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UK Telcos Went Above and Beyond To Cooperate With GCHQ 88

Posted by timothy
from the gift-wrap-for-that? dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this news from the Guardian: "GCHQ lobbied furiously to keep secret the fact that telecoms firms had gone 'well beyond' what they were legally required to do to help intelligence agencies' mass interception of communications, both in the UK and overseas. GCHQ feared a legal challenge under the right to privacy in the Human Rights Act if evidence of its surveillance methods became admissable in court. GCHQ assisted the Home Office in lining up sympathetic people to help with "press handling", including the Liberal Democrat peer and former intelligence services commissioner Lord Carlile, who this week criticised the Guardian for its coverage of mass surveillance by GCHQ and the US National Security Agency."
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UK Telcos Went Above and Beyond To Cooperate With GCHQ

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  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Saturday October 26, 2013 @08:49AM (#45244129) Journal

    ... why can't they prevent that soldier boy Lee Rigby from being chopped to death in the Woolwich area of London, by two Moslems from Africa ?

    In America too ... refugees from Somalia returned to Somalia to become terrorists

    If the surveillances are so effective, why can't they prevent all these from happening ?

    • by Narcocide (102829) on Saturday October 26, 2013 @09:05AM (#45244195) Homepage

      What makes you think they can't? Clearly you haven't considered the possibility that despite what they say that isn't actually the agenda. This is about control of the flow of power and money. They couldn't care less how safe the world actually is. In fact they probably relish a bit of bloodshed now and then because scared sheep move much faster, and in predictable directions.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        What makes you think they can't?

        Physics?

      • What makes you think they can't? Clearly you haven't considered the possibility that despite what they say that isn't actually the agenda. This is about control of the flow of power and money. They couldn't care less how safe the world actually is. In fact they probably relish a bit of bloodshed now and then because scared sheep move much faster, and in predictable directions.

        What makes you think the government is so powerful that they can stop everything bad from happening? Even things dreamed up between two mates in a coffee shop without using a phone? The power of the government is vaster in potential than what it actually is. They are limited by time, space, and resources. They have a limited number of staff, and must prioritize their efforts like any other organization. Computers are both helpful and powerful in their work, but they can only do what computers do. Comp

        • by AHuxley (892839)
          Cold I think the Snowden news has put the 'limited by time, space, and resources" aspect to rest.
          The 'limited number of staff" seems to have been fixed by many quickly cleared outside contractors over the past 10 years or so :)
          Re "all knowing, all seeing, all powerful, super competent" - that would be a billing database of all calls for life. Something we know about too.
          As for the Affordable Care Act and the GCHQ ... ask the CIA?
          • They are still limited since it seems that they don't harvest everything for an indefinite period, and yet are drowning in data that they can't process and ciphers they can't crack in real time.

            Leaky boats don't float, at least not very well.

            The billing database is certainly extremely useful, but still limited if you don't know what was said. Talks over coffee or beer are beyond them.

            The ACA was an over-reaching, overweening, scheduled train wreck.

            • They are still limited since it seems that they don't harvest everything for an indefinite period, and yet are drowning in data that they can't process and ciphers they can't crack in real time.

              Leaky boats don't float, at least not very well.

              The billing database is certainly extremely useful, but still limited if you don't know what was said. Talks over coffee or beer are beyond them.

              The ACA was an over-reaching, overweening, scheduled train wreck.

              Leaky boats colonised almost every habitable island in the Pacific! (the classic proa is almost leaky by design).

        • What makes you think the government is so powerful that they can stop everything bad from happening?

          That's not what's been suggested. While the examples given may not be perfect, the point would be generally that a government that does such massive surveillance would seem to collect enough evidence to stop at least *some* terrorist attacks before they occur. And I don't mean the "and now that people question why we have so much surveillance power, let's make up some cases because obviously until now we di

    • by davecb (6526) <davec-b@rogers.com> on Saturday October 26, 2013 @09:33AM (#45244297) Homepage Journal
      Rick Falkvinge points out that "with 100% absolute certainty [we know] that the wiretapping industry – NSA, GCHQ, FRA, etc – has stopped a total of exactly zero terror plots". See http://feeds.falkvinge.net/~r/Falkvinge-on-Infopolicy/~3/0uW0HpNnG-k/ [falkvinge.net]
      • Not really. The more likely chain is that the police would receive information about the plot and would fabricate the start of the evidence chain. The common hypothetical is that they'd pull someone over for a traffic violation and 'discover' something in their car that would then give probable cause for a search of other things.
        • by davecb (6526)
          I rather disagree: two counter-arguments might be
          • - that's something the security services would wish to trumpet to the skies, especially now, and
          • - we can check and see if any accused terrorists were pulled over at a traffic stop (or something equally bland)

          --dave

          • - that's something the security services would wish to trumpet to the skies, especially now, and

            Not if it would prevent prosecution.

            - we can check and see if any accused terrorists were pulled over at a traffic stop (or something equally bland)

            People have done already, and there are a lot of things that look like this is at least possible.

            • by Xest (935314)

              I have to agree to some extent, there have been a number of incidents in the news over the years that just seem all too convenient to be the result of mere chance.

              The problem is that we can't even tell if "an anonymous tip off from a member of the public leading to his capture and conviction" isn't a security services agent just tipping off the police with knowledge gained from interception.

              It's quite possible that the police wouldn't even know the security services had tipped them off.

              • by davecb (6526)

                A late comment: In Canada, they need not convict someone in court to hold them in custody, merely get a Ministerial order, so there is no risk in publicising putative terrorist plots detected by illegal wiretaps.

                As with the EU, there have been none.

                --dave

    • Surveillance by itself prevents nothing. It's only when people fear being caught by it that crime can be reduced.

      The two people that attacked Rigby wanted to make it public, and others simply don't care or don't know that they're being watched.

    • by X.25 (255792)

      ... why can't they prevent that soldier boy Lee Rigby from being chopped to death in the Woolwich area of London, by two Moslems from Africa ?

      In America too ... refugees from Somalia returned to Somalia to become terrorists

      If the surveillances are so effective, why can't they prevent all these from happening ?

      Because that is not why they are doing the surveillance.

    • Look at the history of ww2 - where inteligence services could have avoided a number of nasty defeats but didn't because Axis forces would have realised their comms were being decrypted and changed the methods used more frequently - every time that happened there was an effective 3 month blackout on breaking the keys.

      Terrorism is all about asymetric warfare and cell structures to prevent knowledge of the structure being a weakness. They only have to suceed once, while the opposition has to spend massive amou

  • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Saturday October 26, 2013 @08:50AM (#45244131)
    This morning I saw a British politician claiming that without the ability to tap into all devices, then the public is never going to be able to be safe from terrorism. This argument fails when inevitably, knowing human nature (absolute power corrupts absolutely), the only end result must be a police state.
    • by flyneye (84093)

      How did an American cop get to be a British politician? Sounds like the garbage from their mouths. Unless we can violate your rights, we can't keep you safe( as if they ever did before) Perhaps if we found all the like-minded with the same spew from their mouths, we should test their resolve by sending them into battle before anyone else. Then we will see what they are really made of.
      O.K., all you f*cking monkeys who can't figure out that profiling is not only politically

    • by gweihir (88907)

      And in addition, it will do absolutely nothing against terrorism. Not that terrorism is actually a relevant problem in the first place...

    • by fritsd (924429)

      This morning I saw a British politician claiming that without the ability to tap into all devices, then the public is never going to be able to be safe from terrorism.

      Well, that's a half-truth, unless he/she added: "with the ability to tap into all devices, the public is never going to be safe from terrorism either."

      Exercise: take the politician's sentence, and substitute s/tap into all devices/ban all cooking devices/. It makes just as much sense (a non-sequitur, I believe).

    • by Immerman (2627577)

      Well in his defense he was speaking the absolute truth. The public is never going to be able to be safe from terrorism, and total surveillance would help make us safer, from terrorism at least. I completely agree that the natural tendency of such an infrastructure is toward a police state though.

      The problem is that people have a completely natural desire to be safe, but that's just not possible without completely eliminating free will, or at least restricting it to some sort of Matrix-style virtual realm

      • by Xest (935314)

        "The public is never going to be able to be safe from terrorism, and total surveillance would help make us safer, from terrorism at least."

        I don't think that's true, the danger is you just end up with more data than you can evaluate and actually miss more threats. I suspect this is exactly what happened with both the Boston bombers and the Lee Rigby killers - in both cases the perpetrators were known to the security services, but they were placed at lower priority - a priority choice that had to be made sim

  • by bazmail (764941) on Saturday October 26, 2013 @09:03AM (#45244181)
    should be kicked out of the upper house for assisting in the pro-surveillance propaganda. They helped keep things secret for fear the rule of law would be duly applied. Its a disgrace. Those shills should be locked up.
  • Ohh wait a sec...!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Saturday October 26, 2013 @09:11AM (#45244219)

    lobbied furiously to keep secret the fact that telecoms firms had gone 'well beyond' what they were legally required to do to help intelligence agencies' mass interception of communications, both in the UK and overseas.

    Had this shoe been on the "other foot" - I mean in those other "non democratic countries", folks here and on other websites would be saying somethig to the effect...

    "What do you expect? We're so lucky here in , where we are democratic and have 'established' rules of engagement..."

    Now that this shoe is on their foot, I am anxuious to see what their rant is gonna be like.

  • One of the most telling omissions from the reasons GCHQ cite for keeping the surveillance a secret is the so called War on Terror. It's not mentioned at all.

    Their biggest fear is / was the public finding out, and challenging their right to spy in the courts.

    Something feels very wrong about that ;-)

    Peace,
    Andy.

    • by gweihir (88907) on Saturday October 26, 2013 @10:05AM (#45244407)

      They are just being honest. The "War on Terror" is a complete non-issue. For one thing, terrorism is not a relevant threat. For another, surveillance does not help against it at all. And, and that is the real issue, why would the GCHQ do anything about terror? Whenever the population goes stupid because of another overblown terror scare, they get more money and power. While they have not (yet) sunk so deep as to create their own fake terrorists as the US TLAs have, they doubtlessly have thought about it.

      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        Tell that to people in the UK and you will get told to F off if your lucky 7/7 killed 52 people the UK has been dealing with bombings and terrorist incidents for well over 100 years (Anarchists, IRA, Mosad, PIRA, UDA Al Kaida and lone nutters are just some of the many examples).

        And thats not counting NI I know 6 people who worked for one of my ex employers from NI 2 of them are going through the truth and reconciliation process as they have had close relatives killed thats 33%
        • by gweihir (88907)

          As I said, the population goes stupid. Can also be well observed in your statement.

          • by mjwalshe (1680392)
            You want to tell that to one of my ex coworkers to his face whose father was killed by the IRA ?
    • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Saturday October 26, 2013 @10:11AM (#45244439)

      The "War on Terror" has not had the jingoistic power in the UK it enjoyed in the USA. The UK was dealing with domestic terror attacks by the IRA in recent decades, and learned harsh lessons on domestic terror involving small weapons or personal explosives. Their civilian security is generally no-nonsense, and has had centuries of dealing with violent protest by under-armed civilians from occupied territories. They have certainly not always _won_ such conflicts: the USA itself was once just such a remote territory, first engaged in guerrilla warfare, later in open revolt, and certainly including what would not be called "terrorist attacks".

      • by Patch86 (1465427)

        Thankfully, jingoism is not a disease that readily affects many people in Britain. There's a reason (and a good one at that) that we view flying the Union Jack or Flag of St George with distaste except in specific sets of context (sporting events, royal things, etc.), contrasted with the idolisation of the flag in the States.

        Being happy with and supportive of your country is a wholly different thing to being a Nationalist. Thank god we have the sense in this country to keep the two separated.

        • by jez9999 (618189)

          Yeah except that we've rejected it too much, gone too far. So much so that the whole British identity is crumbling and various elements of the UK like Scotland are going for independence.

          • by Alioth (221270)

            You say that as if it is a bad thing. If the Scottish want to be independent, it's their right, they ought to have the right to self-determination. "National identity" is grossly overvalued.

          • Various elements, just like various elements in the USA want various states to cede from the Union.

            In the USA those elements are treated as domestic terrorists. In the UK they're tolerated and allowed to put their reasoning in public, where it can be torn apart in public.

            Yes, the SNP has a majority in the scottish parliament, but that doesn't mean they'll pull off a referendum to cede from the UK. The vast majority of scottish are far too pragmatic about the economic consequences to even consider it.

          • by Xest (935314)

            National identity is nonsense anyway. You have no more kinship with the guy you've never spoken to down the road than you do some random bloke over in Sao Paolo.

            Just because you live in the same country is meaningless. My whole family line is as English as they come, we've always lived here, my family has always lived here but I frankly associate more with the Scandinavian way of thinking on most issues than I do middle England with their Daily Mail and UKIP fascism.

            National identity is exactly the kind of

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      The GCHQ always held the view that letting people know they are been watched changes everything and went to great lengths never to be seen in the press or courts too much.
      Better to get info out as to ensure a flow of intel was always safe for much larger issues.
      The UK political class wanted action - over Soviet embassy staff before WW2, in WW2, with spies in the cold war, in Ireland. The GCHQ always seemed able to keep from been seen too much until the 1980/90's with new crime fighting efforts. The UK p
  • I'm shocked, shocked I tell you! Who would have thought they would bend over backwards to help the spooks? /sarcasm>

    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      In parts of the UK telecoms employees where considered "crown" employees and where targeted just as Police and prison service where and until recently telcoms employees where civil servants - Postwar GCHQ was formed partly by transfers from the GPO.
  • China, Russia, Japan, Korea, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Greece? These guys have been intercepting phone conversations, bugging people,following people, and spying / surveiling a very long time. At least some of them started out doing it to "criminals", alleged and otherwise, but you got to know the programs had spillage and collateral damage right from the start. And what gov operation didn't grow? What gov operation didn't stay clean? Most all of these gu

  • We may know what happened last year https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/211553/31176_HC_547_ISC.PDF [www.gov.uk] and may have some idea of what is happening of late http://isc.independent.gov.uk/ [independent.gov.uk] all of which might add some background to articles published by TheGuardian.
  • ...but to co-operate because GCHQ probably has a compiled a blackmail dossier full of juicy shit on him.

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