Chris Huhne: did Home Office try to mislead MPs over Prism?
Former minister claims cabinet was in 'utter ignorance' over GCHQ spying programmes
FORMER energy minister Chris Huhne has questioned whether the Home Office tried to mislead Parliament over the GCHQ spying programmes.
Writing in The Guardian today, he claims cabinet ministers were in "utter ignorance" about Tempora, a scheme set up by GCHQ, and Prism, run by America's National Security Agency.
The two programmes, which allowed the agencies to harvest, store and analyse data about millions of phone calls, emails and search engine queries, were revealed by the Guardian earlier this year from files leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
As a cabinet minister and member of the National Security Council (NSC), Huhne says he would have expected to be told about the operations. "If anyone should have been briefed on Prism and Tempora, it should have been the NSC," he writes. "I do not know whether the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary [who oversees GCHQ] were briefed, but the NSC was not."
He questions whether the Home Office had deliberately misled Parliament about the need for the communications data bill when GCHQ already had extensive snooping capabilities.
"Throughout my time in Parliament, the Home Office was trying to persuade politicians to invest in 'upgrading' Britain's capability to recover data showing who is emailing and phoning whom," he writes. "Yet this seems to be exactly what GCHQ was already doing. Was the Home Office trying to mislead?"
Huhne has called for better scrutiny of the intelligence agencies and tougher limitations on surveillance techniques. "Joseph Goebbels was simply wrong when he argued that 'if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear'. Information is power, and the necessary consequence is that privacy is freedom. Only totalitarians pry absolutely," he says.
Huhne resigned in February after he admitted to perverting the course of justice over claims his ex-wife took speeding points for him. He spent 62 days in prison and was released in May. ·