UK needs new spy watchdog

2014-05-12 20:54
Edward Snowden. (File, AFP)

Edward Snowden. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

London - Britain should create a new body to oversee its intelligence agencies to reassure the public after revelations from ex-US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the former head of the British foreign intelligence service said on Monday.

Documents leaked by Snowden exposed the vast scale of surveillance carried out by Britain's intelligence agencies and their close collaboration with America's National Security Agency, sparking a public debate about how they operate.

Richard Dearlove, head of Britain's MI6 spy agency between 1999 and 2004, said that meant the public now needed greater assurances that espionage powers were not being abused.

"Snowden has damaged the West's capability with his revelations," Dearlove told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in London. "But I also think what he has done is increase the knowledge and understanding of what the government's capabilities are in these areas.

"There is probably a need to create some sort of committee which is independently appointed - isn't from the judiciary, isn't made up of politicians - that acts as a guarantor in terms of assuring the public that these powers are not being abused."

In the United States, President Barack Obama has set out a series of reforms to the country's intelligence agencies in response to a public outcry triggered by Snowden's revelations.

Civil liberties groups, lawmakers and parts of the British media have seized upon the Snowden leaks, which included details about the interception and storage of millions of webcam images, to argue for greater oversight of intelligence agencies' work.


Dearlove, who headed the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) during the 11 September, 2001 attacks in New York, said that while he was confident intelligence operations had not been illegal, he still felt an independent overseer should be set up to provide greater scrutiny and public reassurance.

Britain's current spy chiefs have resisted calls for greater scrutiny and transparency, arguing the Snowden leaks put British operations at risk. A senior security official said last month that terrorists had changed their methods of communication because of the leaks.

In Britain, oversight of the intelligence services rests with a parliamentary committee and three other judicial and expert offices. The chair of the parliamentary committee, Malcolm Rifkind, recently defended his role and praised the work of Britain's spy agencies, saying they had no desire to be "all-seeing" or "all-hearing".

However, last week lawmakers criticised the current structure as outdated and lacking credibility.

Dearlove said an independent body "representative of a multiplicity of views from across society" would improve the system. "Credibility is a key issue if it's appointed, but I think if you have a broad enough cross section of people drawn from different sectors of society it could add reassurance."

Snowden fled the United States last year after downloading some 1.7 million computerised NSA files showing spying on the emails, phone calls and internet use of hundreds of millions of people including leaders of US allies.

He leaked documents to selected media, and was granted temporary asylum in Russia.

Read more on:    edward snowden  |  us  |  russia  |  uk  |  espionage

Obama votes early in Chicago

2014-10-20 22:00

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Watch: 5 skills to improve your BMX riding

Learn some great skills that will help your riding on the road and on the track.


Where were you when you last felt alive?

Tips on how to set your fitness goals
This all-terrain vehicle is badass!
The TRUTH about painkillers and exercise
WIN! Where were you when you last felt alive?

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


There is a strong social and romantic overtone that plays its way into your day. It may get stronger later in the day when more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.