Edward Snowden leaks 'gift' to terrorists says MI5 chief
Andrew Parker says NSA whistleblower has caused 'enormous damage' to efforts to thwart jihadists
THE head of MI5 says newspaper leaks explaining how intelligence agencies intercept voice and internet communications are a "gift" to terrorists and have strengthened their hand.
Andrew Parker, the spy agency's director-general, did not mention the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden by name, the Financial Times reports. But he made it clear that the thousands of documents about the NSA and GCHQ passed by Snowden to The Guardian were seriously hampering the fight against jihadists.
"It causes enormous damage to make public the reach and limits of GCHQ techniques," Parker said in his first public speech since taking the reins of MI5 in April. "Such information hands the advantage to the terrorists. It is the gift they need to evade us and strike at will. Unfashionable as it might seem, that is why we must keep secrets secret, and why not doing so causes such harm."
Parker was "dismissive" of The Guardian's claim that the publication of stories based on documents provided by Snowden is in the public interest. And in what the FT calls the "most vigorous defence by any government figure of the security services' policy on interceptions," he insisted it was "utter nonsense" to suggest intelligence services were eavesdropping on everyone's communications.
"The idea that we either can or would want to operate intensive scrutiny of thousands is fanciful," he said. "This is not East Germany or North Korea... Britain is a democracy that rightly prizes the freedom of the individual. We do not want all-pervasive, oppressive security apparatus."
Both the Daily Mail and The Times saw Parker's address to London-based think tank the Royal United Services Institute as a rebuke both Snowden and The Guardian. In the eyes of the Mail, it was a "blistering attack" on the left-leaning broadsheet, while the Times says the key message is that "it can never be in the public interest to help terrorists improve their attack planning".
The Guardian's report of Parker's speech describes it as a "robust defence of the techniques used by Britain's intelligence agencies". The paper agrees that some of the MI5 chief's "strongest remarks" appeared to be directed at Snowden, but found no implied criticism of its own role in the dissemination of secrets.
The paper repeats its claim that its reports based on the leaked files "have raised questions about the scope of surveillance in the UK and US – and whether the agencies are facing enough scrutiny in this new era".
During his speech Parker also warned that Al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Pakistan and Yemen present "the most direct and immediate threats to the UK". ·