A British Defense Ministry press advisory committee, reacting to a flurry of revelations in the American press about massive warrantless US government electronic surveillance programs, quietly warned UK organizations Friday not to publish British national security information.
Defiance of the advisory could make British journalists vulnerable to prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.
The June 7 "DA-Notice," or Defence Advisory Notice, which was itself confidential, accepted that the U.S. National Security Agency was sharing information gleaned from the surveillance programs with its British counterparts, and said UK intelligence organizations were worried about revelations of their own roles in the programs.
"There have been a number of articles?recently in connection with some of the?ways in which the UK?Intelligence Services obtain information from foreign sources," said the notice issued by the Defence Advisory Committee, a joint body with media organizations.
"Although none of these recent?articles has contravened any of the guidelines contained within the?Defence Advisory Notice System, the?intelligence services are concerned that further developments of?this same theme may begin to jeopardize both national security and possibly UK personnel," it said.
The notice itself was marked "Private and Confidential: Not for publication, broadcast or use on social media."
It warned British media not to publish information on "specific covert operations, sources and methods of the security services, SIS and GCHQ [the NSA's British counterpart], Defence Intelligence Units, Special Forces and those involved with them, the application of those methods, including the interception of communications and their targets; the same applies to those engaged on counter-terrorist operations."
British news organizations are concerned about the tenor of the advance warning.
"They're sending out a notice saying nothing's been published that damages national security but we're concerned the press might (and on the back of developments in the US, no less)," said a media source.
The worry is that British authorities may be preparing to pursue reporters through the courts if they publish details on UK participation in the massive US electronic surveillance programs, code-named "PRISM" and "BLARNEY," according to a report in The Washington Post
The NSA collects "directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple," the Post reported.
According to the Guardian newspaper, the NSA has been sharing intelligence from the same internet companies with GCHQ.
President Obama on Friday defended
the spying programs, which access every Americans' email and Internet searches, saying "a whole bunch of safeguards [are] involved" to protect privacy.
The Ministry of Defence
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace, left, and his British counterpart, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup pose for a photo prior to a meeting at the British Ministry of Defense in London, England, Oct. 26, 2006. | Photo: Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen | The Ministry Of Defence, England, United Kingdom, Spy, Armed Forces,