Thursday 22 February 2018

Snowden leaks have put lives at risk, leading police officer warns

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden

Margaret Davis

Secrets leaked by computer analyst Edward Snowden have put lives at risk, a senior counter-terror police officer has warned.

Assistant Commisioner Cressida Dick said she agreed with a claim made by MI6 chief Sir John Sawers that terrorists would be "rubbing their hands with glee" at the disclosures.

She said: "I've spoken to all the agency heads on a number of occasions. They see what's going on every day.

"They see the evidence, and I think even if you don't do that, if you look at some of the things which have been apparently revealed you can see immediately how that would affect people's way of working.

"It will be putting, I believe, people's lives at risk, whether they are agents, sources or members of the public."

Yesterday editor of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger told MPs that the newspaper had published details from just 1% of the files disclosed by Mr Snowden, a former contractor with America's National Security Agency (NSA).

In a heated evidence session, Mr Rusbridger, 59, said he and his colleagues were "patriots" and hailed the UK's democracy and free press after he was asked by committee chairman Keith Vaz if he "loved this country".

A number of MPs attempted to challenge the editor over the legality of his decision to publish the information, but Mr Rusbridger insisted the move had the backing of senior officials linked to governments and intelligence agencies across the world.

Later in the day Ms Dick told the committee Scotland Yard were investigating material seized from David Miranda, the partner of former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, at Heathrow Airport as it appears possible offences were committed.

Asked by David Winnick MP if The Guardian would continue to publish material in the face of intimidation, Mr Rusbridger said: "We've been working slowly and responsibly through this material, with some of the best journalists in the world, a hundred contacts with government and agency sources - we will continue to consult them but we're not going to be put off by intimidation but nor are we going to behave recklessly."

Mr Rusbridger said 850,000 people worldwide had access to the files Mr Snowden leaked.

But the leaks have attracted heavy criticism, including comments made by head of MI5 Andrew Parker earlier this year, who warned in a speech that revealing details about the work of GCHQ was a "gift to terrorists".

Asked to respond to the criticism, Mr Rusbridger said The Guardian was not a "rogue newspaper" and other editors of "leading" newspapers published details from the NSA files.

The editor quoted back officials who believed no damage had been done by the publication of the information - including a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a senior official within the Obama administration and a Whitehall official.

Asked about names of intelligence officers included in the NSA files, Mr Rusbridger said: "We have never used a single name. We've published no names and lost control of no names."

Asked by Mr Vaz if he loved "this country", he replied: "I think there are countries, and they're not generally democracies, where the press are not free to write about these things, and where the security services do tell editors what to write, and where politicians do censor newspapers.

"That's not the country that we live in, in Britain, that's not the country that America is, and it's one of the things I love about this country - that we have that freedom to write, and report, and to think and we have some privacy, and those are the concerns which need to be balanced against national security, which no one is underestimating, and I can speak for the entire Guardian staff who live in this country that they want to be secure too."

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