Britain has had to remove its spies from live operations after Russia and China allegedly cracked top secret files stolen by US whistleblower Edward Snowden, a source has claimed.
MI6 has been forced to pull spies out of operations due to Russia and China cracking encrypted documents stolen by the former contractor to the US National Security Agency, a government source has told the BBC.
The source said the countries “have information” that led to agents being moved but added there was “no evidence” any had been harmed.
It comes after Home Secretary Theresa May told the Commons’ home affairs select committee in March the leaks about Britain’s surveillance capabilities had caused “damage” to the country’s security.
She said Snowden’s actions, after he stole and disclosed thousands of top secret files, had led to “an impact on the ability of our agencies to do the work they need to do”.
Snowden, now in Russia, leaked intelligence data two years ago.
According to the Sunday Times, Western intelligence agencies have been forced to pull agents out of “hostile countries” after “Moscow gained access to more than one million classified files” held by Mr Snowden.
“Senior government sources confirmed that China had also cracked the encrypted documents, which contain details of secret intelligence techniques and information that could allow British and American spies to be identified,” the newspaper added.
Last year the Telegraph revealed GCHQ had lost track of some of the most dangerous crime lords and has had to abort surveillance on others after Snowden exposed their tactics.
The spy agency has suffered “significant” damage in its ability to monitor and capture serious organised criminals following the exposes by the former CIA contractor.
Intelligence officers are now blind to more than a quarter of the activities of the UK’s most harmful crime gangs after they changed their communications methods in the wake of the Snowden leaks.