Report: GCHQ tried to keep mass surveillance secret

The Government's spy agency GHCQ feared its mass surveillance programmes would make it vulnerable to legal action and "damaging public debate" according to classified memos seen by The Guardian.

GCHQ Headquarters: The government's spy agency tried to keep mass surveillance a secret, according to The Guardian. Credit: PA

The internal documents, which were among papers leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden, show GCHQ repeatedly battled to keep intercept evidence inadmissible in criminal trials.

The papers showed the spy agency lobbied to hide that telecoms firms had gone "well beyond" what they were legally required to do to help intelligence agencies' mass interception of communications, both in the UK and overseas.

GCHQ also feared a legal challenge under the rights to privacy in the Human Rights Act, if evidence of its surveillance methods became admissible in court, the paper reported.