The Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) believes that allegations of GCHQ illegally tapping global internet traffic and phone calls, and sharing it with US counterpart, the National Security Agency (NSA), are "unfounded".
The key word in the paragraph above is 'illegally'; the ISC has just assured UK citizens that the GCHQ's use of Prism surveillance data is legal. In other words, it is legal for GCHQ to tap all transatlantic network traffic, store it and share it with the NSA.
But that doesn't mean that what it has done is acceptable in any way.
"In effect there is, or was, a secret law that allows all governments to do what they think is in our interest," global law firm CMS said in a statement.
"This is profoundly wrong; transparency accompanied by democratic review and accountability is essential, and we should not accept anything less," it added.
The ISC claims it is "not a committee of parliament", and that it reports directly to the Prime Minister, David Cameron.
It says: "While the committee sends its reports to the Prime Minister, he cannot change the facts in them (as it is sometimes alleged) - they are published exactly as the committee has written them."
The ISC, which is made up of parliamentarians selected by the Prime Minister, oversees the intelligence and security activities of the UK, including the policies, expenditure, administration and operation of the MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, among other bodies in the UK intelligence community.
It has, in the past, been highly critical of the UK's cyber security efforts. In July 2011, it said that the government had shown "confusion and duplication of effort" in its approach to cyber security, and last year it suggested that UK cyber security was inadequate and needed work. This makes its apparent endorsement of snooping on innocent citizens all the more galling.
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