Britain’s domestic spying apparatus, the MI5, has been spying on a number of prominent academics for decades, newly declassified documents show.
According to documents released at the National Archives on Friday, the phone calls of leading British academics, especially historians, were tapped and their friends and family members were monitored in the 1940s and 1950s.
Oxbridge historians Christopher Hill and Eric Hobsbawm as well as Oxford don AJP Tayl, writer Iris Murdoch and philosopher Lady Mary Warnock were among those spied on for years.
MI5 has tried to defend its spying activities by arguing that the scholars were kept under surveillance in order to establish their contacts’ identities and their supposed communist leanings.
This comes as frequent revelations of espionage by the UK government have provoked growing public uproar over the lack of privacy for British citizens.
Classified documents leaked by American whistleblower Edward Snowden in June last year revealed that the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was secretly accessing the network of cables that carry the world’s phone calls and Internet traffic and had been sharing the data with the US National Security Agency.
Civil liberties campaigners have launched legal action against the GCHQ over the violation of the privacy of millions of people across the UK and Europe via online surveillance.