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UK Minister: British Cabinet Was Told Nothing About GCHQ/NSA Spying Programs 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the this-is-the-first-I've-heard-of-it dept.
dryriver writes "From the Guardian: 'Cabinet ministers and members of the national security council were told nothing about the existence and scale of the vast data-gathering programs run by British and American intelligence agencies, a former member of the government has revealed. Chris Huhne, who was in the cabinet for two years until 2012, said ministers were in "utter ignorance" of the two biggest covert operations, Prism and Tempora. The former Liberal Democrat MP admitted he was shocked and mystified by the surveillance capabilities disclosed by the Guardian from files leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. "The revelations put a giant question mark into the middle of our surveillance state," he said. "The state should not feel itself entitled to know, see and memorize everything that the private citizen communicates. The state is our servant." Huhne also questioned whether the Home Office had deliberately misled parliament about the need for the communications data bill when GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping headquarters, already had remarkable and extensive snooping capabilities. He said this lack of information and accountability showed "the supervisory arrangements for our intelligence services need as much updating as their bugging techniques."'"
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UK Minister: British Cabinet Was Told Nothing About GCHQ/NSA Spying Programs

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  • Graft, money. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:02PM (#45062191)

    There's a reason these programs are kept secret (along with their budgets) from the general "civilian" government. It's because they're huge money pits. They're pork. Free money for security services contractors. It's not some boogeyman new world order shadow conspiracy for power.

    It's a much, much, older and familiar monster. Greed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by TWiTfan (2887093)

      Also, the Queen said "no". We really wanted to tell you and all, but she was kind of a bitch about it.

    • Re:Graft, money. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kilfarsnar (561956) on Monday October 07, 2013 @04:24PM (#45063273)

      There's a reason these programs are kept secret (along with their budgets) from the general "civilian" government. It's because they're huge money pits. They're pork. Free money for security services contractors. It's not some boogeyman new world order shadow conspiracy for power.

      It's a much, much, older and familiar monster. Greed.

      Funny, no one has suggested a new world order shadow conspiracy for power.

      While all this surveillance is partly about money, that's not the whole of it (as I suspect you already know). Knowledge is power. These surveillance powers have already been used to conduct industrial espionage, intimidate political activists, blackmail public office holders and to provide secret evidence in criminal cases (mostly related to the drug war). All of these things are beneficial to the powers that be. In short these powers are used by the existing power structures to increase and enhance their power. This is why they are kept secret even from the people supposedly providing oversight.

      I agree that this is a huge money train for all kinds of defense and other government contractors, and their stakeholders in office. But it's also about increasing power. So it might not be a "new world order shadow conspiracy", but the result is not too far off from that.

      • So its not a "new world order", but just the "existing world power" conspiracy? While on the surface that sounds exactly like what a NWO conspiracy nut would like, somehow I doubt it. I think they need to rename what they are afraid of. I'm not exactly sure if they even know. A reporter went to the Bildenburg conference, to try and figure out what they were protesting, but only got vague references to fluoride related mind control and "awareness".

    • "utter ignorance" is the default state of every legislative body in the world. Politicians tend to be the biggest blabbermouths in the world. Telling them about every covert national security program would guarantee that everyone, friend and foe, would have all the details in about 15 minutes. And believe it or not there are some things that do need to be kept secret when it comes to dealing with other countries. Every other country in the world does the exact same thing. If every government in the world cl

      • by sjames (1099)

        So we have to subvert democracy in order to save it? No thanks.

        Snowden is still a hero. At considerable personal cost he has exposed a domestic enemy of the people. Not only for the U.S. but for the U.K. as well. If he committed any sort of Espionage, it was FOR the people of the United States, the only legitimate power here.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      There's a reason these programs are kept secret (along with their budgets) from the general "civilian" government. It's because they're huge money pits. They're pork. Free money for security services contractors. It's not some boogeyman new world order shadow conspiracy for power.

      It's a much, much, older and familiar monster. Greed.

      I agree, but the other reason it was kept a secret because it's wrong, and they know it. They don't want the law makers knowing about it because either they will shut it down, or take it away.

      Or the law makers will do what they have been doing before they knew about it, nothing.

  • by Boss, Pointy Haired (537010) on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:10PM (#45062307)

    I keep hearing astonishment at how so much web traffic can be stored with relative ease.

    Sure, it's going to be a lot of data, but a whole lot of that data is duplication, and where there is duplication there can be compression. And where it's not, even at level 6/7 you can identify significant commonality (facebook user home page) and simply store the delta.

    It's not like they're storing every byte sent and received by every Internet user at all.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's not like they're storing every byte sent and received by every Internet user at all.

      My understanding is that the GCHQ stores has a cache with every byte of British internet data for the past three days. Which is pretty impressive.

  • by s.petry (762400) on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:13PM (#45062331)

    This is the big question. Now that you know you were duped, spied on, and the citizens you are supposed to be serving have been taken advantage of, what will you do?

    My guess is nothing, it'll be USA part 2. A few bands will file suit, everything will be classified secret, and nothing will happen. It's not just the US that needs to be considering a revolt, the UK is just as bad as we are in nearly everything.

    Interesting to hear Russel Brand talk about his own country here in the US, since we really get little information that is not "party line".

    • by Dripdry (1062282)

      Indeed, there is no information today, it seems, that isn't like it's on a party line (for those who remember what a "party line" used to be).

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Edzor (744072)
      please don't listen to Russel Brand he is a tool.
      • by s.petry (762400)

        He's a comedian. A comedian's job is to make you laugh, and the easiest way to do that is Satire. It's harder to control comedy and satire than printed media. I can give you a hefty list of US Comedians that use satire to show you how shitty the US was becoming and has become, starting with George Carlin, and including Lewis Black.

        • Russel Brand is a jerk, do some research. He dumped Katy Perry with a text message because she wasn't ready to be his baby farm. With Jonathon Ross he phoned an Actor live on air and told the audience and the answerphone that he had fucked the Actors granddaughter. He is indeed a tool.

          • by s.petry (762400)

            Wow! No I am not going to research his personal life! Quite frankly you should be alarmed that you know that much about his personal life.

  • So What ?!
    The UK takes it's orders direct from the US, Israel and the banks.
    Why should ministers need to know anything ?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This would be the same Chris Huhne who was jailed for eight months for perjury?

    Yes, yes it would.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Nobody on the National Security Council has denied his claim that the NSC was never informed. Just to re-iterate that, THE PARLIAMENTARY BODY TO OVERSEE THE SECURITY AGENCIES WAS NEVER TOLD ABOUT THEIR MASS SURVEILLANCE OF BRITS BY THE SECURITY AGENCY.

      Not least because the laws to make it legal were never passed.

      Ahh, but the NSA and the President knew. Probably creeps like Feinstein knew, but not Parliament.

      Now we have a situation where the NSA can spy on government, newspapers, any British comms and GCHQ a

  • Huhne is a businessman, and a 'johny come lately; to the iffy and corrupt politics route that is the ppe, or the fast track to m15 and m16. The French have a similar setup

    Oxbridge talks to Oxbridge only on matters of its choosing and distrusts people such as the non member as he is.

  • The first thing he'd have done was go blab it (anonymously, if necessary) to the newspapers.

    (They didn't tell Labor and the Tories because they'd have blabbed at cocktail parties.)

  • The easier path (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:42PM (#45062683)

    It's always easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission.

    Step 1) Run a secret, illegal surveillance program with no oversight
    Step 2) When a terrorist attack is averted, locate actionable intelligence about it within the data previously gathered
    Step 3) If and when the public face of the government (those little people who have to stand for elections) finds out about your secret, illegal surveillance program, show them the data from Step 2 and claim the attack would have succeeded without your secret, illegal surveillance program
    Step 4) Accept some toothless, ineffective oversight measures and continue as you were

    There's nothing complicated about any of this. Ignorant legislators behave like frightened masses of people when you frighten them. They'll do anything they're told to do by anyone who projects authority and control over a scary situation. Whether it's impending market collapse, terrorist attacks, or the next killer plague, frightened masses will let you do just about anything you want if you promise to keep them safe and convince them you can do it.

    This is the ultimate flaw in every system of government.

  • Never believe anything until it has been officially denied. Does that fit here? Maybe... in a way I think.

  • by kruach aum (1934852) on Monday October 07, 2013 @03:49PM (#45062805)

    This quote combined with what the NSA/GCHQ have done reminds me a lot of "...or through inaction allow a human being to come to harm." The state should serve us, yes. The state should prevent us from harm, yes. But there is a point at which we are no longer served by harm prevention, and the NSA has clearly passed it. Even if they started off with good intentions initially (as implausible as that may be), by simply doing their jobs well they have come over to the dark side, and that's pretty interesting to me. There aren't that many good things you can do so well they start becoming bad.

    • What I'd like to know is, if the British really do believe that "the state is our servant," why do they make such a big deal about being subjects of the Crown, and not citizens?
      • by dryeo (100693)

        Which UK citizens make a big deal out of being British subjects? The few Irish without Irish citizenship who are still considered British subjects?
        Anyways the Queen is only part of the government with the major part being Parliament and the major part of Parliament being the House of Commons who are elected by UK citizens and responsible to them. And the Queen herself serves the people and if she screws up she can be removed. As recently as 1936 a King was encouraged to quit as he had fascist tendencies and

        • by dkf (304284)

          Anyways the Queen is only part of the government with the major part being Parliament and the major part of Parliament being the House of Commons who are elected by UK citizens and responsible to them. And the Queen herself serves the people and if she screws up she can be removed. As recently as 1936 a King was encouraged to quit as he had fascist tendencies and it was considered that he wouldn't serve the people well.

          Though for a full-on kicking out of a monarch — as opposed to a gentle "jump before you're pushed" — you've got to go back to 1688. That triggered a (mostly minor, except in Ireland) civil war.

      • by spiralx (97066)

        We're not, we're British Citizens as of 1983, and were formally Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies since 1948. The term British Subject applies to a very small minority of people who weren't from places that were members of the Commonwealth before 1948. See this article [wikipedia.org].

  • Cabinet ministers and members of the national security council were^H^H^H^H told^H^H^H^H^H^ asked nothing about the existence and scale of the vast data-gathering programs...

    FTFY

    • by whoever57 (658626)

      Cabinet ministers and members of the national security council were^H^H^H^H told^H^H^H^H^H^ asked nothing about the existence and scale of the vast data-gathering programs...

      There was a "Yes Minister" episode that went over this ground, let's see if I can find some quotes:
      This isn't what I was looking for, but it is a start:

      [Bernard pulls the Prime Minister away from Luke for a private conversation.]
      Hacker: You just said that the Foreign Office was keeping something from me! How do you know if you don't

  • Have we finally reached the stage where the security services are totally uncontrollable and have so much money and resources that they are no longer accountable or controllable?

    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      No - though I have my doubts about Google :-)
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      The no longer accountable or controllable aspect is really where the GCHQ was generationally.
      The UK could offer very little to the GCHQ but limits on budgets and endless 'new' ideas about crime fighting and using call transcripts/logs in court.
      The GCHQ would then have to invent amazing ways to present its call transcripts/logs in court without exposing methods, brands, experts or the embarrassing totality of Soviet spying.
      Generationally the GCHQ was closer to the NSA, US mil and their clean well funded
  • We don't believe you!

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