UK spies have access to NSA Prism, which has "direct access" to world's largest Internet companies' servers

A report by Nick Hopkins in the Guardian accuses the UK spy agency GCHQ of making use of the American NSA's Prism program, which was revealed in leaked documents earlier today -- a slide presentation claiming that the NSA had direct access to the servers at Google, Microsoft, Apple, and many other Internet giants.

According to Hopkins, GCHQ has been able to access Prism since Jun 2010. This is based on information from the same leaked slide deck, apparently:

Unless GCHQ has stopped using Prism, the agency has accessed information from the programme for at least three years. It is not mentioned in the latest report from the Interception of Communications Commissioner Office, which scrutinises the way the UK's three security agencies use the laws covering the interception and retention of data.

Asked to comment on its use of Prism, GCHQ said it "takes its obligations under the law very seriously. Our work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the intelligence and security committee".

The agency refused to be drawn on how long it had been using Prism, how many intelligence reports it had gleaned from it, or which ministers knew it was being used.

A GCHQ spokesperson added: "We do not comment on intelligence matters."

UK gathering secret intelligence via covert NSA operation