Lack of Intelligence 123

I am astonished that still none of our pusillanimous media has published the simple fact that NSA and GCHQ share ALL intelligence reports with each other. Every member of the House of Commons who has ever been in the most junior ministerial position knows this – that amounts to hundreds. So do at least fifty thousand current or retired civil service and military personnel. So do the majority of senior journalists. Yet Hague was allowed to talk round the subject without being challenged about the truth, and the fiction of official secrecy persists.

The Guardian almost published the truth:

“It has been suggested GCHQ uses our partnership with the United States to get around UK law, obtaining information that they cannot legally obtain in the UK. I wish to be absolutely clear that this accusation is baseless. Any data obtained by us from the US involving UK nationals is subject to proper UK statutory controls and safeguards.”

This is the nub of the issue and the foreign secretary’s statement seems to mask a much more complex picture. If a UK agency wanted to tap the phone of a Briton living in the UK, it would have to get ministerial approval through RIPA. But not all telecoms and internet companies are based in the UK – most of the giants have their headquarters in the US. This is where the UK’s relationship with the NSA is critical. If the firm storing the required information is outside RIPA’s authority, GCHQ could ask the NSA for help.

And if the NSA had any relevant intelligence, via Prism or any other programme, it could give it to GCHQ. Strictly speaking, GCHQ would still have needed a RIPA authorisation if it was requesting this material. But if the NSA was offering, the same principles don’t appear to apply.

Matthew Ryder QC said: “It is not the breaking of laws that is most troubling in this area, but the absence of them. Foreigners storing their personal data on US servers have neither the protection that their own domestic laws would give them from their own governments, nor the protection that US citizens have from the US government. It is foreigners, potentially UK citizens in the UK, who are the targets of programmes like Prism.

“Once such data is in the hands of the US authorities, there is no clear legal framework that prevents it from being shared with UK authorities. The Security Service Act 1989 and the Intelligence Services Act 1994 place MI5, MI6 and GCHQ on a statutory basis, and permit those bodies to receive any information from foreign agencies in the ‘proper discharge’ of their statutory functions.

“Under that broad principle, UK agencies may receive and examine data from the US about UK citizens without having to comply with any of the legal requirements they would have to meet if the same agencies had tried to gather that information themselves.”

In fact GCHQ do not have to ask, and NSA do not have specifically to initiate. US citizens are included in the UK Prism operation, and UK citizens are included in the US Prism operation, and the swapping of resulting intelligence reports is an automatic process. So the UK takes the view it is not breaching the guidelines about spying on its own citizens as it is not REQUESTING the NSA to do anything, and vice versa.

It is precisely analogous to our receipt of intelligence from torture, which I was told as Ambassador was perfectly legal as long as we don’t request that the individual be tortured.

123 thoughts on “Lack of Intelligence

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  • Abe Rene

    @Craig “I saw such reports every day of my working life for 20 years, so I can assure you I perfectly well know of what I speak. ”

    I’m not disputing this. I was just sceptical that something known to so many people could be kept from spilling out. Doesn’t the US for example have “NOFORN” documents, or those requiring “Yankee white” clearance, which wouldn’t be shared with the UK’s secret services? Wasn’t that a problem in Iraq, creating the farcical situation that the SAS would gathwer intelligence and give it to the US on Monday (so to speak), the US would classify it NOFORN on Tuesday, and so the UK’s soldiers couldn’t have it on Wednesday even if they needed it?

  • guano


    Were the pellets red or blue? You are now part of the food chain. I’m not going to eat you.

  • Komodo

    Returning to the matter before us –
    Ben Franklin and his friend get the kudos for this link:

    In which we learn:

    Verint and Narus created programs which offered the NSA backdoors to all the major U.S. telecommuications and technology companies including Facebook, Microsoft, Google. That’s how the companies could deny that they explicitly knew or approved of PRISM’s harvesting their data:

    Both Verint and Narus were founded in Israel in the 1990s. Both provide monitoring and intercept capabilities to service providers and government organizations, promoting claims that their equipment can access and retain large amounts of information on a vast number of targets.

    From Robert Poe of Wired:

    Narus’ product, the Semantic Traffic Analyzer, is a software application that runs on standard IBM or Dell servers using the Linux operating system. It’s renowned within certain circles for its ability to inspect traffic in real time on high-bandwidth pipes, identifying packets of interest as they race by at up to 10 Gbps.

    “*Anything that comes through (an internet protocol network), we can record,” Steve Bannerman, marketing vice president of Narus, a Mountain View, California company, said. “We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on, we can reconstruct their (voice over internet protocol) calls.”

    With a telecom wiretap the NSA only needs companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple to passively participate while the agency to intercepts, stores, and analyzes their communication data. The indirect nature of the agreement would provide tech giants with plausible deniability.

    And having a foreign contractor bug the telecom grid would mean that the NSA gained access to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the U.S. without technically doing it themselves.

    So the NSA’s mad plan to record everything everywhere gave Israel complete access to all American communications. If you complain about that situation, you’re an anti-Semite. If you are an insider and you complain (as Toobin suggests) to the “proper authorities,” they will fire you and frame you. If you are an insider and you tell the public what’s really going on, Diane Feinstein will call you a traitor — and the Obama crew will do to you what they did to Bradley Manning. Or worse.

    Wasn’t joking, John Angus.

  • technicolour

    This doesn’t seem to be getting out either:

    Occupy Gezi
    Ismail Demirci, one of the attorneys under custody tweets:
    “We’re kept under custody in a lawless way right now. Nothing written, no order, no written proceedings, not even water until our friends arrived.”
    ” We’re 49 attorneys under custody and taken to Vatan Police Station by force”
    ” We’re now in Vatan Police Station but no explanations, no written proceedings, not even a permit from the prosecution office. ”

  • Ben Franklin -Machine Gun Preacher (unleaded version)

    Komodo; Just announced that the Feds are preparing to charge Snowden while at the same time Obama says he welcomes this debate.

    Wheels within wheels, but when we understand how they work, they can actually transport all of us, not just a few.

  • Jemand

    There are many laws in our respective jurisdictions (US, UK, Oz etc) governing access to computer systems and data. To what extent have American intelligence agencies broken our laws in obtaining unauthorised access to our private data? Even copyright laws. Do existing treaties provide us with a legal remedy? Are local prosecutors prepared to seek extradition and prosecution of American citizens involved in unlawful access to computer systems and data? Are there any lawyers out there who are willing to explore a possible class action against American and associated local agencies who broke local laws? 

    We are by now used to American prosecutors hunting down people in foreign jurisdictions for alleged breaches of copyright. Kim Dot Com in New Zealand being one example amongst many. Will Americans, or their representatives in our local jurisdictions, be willing to prosecute those involved in spying on us? 

    Maybe it’s time that we disengage with the US.

  • Jonangus Mackay

    @Komodo By ‘LOL’ I meant not to suggest that you were joking but that what you were implying should be so obvious on reflection, particularly in the present context, as to be laughable.

    A further, less dramatic but nonetheless significant, example. The San Diego-based net-filtering company Websense is one of a handful that dominate the global market. Its clients include the state of Yemen. Its Wikipedia entry includes the following, because some years ago I put it there:

    ‘Websense’s proprietary Deep Content Control is software designed to protect confidential information. The company says it is a combination of its ThreatSeeker and PreciseID technologies. PreciseID uses software first developed for the Israeli military. The company has a Data Loss Prevention product called Information Leak Prevention, which was developed by the Israel-based data security company PortAuthority Technologies. In December 2006 Websense bought PortAuthority for $90 million. Announcing the take-over, Websense said that it was “committed to maintaining the company’s research and development presence in Israel.”‘

  • Komodo

    Thanks Jonangus. All grist to the mill. I believe some Israelis built the London Underground’s surveillance systems, too. And…

  • Jonangus Mackay

    Possibly as a result, indeed, of the relevant disclosure in the article itself, I note that the Websense entry now includes the following:

    ‘Websense was finally discontinued in Yemen sometime around January 2011 and apparently it is no longer being used in any Middle East or North Africa country.’

  • Flaming June


    10 Jun 2013

    The Air Force’s 624th Operations Center sent an e-mail with a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) that prohibits them from accessing and reading news stories related to the current National Security Agency snooping controversy on the Air Force’s NIPRNET (Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network) systems.

    The 624th Operations Center, located at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, is the operational arm for the 24th Air Force’s cyberspace operations capability.


    Have you noticed how the powers-that-be love their acronyms?

  • mike

    This just fired out by the Warshington Post email alert:

    See how valuable are the NSA’s efforts in the fight against cyberterrorism?

    Pretty lame as a PR response to Snowden. I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more in the coming days though.

    At least the BBC are just about staying with the story (awkward subplots notwithstanding)

  • Flaming June

    Two of our straight-faced state broadcasters on BBC News have just announced that the Greek state broadcaster (their words) is closing down and 2,700 jobs are going. I think the irony was lost on them.


    Cartoon in Guardian.

    Steve Bell on William Hague’s statement about GCHQ and the secret NSA operation.

    Foreign secretary’s statement to the House of Commons offered a straightforward and robust defence

  • Jives

    Still not convinced by the Snowden narrative.

    It’s just all so…pat.

    The Guardian as leaks portal,the Daily Fail running pics of his attractive ballerina in her knickers.The Hong Kong angle.

    If he ends up going over to China i will be convinced he’s a US disinfo Trojan.

    I can almost smell his spookmasters game-theorying the whole scene,possibly going back years to assemble a back story.

    What would George Smiley think if this case landed on his desk?

  • nevermind

    This from German Justice minister Ms. Leutheuser- Schnarrenberger.

    “We should remember that the strength of the liberal constitutional state lies in the trust of its citizens. Constitutional guarantees protect this trust and pursue two objectives: to punish the guilty and to protect the innocent or those who are unjustly suspected of a crime against wrongful actions by the government. These are precisely the tenets Germany adopted in 1949 from the tradition of the American Constitution of 1776 — namely that in a free and open democratic process, it is important to avoid the impression that the protection of basic rights is not being taken seriously enough.”

    On that subject it is also important to be seen to do the right thing, playing at it, knowing full well that the ECHELON program spied on EU, French,Italian and German armaments from as long as Menwith Hill and Fylingdales were operational. Many contracts were lost,undermined and outbid, due to this form of industrial military espionage.

    The intellectual property rights of the material stored does belong to the originators. If they have not agreed to this kind of secret storage, weren’t made aware of it, then this kind of filtering and data-mining should be illegal.

    The stated opt out hold no water, and as Komodo said, if the Israeli’s have their hands in this information gathering pie, we should be worried.

  • Cryptonym

    I think it is how it goes down in America that matters most – that they’re being spyed on by their own is acceptable to many, as is the same from those plucky little Israelis – but being spyed by some public-school educated, lithping, spotted bow-tie wearing limeys?

  • John Goss

    Yes, the US and UK have been circumventing national laws for more than thirty years, which is one of the things that makes the relationship “special”. But while the US wants information on the habits of Facebook, Twitter and Google users, it does not want its own dirty secrets hung out to dry. This should disgust proper-minded people. The photographs, though details are obscured, clearly shows US military personnel sexual abusing and raping prisoners (at least one under-age), before doing what the US does best to Muslims – killing them.

    This is real rape not the consensual sex which Swedes call rape.

  • Fitzwalter

    If true that IsRaEli companies are supplying data to the NSA/GCHQ, this would go a long way to explaining who was really responsible for 9/11. And, what a great opportunity for commercial espionage and blackmail. Collect all the phone and internet activity of Judge X then threaten to leak the information to the media if he refuses to vote in your favour. Would also explain the huge influence of IsRaEli ‘friends’ throughout US media and Congress.

  • Flaming June

    Joe Emersberger and the BBC’s Rory Cellan Jones on surveillance.

    A BBC “Watchdog” who embraces sleeping rather than barking
    Jun 11, 2013

    Cellan Jones is more interested in gadgets like the new Play Station and X Box.

    ‘He is married to the Vice Chairman of the BBC Trust Diane Coyle, a former adviser to HM Treasury.’

  • Arbed

    Jonangus Mackay, 4.32pm

    Did you say Websense? Interesting. That’ll be one of the sponsors of this shower then, along with BlueCoat:

    Integralis Security World Confereence, happening today:

    I noticed this because one of my least favourite people – well-known Wikileaks saboteur and whistleblower documents shredder Daniel Domscheit-Berg is giving the keynote address.

    This is Integralis:

    Here’s their partners:

    We know BlueCoat from the Wikileaks Spyfiles of companies selling their vile surveillance systems to repressive regimes:

    and, of course, this:

    Syria using American software to censor Internet, experts say:

    Well, well, small world…

  • Villager

    Flaming June
    11 Jun, 2013 – 1:42 pm

    Mary, do you have any quotation marks? I’d add my request to others before me. Also what is the point of copy and pasting a whole article (in this case even with the comment left at medialens) when you’re providing the link or vice-versa?

  • Villager

    Technicolour, yes that matter of detaining the lawyers in Turkey, absolutely incredible and disgraceful. There’s a real polarisation going on there. The arrogant and powerful Erdogan is feeding into it defiantly. Btw, the Turkey thread is alive and kicking and i reckon it still has some distance to go, but appears very little interest here or compassion for the young, middle class, progressive Turks crying to be heard, with tear-gas in their eyes and passion in their hearts.

    I wonder how many people understand that the word compassion is related to suffering,

  • mike

    If the Turkish protestors keep coming back after being cleared, eventually more of them are going to die. This will put our Governments in a tricky position. They’ll either stay silent like they did when Egypt was exploding, or they will call for restraint on both sides like they do when Israel is slaughtering civilians. So maybe it’s not tricky at all for them!
    Erdogan is privatising everything that isn’t nailed down. Turkey is vital for capitalism in so many ways, not least the US bases. If Erdogan is indeed damaged goods expect a visit from John Kerry, as happened literally hours before Pharaoh Morsi took the helm in Egypt. That time it was Hillary who anointed him, before she was Benghazied.

  • Indigo

    The EU attitude as reported by the Guardian appears to be very different from that of our much loved government. Before it’s pointed out to me, though, I don’t believe absolutely everything I read … but there appear to be still some significant differences.

    Could this be the way that the US loses some of it’s worldwide power … by leaving allied/friendly governments so scared of the backlash from their own populations that they at least go through the motions of stepping back?

  • Truth Is Free

    In the early 60s nuclear devices were planted in many major Western European cities as part of the CIA’s operation Gladio. Another part of Gladio was the creation of a secret paramilitary army that would be used to carry out an insurgency against soviet forces. Many will be aware that Gladio was also used to carry out ‘terror’ attacks in Western Europe, many involving the deaths of civilians.

    Getting back to these nuclear weapons; they can be activated and armed remotely via radio. Israel have had access to the frequencies, activation and arming codes since the late 60s. All Western European governments are aware of this. The French withdrew from NATO in 1966 when they learned about the Gladio nukes. It was only when Israeli Sayanim and part time Mossad agent Sarkozy was elected that France rejoined NATO and they have been a tool for US policy since. No doubt they also got some new radio controlled nukes in Paris, it’s part of the NATO deal.

    The devices have been mentioned in some of the wikileaks cables, which suggest that they have been a source of contention between the US and Europe since the end of the cold war. This also answers a lot of questions regarding the Israeli frequently bragged about ‘Samson’ option, mainly how on Earth can Israel wipe out Western Europe when it has no appropriate missile capability? Well, now you know. Sleep tight.

  • guano


    All nations that have previously had great empires, ourselves, China, Turkey, Persia, Rome, Mughal India, have a strong, sentimental belief in an imaginary noble past. There will always be conflict between those who are looking forward at reality and those who are looking to the past.

    Surely if greatness is to be found it is to be found in ourselves, looking at reality, how life is. Egodan maybe sincerely represents those who remember an Islamic heritage. But Islam is for now, for practise, for mental health and social cohesion. Even we have become completely fed up with the likes of Cameron and Hague and Blair wafting noble sentiments under our noses while spending the rest of the time sniffing Israel’s arse.

  • guano

    truth is free

    On a day that Obama was tuned into his nice-guy personality he ‘welcomed’ the security debate. Assange is also a worked-in-progress individual, so sensible people do not take Wikileaks at face value. No references given and none asked for. Thanks for giving us a bedtime laugh.

  • BrianFujisan

    Evil Bastard Features Rears its ugly Venomous Skull

    “Either you’re with us or you’re against us,” McCain explained to anchor Freddie Lyon, “and clearly the nation of Hong Kong is against us. By harboring this known cybercriminal they pose a clear and present danger to the American people.

    “I don’t want to hear about extradition or rendition or any of that nonsense. This man is a traitor and if we don’t get him within 24 hours I say we need to start bombing the hell out of Hong Kong.

    So sad,, Tears for Fears

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