It's right to debate surveillance powers, says Clegg
The use of mass surveillance programmes by Britain's intelligence agencies is a totally legitimate area for debate, Nick Clegg has said.
The Deputy Prime Minister said some of the "technical secrets" disclosed by the former US intelligence operative Edward Snowden and published in the Guardian would be of "immense interest" to terrorists. But he said it was right that there should be a public debate about the wider issues regarding the use of surveillance technology by agencies such as GCHQ.
His comments came after the director general of MI5, Andrew Parker, warned that the disclosure of the "reach and limits" of the GCHQ's capabilities was a "gift" to terrorists. He dismissed suggestions that the agencies were trawling through people's private lives for anything that looked interesting as "utter nonsense".
Speaking on his weekly radio phone-in on LBC 97.3, Mr Clegg acknowledged that the disclosures were damaging.
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"I have got no doubt that there were some parts of what was published which will have passed most readers of the Guardian completely by, because they were very technical, that would have been of immense interest to people who want harm," he said.
But he added: "I think there is a totally legitimate debate to be had – and my experience speaking to people in the intelligence agencies is they recognise this – about the use of these new, incredibly powerful technologies."