Edward Snowden leaks: UK 'let NSA store email addresses'

Edward Snowden in a file photo Edward Snowden fled to Russia in June after leaking details of US espionage

The UK allowed the US National Security Agency to keep the mobile phone numbers and email addresses of ordinary Britons from 2007, reports say.

Channel 4 News and the Guardian said existing rules were modified in 2007 to allow the US to keep information swept up incidentally about Britons not suspected of criminal activity.

The reports are based on documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Foreign Office said it did not comment on such "speculation".

Under the seven-decade-old UK-US agreement on intelligence sharing, Britain and America's intelligence agencies are not supposed to collect information on each other without permission.

Before 2007, if the US - on one of its other operations - had come across a British mobile phone number or email address, it would not have been able to keep it.

But, according to the documents, after the rules changed, the US was allowed to keep those records to analyse them for the specific purpose of "contact chaining".

That means looking at the connections between different phone numbers or email addresses.

'Questions raised'

BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera said it was not quite the same as reading emails or listening to mobile phone calls, which still requires a warrant.

But he said the documents raised questions about the motive behind the decision and to what extent the public had a right to know about such programmes.

It is also claimed that a 2005 memo raised the possibility of the US carrying out surveillance on British nationals without British permission when it was considered to be in America's national interest.

But it is not clear if that proposal was acted on.

The Foreign Office said in a statement it did not comment on "speculation around intelligence matters".

"If you are a terrorist, a serious criminal, a proliferator, a foreign intelligence target or if your activities pose a genuine threat to the national or economic security of the United Kingdom, there is a possibility that your communications will be monitored," the statement added.

"If you are not, and if you are not in contact with one of those people, then you won't be. That is true, actually, whether you are British, if you are foreign and wherever you are in the world."

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden fled to Russia in June after leaking details to the media of extensive internet and phone surveillance by American intelligence.

Mr Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, is wanted by the US on espionage charges over his actions.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    "If you've nothing to hide then you've nothing to fear" - said the hopeful fool on his way to room 101.

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    That both Snowden and Assange are ´on the run´, the feeling that OUR freedoms are really what is at stake is being demonstrated by the UK, USA and Sweden.

    No one argues that terrorism must be stopped --but (#654) --we have to accept that our government is the real enemy ?

    -- If they are only ´doing their job´--you suggest circumventing it ?

    -- You would give Dictatorial Rights ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    4 Minutes ago
    #647 Cardiff

    -- The problem is how the information can be manipulated.
    no the issue is people think communicating on the internet how ever innocent is safe and like a conversation verbally in the open air evaporates into the ether .Like your smart phone its footprint is here for ever if you have something sensitive to say write it on paper and post it

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    #647 Cardiff

    -- The problem is how the information can be manipulated.

    In East Germany there was even the story of pubic hair collection -to be placed when convenient --in the National Interest.

    --a few child pornographic pictures on your computer appears simple to place.

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    Those who support govt snooping & condemn Snowden have simply no idea that they're dismissing hard won freedom, naively buying into govt propaganda about "security" & terrorism threats.

    Ironically people who appreciate the depth of such outrage are also those who suffered under totalitarian regimes such as soviet blocs, cultural revolution China & military regimes in south America & Far East.


Comments 5 of 656


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