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North Yorkshire MP seeks answers on UK spy details
12:26pm Thursday 10th October 2013 in News
A NORTH Yorkshire MP has demanded Government clarification that the Guardian newspaper has not broken the law by sending detailed personal information about British spies across borders.
Tory Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) pointed out that doing so would put security agents and their families lives at risk and said the newspaper had not denied sending such detailed family and personal information abroad.
Mr Smith said such practice was illegal and asked Commons Leader Andrew Lansley to get clarification from Home Secretary Theresa May that the law is being upheld and that the Guardian is "not hiding behind the fig-leaf of journalism".
Mr Lansley said he would ask Mrs May to consider Mr Smith's comments and added that the head of MI5 was absolutely right to say the Guardian's disclosures about British intelligence agency mass surveillance programmes were "a gift to terrorists".
Mr Lansley called on the Guardian to exercise its own accountability after publishing information on GCHQ surveillance programmes obtained from former US intelligence operative Edward Snowden.
Turning to Mr Lansley in the Commons, Mr Smith said: "As part of its reporting on national security issues, the Guardian newspaper has not denied sending detailed family information and personal information about security agents across borders.
"This is illegal, it's threatening our agents and their families. Please can we have a statement from the Home Secretary to clarify that the law will be upheld whether or not the organisation involved is hiding behind the fig-leaf of journalism."
Mr Lansley said: "I think the House knows that the freedom of speech which we all so highly prize comes with a responsibility and I think the members of the House and the public will have been very struck by what it was that the director-general of MI5 said during the course of this week and I'm sure he was absolutely right to say it.
"In that context if I may I will ask the Home Secretary to consider the point you raise and how she might inform the House in due course.
"But it does seem to me that regardless of any action that is taken by government, it is incumbent on the Press, the Guardian in this context, to exercise its own accountability for the decisions that they have made."
Mr Lanlsey's comments came after MI5 director general Andrew Parker warned in a speech that the disclosure of the reach and limits of GCHQs capabilities was a gift to terrorists.
Mr Parker dismissed suggestions that the agencies were trawling through people's private lives for anything that looked interesting as utter nonsense.
A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron has described Mr Parker's speech as excellent.
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