The Daily Telegraph newspaper, used to be seen as a Tory leaning newspaper, but recently, it seems to have become a Labour government / Whitehall bureaucracy official mouthpiece. As such, it seems to be the only mainstream media publication which carries a denial of the report by The Sunday Times and The Register, regarding the internet snooping capability upgrade investment supposedly being made at the Government Communications Head Quarters GCHQ, electronic communications spying agency.
That story was sparked off by the job advertisement which mentioned the Mastering The Internet programme, as part of the Interception Modernisation Programme
- The Register: Jacqui's secret plan to 'Master the Internet'
- The Sunday Times: Jacqui Smith's secret plan to carry on snooping
The Daily Telegraph report of the denial by the secretive GCHQ, published is without a named journalist's byline.
Last Updated: 10:16PM BST 03 May 2009
However, there is actually an official GCHQ Press Release on their website:
GCHQ has two important missions: Signals Intelligence and Information Assurance. Our Signals Intelligence work provides vital information to support Government in the fields of national security, military operations, law enforcement and economic well being. The intelligence we provide is at the heart of the struggle against terrorism and also contributes to the prevention and detection of serious crime. GGHQ supplies intelligence to the UK armed forces, wherever they may be deployed in the world. Information Assurance is about protecting Government data - communications and information systems - from hackers and other threats.
GCHQ is heavily dependent on technology in order to execute our global missions. An increasingly rapidly changing digital world demands speedy innovation in our technical systems, allowing us to operate at internet pace, as the information age allows our targets to. One of our greatest challenges is maintaining our capability in the face of the growth in internet-based communications and voice over internet telephony. We must reinvest continuously to keep up with the methods that are used by those who threaten the UK and its interests. Just as our predecessors at Bletchley Park mastered the use of the first computers, today, partnering with industry, we need to master the use of internet technologies and skills that will enable us to keep one step ahead of the threats. This is what mastering the internet is about. GCHQ is not developing technology to enable the monitoring of all internet use and phone calls in Britain, or to target everyone in the UK. Similarly, GCHQ has no ambitions, expectations or plans for a database or databases to store centrally all communications data in Britain.
Because we rely upon maintaining an advantage over those that would damage UK interests, it is usually the case that we will not disclose information about our operations and methods. People sometimes assume that secrecy comes at the price of accountability but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, GCHQ is subject to rigorous parliamentary and judicial oversight (the Intelligence and Security Committee of parliamentarians, and two senior members of the judiciary: the Intelligence Services Commissioner and the Interception of Communications Commissioner) and works entirely within a legal framework that complies with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The new technology that GCHQ is developing is designed to work under the existing legal framework. It is an evolution of current capability within current accountability and oversight arrangements The Intelligence Services Act 1994 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 underpin activities at GCHQ - both existing systems and those we are planning and building at the moment. The purposes for which interception may be permitted are set out explicitly in the legislation: national security, safeguarding our economic well being and the prevention and detection of serious crime. Interception for other purposes is not lawful and we do not do it. GCHQ does not target anyone indiscriminately - all our activities are proportionate to the threats against which we seek to guard and are subject to tests on those grounds by the Commissioners. The legislation also sets out the procedures for Ministers to authorise interception; GCHQ follows these meticulously. GCHQ only acts when it is necessary and proportionate to do so; GCHQ does not spy at will.
03 May 2009
Note the use of the weasel word "all" - supposing they "only" monitor 80 or 90 percent of such communications ? Will "special" people be excluded (in secret) from such snooping ?
It would be nice to take this this GCHQ statement at face value, but, how can the public actually trust that this is so ?
The US Government equivalents of GCHQ have been found to have succumbed to political pressure, and to have snooped on millions of US citizens illegally, given how close they are supposed to be, how can we be sure that the same totalitarian mindset has not infected GCGQ ? Remember that Sir
Charles David Omand, the retired UK Government National Security chief, was formerly in charge of GCHQ, who recently opined that:
Finding out other people's secrets is going to involve breaking everyday moral rules. So public trust in the essential reasonableness of UK police, security and intelligence agency activity will continue to be essential.
Unfortunately there is little or no such public trust any more, only inertia and ignorance amongst the majority people, and growing anger and resistance from those who have some technical knowledge about these issues, and amongst the thousands of innocent people who are being treated like criminals or terrorist suspects.
The existing systems of alleged independent democratic scrutiny, like the RIPA Commissioners, the Intelligence and Security Committee and the Chilcot Review group of Privy Counsellors looking into the use Electronic Intercepts as Evidence, are way out of their depth.
These quangos may contain some intelligent and experienced Politicians (mostly lawyers) , retired Judges and senior Civil Servants, but they do not have any independent expertise, or even basic knowledge of internet and mobile phone communications protocols, databases, cryptography, pattern matching, data mining, legitimate data protection, privacy and anonymity technologies or techniques etc.
Surely if the hardware and software is being so massively modernised and expanded, then there should be commensurate investment in, and massive improvements of, the checks and balances and the systems for rapid correction, public apology and financial compensation, when things go wrong and involve innocent people or businesses ?