What moved Americans about Snowden was not just the scale of NSA hoovering of data – though polls indicate strong aversion – but the lying to Congress. Snowden, a Republican former soldier, was simply shocked at the clear collapse of congressional and judicial oversight. The US had lurched into aping precisely the totalitarian regimes it professed to guard against (…) Yet none of this seems to turn a hair in London. While Washington has been tearing itself apart, dismissive remarks by William Hague in the Commons and Lady Warsi in the Lords could have passed muster in Andropov’s supreme soviet. Hague said merely that everything was “authorised, necessary, proportionate and targeted”. National security was not for discussion. British oversight was “probably the strongest … anywhere in the world”. This remark – contradicted by GCHQ itself – went unchallenged.
Meanwhile Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, head of the intelligence and security committee and supposed champion of citizens against state intrusion, positively grovelled towards GCHQ. He said we should all defer to “those involved in intelligence work”. He even cancelled a public hearing with the security chiefs for fear of embarrassing them.
For Labour, Yvette Cooper claimed obscurely she “long believed in stronger oversight” but she was drowned by a dad’s army of former defence and home secretaries, such as Lord Reid, Lord King and Jack Straw. All rallied to the securocrats’ banner in shrill unison. I sometimes think these people would bring back the rack, the whip and the gallows if “vital for national security”.