The US government has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQ over the last three years to secure access to and influence over Britain’s intelligence gathering programmes, reports The Guardian.

The top secret payments are set out in documents which make clear that the Americans expect a return on the investment, and that GCHQ has to work hard to meet their demands.

Ministers have denied that GCHQ does the NSA’s “dirty work”, but in the documents GCHQ describes Britain’s surveillance laws and regulatory regime as a “selling point” for the Americans.

Snowden warned about the relationship between the NSA and GCHQ, saying the organisations have been jointly responsible for developing techniques that allow the mass harvesting and analysis of internet traffic.

“It’s not just a US problem,” he said. “They are worse than the US.”

On Friday, Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “Once upon a time the rule of law was as great a British export as Beckham’s right foot.”

“Now it seems our most powerful security agency capitalises on weak legal privacy protections to sell its services to a foreign power.”

Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, added: “Our intelligence agencies carry out some of the most sensitive and legally complex work in the world.  

“It is shameful that the agreements between the NSA and GCHQ are shrouded in secrecy and this practice must come to an end.” 

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