Spy museum accused of airbrushing Snowden from history: No place for whistleblower in Bletchley Park's exhibit Museum 'does not want to be seen to back his actions'
(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) MPs have accused Bletchley Park, the wartime predecessor of GCHQ, of trying to airbrush history after it said it would ignore the whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations about mass surveillance by the security services in its museum's new gallery on cyber security.
The Buckinghamshire museum, chaired by the former head of MI6, Sir John Scarlett, celebrates the secret work of the second world war codebreakers who cracked the illusive Nazi Enigma code and, in the process, invented modern computing.
But according to the Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert and Tory MPs Rory Stewart and Dominic Raab, its reputation risks being dented by a refusal to acknowledge the impact of Snowden's disclosures about modern-day security services, revealed by the Guardian, and the debate they have provoked.
In the past year, Snowden has revealed that US and British intelligence agencies use secret programmes to sort and analyse billions of emails, phone calls and text messages. His revelations made public the fact that the amount of personal data available to GCHQ from internet and mobile traffic had increased by 7,000% between 2008 and 2012.
The MPs are urging the museum to explore the implications of mass surveillance, but it says it is reluctant to do so, despite planning a huge new installation devoted to the subject of cyber security, for fear that it "might imply it approves of Snowden's actions".
Kelsey Griffin, Bletchley Park's director of communications, said the exhibition was likely to avoid any mention of Snowden. "It is not within the remit of Bletchley Park trust to make political statements," she said. "We are very much a heritage institution and involved with education. So that will be the focus of the cyber-security exhibition - drawing lessons of the past for the future."
The international cyber security exhibition and computer learning zone is the result of a five-year sponsorship from the US anti-virus software firm McAfee.
The content has yet to be decided, but the museum and McAfee are reluctant to acknowledge Snowden's relevance. "McAfee said [it] would not be able to reference Snowden in any activity," a spokeswoman for Bletchley Park said.
"Either it's a history exhibition or it's not," said Raab. "The Snowden disclosures are a major event of our time, with enormous impact on the debate over surveillance and privacy.
"It's not clear why on earth this is being airbrushed, but it risks tarnishing Bletchley Park's proud reputation."
Huppert, who is also a member of the home affairs select committee, said the gallery, which is due to open next June, was an opportunity to examine the implications of the Snowden leaks.
"The revelations we got from Snowden and the Guardian are really important to cover as part of that story," he said.
Huppert said Bletchley Park could note Snowden's significance without taking sides on whether he was a traitor or a whistleblower. "They should present the facts and let the visitors draw their own conclusions," he said.
Stewart, who is a former diplomat, agreed. "I would have thought - almost whatever you think of him - it's impossible to talk about cyber security without mentioning Edward Snowden," he said.
Bletchley's codebreaker heroes famously stayed silent about their work for decades after the war. Winston Churchill referred to them as "my geese that laid the golden eggs and never cackled". The museum belatedly celebrated its covert role in shortening the second world war.
But Bletchley Park is also the birthplace of modern computing and home to Colossus, the first electronic computer built by the codebreakers in 1943 to crack the Nazi cyphers. It is in this context that Snowden's revelations about the scope of mass surveillance by Bletchley Park's modern-day equivalent should not be ignored, according to Huppert.
"Ultimately, it is for Bletchley to decide what would make a full and balanced exhibition," Huppert said, "but to miss out the biggest piece of news in this area for a least a decade would be a shame. It would be very hard for them not to acknowledge the impact of [Snowden's] revelations."
Museum consultant and Bletchley Park trustee Hilary McGowan said the trust had not directly discussed Snowden. "We have discussed cyber security and its importance in the modern world - that's as close as we've got to discussing Snowden and what he's done. I'm not sure acknowledging him would be the right thing to do, that might imply we approve of his actions."
The MP Rory Stewart said it was impossible to talk about cyber security without mentioning Edward Snowden (right)
The wartime codebreakers of Bletchley Park famously kept quiet about their activities Photograph: Mark Richards/Rex
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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