LONDON (AP) — Britain's spy chiefs gave public, televised testimony to British lawmakers Thursday for the first time ever amid a fierce debate over intelligence tactics following allegations of spying on other governments.
Andrew Parker and John Sawers — the heads of Britain's domestic security agency MI5 and its foreign spy service MI6 — appeared along with Iain Lobban, director of the electronic surveillance agency GCHQ, to field questions from Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee.
Amid continuing revelations about the global scope of U.S. and British espionage, Parker defended the U.K. intelligence community.
"The suggestion that somehow what we do is somehow compromising freedom and democracy — we believe the opposite to be the case," he said.
The disclosures of the spying, fed by the leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, have sparked a global debate over privacy and surveillance and are likely to feature heavily in the spy chiefs' testimony.
Parker has previously described the leaks as a "gift" to terrorists.
Committee chairman Malcolm Rifkind said the trio will be questioned on the work of their agencies, their current priorities, threats to the U.K. but not on ongoing operations.
The committee previously has taken testimony in private from the security chiefs. Thursday's appearance was being televised with a slight delay.