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GCHQ Oversight Tribunal Has To Ask GCHQ’s Permission To Reveal GCHQ’s Wrongdoing

By Glyn Moody | Techdirt | March 7, 2014

One of the key themes to emerge in the debate about surveillance is the oversight of the agencies involved, and to what extent it is effective. In the US, that has been put into stark relief by news that the committee that is supposed to keep an eye on the spies was itself spied upon. And now over in the UK, we learn that things are just as bad when it comes to the equivalent oversight body, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). Its powers sound impressive:

The Tribunal can investigate complaints about any alleged conduct by, or on behalf of, the Intelligence Services – the Security Service (sometimes called MI5), the Secret Intelligence Service (sometimes called MI6) and GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters).

The scope of conduct the IPT can investigate concerning the Intelligence Agencies is much broader than it is with regard to the other public authorities. The IPT is the only Tribunal to whom complaints about the Intelligence Services can be directed

Unfortunately, the IPT’s credibility as the public’s watchdog for the intelligence services has just been seriously undermined by the following information published by The Guardian :

A controversial court that claims to be completely independent of the British government is secretly operating from a base within the Home Office, the Guardian has learned.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which investigates complaints about the country’s intelligence agencies, is also funded by the Home Office, and its staff includes at least one person believed to be a Home Office official previously engaged in intelligence-related work.

It gets worse:

the IPT will not say whether GCHQ had disclosed the existence of its bulk surveillance operations, which attempt to capture the digital communications of everybody — including those people who complain to the tribunal.

Nor will it disclose whether it has issued any secret ruling on the lawfulness of those operations, on the grounds that the rules under which it operates stipulate that it cannot do so without the permission of GCHQ itself. It has not sought that permission on grounds it knows it would not be given.

So the body tasked with overseeing GCHQ has to get GCHQ’s permission before it can reveal any wrongdoing by GCHQ, which it doesn’t bother doing when it knows it would be refused. Isn’t oversight a wonderful thing? Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

March 7, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

The Realms of Impunity

GCHQ, Privacy, and Murder

By Binoy Kampmark | Dissident Voice | January 30, 2014 

It will only get worse, but the last few days have been interesting in the accumulating annals of massive surveillance. Britain’s equivalent of the National Security Agency, GCHQ, has been placed under the legal microscope, and found wanting.

The legal briefs who have been advising 46 members of the all-party parliamentary group on drones has handed down a sobering assessment of the GCHQ mass surveillance program: It is, for the most part, illegal. In some cases, it may well patently criminal.

According to barristers Jemima Stratford QC and Tom Johnston, the behaviour of GCHQ staffers, in many instances, potentially violates the privacy safeguards laid out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), largely due to the sheer vagueness of its remit. Such lack of clarity has enabled GCHQ staffers to rely “on the gaps in the current statutory framework to commit serious crime with impunity.”

Some of these are worth noting. Mass, bulk surveillance would be in contravention of privacy protections under EU law. “We consider the mass interception of external contents and communications data as unlawful. The indiscriminate interception of data, solely by reference to the request of the executive, is a disproportionate interference with the private life of the individuals concerned.”

Interception of bulk metadata (phones, email addresses) is treated as a measure “disproportionate” and in violation of Article 8 of the ECHR. That in itself was of little surprise. Of even greater interest was how the barristers dealt with the musty, archaic nature of existing legislation which the executive has been all too keen on using.

Much of this expansive, illegal behaviour lies in the way the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa) has been left in the technological lurch. Use, retention and destruction protocols on metadata are deemed inadequate, given the few restrictions on the practice. For one, Ripa distinguishes between metadata itself and the content of the messages, a clearly anachronistic form of reasoning that has yet to change.

The act, for example, provides too broad a discretion to the foreign secretary, currently William Hague, while providing “almost no meaningful restraint on the exercise of executive discretion in respect of external communications.”

The rather deft way GCHQ has also gone about intercepting communications – via transatlantic cables – cannot be accepted as legal, and would make no difference “even if some or all of the interception is taking place outside UK territorial waters.”

A troubling, though hardly astonishing feature of the brief is accountability of GCHQ staffers to potential criminal liability. The spectre of this rises for the information gathered and subsequently shared for use by allies, notably the United States. Intelligence used for targeting non-combatants with drone strikes is taken as one specific, and troubling example.

“An individual involved in passing that information is likely to be an accessory to murder. It is well arguable, on a variety of different bases, that the government is obliged to take reasonable steps to investigate that possibility.” The transfer itself, suggests the advice, would be unlawful for that reason. Nor can UK officials rely on the obtuse notion of “anticipatory self-defence” which is used by Washington to justify drone strikes in areas where they are not officially involved. Britain has yet to succumb, at least in that area, to flights of legal fancy.

The way such data is used in drone strikes is hardly an academic issue. It has been the subject of legal deliberations by the Court of Appeal and the High Court. The Court of Appeal’s decision in the Noor Khan case (Dec 2013) involved evidence dealing with GCHQ’s alleged supply of information to the CIA in a drone strike. The claimant’s father, in that case, had been killed by such a strike in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the Court of Appeal proved all too reluctant to venture into operational matters, feeling that doing so would ask the court to “condemn the acts of the persons who operate the drone bombs.” In Lord Dyson’s view, “It is only in certain established circumstances that our courts will exceptionally sit in judgment of such acts. There are no such exceptional circumstances here.” More’s the pity.

The advice will find itself the subject of scrutiny by the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, a body that has come surprisingly late to the game. After all, it took a committee on drones and their questionable deployments, not one dealing with intelligence and security, to produce some sound observations on mass surveillance.

How far the views achieve traction is anybody’s guess. Committees have a habit of making a hash of sound observations and it may well fall to others, such as the Joint Committee on Human Rights, to man the decks for reform. But the words of Labour MP Tom Watson, who chairs the committee on drones, are worth noting. “If ministers are prepared to allow GCHQ staffers to be potential accessories to murder, they must be very clear that they are responsible for allowing it.”

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: bkampmark@gmail.com.

January 30, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Legal Analysis Requested By Members Of Parliament Says GCHQ Surveillance Is Illegal Too

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | January 29, 2014

We’ve seen a few times now how legal analysis suggests that the NSA’s surveillance activities are clearly illegal. However, over in the UK, the government has appeared to be even more protective of the surveillance by GCHQ, and even more insistent that the activities have been legal. While there’s a thriving debate going on in the US, many UK officials seem to have pushed back on even the possibility of a similar debate — and there has been little suggestion of reform. While it’s still unclear how much reform there will be of the NSA, the UK government hasn’t indicated even an openness to the idea.

But now, similar to the recent PCLOB report in the US, a legal analysis of the GCHQ, written at the request of a bunch of Members of Parliament, has argued that much of what GCHQ is doing is illegal under UK law:

In a 32-page opinion, the leading public law barrister Jemima Stratford QC raises a series of concerns about the legality and proportionality of GCHQ’s work, and the lack of safeguards for protecting privacy.

It makes clear the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa), the British law used to sanction much of GCHQ’s activity, has been left behind by advances in technology. The advice warns:

  • Ripa does not allow mass interception of contents of communications between two people in the UK, even if messages are routed via a transatlantic cable.
  • The interception of bulk metadata – such as phone numbers and email addresses – is a “disproportionate interference” with Article 8 of the ECHR.
  • The current framework for the retention, use and destruction of metadata is inadequate and likely to be unlawful.
  • If the government knows it is transferring data that may be used for drone strikes against non-combatants in countries such as Yemen and Pakistan, that is probably unlawful.
  • The power given to ministers to sanction GCHQ’s interception of messages abroad “is very probably unlawful”.

There’s a lot more in the report, described at that Guardian link above, which is well worth reading. It makes you wonder how much longer the UK government can pretend that everything is perfectly fine with the GCHQ’s activities.

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

British ministers answer for GCHQ mass surveillance in European court

RT | January 24, 2014

The court in Strasbourg has ordered British ministers to provide submissions on mass surveillance programs by the UK’s spy agency to find out whether GCHQ’s secret activities went against the European convention on human rights.

Four European civil rights groups filed a case against Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) at the European Court of Human Rights over its surveillance methods in September, after being denied the chance to challenge its practices in an open court in the UK.

The UK’s Big Brother Watch, English PEN and Open Rights Group, as well as the German internet activism group, Constanze Kurz, accused GCHQ of violating the European Convention of Human Rights, insisting that alleged hacking of vast amounts of online data, emails and social media breached Article 8 of the Convention, which guarantees European citizens the right to a private family life. Their case refers to two surveillance programs by the domestic spying agency, Prism and Tempora. The campaigners, who teamed up under the umbrella title of Privacy Not Prism, claimed that GCHQ has “illegally intruded on the privacy of millions of British and European citizens.”

In line with the data revealed by former US National Security Agency, Edward Snowden, about the mass surveillance programs operated by the US and Britain, the group said that “GCHQ has the capacity to collect more than 21 petabytes of data a day – equivalent to sending all the information in all the books in the British Library 192 times every 24 hours.” Meanwhile, under UK law, intelligence agencies are supposed to seek permission from the Secretary of State to read an individual’s text messages.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered the British government to provide their submissions by May, and the campaigners expect the court to make a ruling before the end of the year.

According to the lawyer for the groups, the ECHR has acted “remarkably quickly” communicating the case to the British government.

“It has also acted decisively by requiring the government to explain how the UK’s surveillance practices and oversight mechanisms comply with the right to privacy. This gives hope the ECHR will require reform if the government continues to insist that nothing is wrong,” Daniel Carey told the Guardian.

Both GCHQ and British ministers have insisted that none of their intelligence programs violated privacy laws and human rights.

According to GCHQ, all of its work is “carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorized, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence Services commissioners and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague has continuously dismissed allegations that GCHQ breached the law, saying law-biding citizens have no reason whatsover to be alarmed.

“If we could tell the whole world and the whole country how we do this business, I think people would be enormously reassured by it and they would see that the law-abiding citizen has nothing to worry about,” he said in June.

“If we did that, it would defeat the objective – this is secret work, it is secret intelligence, it is secret for a reason, and a reason that is to do with protecting all the people of this country,” Mr Hague explained.

Last week a joint investigation conducted by the UK’s Guardian newspaper and Channel 4 News, and based on the new documents leaked by Snowden, revealed that the NSA created a secret system called Dishfire to collect hundreds of millions of text messages a day. The documents showed that GCHQ had used the NSA database to search the metadata of “untargeted and unwarranted” communications of people in the UK. According to the Guardian report, “The NSA has made extensive use of its vast text message database to extract information on people’s travel plans, contact books, financial transactions and more – including of individuals under no suspicion of illegal activity.”

January 24, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GCHQ, NSA Spied On Known Terrorist Haven… UNICEF

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | December 20, 2013

The latest revelations from the Snowden documents, according to reports in both the NY Times and the Guardian is that the UK’s GCHQ, operating out of a site heavily funded by the NSA, targeted a variety of humanitarian and charitable groups, including the United Nations Children’s Fund, better known as UNICEF. Another target was Médecins du Monde, a well known medical relief group that delivers medicines and medical help to war-torn areas.

The reports also detail spying on various government officials, though, as I’ve said in the past, that kind of stuff isn’t particularly bothersome — as spying on leaders of other countries is typical and expected espionage activity, though it can certainly create some diplomatic awkwardness. Perhaps more interesting is that there’s much more evidence here of economic espionage activity. Among those “targeted” were Joaquin Almunia, the EU commission “competition” boss, who has been investigating anti-trust claims against American companies like Google and Microsoft. The NSA has insisted (and repeated in response to questions from reporters writing the two stories above) that it doesn’t engage in economic espionage — though GCHQ apparently doesn’t have any such restriction, suggesting that the NSA can just hand that kind of activity off to its UK friends, who it funds, and then reap the benefits.

Furthermore, the NSA seems to indicate in its response that while it may not engage in economic espionage in the form of spying on issues and handing that info directly to US companies, it does seem to open up the possibility of engaging in economic espionage to inform US policy makers — meaning it likely gets filtered back to those companies anyway:

“We do not use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of — or give intelligence we collect to — U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” said Vanee Vines, an N.S.A. spokeswoman.

But she added that some economic spying was justified by national security needs. “The intelligence community’s efforts to understand economic systems and policies, and monitor anomalous economic activities, are critical to providing policy makers with the information they need to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our national security,” Ms. Vines said.

There is some validity in the idea that if there’s going to be some sort of earth-shattering revelation that could have a wider impact on the whole economy, that there’s some value in having intelligence services aware of what’s going on — but it’s a pretty slippery slope from there to simply intercepting direct information that might be helpful for a particular company, and providing them an advantage.

But, going beyond that, targeting groups like UNICEF seems like going way too far. It’s hard to see any legitimate justification for this, unless someone’s going to argue that terrorist groups were somehow co-opting UNICEF, which seems like a huge stretch. To argue that there’s any national security reason to spy on UNICEF seems laughable. It really seems like the NSA and GCHQ were targeting organizations like that because they can.

December 20, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK Parliament Makes A Mockery Of Itself Interrogating Guardian Editor

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | December 3, 2013

The UK Parliament is presenting itself as a complete joke. Rather than looking into controlling the GCHQ (the UK’s equivalent to the NSA), it has instead held a hearing to interrogate and threaten Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger for actually reporting on the Snowden leak documents and revealing the widespread abuses of the intelligence community. The hearing included the insulting and ridiculous question: “do you love this country?”

Committee chair, Keith Vaz: Some of the criticisms against you and the Guardian have been very, very personal. You and I were both born outside this country, but I love this country. Do you love this country?

Alan Rusbridger: We live in a democracy and most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country, who love this country. I’m slightly surprised to be asked the question but, yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can, in this country, discuss and report these things.

Perhaps equally ridiculous: after UK Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the destruction of Guardian hard drives, urged the Parliament to start this very investigation and flat out threatened news publications for reporting on government abuse, folks in Parliament have the gall to suggest that it’s Rusbridger who broke the law in sharing some of the Snowden docs with the NY Times? Maybe if Cameron hadn’t done everything he could to try to stifle a free UK press, the Guardian wouldn’t have felt the need to share documents with a competitor.

Conservative MP Michael Ellis: Mr Rusbridger, you authorised files stolen by [National Security Agency contractor Edward] Snowden which contained the names of intelligence staff to be communicated elsewhere. Yes or no?

Rusbridger: Well I think I’ve already dealt with that.

Ellis: Well if you could just answer the question.

Rusbridger: I think it’s been known for six months that these documents contained names and that I shared them with the New York Times.

Ellis: Do you accept that that is a criminal offence under section 58(a) of the Terrorism Act, 2000?

Rusbridger: You may be a lawyer, Mr Ellis, I’m not.

And from there it took a turn to the bizarre as Ellis started talking about how Rusbridger might reveal that GCHQ agents were gay. I’m not kidding.

Ellis: Secret and top-secret documents. And do you accept that the information contained personal information that could lead to the identity even of the sexual orientation of persons working within GCHQ?

Rusbridger: The sexual orientation thing is completely new to me. If you could explain how we’ve done that then I’d be most interested.

Ellis: In part, from your own newspaper on 2 August, which is still available online, because you refer to the fact that GCHQ has its own Pride group for staff and I suggest to you that the data contained within the 58,000 documents also contained data that allowed your newspaper to report that information. It is therefore information now that is not any longer protected under the laws and that jeopardises those individuals, does it not?

Rusbridger: You’ve completely lost me Mr Ellis. There are gay members of GCHQ, is that a surprise?

Ellis: It’s not amusing Mr Rusbridger. They shouldn’t be outed by you and your newspaper.

[Brief inaudible exchange in which both men are talking]

Rusbridger: The notion of the existence of a Pride group within GCHQ, actually if you go to the Stonewall website you can find the same information there. I fail to see how that outs a single member of GCHQ.

Ellis: You said it was news to you, so you know about the Stonewall website, so it’s not news to you. It was in your newspaper. What about the fact that GCHQ organised trips to Disneyland in Paris, that’s also been printed in your newspaper, does that mean if you knew that, information including the family details of members of GCHQ is also within the 58,000 documents – the security of which you have seriously jeopardised?

Rusbridger: Again, your references are lost to me. The fact that there was a family outing from GCHQ to Disneyland … [CUT OFF]

There was much more in the hearing, with multiple UK members of parliament making statements that suggest that they are ignorant of a variety of things, including how encryption works and the nature of a free and open press.

But, really, just the fact that they’re spending time investigating Rusbridger in the first place, rather than looking more closely at what the GCHQ is doing, makes a complete mockery of the UK Parliament.

December 4, 2013 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

UN to probe security agencies’ snooping

RT | December 3, 2013

The United Nations is set to carry out an investigation into the spying activities of the US and UK, a senior judge has said. The probe will examine the espionage programs and assess whether they conform to UN regulations.

UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC told British newspaper The Guardian that the UN will conduct an inquiry into the NSA and the GCHQ’s spying antics. Following Edward Snowden’s revelations, which blew the whistle on both agencies’ intelligence gathering programs, Emmerson said the issue was at “the very apex of public interest and concerns.”

The report will broach a number of contentious issues, said Emmerson, including whether Snowden should be granted the legal protection afforded to a whistleblower, whether the data he handed over to the media did significant harm to national security, whether intelligence agencies need to scale down their surveillance programs and whether the UK government was misled about the extent of intelligence gathering.

“When it comes to assessing the balance that must be struck between maintaining secrecy and exposing information in the public interest, there are often borderline cases,” Emmerson told The Guardian.

Emmerson also mentioned the raid this summer on The Guardian’s London offices in search of hard drives containing data from Snowden. Addressing the allegations made by the chiefs of British spy agencies MI5, GCHQ and MI6, that publishing Snowden’s material was “a gift to terrorists,” Emmerson said it was the media’s job to hold governments to account for their actions.

“The astonishing suggestion that this sort of responsible journalism can somehow be equated with aiding and abetting terrorism needs to be scotched decisively,” said Emmerson, who will present the conclusions of his inquiry to the UN General Assembly next autumn.

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger is set to appear before a Commons home affairs committee in a hearing about the newspaper publishing of Snowden’s security leaks. British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a statement in September, warning of a possible crackdown if media continued to publish information on covert intelligence gathering programs.

He said the government had not yet been “heavy-handed” in its dealings with the press, but it would be difficult not to act if the press does not “demonstrate some social responsibility.” Cameron added that the UK was a more dangerous place after the Guardian published Snowden’s material.

Snowden’s revelations of the international spying activities of the UK and US have embarrassed the White House and Downing Street. Recent leaks show that the NSA and GCHQ not only monitored millions of civilian communications using programs such as PRISM and Tempora, but also eavesdropped on high-profile businessmen and politicians. Moreover, it was revealed that the NSA also spied on the UN’s headquarters in New York.

Both nations have sought to justify their intelligence gathering programs as being in the interests of national security.

December 3, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NSA infected 50,000 computer networks with malicious software

NRC NIEUWS | November 23, 2013

The American intelligence service – NSA – infected more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide with malicious software designed to steal sensitive information. Documents provided by former NSA-employee Edward Snowden and seen by this newspaper, prove this.

A management presentation dating from 2012 explains how the NSA collects information worldwide. In addition, the presentation shows that the intelligence service uses ‘Computer Network Exploitation’ (CNE) in more than 50,000 locations. CNE is the secret infiltration of computer systems achieved by installing malware, malicious software.

One example of this type of hacking was discovered in September 2013 at the Belgium telecom provider Belgacom. For a number of years the British intelligence service – GCHQ – has been installing this malicious software in the Belgacom network in order to tap their customers’ telephone and data traffic. The Belgacom network was infiltrated by GCHQ through a process of luring employees to a false Linkedin page.

NSA special department employs more than a thousand hackers

The NSA computer attacks are performed by a special department called TAO (Tailored Access Operations). Public sources show that this department employs more than a thousand hackers. As recently as August 2013, the Washington Post published articles about these NSA-TAO cyber operations. In these articles The Washington Post reported that the NSA installed an estimated 20,000 ‘implants’ as early as 2008. These articles were based on a secret budget report of the American intelligence services. By mid-2012 this number had more than doubled to 50,000, as is shown in the presentation NRC Handelsblad laid eyes on.

Cyber operations are increasingly important for the NSA. Computer hacks are relatively inexpensive and provide the NSA with opportunities to obtain information that they otherwise would not have access to. The NSA-presentation shows their CNE-operations in countries such as Venezuela and Brazil. The malware installed in these countries can remain active for years without being detected.

‘Sleeper cells’ can be activated with a single push of a button

The malware can be controlled remotely and be turned on and off at will. The ‘implants’ act as digital ‘sleeper cells’ that can be activated with a single push of a button. According to the Washington Post, the NSA has been carrying out this type of cyber operation since 1998.

The Dutch intelligence services – AIVD and MIVD – have displayed interest in hacking. The Joint Sigint Cyber Unit – JSCU – was created early in 2013. The JSCU is an inter-agency unit drawing on experts with a range of IT skills. This new unit is prohibited by law from performing the type of operations carried out by the NSA as Dutch law does not allow this type of internet searches.

The NSA declined to comment and referred to the US Government. A government spokesperson states that any disclosure of classified material is harmful to our national security.

November 24, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Online surveillance threatens democracy: web creator

336218_Tim-Berners-Lee

Inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee
Press TV – November 23, 2013

Internet surveillance by British and US spying agencies has posed a threat to online freedom and the future of democracy, British inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee has warned.

Berners-Lee said some governments are jeopardized by how the Internet and social media help exposing wrongdoings across the planet, adding that the “growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy”.

He also said that whistleblowers who have leaked secret surveillance by US National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s eavesdropping agency the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) deserve praise and need to be protected.

Berners-Lee’s comments come after classified documents, leaked by US whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in June, showed the NSA and its British counterpart the GCHQ had been eavesdropping on millions of American and European phone records and the Internet data.

“Countries owe a lot to whistleblowers – there’s a series of whistleblowers who have been involved. Snowden is the latest. Because there was no way we could have had that conversation without them,” he said at the launch of a new index showing web freedoms around the world.

“At the end of the end day when systems for checks and balances break down we have to rely on the whistleblowers – I think we must protect them and respect them,” he added.

In his interview with The Guardian earlier this month, Berners-Lee described the spying activities by the US and UK spying agencies as “dysfunctional and unaccountable.”

The inventor of the World Wide Web slammed the US and British governments for weakening online security and said their spying activities have contradicted all efforts to stop cybercrime and cyber warfare.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GCHQ snoops on hotel reservations targeting diplomats – Snowden leaks

RT | November 17, 2013

A UK spy agency infiltrated international hotel booking systems for some three years, tracing high profile officials and wiretapping their suites, new leaks reveal. GCHQ’s top secret ‘Royal Concierge’ program tracked 350 hotels across the globe.

Germany’s Der Spiegel has published yet another episode of scandalous revelations from the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, currently enjoying temporary asylum in Moscow.

Constantly on the move, top officials and diplomats prefer to stay in high-end establishments and boutique hotels with premier service standards. And since the number of high-class hotels in the world is finite, British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) came up with the idea of turning them into a huge net to fish for secrets in high-tech style.

After the ‘Royal Concierge’ program underwent testing in 2010, it was readied and put into action.

Documents unearthed by Snowden reveal that over a three-year period GCHQ had an automatic system for singling out people of interest, who made reservations in about 350 upscale hotels worldwide.

Field operatives then allegedly wiretapped the phone and network cables inside the targeted suite, and were potentially able to check into the next door suite in order to eavesdrop the target at the scene.
‘Royal Concierge’ in operation

According to documents seen by Der Spiegel, when a top official or a diplomat makes a reservation using his working e-mail address (or his secretary does) with a governmental domain like .gov, GCHQ gets a notification and decides whether it needs to take ‘action’ or not.

Once a foreign diplomat is booked into a hotel, putting him under the microscope becomes a purely technical objective. Der Spiegel lists an impressive array of spying techniques and capabilities “that seem to exhaust the creative potential of modern spying”. No details, however, are provided.

On occasions, when a guest of special interest checks in, a crack intelligence unit can be deployed who have ‘specialist technologies’ for spying at their disposal. GCHQ may also put into action codename ‘Humint’ [Human Intelligence], for close scrutiny of the target, an operation that could also include field agents working in the vicinity.

Der Spiegel also highlights the speculation that ‘Royal Concierge’ could possibly manipulate hotel choices through the booking programs and also bug hired cars.

Der Spiegel has not provided information about whether ‘Royal Concierge’ has been spying on Britain’s major allies, or if the targets of the GCHQ hotel surveillance had any connections to Al-Qaeda.

Remarkably, the report comes right after British intelligence chiefs made assurances that their actions were conducted within the framework of the war on terror. At a November-7th hearing by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee in London, GCHQ head, Sir Ian Lobban, acknowledged that Edward Snowden’s leaks would make GCHQ’s work “far harder” for years to come.

 

November 17, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UN envoy ‘shocked’ by UK’s ‘unacceptable’ persecution of The Guardian over Snowden leaks

RT | November 16, 2013

A senior United Nations official responsible for freedom of expression has warned that the UK government’s response to revelations of mass surveillance by Edward Snowden is damaging Britain’s reputation for press freedom and investigative journalism.

The UN special rapporteur, Frank La Rue, has said he is alarmed at the reaction from some British politicians following the Guardian’s revelations about the extent of the secret surveillance programs run by the UK’s eavesdropping center GCHQ and its US counterpart the NSA (National Security Agency), it was reported in the Guardian.

“I have been absolutely shocked about the way the Guardian has been treated, from the idea of prosecution to the fact that some members of parliament even called it treason. I think that is unacceptable in a democratic society,” said La Rue.

Speaking to the Guardian La Rue said that national security cannot be used as an argument against newspapers for publishing information that is in the public interest even if doing so is embarrassing for those who are in office.

The Guardian as well as other major world media organizations including the New York Times, the Washington Post and Der Spiegel began disclosing details about the US and UK’s mass surveillance programs in June, after receiving leaked documents from former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.

The publications have sparked a huge global debate on whether such surveillance powers are justified, but in Britain there have been calls for the Guardian to be prosecuted and the editor, Alan Rusbridger, has been called to give evidence to the home affairs select committee.

The Prime Minister David Cameron has even warned that unless the newspaper begins to demonstrate some social responsibility, then he would take “tougher measures” including the issuing of D notices, which ban a newspaper or broadcaster from touching certain material.

While on Friday the New York Times wrote an editorial entitled “British press freedom under threat”. It said, “Britain has a long tradition of a free inquisitive press. That freedom, so essential to democratic accountability, is being challenged by the Conservative-Liberal coalition government of Prime Minster David Cameron.”

The op-ed added that Britain, unlike the US has no constitutional guarantee of press freedom.

“Parliamentary committees and the police are now exploiting that lack of protection to harass, intimidate and possibly prosecute the Guardian newspaper,” the leader read.

Frank La Rue’s intervention comes just days after a delegation of some of the world’s leading editors and publishers announced they were coming to Britain on a “press freedom mission”.

The trip is being organized by the Paris based, World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), and will arrive on UK soil in January. WAN-IFRA says it will include key newspaper figures from up to five continents and that this is the first mission of this kind to the UK ever.

The delegation is expected to meet government leaders and the opposition, as well as press industry figures and civil society and freedom of speech organizations. Their discussions are expected to focus on the political pressure brought to bear on the Guardian.

“We are concerned that these actions not only seriously damage the United Kingdom’s historic international reputation as a staunch defender of press freedom, but provide encouragement to non-democratic regimes to justify their own repressive actions,” Vincent Peyregne, the Chief of the WAN-IFRA, told the Guardian.

newspaper posed a threat to the UK national security.

Also in October, British Prime Minister David Cameron called on The Guardian and other newspapers to show “social responsibility” in the reporting of the leaked NSA files to avoid high court injunctions or the use of D-notices to prevent the publication of information that could damage national security.

La Rue’s remarks come as an international delegation is set to visit Britain over growing concerns about press freedom in the country and a government crackdown on media reporting leaks and scandals.

Organized by the World Association of Newspaper and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the delegation, which includes publishers and editors from five continents, will arrive in January.

The team will reportedly meet with government, opposition figures and media representatives.

November 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NSA, GCHQ spy on OPEC

Press TV – November 12, 2013

The list of US spying targets now includes the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, a new report reveals.

The US National Security Agency and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters infiltrated OPEC’s computer systems to access an internal study in the organization’s research division, the German newspaper Der Spiegel reported, citing documents provided by American whistleblower Edward J. Snowden.

A list of individuals targeted for surveillance included “Saudi Arabia’s OPEC governor”.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved the targeting.

Der Spiegel said the information on OPEC had been available to the NSA for years, but in 2008 the agency infiltrated the organization, and has since been able to access Relevant Products/Services information specifically regarding oil exporting countries and the price of oil.

The infiltration however, was not easy for the NSA. A document from GCHQ, released in 2010, announced that after a long period of meticulous work, the two spying agencies had finally infiltrated the systems.

There is no national security justification for the spying effort. But the US needs the information to maintain its economic dominance in the world, some experts say.

OPEC has twelve members and is dedicated to coordinating the policies of the oil-exporting countries.

The American public, some IT corporations, and foreign leaders are all targets of the US super spying agency over the past years, according to documents released by Snowden, who is now in Russia where he was granted temporary asylum. Snowden is wanted in America for espionage charges.

November 12, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment