The technology used by Britain's intelligence agencies is "out of control", former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Ashdown has warned.
Lord Ashdown, a former special forces soldier and spy, called for an inquiry to address questions of privacy in the digital age.
He said surveillance should be targeted against individuals or groups, not against "the whole nation" as recent operations exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden were.
But in an interview with The Guardian, which has revealed details of the activities of British eavesdropping agency GCHQ based on documents disclosed by US intelligence whistleblower Mr Snowden, Lord Ashdown defended the right of the state to intercept communications.
Lord Paddy Ashdown has warned the House of Lords over making decisions over Syria based on lessons learned after Iraq.
Lord Ashdown said: "I remember well trying to persuade Parliament that we needed to intervene in Bosnia - when we were under shadow of Vietnam. Now here we are and I think living under the shadow of Iraq.
"But this is not Iraq, we are not putting boots on the ground and we are not invading and above all this is not George W Bush it's Obama."
Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown spoke to ITV News Presenter Alastair Stewart after Baroness Thatcher's funeral and said: "It's an opportunity to pay respects to a remarkable Prime Minister.
"You may agree with her or not one thing is without doubt; when she came to power Britain was a wreck and disregarded by most of the world, when she left power Britain was a more successful country. For this great thanks, for this great respect."
"When we all overwhelmingly supported Nick Clegg's decision to lead us into government, we knew it would be difficult. Nick challenged us to leave our comfort zone and make the change from a party of perpetual opposition to one capable of carrying the burdens of government.
"The right thing for Liberal Democrats to do now is to continue to do what we have done so well so far. Concentrate on the job we set our hands to under Clegg's leadership. Nothing else."