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Report: Britain Has a Secret Middle East Web Surveillance Base 237

wiredmikey writes "Britain is running a secret Internet surveillance station in the Middle East, according to a recent report citing the latest leaked documents obtained by fugitive US security contractor Edward Snowden. The Independent newspaper said it was not disclosing the country where the base is located, but said the facility can intercept emails, telephone calls and web traffic for the United States and other intelligence agencies and taps into underwater fibre-optic cables in the region, the newspaper said. The Independent did not disclose how it obtained the details from the Snowden files."
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Report: Britain Has a Secret Middle East Web Surveillance Base

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  • Yes, and? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lawrence_Bird ( 67278 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:27PM (#44649757) Homepage

    that is what they are supposed to be doing right? Gathering intel? The problem is when they do it against their own citizens.

    • Re:Yes, and? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:50PM (#44649931) Homepage Journal

      Ah, but you're missing the key point on how the "game" is played.

      The GCHQ in the UK isn't allowed to spy on UK citizens, so they spy on the rest of the EU's citizens, and apparently on the Middle East.

      The NSA isn't allowed to spy on US citizens, so they spy on Canadians and others.

      The Canadian spy agency isn't allowed to spy on Canadians, so it spies on Americans and others.

      Australia and New Zealand spy on anyone close to their networks as well.

      Even the Germans are into spying.

      Then after everyone has spied on the "foreigners" who aren't protected by each nation's laws, they get together, exchange their data, and end up with the intel on their own citizens, all while claiming "but we don't spy on our own citizens."

      • Which is why we need a world government.

        No more "foreigners."

        • Oh, I think you'll find we have one of those. It's just that everyone disagrees about who is running it: Aliens, the Devil, God, the Jews, the Nazis, the British Monarchy, the Templars, the Roman Catholics, the Free Masons, the UN, the US, the USSR, the Bankers, the Illuminati, an AI, etc.

          Tell you what. Everyone get together, and decide who is, and isn't running this Universe, and when you all agree on the same people (and I want this in writing), come and find me; I'll be busy getting high, and trying to a

          • Ah ha! I've got you now greenskin! I can tell by your deliberate omission that you, lightknight, must be one of our true overlords, the Lizard Men from the Hollow Earth!

        • Ugh. What say we figure out how to keep a national government from sliding into tyranny for more than a couple centuries or so before we even discuss a world government? I'd hate to think how this would play out if instead of the US of A it was the US of Earth. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

          There's absolutely no reason we couldn't get the same effect via international treaty. We did it with war crimes. We did it with human rights. We could do it with individual privacy. Heck, we could even do it wit

        • by icebike ( 68054 )

          Which is why we need a world government.

          No more "foreigners."

          On the off chance your tongue is not firmly in your cheek...

          If you think we have trouble controlling our own governments how successful would be be
          controlling a world government which would quickly become an untouchable permanent ruling class?

          You are Mad Sir, simply Mad.

      • Re:Yes, and? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by FuzzNugget ( 2840687 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @10:00PM (#44650351)

        Right, they all spy on each other's citizens then exchange data, which amounts to exactly the same thing. Honoring the letter and shitting on the spirit seems to a trend these days.

        And by the NSA's own logic, exchanging data is "two or three degrees of separation," which apparently should make them equally liable. Not that government hypocrisy surprises me in the least.

        • by epine ( 68316 )

          which amounts to exactly the same thing

          For a glib value of "same thing". I understand the Americans and the British are pretty tight, but I bet there's friction at every other point of exchange, even if it's just the petty little-brother/big-brother dynamic between Canada and the US.

          When you're in the thought-crime business, all boundaries are porous. The correct question to the NSA is this: Do you access information on American citizens who have not yet committed a crime? And the obvious answer is: "Of

      • Then after everyone has spied on the "foreigners" who aren't protected by each nation's laws, they get together, exchange their data, and end up with the intel on their own citizens, all while claiming "but we don't spy on our own citizens."

        When pundits refer to the USA as the dominant global superpower, I think they really mean the United Security Agencies.

    • Exactly - I don't understand why this is either surprising. In fact my only concern is that a national paper thinks that it should publish such details. Having a foreign intelligence base in the heart of the region from where many of the terrorists come from sounds like an very sensible, reasonable thing. It's the detaining non-terrorist suspects under terrorism laws and spying on their own citizens and allies alike that is the concerning part. It appears that the press seems to have lost sight of this. Alt
      • The UK is a region where many terrorists come from, Lots of other people who can potentially cause trouble, too.

        This isn't like spying on dictators or the Soviet Union. This is mass surveillance of the citizens of a state. The privacy of regular citizens is not respected. Unless you believe in some sort of inherent racial superiority or something, a regular citizen is equally entitled to privacy whether he was born in the UK or in Egypt.

        Given that, could you please send me your mail password? No need to be

    • Re:Yes, and? (Score:5, Informative)

      by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @09:17PM (#44650097) Journal
      The problem with the UK and its secret surveillance stations is in the political power it gives the host country.
      Land, power, guards, a local cover story was once all post colonial joy or NATO like anti Soviet deals, training and some basic intel sharing.
      eg Cold war Sweden got some airborne elint but no UK/US like sharing/resources.
      The problem with the local "citizens" is once the locals find out the steps the local rulers/politicians/military have to take to keep the secret again.
      Britain's Embassy in Peking was looted by "protesters" in 1967 and lost its Rockex cypher equipment.
      Iran, Ethiopia and Turkey (via TPLA and TPLF) where often at issue to further UK/US sites in the ~1960's (and other sites later during the Cold War).
      ie the Cld War offered sigint facilities extreme secrecy.
      Now nations offer other types of sites just to show how thankful they are:
      http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/cia-black-sites-lithuania/story?id=9400744 [go.com]
      http://www.thejournal.ie/british-papers-reveal-interrogation-centre-in-derry-1023719-Aug2013/ [thejournal.ie]
      "Secret British papers reveal secret 1970s interrogation centre in Derry"
      Sites have many uses and can become news again years later. "subject to deep interrogation under the five techniques system the European Commission has called ‘torture’"
    • Re:Yes, and? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @09:21PM (#44650123)

      that is what they are supposed to be doing right? Gathering intel? The problem is when they do it against their own citizens.

      Fuck that. Let's not spy on anyone's residential phone or internet traffic.

      • Nonsense. Let's spy on people, but only if they're female, between the ages of consent and too ripe, and only if it's on a Friday. And have it broadcast from Mulder.FBI.gov...for 'National Security' purposes...these are dangerous times, and we need to take extra special precautions that our women are not harmed during them...which is why they need to be placed under surveillance. As it stands, there are plenty of adolescent males at home who, during this time of sequestering, are willing to do their patriot

    • Re:Yes, and? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Above ( 100351 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @09:32PM (#44650191)

      I'm thinking this may well be a middle finger aimed at the political types in the UK who had Greenwald's partner detained. It's his way of saying, this may have been about civil liberties and constitutional protections for your own citizens, but if you're going to mess with people on our side we can mess with people on your side too. A shot across their bow to give them some idea of the other information he has that he can chose to publish about, or keep secret.

    • It ain't a secret anymore to those of us that don't care.

      I think I heard from somewhere that the president is getting his daily secret intelligence report from WikiLeaks; it's more accurate.
    • Supposed to be doing?

      Yes, if by that you mean running an evil empire built on pillage and oppression.

      BTW: When it's "middle east" and they don't mention the country? It's always Israel.

    • The problem is when they do it against their own citizens.

      We have a special innovation here in the US, where the court that makes decisions about warrants and surveillance on American citizens on US soil is called the "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court".

      When the government tells you, "Don't worry, we're only looking for those foreign terrorists, that's when you need to get up and look behind you to make sure some government contractor hasn't crawled up your ass.

      That's the other innovation: the surve

  • Well.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ginger_Chris ( 1068390 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:33PM (#44649801)

    As a British citizen, I'm so used to assuming that the government is intercepting every piece of electronic communication, I get really confused that other countries are annoyed they get spied on. Do these other people actually trust their governments? Because that's weird.

    • British..US...It really makes no difference. Everything is alright as long as you smile and nod. The last thing that anyone would want to do is anger the powers that be. Miranda is a good example of how policies against terrorism can be used against the people for unjust causes.
    • Re:Well.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by c0lo ( 1497653 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @09:03PM (#44650015)

      As a British citizen, I'm so used to assuming that the government is intercepting every piece of electronic communication,

      As one that lived more than half of his life in one of those European countries in the communist block, I am afraid that you are properly fucked already.
      If this persist for longer (say 15-20 years... it only takes one generation of used to, everybody will be teaching it to their children!), the society you'll be living would show the same weird behaviour of its people as during the secret police in communist countries: use of paraphrases when speaking, carefully planning/doing your everyday actions so that they don't appear to have any element of verboten, every neighbour... heck even members of you family... may be turning you to the authorities.
      Walk only a little in the past and you'll find Gestapo as another example.

      My point is: stop being just so used to... and do something if you don't want there

    • Actually, there may have been people in the US for Big Government who really did believe that their government, if given these kinds of widespread powers, would never abuse them. They've been stoically making the arguments for years at this point, jumping on everyone about how the government can be totally trusted, and how any distrust of a government (brought on by reading just about any history book) was a sign of paranoid schizophrenia.

      When they heard that the NSA was intercepting every piece of electron

    • I get really confused that other countries are annoyed they get spied on. Do these other people actually trust their governments? Because that's weird.

      You're implying that you don't trust your government, but aren't annoyed that you're being spied on. That seems weirder.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:42PM (#44649875)

    Now we know why.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

      Wonder what happened to those poor local saps who took the fall. Hope they at least got paid.

    • Given that western countries built the whole system, and given how willing they are to install government monitors we should assume the system was set up originally for the purpose of spying. The cable breaks are probably just accidents- or organized crime looking for stuff to sell.
    • by Burz ( 138833 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @10:44PM (#44650633) Homepage Journal

      Remember Skype's blackout? Six weeks later on 2/6/2011 they joined NSA's PRISM program. And given the P2P nature of Skype, I'm sure it was a more difficult conversion than the other services.

    • by rwyoder ( 759998 )

      Now we know why.

      You don't need to *cut* a submarine cable to listen to it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Ivy_Bells [wikipedia.org]

      • I presume that in the old days, they used electrical signals along those lines. With modern-day fiber-optic cables, you would have to cut open the cable, physically cut each fiber and splice in your secret device on the bottom of the ocean. With fibers currently porting more than one color of light and cables containing hundreds of fibers, you would probably need to leave several racks full of equipment to tap everything.
        • by niks42 ( 768188 )
          Surely even fibre cables need active (viz, electronic) repeaters every so often? Wouldn't that be the sensible place to install a tee junction to listen to the traffic as well?
  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:56PM (#44649971) Homepage

    that I read "Secret Middle Earth Web Surveillance" and Slashdot becomes, for just a few moments, a bit cooler.

  • Actually, there are separate ones for the UK, US, France.

    And, of course, Israel.

    But everyone knew that.

    In case you were wondering, even if you are a citizen of the EU or US, all four listen to any email or phone call you make, even the ones you think are encrypted.

    I'm surprised you didn't know this.

    • I'm surprised you didn't know this.

      It is just like PRISM: we knew it, but now we have proofs. That kind of disclosure has merit IMO

    • I feel like I'm living in a world full of awful people. All this shit is happening and half the people I see claim to have known all along but just conveniently forgot to make the biggest fucking deal about it. Why are so many smug to be living under this?

      • You couldn't make a big deal about it until recently because there was no hard proof, you'd be treading into tinfoil hat territory. The Snowden leaks are that hard proof.

  • What country is it? We just have to look at where do most cables go. I bet on Egypt.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The AC have posted some great maps :) ty
      Where would the UK like its Room 641A http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_641A [wikipedia.org] ?
      Down the list of hints:
      "for the United States" seems to show no huge existing US bases/ports/forts/camps (AFRICOM/past CENTCOM) ie a very short list. A region (historically?) friendly to the UK with a 'new' US base on the way?
      "underwater fibre-optic cables" so less need for a site with lots of bulk optical landing.
      Why "secret" Middle-East internet surveillance base? Some regional lead
  • TFA

    The data-gathering operation is part of a £1bn internet project still being assembled by GCHQ. It is part of the surveillance and monitoring system, code-named “Tempora”, whose wider aim is the global interception of digital communications, such as emails and text messages.

    Heck, UK's economy must be booming.

  • Listening posts (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @09:52PM (#44650287) Journal
    Listening posts where always an issue for the budget conscious UK before and after the 1990's but US (NSA/mil) cash often helped keep very expensive sites running.
    The region knew all about US/UK bases. The leaders and their "freedom fighters" would have be aware of:
    Masirah Island, Oman (with NSA)
    HMS Vacoas, Mauritius, closed 1976
    Meshed, Iran lost in 1979
    Mount Olympus, Cyprus, (Project Sandra/US Cobra Shoe) 1959 till?
    Muharraq, Bahrain
    Mutlah Ridge, Kuwait, 1961- till?
    Pergamos, Cyprus 1957 -till?
    Perkhar, Ceylon, 1957-65
    Silvermine, South Africa (1970's)
    Steamer Point and Khormaksar ~ Aden
    Yarallakos, Cyprus (NSA?)
    Habbaniya, Iraq till 1957
    Diego Garcia 1964 - with a some slight issues for a very short time over a cash for land deal.
    Optical, satellite and the govs/telcos buying/upgrading into standardised tech makes the need for many locations less of an issue.
  • Britain, along with France, Germany, U.S., Russia, China, Brazil, Japan, and quite possibly Lichtenstein.
  • by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @10:34PM (#44650589) Homepage Journal
    like this cable cut near Egypt [gigaom.com]

    in march (and probably others undersea cable cuts that happened recently close to that zone). Or it was an "oops, i did it again" from an agent, or was meant to be done that way (i.,e. an "accidental" cut by an anchor) so the company that repaired it added the extra functionality.

    • by Burz ( 138833 )

      Six weeks between the Skype blackout (Dec. 22, 2010) and the day Skype came online with NSA PRISM (Feb. 6, 2011).

    • I'm pretty sure they have other ways of installing listening devices other than cutting the cable and splicing in a "T" fitting.

      • by Thagg ( 9904 )

        With fiber optics...I don't think it's very easy. Especially with the new doped fibers that do their own recharging.

        It used to be that there had to be transceivers every so often along the fiber, to turn the optical signals back into electronic signals, then generate new laser pulses. The new cables basically build lasers into the fiber, allow it to refresh the signal without going through that process.

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          So the classic option of a bend and mirror that the skilled staff at each end would never work out is now much less easy?
  • Belfast, Northern Ireland. In the cellar under Barfoos Paki Takeaway-
  • by barlevg ( 2111272 ) on Friday August 23, 2013 @09:28AM (#44653527)

    The Independent newspaper said it was not disclosing the country where the base is located

    Does someone on /. know something they're not supposed to be telling us?

I am here by the will of the people and I won't leave until I get my raincoat back. - a slogan of the anarchists in Richard Kadrey's "Metrophage"