LOS ANGELES – A senior British official defended the country's intelligence-sharing ties with the United States on Tuesday, as governments in both countries face criticism about snooping on citizens.
In remarks prepared for a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said there should be "nothing but pride" in what he called indispensable intelligence-sharing between Britain and the U.S.
"In both our countries intelligence work takes place within a strong legal framework," Hague said, according to a text of his remarks. "We operate under the rule of law and are accountable for it. In some countries secret intelligence is used to control their people — in ours it only exists to protect their freedoms."
His appearance at the hilltop library comes as the U.S. continues to pursue National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. The 30-year-old former NSA contractor gained access to documents that he gave to the Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers to expose what he contends are privacy violations by an authoritarian government.
Earlier this month in London, Hague was forced to deny allegations that the U.K. government had used information provided by the Americans to circumvent British laws.
"We want the British people to have confidence in the work of our intelligence agencies and in their adherence to the law and democratic values," Hague told Parliament.
Snowden, who is charged with violating American espionage laws, touched off a global guessing game over his whereabouts after fleeing Hong Kong over the weekend, frustrating U.S. efforts to bring him to justice.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday rejected U.S. pleas to turn him over, saying Snowden is in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport and has not passed through Russian immigration, meaning he technically is not in Russia.
In his prepared remarks, Hague said he rejected the notion that western nations face an inevitable decline.
"Some predict gloomily that as emerging powers rise, so we in the West must fall. But our free and open societies are better placed to make the most of changes in the world, to adjust to it and to cope with turbulence," he said.
He also urged more engagement abroad.
"We must build more connections with other countries, adapting our global role, not pulling back from it," he said.