At an 18th-century mansion in England’s countryside last week, current and former spy chiefs from seven countries faced off with representatives from tech giants Apple and Google to discuss government surveillance in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s leaks.
The three-day conference, which took place behind closed doors and under strict rules about confidentiality, was aimed at debating the line between privacy and security.
Among an extraordinary list of attendees were a host of current or former heads from spy agencies such as the CIA and British electronic surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Other current or former top spooks from Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Sweden were also in attendance. Google, Apple, and telecommunications company Vodafone sent some of their senior policy and legal staff to the discussions. And a handful of academics and journalists were also present.
According to an event program obtained by The Intercept, questions on the agenda included: “Are we being misled by the term ‘mass surveillance’?” “Is spying on allies/friends/potential adversaries inevitable if there is a perceived national security interest?” “Who should authorize intrusive intelligence operations such as interception?” “What should be the nature of the security relationship between intelligence agencies and private sector providers, especially when they may in any case be cooperating against cyber threats in general?” And, “How much should the press disclose about intelligence activity?”
The list of participants included:
From the U.S.:
John McLaughlin, the CIA’s former acting director and deputy director; Jami Miscik, the CIA’s former director of intelligence; Mona Sutphen, member of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board and former White House deputy chief of staff; Rachel Brand, member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board; George Newcombe, board of visitors, Columbia Law School; David Ignatius, Washington Postcolumnist and associate editor; and Sue Halpern, New York Review of Books contributor.
From the U.K.:
Robert Hannigan, current chief of British surveillance agency GCHQ; Sir David Omand, former GCHQ chief; Sir Malcolm Rifkind, former head of the British parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee; Lord Butler of Brockwell, member of the Intelligence and Security Committee; Dr. Jamie Saunders, director of the National Cybercrime Unit at the National Crime Agency; Sir Mark Waller, Intelligence Services Commissioner; Peter Clarke, former head of Counter Terrorism Command at London’s Metropolitan Police; Baroness Neville-Jones, House of Lords special representative to business on cyber security and member of the joint parliamentary committee on national security strategy; John Spellar, member of parliament; Duncan Campbell, investigative journalist; Gordon Corera, BBC security correspondent; and Professor Timothy Garton Ash, historian and author.