Originally published in the Daily Mail
US traitor Edward Snowden’s ‘reckless’ intelligence leaks have helped terrorists, child abusers and people-smugglers conceal their ‘vile’ crimes, an expert warned last night
Lord Carlile, the Government’s former independent reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, said it had become much easier for them to avoid detection because the fugitive had exposed spy agencies’ techniques.
Speaking at the launch of a major study into the damage done to Britain’s intelligence agencies by the revelations, he also blasted newspapers including the Guardian for ‘irresponsibly’ publishing details of their top-secret tactics.
The study, by the Henry Jackson Society security think-tank, is the first comprehensive public analysis of the harm inflicted on intelligence agencies around the world after Snowden, a former CIA contractor, stole the secret documents in 2013.
The 81-page report, which drew heavily on evidence from senior security sources, found that extremists including those from Islamic State had adapted their tactics following the bombshell leaks.
It concluded that the Britain’s spy agencies – MI5, MI6 and GCHQ – needed greater powers to monitor suspects and intercept their communications to keep the country safe.
Report author Robin Simcox said: ‘There is a significant problem regarding governments’ diminishing ability to access communications data.’
Lord Carlile, the Government’s former independent reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, said it had become much easier for them to avoid detection because the fugitive had exposed spy agencies’ techniques
He found that in the wake of the Snowden leaks, at least three Al Qaeda-linked terror groups had changed their communication methods to avoid detection.
Extremist websites had begun to protect their digital communications by releasing encryption programs for their followers whilst jihadist videos were passing on tips on how Islamist fanatics can avoid surveillance.
Revelations about spy techniques had ‘polluted ongoing operations, due to fear of discovery’ – meaning operatives in the field were at risk of exposure so crucial intelligence-gathering had to stop.
The report, called Surveillance After Snowden, also warned that internet firms were increasingly uncooperative with security service requests for information on private communications.
The former CIA contractor stunned the world by leaking information about attempts by spy agencies to view citizens’ private information, claiming internet history, emails, text messages, calls and passwords were harvested.
But while privacy campaigners expressed outrage about the intrusive methods, the disclosures made it more difficult for spies to find and track jihadists plotting to target Britain.
Mr Simcox said: ‘No-one wants to live in a surveillance state like Russia or China. We should always be protective of our privacy. But freedoms depend on us having security.’
The study said: ‘Ultimately, Snowden only exposed that our agencies are essentially doing what we ask: they are not spying on the phone calls of ordinary citizens or brazenly looking at our emails; they are legally intercepting certain communications in an attempt to advance the national interest.
‘The state giving up these powers invites attack from terrorists, cyber-criminals or a host of other state and non-state actors.’ It added that Snowden’s behaviour was ‘wildly reckless and irresponsible’.
The report was published as the Government plans to introduce an Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed a ‘turbo-charged snoopers’ charter’ by critics, which is expected to be more wide-ranging than the 2013 Communications Data Bill which was shelved after opposition from the Liberal Democrats.