'Banksy' GCHQ mural still unconfirmed as Snowden praises Pulitzer Prize committee

Mysterious artwork appeared on the side of a property in Cheltenham, the home of intelligence agency GCHQ

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The Independent Culture

Guerilla graffiti artist Banksy is believed to be behind a mural depicting suspicious-looking figures eavesdropping just three miles away from the GCHQ headquarters.

The artwork's appearance comes as whistleblower Edward Snowden praised the Pulitzer Prize committee for recognising the newspapers that published his leaked details of surveillance carried out by GCHQ and the National Security Agency.

The mural was spotted on the side of a house in Cheltenham, the home of intelligence agency GCHQ, on Sunday morning and depicts three men in trenchcoats and trilbys using listening devices around a BT phonebox.

The Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post were jointly honoured with the Pulitzer Prize for public service, recognising the roles they undertook in exposing the sweeping electronic surveillance methods adopted by the NSA based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Mr Snowden.

Mr Snowden, currently claiming asylum in Russia, released information suggesting GCHQ also carried mass surveillance operations using programmes such as Prism and Tempora to spy on citizens, businesses and even foreign allies.

A spokesperson for GCHQ said they too were intrigued over the mural’s mysterious appearance. In a statement, it said: "This is the first time we have ever been asked to comment on art.

"Although we are not qualified critics, we are as intrigued as the rest of the residents of Cheltenham about the appearance of the mysterious artwork.

"For those who are interested, our website (www.gchq.gov.uk) gives a glimpse of what modern day intelligence operatives are really like, although some may be disappointed by the lack of trench coats and dark glasses."

Meanwhile, Banksy, who has not confirmed he is is behind the artwork, has posted a new art mural on his website that is being dubbed 'Mobile Lovers', but its location (at least for the next few hours) remains a mystery.

Additional reporting by PA