Hit or miss? William Hague faces questions in Commons on cyber snooping

Foreign Secretary William Hague appeared in the Commons on Monday following claims by a whistleblower in The Guardian that the US National Security Agency could spy on communications by non-Americans by accessing emails and data held by firms such as Google, Microsoft and Apple.

Hague: Faced questions over spying
Hague: Faced questions over spying

The revelations sparked fears that British citizens could have been spied on by UK intelligence agency GCHQ through its links with the NSA. 

How I see it

Mike Harvey, head of content at Bite; former head of European comms for Google and former news editor for The Times.

Hague was never going to reveal the inner workings of the UK spy networks and was smart enough to set out his parameters early on.

‘I’m not going to tell you anything that will aid terrorists,’ he said, implying that those who might want more detail were on the side of the evil-doers. He then focused on the issue of legality. ‘Trust me, there’s nothing to see here, all the checks and balances are in place,’ he added.

Hague calculated correctly that without a smoking gun of real harm to real human beings (as opposed to the principle of individual privacy), most of the electorate want reassurance without scary specifics. The Foreign Secretary, usually a polished Despatch Box performer, played the straightest of bats and the coverage in the next day’s papers was limited. Job done.

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