One of the most important revelations from documents released from Edward Snowden to The Guardian (and Channel 4 tv news) is this story, over a week ago, with little or no follow up from the rest of the UK media:
US and UK struck secret deal to allow NSA to 'unmask' Britons' personal data
• 2007 deal allows NSA to store previously restricted material
• UK citizens not suspected of wrongdoing caught up in dragnet
• Separate draft memo proposes US spying on 'Five-Eyes' allies
The Guardian, Wednesday 20 November 2013 19.00 GMT
The phone, internet and email records of UK citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing have been analysed and stored by America's National Security Agency under a secret deal that was approved by British intelligence officials, according to documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
• In 2007, the rules were changed to allow the NSA to analyse and retain any British citizens' mobile phone and fax numbers, emails and IP addresses swept up by its dragnet. Previously, this data had been stripped out of NSA databases - "minimized", in intelligence agency parlance - under rules agreed between the two countries.
• A separate draft memo, marked top-secret and dated from 2005, reveals a proposed NSA procedure for spying on the citizens of the UK and other Five-Eyes nations, even where the partner government has explicitly denied the US permission to do so. The memo makes clear that partner countries must not be informed about this surveillance, or even the procedure itself.
Jack Straw was foreign secretary in 2005 and Margaret Beckett succeeded him in 2007. Neither was prepared to comment after being approached by the Guardian. The government and GCHQ were asked for a comment a fortnight ago, but they also declined.
Surely the Intelligence and Security Committee was aware of these two secret memos / agreements between GCHQ and the NSA ?
Were the RIPA Intelligence Services and the Interception of Communications Data Commissioners awre of this arrangement ?
Surely such a major change in the "we don't spy on each other" "5 Eyes" intelligence sharing partnership was explicitly singed off by at least a Secretary of State or the full Cabinet and the Prime Moister ?
Is the public seriously meant to be fooled into believing that if NSA snoops on communications meta data, and "incidentally" collects millions of "un-minimized" data records a month on innocent UK citizens, and dumps it into databases which are accessible by UK, Canada , Australia and New Zealand ("5 Eyes") partners, that UK GCHQ or other intelligence analysts go through the process of obtaining a Ministerial Warrant, every time time they run an automated database trawling / analysis tool ?
These memos make a mockery of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which rushed to proclaim that the PRISM allegations back in June were all without substance and that every single time that the US NSA had access to UK data, there was a corresponding UK approved certificate or warrant.
The increasingly irrelevant chairman of the ISC has, like the cunning politician he is, rushed to get a quote in The Guardian that
Watchdog demands GCHQ report on NSA's UK data storage
Intelligence and security committee chair Sir Malcolm Rifkind seeks explanation of deal that allowed US to 'unmask' Britons
Rifkind, whose committee is under tremendous pressure to prove it can credibly keep tabs on UK's spy agencies, said on Thursday: "As with any significant stories concerning any of the intelligence agencies, we will require and receive a full report from them on this."
but, significantly, the official ISC website
makes no formal announcement of any such inquiry or Report in Progress, even over a week since the story broke.
Having successfully paid lip service to what, in Whitehall is clearly seen as the small minority of Guardian reading troublemakers, the ISC and the intelligence agencies must be gratified that the rest of the British media has not bothered to put political pressure on the Government over this issue.
Rifkind, who sees his role as public relations for the Intelligence Agencies
The Sunday Times reported last week that
i.e. that the recent "historic" televised open evidence session where the Intelligence and Security Committee supposedly "grilled" the heads of the Intelligence Agencies in public, but where, it seems, they had already been tipped off to the questions that they were going to be asked . There was a 2 minute delay in transmission in case any "secrets" did somehow slip out and normal members of the public or the press were banned from attending in person.
The Liberal Democrat Lord Strasburger tried to ask about GCHQ Project Tempora in the House of Lords, and the clearly embarrassed Government Minister failed to give a satisfactory answer, but it was clear from that debate that the Intelligence and Security Committee were also kept in the dark about its specifics.
All of which further reduces the already low public trust in the Intelligence and Security Committee as a mechanism which properly scrutinises the activities of the UK intelligence agencies and their foreign partners, especially when they are wasting public money and putting the privacy and online security of innocent UK people at risk.