ABC News in the USA has a whistleblower story: Whistleblower: U.S. Snooped on Tony Blair, Iraqi President
Initially this whistleblower David Murfee Faulk alleged illegal snooping on the phone calls of innocent US citizens, including journalists and the families of US soldiers serving in Iraq. He has worked as a US Army Arabic language translator at the National Security Agency "Black Hall" listening post at Fort Gordon, Georgia, before becoming a local news reporter. These allegations have been taken seriously enough for a US Congressional investigation into them to have been started.
He claims that he had access to a secret database called Anchory, formerly known as the SIGINT Online Intelligence System i.e. a signald intelligence database run by the National Security Agency.
Given that the British press are following the ABC News scoop, it is sad to see them getting simple details from the original wrong:
The Daily Mail has spoiled its report of the story with the following inaccuracy and misspelling:
Mr Blair was given the code named "Anchory" as his private telephone calls were routinely listened into and recorded.
The Daily Telegraph and the Press Association reports do not make that mistake, although somehow The Guardian's headline to the syndicated PA story more accurately describes him as an "ex-Navy Operator", (see the previous ABC News report which describes him as a "former Navy Arab linguist") even though the PA story text says "US Army Arabic linguist"
Such simple errors call into question the accuracy of the rest of these stories, and of these mainstream media organisations as a whole.
These UK media reports , whilst bemoaning some alleged "unwritten rule" about not spying on allies, miss the obvious question of how it was technically possible for anyone to intercept the phone communications of a British Prime Minister, no matter who they are.
- Is Gordon Brown's mobile phone or voicemail also being intercepted by the US National Security Agency ?
- How much UK mobile phone and landline and internet traffic is currently being handed over in bulk to the US National Security Agency by UK Government agencies like GCHQ ?
- Is the United Kingdom's GCHQ intercepting President Bush or President-Elect Barack Obama's mobile phones ?
- If GCHQ and the Whitehall
securocatssecurocrats cannot even keep information of a "personal nature" about a British Prime Minister's "private life" out of the clutches of foreign intelligence agency phone interception systems, then why should they be trusted with the massive Communications Traffic Data centralised database, which Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is planning to inflict on tens of millions of innocent British people ?
A second US whistleblower, Adrienne Kinne, a US Army Reserves Arab linguist, who independently corroborated Faulk's allegations, mentioned the interception of satellite phones in the Middle East, which should come as no real surprise to anyone, given that on some systems, the only security by default is the TIMSI.
A TMSI (Temporary IMSI) is a pseudo-random number, which changes periodically, and is generated from the IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) number. This makes it a bit more difficult for an eavesdropper to intercept a particular phone call locally
However, we would have expected that any satellite phone equipment used by a British Prime Minister would have extra end to end UK Government Approved encryption or at least commercially available AES encryption built in.
Similarly, there are strongly encrypted mobile phones which hopefully are used by British Cabinet Ministers and senior Civil Servants and Diplomats both in the UK and overseas.
It should have been impossible for even the NSA to listen in on the content of such conversations via end to end encrypted devices like these, although, of course, they may have been able to determine the approximate physical location of Tony Blair's phone, and, perhaps who he was calling or receiving a call from, through Communications Traffic Data analysis, and radio signal triangulation.
However, given Tony Blair's ineptness with computer technology, it is entirely possible that he succumbed to the temptation to use normal mobile phones when chatting with his family, friends, Labour party appartachiki, and perhaps those involved in the "cash for honours" scandal. This alone, could have revealed information of a "personal nature" about his "private life".
Prime Minister's mobile phones have been snooped on in other countries e.g. see the previous Spy Blog article from 2006: Vodafone Greece "hacked" - is Vodafone UK safe ?, so Tiny Blair security team should have been well aware of the risks.
If Tony Blair, or those he was in normal mobile phone contact with, were dim enough not to change their default voicemail passwords, and to actually make use of this voice mailbox message interception, this could also have, perhaps indirectly, revealed information of a "personal nature" about Tony Blair's "private life" to the NSA, and to other foreign intelligence agencies.
News of the World's "Royal Editor" Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire were convicted under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act for doing this (ineptly and repeatedly, hundreds of times, from their own phones) to members of the Royal Family and their staff, to some football related celebrities, and to Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes.