A Tory MP who has urged the Metropolitan police to investigate The Guardian has condemned the paper for leaking details of "gay and lesbian clubs" attended by GCHQ staff.
Julian Smith was talking to the Daily Politics on BBC Two before a debate he sponsored on the newspaper's handling of the Edward Snowden leaks.
He said: "I think there is a darker side to this whole story that has seen one of Britain’s leading newspapers send highly confidential information potentially including details of those thousands of men and women who protect us and have protected us so well since 9/11 and 7/7.
“They have sent those documents overseas, stored in a way that is incredibly vulnerable to terrorist infiltration and providing an ability to the world to find out the deepest details of our intelligence operations.
“There is absolutely a need for responsible journalism and public interest in this area and I don’t think I deny that."
He continued: "The Guardian overstepped the mark. Why did they publish details of internal communications showing the gay and lesbian clubs that GCHQ staff belong to?
“Why did they give details of programmes or powerpoint presentations and the minute of those programmes and send them allegedly overseas. It is that question I believe needs answering. I accept there is a public interest in having the debate and I accept we need to monitor of intelligence services, although I think they are well monitored already. I accept we need to support whistleblowers. But the Guardian has gone beyond this and [editor] Rusbridger knows this as do most of his editorial team.
“The Guardian has a major stain on its history today because it has crossed that bridge between responsible journalism and protecting the lives of families and the people who have protected us for many, many years. It is that, that I want to highlight in Parliament today.”
In a 2 August piece The Guardian wrote about the fact that staff at GCHQ have their own Pride group for gays and lesbians.
Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert defended The Guardian on the show saying the newspaper has raised some important issues for public debate. He said he hoped in future to hold his own debate on the extent of surveillance.
Foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said yesterday that every large-scale terror plot faced by the UK since the 7 July attacks had been foiled with the help of email and other communication intercepts.
Speaking at a debate on "the rise of the surveillance state in the UK", he said the necessary safeguards are in place to ensure that security service MI5, secret intelligence service MI6 and eavesdropping agency GCHQ act appropriately.
"There are in place legal safeguards in Britain, in the United States, not in China, not in Russia, not in most countries that have authoritarian dictatorships," he said.
The Tory chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee told University College London's debating society that the approval of the Foreign Secretary or the Home Secretary is required before a human can look at the content of an email.
Sir Malcolm, who denied the suggestion that the UK is a "surveillance state", said the committee has access to all the information held by the intelligence agencies.