In the recent blowup over the unverifiable allegation by a White House spokesman that GCHQ was spying on Trump before the election at the behest of the previous administration, the GCHQ issued a rare statement claiming that because of Five Eyes agreement (which dates to the 1970s) they do not participate in circumventing the laws of other participating nations. The relevant excerpt from the statement by Theresa May's spokesman:

"I would add, just as a matter of fact, with the Five Eyes pact, we cannot use each other's capabilities to circumvent laws," he said."

However, during the 2013 Snowden revelations it was conclusively demonstrated that GCHQ did in fact collaborate with the NSA in illegally circumventing US laws and spying on US citizens and public figures as an agent of the US government as summarized by multiple Guardian articles.

So, what exactly is GCHQ (or Theresa May) saying here? Are they implying that the Five Eyes pact has been changed since 2013 to ban using intelligence sharing to circumvent national laws, or are they (implausibly) trying to deny that such circumvention ever occurred at all under the original terms of pact?

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    There were similar suggestions that Prime Minister John Major provided President George H.W. Bush with information held by MI5 and the police in Britain on the young William Clinton, dating from the latter's time as a student at Oxford. It was in connection with Clinton's supposed pot-smoking and anti-Vietnam war activities. After Clinton became President, there were occasional frosty relations between him and Major.
    – WS2
    Mar 17 '17 at 17:39
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    There is so much utter nonsense here that a civilian with no experience of the intelligence community would ever be able to truly understand the vast differences of what is discussed. The Snowden revelations are not even remotely linked to the idea that a sitting U.S. President was provided with directed intelligence intercepts from a foreign power on a current U.S. citizen circumventing the NSA, the CIA and myriad of 5 EYES joint intelligence collection and analysis efforts. Mar 21 '17 at 14:48

So, what exactly is GCHQ (or Theresa May) saying here? Are they implying that the Five Eyes pact has been changed since 2013 to ban using intelligence sharing to circumvent national laws, or are they (implausibly) trying to deny that such circumvention ever occurred at all under the original terms of pact?

She is a politician, so she is simply denying that GCHQ would ever do such things even though it has done them in the past. She is reiterating the previous claim that GCHQ doesn't circumvent laws and she is doing that for obvious political reasons.

Against the previous accusation of GCHQ circumventing the laws, Hague, then Foreign Secretary, said:

Hague added that it was "fanciful" and "nonsense" to suggest that GCHQ would work with an agency in another country to circumvent the law.

Even if they could admit any wrongdoing, hence technically breaking or circumventing the law, they would never use such a frightening statement. It's just something too strong to say for a politician, especially if it's true.

This is examplified by the statements of the then business Secretary:

"Well, it may well have been," he said, when asked if the allegations amounted to eavesdropping by any other name, and added that there were two key issues that the Tories would need to address.

In short, she wouldn't admit to be guilty even if she were. Why would she?

In any case, it wouldn't be illegal for the GCHQ to spy on an important candidate for President of the USA. Actually, it might be one of the few cases in which it would make sense to spy on someone. Since there would be a realistic chance of him being President and it might be important for the UK to know his positions on many issues.

Of course, the USA government wouldn't order the GCHQ to spy on an American candidate to the Presidency. But it wouldn't be that strange if the USA government asked if the GCHQ had some information on an hostile candidate and somebody would turn it over to a friendly candidate. A favor between friends, if you will. Especially useful, and likely to happen, if one candidate was sure to win and another was hated by both parties.

So, it might have happened, but we have no evidence for it. And if we actually found evidence of it most people would actually dismiss as the typical collaboration between friendly allies. Although somebody at the NSA and GHCQ might lose their job to save the face for the rest.

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    While there's nothing wrong with this in terms of being opinion, it's still mostly opinion. I think an equally valid opinion would be that "no, if there was actual evidence, it wouldn't be dismissed as typical collaboration". We're talking international espionage here. It's not something one should be making accusations of lightly.
    – user1530
    Mar 20 '17 at 23:35
  • While I accept the criticism that the final parts of my answer could be considered opinion-based, it also actually answers the question. It explains what Theresa May is actually denying.
    – gabriele
    Mar 20 '17 at 23:45
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    I have downvoted this because it's preposterous that the United Kingdom would be a proxy-intelligence service at the behest of the U.S President for his personal direction. None of your points make any reference to the crux of the allegation. It's just a thinly-disguised speculative rant about the intelligence community. Mar 21 '17 at 14:51
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    Your comment indicates that you don't have the emotional reasoning to truly understand what is being discussed. Accusations of loving GCHQ etc merely indicate that you are too emotionally invested and hyperbolic to be objective and write an informed answer. Not an ad-hominem. A genuine observation. Mar 21 '17 at 15:20
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    Absolute generalized nonsense and simply a rant against the intelligence community. Mar 21 '17 at 15:40

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