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UK Spy Agency's Use Of U.S. PRISM Data Was Legal, Parliament Says

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In this photo illustration, the logos of intelligence agencies (L-R) NSA (National Security Agency, USA ), BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst, Germany ), GCHQ (Gouverment Communications Headquarters, Great Britain) and DGSE (Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieur, France) are displayed on folders on July 15, 2013 in Bonn, Germany. | Getty

LONDON, July 17 (Reuters) - Britain's electronic surveillance agency did not circumvent the law by using data gathered by a clandestine U.S. spy programme called PRISM, the British parliament said on Wednesday.

Former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of PRISM last month, lifting the lid on what he said was a vast surveillance system that vacuumed up emails and phone data - which leaked documents showed were sometimes handed over to Britain's security services.

Parliament's intelligence and security committee launched an investigation into allegations Britain's GCHQ surveillance agency circumvented British laws protecting the privacy of communications by accessing data from the U.S. programme.

"From the evidence we have seen, we have concluded that this is unfounded," said the committee.

A thorough investigation had shown the reports GCHQ compiled using U.S. intelligence were put together legally, it said. The agency possessed a warrant for interception signed by a government minister each time it asked for information from the United States, it added.

However, the committee said it would be "proper" to study whether the laws governing electronic eavesdropping by spy agencies were strong enough. (Reporting By Andrew Osborn and Peter Griffiths; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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