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The potential threats from Russia and China leave less time for British security bodies to pry in citizen private lives.
In recent months, GCHQ – the Government’s electronic surveillance arm – has been the subject of a number of lurid allegations, most recently that it received funding from America’s National Security Agency in return for access to its work.
According to the Telegraph the impression has been given that an all-powerful Orwellian state is emerging, in which government employees in Cheltenham and Fort Meade can read the personal emails of everyone from presidents to pet-owners without anything but the most cursory regard for law or conscience.
The experts at GCHQ point out, however, that Britain and its computer systems are under sustained attack from foreign powers, especially Russia and China, to a far greater extent than ministers have yet admitted. Effectively, British cyber-spies are on a war footing, against a determined, ruthless and inventive enemy.
Indeed, the need to confront such external threats, as well as monitor suspected terrorists and other internal dangers, suggests they must have precious little time to snoop through the private lives of citizens.