Head of GCHQ Robert Hannigan accused of being ‘securocrat’ destroying Britain’s ‘best traditions’ and regard for rule of law.
Human rights groups have dismissed claims made by the head of the UK government’s communications headquarters that the internet has become a “command-and-control network” for terrorists.
The criticism came on Tuesday after Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) chief Robert Hannigan wrote in the Financial Times daily that some U.S. technology companies were “in denial” about how their social media websites were being used, saying groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, had “embraced the web”.
He wrote: “GCHQ and its sister agencies, MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service, cannot tackle these challenges at scale without greater support from the private sector, including the largest US technology companies which dominate the web.”
Hannigan also controversially declared that “privacy has never been an absolute right”.
But Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, asked in a statement to Anadolu Agency: “In what democracy do securocrats dictate policy or make law?”
“Mr Hannigan shouldn’t grab the megaphone whilst wearing the headphones or use threats and smears that ignore due process and the rule of law,” she said.
“Rather than trashing our best traditions for convenience, the UK should lead the way on improving lawful access to data between states in the fight against terrorism,” Chakrabarti added.
UK-based privacy rights organization Privacy International called Hannigan’s remarks “disappointing” and said the internet was “the greatest tool for innovation, access to education and communication humankind has ever known”.
Deputy Director Eric King said in a statement to Anadolu Agency: “Before he condemns the efforts of companies to protect the privacy of their users, perhaps he should reflect on why there has been so much criticism of GCHQ in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations.”
Files leaked by Edward Snowden last year containing revelations about the scope and nature of the largely illegal surveillance activities carried out around the global by the National Security Agency (NSA) sparked widespread outrage.
King added: “GCHQ’s dirty games – forcing companies to handover their customers’ data under secret orders, then secretly tapping the private fibre optic cables between the same companies’ data centers anyway – have lost GCHQ the trust of the public, and of the companies who services we use.”
“Robert Hannigan is right, GCHQ does need to enter the public debate about privacy – but attacking the internet isn’t the right way to do,” he said.
Snowden has been hailed a hero around the world for exposing the mass surveillance activities employed by NSA and the UK’s GCHQ communications monitoring center to the global public.