UK government getting US spy agency's data: Guardian

LONDON (AP) - Britain's Guardian newspaper said that the UK government has been secretly gathering communications data from American Internet giants through the medium of the US National Security Agency (NSA).

The paper said that it has seen documents showing how a British intelligence agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has had access to America's "Prism" system since at least June 2010.

The programme has generated 197 intelligence reports in the past year, Guardian reported.

GCHQ declined to comment on the story on Friday, saying only that it takes its legal obligations "very seriously".

The Guardian said evidence for GCHQ’s involvement came from the same 41-page Powerpoint presentation cited on Thursday by both that paper and The Washington Post as the basis for their reports on PRISM, a heretofore-unknown eavesdropping programmeused to  collect emails, documents, audio, video, and other data from major Internet companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple.

While PRISM is theoretically targeted at data belonging to foreigners on foreign soil, the Post said that the spies merely have to believe there was a better than even chance that the target is foreign before scooping up its data. The paper also cited  training material as saying that inadvertently spying on Americans was “nothing to worry about".

It was not clear whether British officials would be subject to the same restrictions with respect to their own citizens, and the traditionally close links between GCHQ and the NSA have already worried some in the UK who fear that British spies may be  eavesdropping on their own citizens through American espionage programmes.

"The UK government must tell us what they knew about PRISM," said Mr Jim Killock, who directs the London-based Open Rights Group. In a statement released earlier on Friday, Mr Killock called for an investigation into “whether the UK government or  intelligence agencies were in any way involved with any related invasion of UK citizens’ privacy".