UK spies claim Russians know how to break the crypto they say is unbreakable, even on unavailable files

Mere moments after publications of an independent report condemning UK's mass surveillance programme, sources in the UK spy agencies — who are pushing for massively expanded surveillance powers through the Snoopers' Charter — leaked an evidence-free story claiming the Russians and Chinese had magically gained the ability to decrypt the files Snowden took with him from the NSA.

This despite the fact that Snowden no longer had the files when he got to Russia. Ironically, the same surveillance agencies are agitating for a ban on strong crypto because it is unbreakable when used by criminals, but, seemingly, not when used by Snowden, a highly trained surveillance operative who managed to hide his actions from his spymasters and successfully exfiltrate the first-ever cache of leaked NSA documents in the agency's history.

Meanwhile, the official line from the Prime Minister's office is that there is "no evidence of anyone being harmed" by the Snowden leaks, while some anonymous spook says "His documents were encrypted but they weren't completely secure and we have now seen our agents and assets being targeted" and this has caused "incalculable damage."

Remarkably, this anonymous spook is apparently allowed to go on leaking extremely secret information about the US and UK spy agencies without anyone running around shouting how there is a turncoat who can't keep his mouth shut who needs to be rooted out, tried as a traitor, and hanged from the nearest lamp-post.

The revelations about the impact of Snowden on intelligence operations comes days after Britain's terrorism law watchdog said the rules governing the security services' abilities to spy on the public needed to be overhauled.

Conservative lawmaker and former minister Andrew Mitchell said the timing of the report was "no accident."

"There is a big debate going on," he told BBC radio. "We are going to have legislation bought back to parliament (…) about the way in which individual liberty and privacy is invaded in the interest of collective national security.

"That's a debate we certainly need to have."

Cameron has promised a swathe of new security measures, including more powers to monitor Briton's communications and online activity in what critics have dubbed a "snoopers' charter."

Has Snowden's leak endangered UK secret agents? Officials differ. (+video) [Costas Pitas and Paul Sandle/Christian Science Monitor]