Britain's intelligence chiefs used their first ever joint public appearance to complain that documents by former U.S. intelligence operative Edward Snowden had put secret operations at risk and were being "lapped up'' by al-Qaeda.
In an unprecedented evidence session before parliament that local media likened to a scene from a James Bond film, the heads of Britain's three main intelligence agencies said Snowden's disclosures about the mass surveillance they undertake had prompted them to consider being more open about what they do.
But they said parts of their work had to remain secret for national security reasons and that the data leaks, which detailed Britain's close cooperation with the U.S. National Security Agency had caused huge damage.
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"The leaks from Snowden have been very damaging, they've put our operations at risk,'' John Sawers, the head of MI6, Britain's foreign intelligence service, told parliament. "It's clear that our adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee, al-Qaeda is lapping it up.''
The robust nature of his comments underlined how angry intelligence chiefs are about Snowden and what they believe is the irresponsible way some newspapers published his information despite warnings not to do so.