Cabinet knew nothing of spy programmes alleges Chris Huhne
On Monday former energy secretary Chris Huhne used his column in The Guardian to claim that ministers were kept in the dark about the Tempora and Prism spying programmes carried out by Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and America’s National Security Agency (NSA), respectively.
Huhne stated that even the National Security Council (NSC), which he attended briefings of, was not informed about the scale or nature of information being collected on both British and American citizens.
He wrote: “If anyone should have been briefed on Prism and Tempora, it should have been the NSC. I do not know whether the prime minister or the foreign secretary (who has oversight of GCHQ) were briefed, but the NSC was not.”
According to Huhne the first he learned about the programmes was from Edward Snowden’s leaked documents to The Guardian and went on to say that he was “shocked and mystified” by the revelations.
Huhne heavily criticised the practices of GCHQ and the Home Office, writing: “This lack of information, and therefore accountability, is a warning that the supervision of our intelligence services needs as much updating as their bugging techniques.”
He also accused the Home Office of deliberately misleading ministers by canvassing them to upgrade Britain’s capability to recover data whilst it was clearly already carrying out the practices it was seeking approval for.
Huhne took aim at the proposed communications data bill describing the civil liberties implications of the bill as “nauseating” and casting doubts over its £1.8 billion price tag. Furthermore, he questioned why the bill is needed at all.
“Some of the explanations for this political mystery are not pretty. Maybe GCHQ is not as confident as it claims about the legality of what it has been doing… Maybe GCHQ is not as capable as its now-leaked boasts claim: every public body has a budget to protect. Or it might have been embarrassing, pre-Snowden, to admit to GCHQ’s capability”.