Hazel Blears says security committee did know the scope of GCHQ snooping

 

A former cabinet minister has said that politicians did have a "broad understanding" of British spies' massive snooping operations before they were revealed in the Edward Snowden leaks.

Hazel Blears made the claim after a Commons committee - which she sits on - questioned spy chiefs over the legality of their methods.

The heads of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ all robustly defended their agencies, and told the Intelligence and Security Committee that the revelations has undermined their fight against terrorism.

Later that day, Ms Blears, a former Home Office minister, told BBC Newsnight that the ISC did have a "broad understanding" of what GCHQ's capabilities were.

Former cabinet member Chris Huhne wrote in The Guardian last month that ministers were in "utter ignorance" of the two biggest covert data-gathering operations, Tempora and Prism. He made no specific mention of the committee.

Ms Blears said: "We didn't know the names of these projects, and I'm sure the exact same situation applies in America. But in terms of broad capabilities, yes we did.

"We have been looking at them now for several years, we have been on several visits to GCHQ, we've had very, very confidential briefings about what the capabilities were and obviously we were satisfied that they were operating within our legal framework.

"They can collect that information but in order to go further and look at content or data they then have to have a target set of people of interest so the rest of the population are not people of interest."

From left, Andrew Parker head of Britain's domestic security agency MI5, John Sawers head of Britain's foreign spy service MI6 and Iain Lobban director of electronic surveillance agency GCHQ, as they take questions from Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, questioned on the work of their agencies, their current priorities and threats to the UK The revelations, from former US National Security Agency contractor Snowden via a range of newspapers, has played into the hands of terrorists, the intelligence chiefs insisted at the hearing, which was the first time they had ever been publicly grilled together.

MI5 chief Andrew Parker said suspects were now holding “near daily discussions” of what they were learning from the media about efforts to stop them.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral