Snowden leaks 'put spies at risk': May says traitor has damaged intelligence agencies across the world including MI5 and MI6
- Theresa May says Edward Snowden leaks have hit MI5 and MI6 resources
- Home Secretary launches scathing attack on harm caused by the fugitive
- He stole 1.7m files from America's National Security Agency and GCHQ
Leaks by the US traitor Edward Snowden have ‘damaged’ intelligence agencies across the world and drained vital resources from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, Theresa May warned last night.
The Home Secretary made a scathing attack on the harm caused by the fugitive – who stole 1.7 million top-secret documents from America’s National Security Agency and GCHQ.
The secret techniques revealed by the subsequent leaks to the Guardian newspaper have made it easier for terrorists, jihadis and organised criminals to avoid detection.
Leaks by the US traitor Edward Snowden (pictured) have ‘damaged’ intelligence agencies across the world Theresa May has warned
Last night, it emerged vital safe houses had also been lost.
Security officials have had to abandon buildings used to house top-secret sources for fear they have been compromised – at huge cost to the British taxpayer.
In evidence to MPs, Home Secretary Mrs May said: ‘I assess and so does the director general of MI5 that the Snowden leaks did cause damage.
‘It has had an impact on the ability of our agencies to do the work they need to do. It would be fair to say it has had an impact not just on agencies in the UK.
‘If work has been done to try to mitigate the impact, that uses resources’.
Tory MP Michael Ellis, a member of the home affairs select committee, said: ‘It is clear to me the damage Snowden has done is monumental.
‘Not only has he jeopardised national security by his leaks, but he has also put people at risk and it is clear that he has also caused considerable financial loss.’
It came amid new revelations about the extent to which British extremists are attempting to travel to Syria to join Islamic State.
Mrs May said that - in the few weeks since the law was changed – five suspected jihadis had been subjected to a new power allowing for the seizure of their passports.
Police are now assessing whether the extremists can be charged with any criminal offences.
Security officials say IS has seized on the Snowden leaks and has passed on information to its operatives – making it harder to track them down.
The Home Secretary (pictured) made a scathing attack on the harm caused by the fugitive – who stole 1.7 million top-secret documents from America’s National Security Agency and GCHQ
Al Qaeda is also known to have pounced on the leaks.
The terror group’s senior operatives have changed the way they communicate to avoid detection.
They have also produced a video tape handed to extremists, passing on tips.
The chilling seven-and-a-half minute video – which includes news footage of Snowden’s massive security breach – provides detailed graphics on how extremists can avoid being trapped by ‘FBI Secret Spying technology’ when communicating.
It also claims to identify technology companies who are co-operating with the UK and other countries so they can be avoided.
There is a list of software packages which can be used to try to thwart GCHQ and the intelligence agencies.
At the same time, GCHQ has lost track of some of Britain’s most dangerous criminals because of the way the fugitive exposed its operations.
Intelligence officials had to stop monitoring drug gangs, paedophiles, human traffickers and money launderers.
Up to a quarter of crime gangs are believed to be going undetected, sources have said.
Not only has he jeopardised national security by his leaks, but he has also put people at risk
In other cases, GCHQ has toned down or abandoned surveillance amid fears that the tactics are too easy to spot and could force criminals to ‘go dark’ and fall off the radar completely.
Among the gangs left able to operate unhindered was a drug-smuggling ring which had continued to bring Class A narcotics into Britain.
Ex-MI5 boss Jonathan Evans said the Snowden revelations have left Britain less able to protect itself at a time when the terrorist threat from Islamist fanatics is surging.
Former security minister Lord West said: ‘Since the revelations of the traitor Snowden, terrorist groups – in particular Isil (Islamic State) – have changed their methods of communications and shifted to other ways of talking to each other.
‘Consequently there are people dying who actually would now be alive.’
GCHQ has also warned that some companies had begun advertising internet products that were supposedly ‘Snowden compliant’.
Snowden, who was a computer specialist at an intelligence centre in Hawaii, tricked colleagues into giving him passwords so he could copy up to 1.7million files in one of the biggest leaks in US history.
The defence contractor claims he had to act because the US and other Western government’s policies were a ‘threat to democracy’. He fled to Hong Kong, then Russia, where he was granted asylum and now lives in a secret location
But last week, Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee cleared GCHQ of carrying out mass surveillance of the public using vast trawls of internet traffic.
Devastatingly, it said the central claims made by the Guardian newspaper - that GCHQ had ‘blanket coverage’ of web communications and was rooting indiscriminately through private messages - were wrong.
In reality, it said, GCHQ can access only a small part of the web and operatives see only a ‘tiny fraction’ of the messages collected after a sophisticated filtering process.
The committee concluded that the only items seen by analysts were those of the ‘highest intelligence value’, and these amounted to several thousand a day.
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