US-UK intelligence-sharing indispensable, says Hague


William Hague: "Intelligence work takes place within a strong legal framework"

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Britain and the US should have "nothing but pride" in their "indispensable intelligence-sharing relationship", the UK foreign secretary has said.

William Hague, speaking in Los Angeles, acknowledged recent controversy over intelligence gathering by the UK's GCHQ and the US National Security Agency.

But he said the nations operated "under the rule of law" and used information only to protect citizens' freedoms.

Mr Hague also praised the transatlantic "special relationship" as "solid".

In recent weeks there has been concern about the monitoring activities of GCHQ, the UK's eavesdropping centre.

Start Quote

In some countries secret intelligence is used to control their people. In ours, it only exists to protect their freedoms”

End Quote William Hague Foreign Secretary
'Strong legal framework'

It accessed information about UK citizens from the US National Security Agency's monitoring programme, Prism, documents leaked by American whistleblower Edward Snowden suggest.

He remains wanted for questioning by US authorities, but is currently in the transit area at Moscow airport.

GCHQ has insisted it is "scrupulous" in complying with the law.

"We should have nothing but pride in the unique and indispensable intelligence-sharing relationship between Britain and the United States," Mr Hague said in his speech at the Ronald Reagan Library.

"In recent weeks this has been a subject of some discussion.

"Let us be clear about it. In both our countries, intelligence work takes place within a strong legal framework.

'Special relationship'

"We operate under the rule of law and are accountable for it. In some countries secret intelligence is used to control their people. In ours, it only exists to protect their freedoms."

Mr Hague also sought to portray the UK coalition government's policies as an ideological continuation of those espoused by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

He said: "Not all countries are willing to exert themselves to defend the freedoms they enjoy, but in the United Kingdom and United States of America we are.

"There is no greater bastion of freedom than the transatlantic alliance, and within it the special relationship, always solid but never slavish."

Mr Hague added: "Some say it is not possible to build up our countries' ties in other parts of the world without weakening those between us. But I say these things go together.

'Win over global opinion'

"The stronger our relationships are elsewhere in the world, the more we can do to support each other and our allies."

On broader policy, Mr Hague said: "We do not need to accept sleepwalking into decline any more than Reagan and Thatcher did before us.

"We have centuries of experience in building up democratic institutions, from our courts to our free media, that other countries wish to draw on and adapt, from Burma to North Africa.

"We have the soft power and cultural appeal to attract and influence others and win over global opinion."

Mr Hague went on: "We have not yet exhausted all the means of building up and extending our influence. It is not so much the relative size of our power that matters in the 21st Century, but the nature of it, and how agile and effective we can be in exerting it."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    I've no problem with intelligence agencies sharing data.

    So long as that data has been legally obtained in both the source country and according to the laws of the destination country.

    We've refused intelligence gathered from torture in other countries because thats illegal here. So we shouldnt accept intelligence gathered in high-tech, yet illegal ways from the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    UK-US Intelligence sharing should only be done if both countries share equally!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Fair enough William Hague but mass surveillance is entirely different. Despite the endless ex-foreign secretaries rubbishing Snowden's claims, not one current minister or MI5 official is prepared to catergorically deny this is happening. What are we protecting our democracy for if this is going on? The stasi or KGB by another name.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Would that be the same US-UK intelligence sharing agreement under which UK agencies are obligated to share all intelligence they acquire, yet the reverse is not true of US agencies?

    Because personally I think we'd be better off without such a blatantly unequal arrangement.

    The fact the US can also extradite any UK citizen (again, reverse not true) makes their spying on us all the more worrying.


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