Clegg and Cable disagree over Guardian’s role in Snowden leaks – while Jack Straw says newspaper showed ‘extraordinary naivety and arrogance’

The political row over whether revealing secrets behind GCHQ was a ‘public service’ or ‘gift to terrorists’ continues

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have clashed again – this time over the role the Guardian played in publishing security leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden

While the Business Secretary said in no uncertain terms that the newspaper had performed “a very considerable public service” in publishing the secret material, the Lib Dem leader told the BBC it was “not good at all” to publish information that might “help terrorists”.

Mr Cable had earlier said the revelations, which showed the extent of mass surveillance programmes operated by the US National Security Agency and Cheltenham-based GCHQ, meant a rethink was needed of how politicians oversee operations of Britain’s intelligence service.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he is ready to listen to ideas on how to improve the system, though he believes the checks currently in place do a good enough job.

As Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Clegg said: “My view is that publishing information, technical information which can help terrorists work out how to do harm to us, of course, that is not good at all.

“But of course there is a legitimate, wider debate, an ongoing debate, about how do you make sure, as both the intelligence agencies and those who wish to do us harm, use these considerable new powers at their disposal in information technology, how do we make sure that all of that is held properly to account.”

Former Home Secretary Jack Straw, meanwhile, was far more outspoken in condemning the actions of the Guardian – making comments which will be broadcast in the BBC’s Sunday Politics Wales programme that tallied more with those of MI5 chief Andrew Parker.

Mr Straw said the “sense of power” the newspaper received from getting the secrets had “gone to their heads”.

“They are blinding themselves about the consequence and also showing an extraordinary naivety and arrogance in implying that they are in a position to judge whether or not particular secrets which they publish are - are or not - likely to damage the national interest.”

Sir David Omand, the former head of GCHQ who was once homeland security adviser to Number 10, said the leak of tens of thousands of files by the former US intelligence operative eclipsed the Cambridge spy ring, which saw five university students recruited as Soviet spies.

Earlier this week, MI5 head Andrew Parker warned that the Snowden leaks were a “gift” to terrorists, by exposing the “reach and limits” of the GCHQ listening post. His comments sparked criticism in some quarters of The Guardian's decision to give Snowden publicity.

But Mr Cable defended the newspaper, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “I think The Guardian has done a very considerable public service. I think Mr Snowden's contribution is twofold, one of which is a positive one - which is whistle-blowing - and the other of which is more worrying, that a large amount of genuinely important intelligence material does seem to have been passed across.

“The conclusion that Nick Clegg came to and set out this morning is that we do need to have proper political oversight of the intelligence service and arguably we haven' t done until now.

“What they did as journalists was entirely correct and right. Mr Snowden is a different kettle of fish.”

Mr Snowden, who is in Russia, leaked information to the Guardian in May that revealed mass surveillance programmes such as the NSA-run Prism and GCHQ's Tempora.

Under the £1 billion Tempora operation, GCHQ is understood to have secretly accessed fibre-optic cables carrying huge amounts of internet and communications data and shared the information with the NSA.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game