Germany lambasts UK over GCHQ internet monitoring

Justice minister demands answers over Project Tempora.

The German federal justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, has hit out at theUK Government's interception activities and wants to know the extent to which German citizens were targeted.

Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger described Project Tempora, the surveillance operation through which UK Government listening post GCHQ has gained direct access to the world's communications traffic, as a catastrophe that read like the plot of a "Hollywood nightmare".

Orwell's surveillance society has become a reality in Great Britain.

She added that free and democratic societies could not flourish when states shrouded their actions in "a veil of secrecy".

The comments were made in two letters sent to UK government ministers, one to the Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling and the other to Home Secretary Theresa May, the Guardian reports.

Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said the operation must be discussed "in the context of ongoing discussions about the EU data protection regulation" at the next meeting of European justice and home affairs ministers in July.

Another German politician, Thomas Oppermann, has claimed the alleged details of Project Tempora "make it sound as if Orwell's surveillance society has become a reality in Great Britain".

With regard toLeutheusser-Schnarrenberger's letters, the Home Office has said it will not comment on what it regards as private correspondence. The Ministry of Justice said it would respond in due course.

The existence of Project Tempora came to light through the documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who blew the lid on the US' own internet and telephone surveillance programme, PRISM.

While Foreign Secretary William Hague has refused to confirm or deny the existence of PRISM or the UK's involvement in such a programme, he has defended the UK and US administrations' close working practices.

Britain should have "nothing but pride" in its "indispensible" intelligence-sharing relationship with the US, he said.

Snowden was expected to catch a flight from Moscow to Cuba on 24 June, however the flight left without him. Russian President Vladimir Putin has since confirmed the former NSA contractor is in the transit zone of the capital's Sheremetyevo airport.

Speaking at a press conference at the presidential summer residence in Naantli, Finland, Putin said Russia would not extradite Snowden to the US as there is no extradition treaty between the two countries.

"In any case, I would not like to deal with such issues because it is like shearing a pig: there's lots of squealing and little fleece," Putin added.

Nevertheless, Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the US National Security Council has called on Russia to expel Snowden "without delay".

"While we do not have an extradition treaty with Russia, there is nonetheless a clear legal basis to expel Mr. Snowden, based on the status of his travel documents and the pending charges against him," she told RIA Novosti.

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