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9 Oct, 2013 02:14

'Gift to terrorists': MI5 chief pans Guardian, Snowden leaks

'Gift to terrorists': MI5 chief pans Guardian, Snowden leaks

Leaks by Edward Snowden about the UK’s surveillance activities are a “gift” to terrorists helping them elude the intelligence agencies’ ability to track and punish them, the head of UK’s MI5 announced.

In his first public speech since April, Andrew Parker told the public that revelations in the Guardian caused "harm" to Britain’s intelligence services, by providing an “advantage” to terrorists. Serving as a “guide book” to terrorists, who could use the leaked information to evade law enforcement and act against UK’s “margin of advantage.”

“What we know about the terrorists, and the detail of the capabilities we use against them, together represent our margin of advantage. That margin gives us the prospect of being able to detect their plots and stop them. But that margin is under attack,” Parker said referring to the Snowden leaks.

According to Parker, Whitehall considers these revelations as the greatest damage to the security framework in history as they provide the ‘advantage’ to terrorists.

“It causes enormous damage to make public the reach and limits of GCHQ techniques. 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 said.

The UK’s security services are working to close the gaps by “tackling threats on more fronts than ever before.”“It remains the case that there are several thousand Islamist extremists here who see the British people as a legitimate target,” Parker said.

The MI5 chief has also reassured the public that UK’s intelligence service does not spy on private citizens.

Headquarters of the British Security Service formerly known as MI5

“In some quarters there seems to be a vague notion that we monitor everyone and all their communications, browsing at will through people's private lives for anything that looks interesting. That is, of course, utter nonsense.”

The first leaks about the NSA and GCHQ from Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the NSA appeared in early June and were published in the Guardian by US journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Greenwald since then has published tens of thousands of words detailing intelligence gathering techniques used by the UK and US to monitor emails, phone calls and communications on the internet. The publication revealed that NSA supplies data to GCHQ, the organization responsible for providing signals intelligence and information to the British government and armed forces. Furthermore, Snowden’s leaks revealed that data was mined through direct access to the servers of AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Paltalk, Skype, Yahoo and YouTube.

On Tuesday, Greenwald promised to continue informing the public about the wrongdoings of the NSA and its partners worldwide.

It is alleged that Greenwald first met with Snowden in Hong Kong last summer, when the NSA contractor handed over stolen NSA documents, becoming one of the largest security breaches in history.

Edward Snowden, in fleeing US prosecution, has been granted the political asylum in Russia, on a condition that he will stop leaking NSA documents that damage the United States’ interests. The Greenwald publications are based on information Snowden provided before arriving in Russia.

MI5’s assessment of the damage level of the whistleblowers activities concurs with the US’s general assessment of the threat posed by the leaks.

In August, the McClatchy foundation revealed the names of the terrorists whose communications were monitored by the US ahead of the massive Western embassy closure throughout the Muslim world.

Senior US officials speaking on condition of anonymity told The New York Times that the McClatchy report has resulted in more damage to American national security than the thousands of pages of classified material leaked by Snowden.

American spies are now “scrambling to find new ways to surveil” Al-Qaeda leadership and underlings because of a “sharp drop in the terrorists’ use of a major communications channel,” according to a Times report published earlier this month.