disclosed by the American

whistle-blower Edward Snowden suggest that the intelligence agency accessed fibre-optic cables. The agency is said to be able to tap into and store data from the cables for up to 30 days for analysis under an operation code-named Tempora.

GCHQ is also said to have accessed information about British citizens via the US National Security Agency's secret Prism monitoring programme.


Turkey has previously complained about Britain spying.

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