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'Worse Than NSA': UK Spy Agency Amasses 'World's Communication'

World  (tags: 'CIVILLIBERTIES!', 'HUMANRIGHTS!', corruption, crime, freedoms, government, politics, society, UK )

- 1799 days ago -
New Guardian exclusive reveals secret database of phone and internet records that dwarfs previous revelations

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Kit B (276)
Friday June 21, 2013, 8:02 pm
(Image via The Guardian)

Always seemingly in lockstep with the United States, new reports reveal that the UK's spy agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), has gained covert access to the "world's communications" and has amassed an infinite database, which they freely share with their US counterpart, the NSA.

"It's not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight," former NSA contractor Edward Snowden told the Guardian. "They [GCHQ] are worse than the US."

This information, revealed in a Guardian exclusive published Friday, was gleaned from documents leaked to the news outlet by Snowden earlier this month.

The documents reveal a five-year-old government surveillance system that dwarfs all others in its scale and capacity to collect metadata on "the world's communications."

The spy agency's programs, appropriately called Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, tap transatlantic fiber-optic cables that "carry the world's phone calls and internet traffic" by attaching "intercept probes" where the cables meet British soil before "carrying data to western Europe from telephone exchanges and internet servers in North America."

The sheer scale of the program trumps any other that has yet to come to light. As the report notes, the GCHQ "produces larger amounts of metadata than NSA."

In the US, officials have downplayed the value and scope of information that can be gleaned from such mass swathes of data. However, as Jay Stanley and Ben Wizner of the ACLU explained following earlier revelations of the NSA spy program:

Even without intercepting the content of communications, the government can use metadata to learn our most intimate secrets – anything from whether we have a drinking problem to whether we’re gay or straight. The suggestion that metadata is “no big deal” – a view that, regrettably, is still reflected in the law – is entirely out of step with the reality of modern communications.

“The public doesn’t understand,” adds mathematician and former Sun Microsystems engineer Susan Landau. “It’s much more intrusive than content.”

The UK spy agency collects 600 million "telephone events" each day, and with over 200 tapped cables carrying information at a rate of 10 gigabits per second, they are capturing the equivalent of "all the information in all the books in the British Library 192 times every 24 hours."

Also, the amount of data they are able to collect is constantly growing, as more cables are tapped and storage capabilities continue to grow.

As the Guardian reports:

One key innovation has been GCHQ's ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation, codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months.

GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects.

This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user's access to websites – all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets.

Not unlike the United States' rational for the allegedly legal NSA surveillance system, the GCHQ justifies these programs by applying old laws to new technology. Under the 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), the tapping of "defined targets" must be authorized by a warrant signed by the home secretary or foreign secretary.

However, as the Guardian explains, the GCHQ has taken advantage of "an obscure clause" which allows the foreign secretary to sign a certificate for the interception of broad categories of material, as long as one end of the monitored communications is abroad.

In this case, they write, the "criteria at any one time are secret and are not subject to any public debate."

Beginning in May 2012, 300 analysts from GCHQ and 250 from the NSA began the process of sifting through this "flood of data," and a reported 850,000 NSA employees and US private contractors have access to the growing database.

By: Lauren McCauley, staff writer | Common Dreams |


Kit B (276)
Friday June 21, 2013, 8:05 pm

Secret and not subject to public debate. Now that just ended the discussion or speculation that this or any government is of or by the people. At least Obama pretends we can debate this.

JL A (281)
Friday June 21, 2013, 8:17 pm
Chilling--since this is the tip of the iceberg that was hidden--what is yet to come?

Roxie H (350)
Friday June 21, 2013, 10:14 pm
Don't be afraid .. we can use this to our advantage, think about it ok

David C (29)
Friday June 21, 2013, 10:14 pm
There will be lots more to come, I waiting for the day we are told that they are changing the words of emails or added things to your pc.

Roxie H (350)
Friday June 21, 2013, 10:16 pm
does anyone have me or my blogs or any of my teams on their outer lines? I know who does, just asking the ones who I don't know, because I am tired of asking. and not going to keep reminding people to do it. I have enough young people to take care of.

Ben O (170)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 7:01 am
Time to change the title on George Orwell's "1984" to "2013"...???

Theodore Shayne (56)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 10:06 am
Weclome to 1984. It has begun.

Ravenna C (20)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 10:31 am
This is not a surprise to those of us that have been awake for the last few years. I think that the analogy of the "frog in boiling water" is more than apt.

Big Brother has been watching all along. Now he just isn't hiding it anymore. Why bother? What are we going to do about it anyway?

This goes way beyond arrogance, greed and corruption. The 1% have polluted the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the earth we need to live. Now they have taken away any semblance of freedom that people thought they had. What is worse is that they have taken over our minds. I hope it is not to late. Humankind is in a fight for it's very survival, I think.

Angelika R (143)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 11:37 am
Things are happening so fast now we barely get to take a breath..
Ravenna is right and so is our Justice Minister who called this a catastrophe. I guess the old standard excuse of "for national security" has gotten a whole new meaning.

Angelika R (143)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 11:52 am
I keep thinking of old times of devided Germany, when people knew their letters were either x-rayed or opened by the Stasi, ..what's happening today or rather has been happening makes the Stasi methods look like kid games.

Birgit W (160)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 12:31 pm
We have been all taken over by the evil corporations and governments, and have no rights anymore.

Jamie Clemons (282)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 1:20 pm
I say old chap. Get your jolly good hands off my data.

Debra Tate (17)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 1:25 pm
NOTED! And from our side of the pond, it has probably been shared with his buddies, the Muslim Brotherhood! Since he gave them F-16's while trying to limit our guns and ammo, he has probably shared our info with them so they will be able to single out the "infidels", which is anyone who does not support his kingship 100%. He is trying to get the term limits extended or removed completely for the Presidency !!!.. . This is coming up for a vote, contact your reps in all the houses and tell them "DO NOT EXTEND THE TERM LIMITS ON THE PRESIDENCY! WE DON'T WANT A DICTATOR! He is trying to change OUR laws to fit his agenda!! He wants to destroy our Constitution and our Bill of Rights! Turn us into a Muslim nation and be our dictator!! He has a ten year plan and that's WHY he wants them removed. Only eight of those years are covered by elections! CALL YOUR REPS!! CALL THEM NOW!!

Svetlana B (20)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 1:27 pm
Noted TY

Kit B (276)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 1:44 pm

I think Angelika the Stasi (Staatssicherheit) would have loved the digital world. Of course, none of this is new, and has nothing to do with generated fears of terrorists.

S S (0)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 2:19 pm
Thank you.

Past Member (0)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 2:48 pm
You can bet that they all work together, whatever nation, (US, England, Israel, all of them). We are living in a world ruled by corporate fascists!

Lois Jordan (63)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 3:13 pm
Noted. Many thanks for posting, Kit....guess I'm out of stars for you today.
An article in The Guardian by Nafeez Ahmed was reprinted in Raw Story 6/14/13, and stated: "Data harvested by PRISM was fed into the FIVE EYES intelligence alliance. Members include: U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand....."
I'm just hoping this web gets so tangled that it entraps the spiders themselves...and in full view for all of us to see.

. (0)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 3:21 pm
Are we surprised? We shouldn't be. Many of the standing orders for the US still come from Chadwick House.

Angelika R (143)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 3:37 pm
Kit "Of course, none of this is new, and has nothing to do with generated fears of terrorists. "
I'm lost on that, could you explain ? This certainly IS NEW at least to me and obviously also to most other people. A scale we've never suspected. It has everything to do with govts. fears of terrorists, i.e. of us the world's people. I wonder if they actually consider anyone still being "innocent" or unsuspicious.

Angelika R (143)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 3:43 pm
I don't know what to think of Obama encouraging a public debate either, - if journalists now stir this up and keep it in public's attention they may well be the next prosecuted, seems almost contradictive, ...or a trick to get them and shut them up. There has already been a suggestion to go after Greenwald , this stuff is getting serious.

Kit B (276)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 3:52 pm

I was referring to the justification for spying - to find and root out the terrorist, so it must be okay. After all, the government is just keeping us safe. You bet!

But no I don't see this a new, maybe more deeply rooted here and in the international community. Maybe a more direct and insidious assault on the concept of privacy but not new.

Angelika R (143)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 4:09 pm
I see, but I thought NOBODY believed that any longer by now. People hopefully have understood that it's the other way round.
Yes, I was refering to the international community, we're talking worldwide surveilance here by the the Super power and its poodle, NOT just about the results of Patriot Act and NDAA. "More deeply rooted"-you can say that again!! It is new to our Justice Minister which has me wondering if my govt. actually new this. Merkel appeared to be surprised and shocked about PRISM and complained to Obama, I really want to hear something from her about THIS GCHQ thing now.

Mary Donnelly (47)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 5:09 pm
Thanks again for a great post.

Edith B (146)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 6:07 pm
Sadly, great numbers of people think this is for our protection

Ravenna C (20)
Saturday June 22, 2013, 8:05 pm
”If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”
James Madison

How many times have we all heard that the encroachment of our rights is for our own good. I think my Liberty is in far more danger from my own government than radical religious extremists.

John De Avalon (36)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 4:00 am
Big Brother is watching, listening and taking notes!

John De Avalon (36)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 4:02 am
I've got nothing to hide, but it's the principle. We are all entitled to privacy.

'Only monitoring for terrorist activity' say the Government. That is only as true (or false) as the morals of the people doing the monitoring...

Lona G (80)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 6:13 am
Noted. And although I0m neither American nor British, I fully agree with Ravenna C. Our (sense of?) liberty has more to fear from our governments than radical extremists.

paul m (93)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 6:15 am

Every Country has bean doing this for years , only now with advanced computers they can do it quicker.


Kit B (276)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 6:53 am

Yes, Paul countries have been doing this for many years. Now they do it more completely while enacting laws to grease the wheels. This is not constitutional, that is a difference between the US and other countries, well - it was.

TERRY R (353)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 7:31 am

Winn A (179)
Sunday June 23, 2013, 3:46 pm
not much of a surprise here.

Past Member (0)
Monday June 24, 2013, 5:42 am
When did News Corp become the government?" Actaully what I wanted to say was "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." — Benjamin Franklin. He's an American, but some am I, I just live in London.

Marty H (119)
Monday June 24, 2013, 6:50 am
Thanks Kit. Figured they had some sort of similar program going! NWO crap!

Phillipa W (199)
Tuesday June 25, 2013, 11:10 am
"'Only monitoring for terrorist activity' say the Government. That is only as true (or false) as the morals of the people doing the monitoring... " and that's the concern. well one of them, anyway.
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