They deny snooping the majority of phone calls and emails.
The UK’s top spy leaders have warned that Al-Qaeda and other opponents had been ‘lapping up’ intelligence disclosures by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden and using them for their operations.
The chiefs of the foreign spy agency MI6, the domestic intelligence service MI5 and the electronic listening station GCHQ appeared in front of a parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) to reject that Britons had been under mass snooping.
MI6 head John Sawers told the parliament that the leaks from Snowden have been very damaging, they’ve put the agencies’ operations at risk.
"It’s clear that our adversaries are rubbing their hands with glee, al Qaeda is lapping it up," Sawers said.
GCHQ chief Iain Lobban said that his agency had raised ‘near daily discussion’ among terrorist groups in the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere regarding lessons to be well-read from the Snowden files.
"We have actually seen chat around specific terrorist groups, including closer to home, discussing how to avoid what they now perceive to be vulnerable communications methods," Lobban added.
Snowden disclosures have put US relationship with its allies under strain over proposals that it has snooped on dozens of world leaders, including targeting the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"We do not spend our time listening to the telephone calls or reading the emails of the majority. It would not be proportionate, it would not be legal," Lobban said.
"We do not do it.
"We don’t want to delve into innocent emails and phonecalls."