CommunityMy FDL

Guardian: GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world’s communications

Exclusive:  British spy agency collects and stores vast quantities of global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls, and shares them with NSA, latest documents from Edward Snowden reveal

(Sorry for the rush, but I thought you’d like to know, and I didn’t see available post to drop the link.)

GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects.  This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user’s access to websites – all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets.

The existence of the programme has been disclosed in documents shown to the Guardian by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as part of his attempt to expose what he has called “the largest programme of suspicionless surveillance in human history”.

“It’s not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight,” Snowden told the Guardian. “They [GCHQ] are worse than the US.” [snip]

Britain’s technical capacity to tap into the cables that carry the world’s communications – referred to in the documents as special source exploitationhas made GCHQ an intelligence superpower.  By 2010, two years after the project was first trialled, it was able to boast it had the “biggest internet access” of any member of the Five Eyes electronic eavesdropping alliance, comprising the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

UK officials could also claim GCHQ “produces larger amounts of metadata than NSA“.  [snip]

The Guardian understands that a total of 850,000 NSA employees and US private contractors with top secret clearance had access to GCHQ databases.

In addition,  apparently Americans were given guidelines for its use, but were told in legal briefings by GCHQ lawyers: “We have a light oversight regime compared with the US”, and that  when it came to judging the necessity and proportionality of what they were allowed to look for, would-be American users were told it was “your call”.  I’ll bet they made the call.

From NDTV via Agence-France  Presse”

WikiLeaks plane ‘ready’ to bring Edward Snowden to Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland: A chartered private jet is ready to bring US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden to Iceland from Hong Kong, a businessman connected to whistleblowing website WikiLeaks said late Thursday.

“Everything is ready on our side and the plane could take off tomorrow,” Icelandic businessman Olafur Sigurvinsson, head of WikiLeaks partner firm DataCell, told Channel2 television.

“We have really done all we can do. We have a plane and all the logistics in place. Now we are only awaiting a response from the (Icelandic) government,” added the boss of Datacell, which handles donations to WikiLeaks.

Why advertise it?  Several ideas might occur.

I was looking at Julian Sanchez’s twitter account for a link I’d seen the other day, and found him recommending this piece by James Risen and Nick Winfield at the NYT: ‘Web’s Reach Binds N.S.A. and Silicon Valley Leaders’:

The sums the N.S.A. spends in Silicon Valley are classified, as is the agency’s total budget, which independent analysts say is $8 billion to $10 billion a year.

Despite the companies’ assertions that they cooperate with the agency only when legally compelled, current and former industry officials say the companies sometimes secretly put together teams of in-house experts to find ways to cooperate more completely with the N.S.A. and to make their customers’ information more accessible to the agency. The companies do so, the officials say, because they want to control the process themselves. They are also under subtle but powerful pressure from the N.S.A. to make access easier. 

Skype, the Internet-based calling service, began its own secret program, Project Chess, to explore the legal and technical issues in making Skype calls readily available to intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials, according to people briefed on the program who asked not to be named to avoid trouble with the intelligence agencies.

Also, this piece by Robert Pollack:  Militarizing Capitalism is excellent.  More links later; so much is breaking so quickly now, and…I’m sorry to be in such a rush…again.  Garden’s been calling, but that’s a good thing.

 (cross-posted at

Previous post

An Open Letter To The Secret Service Regarding The Aaron Swartz File

Next post

In the summertime...