British Spy Chiefs Appear Before MPs, Sound Like American Counterparts

Today the heads of British security agencies MI5,
MI6, and GCHQ were questioned by the Intelligence and
Security Committee
, something that usually occurs in

During the hearing MI5 Director General Andrew Parker claimed
that 34 terrorist plots have been disrupted since the 2005
bombings in London
, MI6 chief Sir John Sawers said that “our
adversaries were rubbing their hands with glee,” and GCHQ Director
Sir Iain Lobban told the committee that “We don’t want to delve
into innocent emails and phone calls,” and that some people being
monitored have discussed different ways to communicate since
Snowden’s leaks.

Of course, similar sorts of justifications and complaints
relating to surveillance have been heard before on this side of the
Atlantic. NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander claimed that surveillance
programs have prevented
of terrorist attacks. President Obama said that “at
least fifty” plots had been averted thanks to surveillance, a claim
that is backed up
with little evidence

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R.Ga.)

have claimed
 that terrorists have been changing their
behavior since the leaks, a claim not unlike the one made by

The hearing in the U.K. comes in the wake of a number of
controversies surrounding the British intelligence community that
have emerged since the publication of Edward Snowden’s

Earlier this week the British ambassador in Berlin was summoned
by the
German foreign ministry
after reporting, based in part on
Snowden’s revelations, emerged alleging that the British had been
using its embassy to spy on the German government.

Snowden’s leaked information also revealed information on the

Tempora program
run by GCHQ, which allows the agency to access
personal data online, as explained by Philip Bump at
The Atlantic

Working closely with America’s National Security Agency, the
GCHQ is about halfway done implementing “Project Tempora.”
Comprised of two parts, suggestively dubbed “Mastering the
Internet” and “Global Telecoms Exploitation,” the project aims to
eventually allow the agency (and its partner) to survey over 90
percent of the cables that route through the United Kingdom,
pulling data from 400 at once. “As of last year,” the Guardian
reports, “the agency had gone half way, attaching probes to 200
fibre-optic cables each with a capacity of 10 gigabits per second.
In theory, that gave GCHQ access to a flow of 21.6 petabytes in a
day, equivalent to 192 times the British Library’s entire book
collection.” Full content of transmissions is preserved for three
days andmetadata for 30. Between them, the GCHQ and NSA have 550
analysts poring over the data — and 850,000 people with top secret
clearance can access it. We’ve known for weeks that the NSA shares
its PRISM data with the UK; now we know it also goes in

Read more from on the NSA and Edward Snowden here and here

from Hit & Run

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