Tag Archive: Government Communications Headquarters


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Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. © Vincent Kessler
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has voiced his opposition to the Investigatory Powers Bill, which was unveiled Wednesday by the British government, saying ministers are “taking notes on how to defend the indefensible.”

His remarks come as Home Secretary Theresa May has admitted that UK spy agencies MI5, MI6 and GCHQ secretly collected communications data for decades to protect “national security.”

Snowden, who sought asylum in Russia after leaking top-secret documents about American and British mass surveillance techniques, posted a series of tweets condemning the new bill.

He said the powers given to security agencies in the bill amounted to access to “the activity log of your life.”

May announced on Wednesday that internet companies would be required to store a record of every website accessed by users for a year. The new bill also targets encrypted messaging services, such as WhatsApp and iMessenger, which allow users to evade hackers and data collection.

It’s not about something to hide, it’s about something to lose.

Snowden expressed his opposition to the bill, which was created in the wake of his revelations.

 

 

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VOAnews.com

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Dec. 22, 2013.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Dec. 22, 2013.

Reuters

Documents leaked on Friday by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ had in 2009 targeted an email address listed as belonging to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and monitored emails of senior defense officials.

“With regard to things published in the past few days, I have asked for an examination of the matter,” Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks, in a clear reference to the alleged espionage.

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RT

 

Published on Dec 18, 2013

The NSA’s ultimate goal is to destroy individual privacy worldwide, working with its UK sidekick GCHQ, journalist Glenn Greenwald warned an EU inquiry, adding that they were far ahead of their rivals in their “ability to destroy privacy.” READ MORE: http://on.rt.com/dgt0n5

RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-air

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Ex-MI6 deputy chief plays down damage caused by Snowden leaks

Nigel Inkster’s comments contrast with claims made by officials that disclosures have seriously damaged UK security

Edward Snowden

Inkster said the leaks by Edward Snowden (pictured) had probably not told those most interested in the activities of the NSA and GCHQ ‘very much they didn’t already know or could have inferred’. Photograph: AP

A former senior British secret intelligence officer on Thursday played down any potential damage done by the leaks to the Guardian of the spying activities of GCHQ and America’s National Security Agency, apparently contradicting claims made by UK security chiefs.

The leaks, by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden were “very embarrassing, uncomfortable, and unfortunate”, Nigel Inkster, former deputy chief of MI6, said.

While Inkster said it was too early to draw any definite conclusions about the impact of the leaks, he added:

“I sense that those most interested in the activities of the NSA and GCHQ have not been told very much they didn’t know already or could have inferred.”

Al-Qaida leaders in the tribal areas of Pakistan had been “in the dark” for some time – in the sense that they had not used any form of electronic media that would “illuminate” their whereabouts, Inkster said. He was referring to counter measures they had taken to avoid detection by western intelligence agencies.

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Exclusive: NSA pays £100m in secret funding for GCHQ

• Secret payments revealed in leaks by Edward Snowden
• GCHQ expected to ‘pull its weight’ for Americans
• Weaker regulation of British spies ‘a selling point’ for NSA

GCHQ's site in Bude, Cornwall

The NSA paid £15.5m towards redevelopments at GCHQ’s site in Bude, north Cornwall, which intercepts communications from the transatlantic cables that carry internet traffic. Photograph: Kieran Doherty/Reuters

The US government has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQ over the last three years to secure access to and influence over Britain’s intelligence gathering programmes.

The top secret payments are set out in documents which make clear that the Americans expect a return on the investment, and that GCHQ has to work hard to meet their demands. “GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight,” a GCHQ strategy briefing said.

The funding underlines the closeness of the relationship between GCHQ and its US equivalent, the National Security Agency. But it will raise fears about the hold Washington has over the UK’s biggest and most important intelligence agency, and whether Britain’s dependency on the NSA has become too great.

In one revealing document from 2010, GCHQ acknowledged that the US had “raised a number of issues with regards to meeting NSA‘s minimum expectations”. It said GCHQ “still remains short of the full NSA ask”.

Ministers have denied that GCHQ does the NSA‘s “dirty work”, but in the documents GCHQ describes Britain’s surveillance laws and regulatory regime as a “selling point” for the Americans.

The papers are the latest to emerge from the cache leaked by the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has railed at the reach of the US and UK intelligence agencies.

Snowden warned about the relationship between the NSA and GCHQ, saying the organisations have been jointly responsible for developing techniques that allow the mass harvesting and analysis of internet traffic. “It’s not just a US problem,” he said. “They are worse than the US.”

As well as the payments, the documents seen by the Guardian reveal:

GCHQ is pouring money into efforts to gather personal information from mobile phones and apps, and has said it wants to be able to “exploit any phone, anywhere, any time”.

• Some GCHQ staff working on one sensitive programme expressed concern about “the morality and ethics of their operational work, particularly given the level of deception involved”.

• The amount of personal data available to GCHQ from internet and mobile traffic has increased by 7,000% in the past five years – but 60% of all Britain’s refined intelligence still appears to come from the NSA.

GCHQ blames China and Russia for the vast majority of cyber-attacks against the UK and is now working with the NSA to provide the British and US militaries with a cyberwarfare capability.

The details of the NSA payments, and the influence the US has over Britain, are set out in GCHQ‘s annual “investment portfolios”. The papers show that the NSA gave GCHQ £22.9m in 2009. The following year the NSA’s contribution increased to £39.9m, which included £4m to support GCHQ’s work for Nato forces in Afghanistan, and £17.2m for the agency’s Mastering the Internet project, which gathers and stores vast amounts of “raw” information ready for analysis.

 

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Photo Gallery: Interior Minister Defends Intelligence Agencies  
REUTERS

In an interview, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich discusses his confidence in the United States and its claims it is not conducting mass spying on Europe, concerns about Facebook and a determination to continue the fight against terrorism.

SPIEGEL: Minister Friedrich, can we take a quick look at your mobile phone?

ANZEIGE

Friedrich: All of them?

SPIEGEL: How many do you have?

Friedrich: Three. One phone on which conversations are encrypted, and one that has special security features. I use the third phone, which I have here in my pocket and which has for example newspaper apps installed, to go on the Internet.

SPIEGEL: Is that phone bug proof?

Friedrich: No. It’s an ordinary mobile phone.

SPIEGEL: After coming into office, you banned all BlackBerrys and smartphones from your staff meetings, because of the risk of information “getting into the wrong hands and ears,” as was said at the time. From today’s perspective, that sounds almost prophetic.

Friedrich: It wasn’t prophetic, just realistic. The networks are relatively open, and you can penetrate them with ordinary tools, which crime organizations and criminals certainly use to their advantage. That’s why we only use official devices for official matters.

SPIEGEL: Is it just criminal organizations that are getting in, or also intelligence services?

Friedrich: Intelligence services, too, if you insist. There are, after all, plenty of those in the world.

SPIEGEL: Do you think it’s reasonable that citizens must assume that their telephone conversations are being wiretapped and their emails read?

Friedrich: As a rule, citizens can assume that their telephone conversations are not being wiretapped, at least not by Western intelligence agencies. But, once again, other groups, such as criminal organizations, do have the technical means to listen in on phone conversations and read emails. In other words, you have to take extra steps if you want to communicate securely, such as using encryption technologies. You can compare it to sending a postcard when you’re on vacation. Everyone knows that others can read it. Letters are more secure.

SPIEGEL: In the case of telephone conversations, we had assumed until now that they were constitutionally protected and took place within a confidential framework. Since the leaks by Edward Snowden, a former employee of the US’s NSA intelligence agency, we have to assume that we are being systematically wiretapped and skimmed. Does that worry you?

Friedrich: So far, we have no indications that the American and British agencies, the NSA and GCHQ, are wiretapping phones in Germany.

SPIEGEL: According to the Snowden documents, GCHQ hacks into trans-Atlantic data communications passing through the TAT-14 fiber optic cable and stores the content for several days. A large share of German telephone conversations and emails abroad pass through this cable. Don’t you have a problem with that?

Friedrich: Communications pass through fiber optic cables worldwide. Intelligence services also tap into those cables to filter the flow of data. When the electronic filter signals that someone is dialing the telephone number of a presumed terrorist, perhaps in Pakistan or in Yemen, this information may be the first step toward preventing a possible terrorist attack, which could cost many lives. One thing is clear: This does not affect ordinary citizens. We are talking about strategic telecommunications reconnaissance, which is primarily the evaluation of connection data, not the content of conversations. When you make a phone call, the conversation doesn’t just pass through one fiber optic cable, but in several packets and through various connections.

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GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians’ communications at G20 summits

GCHQ composite

Documents uncovered by the NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, reveal surveillance of G20 delegates’ emails and BlackBerrys. Photograph: Guardian

Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic.

The revelation comes as Britain prepares to host another summit on Monday – for the G8 nations, all of whom attended the 2009 meetings which were the object of the systematic spying. It is likely to lead to some tension among visiting delegates who will want the prime minister to explain whether they were targets in 2009 and whether the exercise is to be repeated this week.

The disclosure raises new questions about the boundaries of surveillance by GCHQ and its American sister organisation, the National Security Agency, whose access to phone records and internet data has been defended as necessary in the fight against terrorism and serious crime. The G20 spying appears to have been organised for the more mundane purpose of securing an advantage in meetings. Named targets include long-standing allies such as South Africa and Turkey.

There have often been rumours of this kind of espionage at international conferences, but it is highly unusual for hard evidence to confirm it and spell out the detail. The evidence is contained in documents – classified as top secret – which were uncovered by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by the Guardian. They reveal that during G20 meetings in April and September 2009 GCHQ used what one document calls “ground-breaking intelligence capabilities” to intercept the communications of visiting delegations.

This included:

•  Setting up internet cafes where they used an email interception programme and key-logging software to spy on delegates’ use of computers;

• Penetrating the security on delegates’ BlackBerrys to monitor their email messages and phone calls;

• Supplying 45 analysts with a live round-the-clock summary of who was phoning who at the summit;

• Targeting the Turkish finance minister and possibly 15 others in his party;

•  Receiving reports from an NSA attempt to eavesdrop on the Russian leader, Dmitry Medvedev, as his phone calls passed through satellite links to Moscow.

The documents suggest that the operation was sanctioned in principle at a senior level in the government of the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, and that intelligence, including briefings for visiting delegates, was passed to British ministers.

A briefing paper dated 20 January 2009 records advice given by GCHQ officials to their director, Sir Iain Lobban, who was planning to meet the then foreign secretary, David Miliband. The officials summarised Brown’s aims for the meeting of G20 heads of state due to begin on 2 April, which was attempting to deal with the economic aftermath of the 2008 banking crisis. The briefing paper added: “The GCHQ intent is to ensure that intelligence relevant to HMG’s desired outcomes for its presidency of the G20 reaches customers at the right time and in a form which allows them to make full use of it.” Two documents explicitly refer to the intelligence product being passed to “ministers”.

GCHQ ragout 1

One of the GCHQ documents. Photograph: Guardian

According to the material seen by the Guardian, GCHQ generated this product by attacking both the computers and the telephones of delegates.

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Wars and Rumors of War

UK support for US drones in Pakistan may be war crime, court is told

Lawyers for Pakistani man whose father was killed by drone strike seek to have sharing of UK intelligence declared unlawful

A US Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile

A US Predator drone armed with a missile: lawyers are seeking permission for a full judicial review of the lawfulness of any British assistance for the US drone programme. Photograph: Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images

The British government’s support for US drone operations over Pakistan may involve acts of assisting murder or even war crimes, the high court heard on Tuesday.

In the first serious legal challenge in the English courts to the drones campaign, lawyers for a young Pakistani man whose father was killed by a strike from an unmanned aircraft are seeking to have the sharing of UK locational intelligence declared unlawful.

Noor Khan, 27, is said to live in constant fear of a repeat of the attack in North Waziristan in March last year that killed more than 40 other people, who are said to have gathered to discuss a local mining dispute.

The British government has declined to state whether or not its signals intelligence agency GCHQ passes information in support of the CIA drone operations over Pakistan, although the court heard that media reports suggest that it does.

The case opened as the RAF confirmed that it is to double the number of its own drones flying combat and surveillance operations over Afghanistan. The five additional aircraft will be operated from the UK for the first time, rather than the US. The UK’s existing Reaper drones, which are used to target suspected insurgents in Helmand province, have been operated from Creech air force base in Nevada because the RAF has not had the capability to fly them from Britain.

Martin Chamberlain, counsel for Khan, said that a newspaper article in 2010 had reported that GCHQ was using telephone intercepts to provide the US authorities with locational intelligence on leading militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The report suggested that the Cheltenham-based agency was proud of this work, which was said to be “in strict accordance with the law”.

On the contrary, Chamberlain said, any GCHQ official who passed locational intelligence to the CIA knowing or believing that it could be used to facilitate a drone strike would be committing a serious criminal offence.

“The participation of a UK intelligence official in US drone strikes, by passing intelligence, may amount to the offence of encouraging or assisting murder,” he said. Alternatively, it could amount to a war crime or a crime against humanity, he added.

Chamberlain said that no GCHQ official would be able to mount a defence of combat immunity, but added that there was no wish in this case to convict any individual of a criminal offence. Rather, Khan was seeking a declaration by the civil courts that such intelligence-sharing is unlawful.

Between June 2004 and September this year, according to research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, drone strikes killed between 2,562 and 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom between 474 and 881 were civilians, including 176 children.

With the number of drone strikes increasing sharply under the Obama administration, the London case is one of several being brought by legal activists around the world in an attempt to challenge their legality of the programme.

In Pakistan, lawyers and human rights activists are mounting two separate court claims: one is intended to trigger a criminal investigation into the actions of two former CIA officials, while the second is seeking a declaration that the strikes amount to acts of war, in order to pressurise the Pakistani air force into shooting down drones operating in the country’s airspace.

During the two-day hearing in London, lawyers for Khan are seeking permission for a full judicial review of the lawfulness of any British assistance for the US drone programme.

Lawyers for William Hague, the foreign secretary, say not only that they will neither confirm nor deny any intelligence-sharing activities in support of drone operations, but that it would be “prejudicial to the national interest” for them even to explain their understanding of the legal basis for any such activities.

For Khan and his lawyers to succeed, they say, the court would need to be satisfied that there is no international armed conflict in Pakistan, with the result that anyone involved in drone strikes was not immune from the criminal law, and that there had been no tacit approval for the strikes from the Pakistan government – another matter that the British government will neither confirm nor deny.

The court would also need to consider, and reject, the US government’s own legal position: that drone strikes are acts of self-defence. It would also need to be satisfied that the handing over of intelligence amounted to participation in hostilities.

The government also says that Khan’s claim would have a “significant impact” on the conduct of the UK’s relations with both the US and Pakistan in an “acutely controversial, sensitive and important” area, and also impact on relations between the US and Pakistan.

The case continues.