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.


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

  1. obomba’s Insider Threat Program (kevin gosztola)

  2. ‘On the Espionage Act charges against Edward Snowden’ (Glenn Greenwald) He indicates that he’s working on ‘more stories’, but wanted to weigh in on this travesty. The piece just rolled out of him whole, I swear. He breathes this stuff…

    ‘NSA Whistleblower: NSA Spying On – and Blackmailing – Top Government Officials and Military Officers (washington’s blog w/ Tice video)

  3. a miserable mess this all is.

    This is what the world spends its time and money on.

  4. Juan Cole has a lot to say about these things, he’s remarkable.

  5. The Governments and big private interests in the western world really have merged. They exchange everything freely, information, executives, workers, money and finance, contracts, secrets, world military agendas, absolutely everything. They do favours for each other, grant legal rights, ignore the laws when it is useful to them, and even kill who they want.

    It appears to be completely beyond the control of the citizens. Not just the USA, the whole Western world.

    what a complete disaster.

    The only hope was occupy, they destroyed it, very efficiently.

  6. i remember you saying that you like juan cole a lot. i used to, but when he endorsed r2p libya so completely, i admit i quit reading him after a bit. i know it was personal, but that shouldn’t enter into something so wildly wrong and doomed to failure, imo.

    regarding occupy, i really do think that core occupiers are still working hard behind the scenes (lack of visibility does not help the movement, of course), but twined with other movements, both ongoing and brewing, might be able to act as core organizers for the different affinity groups that will need to coalesce into a major street and truth movement. if we in this nation are either too lazy, fearful, or accepting of propaganda to pull it off, we may just deserve a nation under security lockdown. god, i hope not, mafr.

    have you been watching the guardian’s live blog? snowden’s plane is in moscow now they just embedded glenn greenwald’s smackdown of david gregory on meet the press. ‘truth is coming, and nothing can stop it’. (or close)
    i admit, i have such high hopes, and realize they might be yet mightily dashed.

    oh, and it seems acmerecords is a musician; i invited him over here to provide our open threads with his music at the end of his post’s thread; dunno if he saw it or not. that would be cool.

  7. You shouldn’t give up on Juan cause you disagree about one thing.he’s probably more qualified to give opinions than any Westerner outside of R. Fisk.

    I watched the liveblog for a while.

    I feel very sorry that these individuals have to destroy their own lives.

    I don’t think Snowden will ever be safe.

  8. i do understand why you think that i should not judge cole on ‘one thing’. it is just that it has (and is) such a huge thing for me. it was a war constructed on pretense of ‘protection’, and is the post-modern way to sell a war of convenience.

    to say the truth, i lost friends over my objection to it, and even finally left the site i was helping administrate: kgblogz. he was a huge supporter, and literally pounded me continually over it. the stress of it all made my brain injuries act in crazy ways, including headaches as big as…well, you know. now i watch the ugly state the nation is in, and the west could care less as long as the oil is secure (and the gold). so knowing that cole was an author of it to liberals is hard for me to forgive. but i will try, that’s all i can offer.

    you never said: is it time for a new open thread, and if so, would you like to make one, or should i?

    as he and greenwald roll out the next and the next documents and hopefully slides, i know they hope that in the long run they will help inoculate him from harm. and that depends on world opinion and pressure, and may in the long run help bradley manning. at least for today, i can still express that somewhat naive hope. tomorrow?

  9. can’t we keep using the existing one? If not, you best start a new one. I’ll dig up a tune to throw in there.

    Need some of your friends to chip in a little more often, too, I hope.

  10. The fact that Obama is so harsh on the whistleblowers, makes me think that there is much more going on than we know.

    and not anything related to any actual enemies of the USA.

  11. i’m not quite sure what you might mean about ‘much more going on than we know’. what obomba and his cheney-esque elite friends is to want the have complete control of the internet, for one (and the ramifications of that can’t even be measured). they also want to ensure crushing any domestic dissent as well as journalism that would challenge the propaganda of this nation: exporting democracy through wars (including the r2p version (see syria now); the extent of the military budget including the hidden budget for the shadow army (jsoc/Xe, CIA); the extent to which the snowden docs have shown that nsa data is used in aid of mega-corporations; used for bribery and extortion to who knows what degree; is used to directly hack into any nation’s computer systems they choose…i know i’m missing some, but i just woke up. ;~)

    clearly, there are more docs to come, and they may shed light on the ‘more we don’t know’. we keep thinking we’re no longer shockable, and yet…it’s hard to anticipate the levels of evil being perpetrated. just think of how the calls and metadata are being used by wall street now (commodity manipulations, say), and what use any of that info is to the elites who are arranging the ttp and tafta trade deals. nothing to do with trade: just cavalier profiteering: they want to be latter day midases-all of them. and have been.

    no, it’s not about ‘our enemies’; that’s the excuse, but every single plot they say they’ve foiled were broken down as more lies.

    sometimes at fdl i see folks claiming that the wikileak diplomatic cables were a yawn; oh, are they wrong. had journalists really dug into the stories they told about what really drives our foreign policy, they may have begun to unwind american’s somnolent cocoons a bit, and changed…a lot.

    ah, i just started imaging more and typing more that might come out.; deleted it as boring, lol. i really hate when people like eCAHNomics keep saying: this is nothing we didn’t know before. yes, whistleblowers *told* us much of what was going on, but there was no (or little) documentation. this is a game-changer.

  12. i just pasted in the text of julian assange’s treatise from yesterday into my snowden piece below, but in case someone may not have read it yet, this is the link to the one posted at fdl.

  13. i just lost my whole comment on the open thread. out of time for now, so i’ll try later. ;~)

  14. More than we know.

    beyond the spying,

    I mean what we know related to kidnapping, torture, and murder. I think that extremely evil things have been buried.

    I don’t think we know more than a small part of the actual torturing that’s been done.

    I think that many of these people are sadistic murderers. Remember Bush joking and laughing about a woman that he had signed the death warrant for? joking about no WMD? After all of the evil he had done?

    I think the depths of depravity are being explored.

    And maybe they’re afraid that that stuff will be coming out. They don’t know what he has do they?

    The smell of fear is emanating from the Whitehouse.

  15. I agree with you, wendyedavis, on Juan Cole – I followed him a lot during the Bush years and expected him to be as critical of Obama – he hasn’t been. A lot of expert pundits fall into that category, so it makes me very wary.

    On mafr1’s point that there are a lot of things out there, I would definitely wish that such do come to light – they will eventually. Here is one just begging for transparency:

    If that email is actual, the connection to the NSA is right there in the subject line. Also, in comments, a telling point was made on the car being diesel and how that fuel burns. Timing wise, the young man could well have been intending to fly to Hong Kong.

    Thank you for following these issues. Lots of flak is flying up around the stories and the important thing will be to stay focussed. This is a human story as well as issue-oriented. We need to keep that in mind.

  16. Here’s a Cafe Exclusive from Down Under that speaks to the comment above that this is less about terrorism and more about domestic spying. The latter hasn’t been an obvious occurrence in New Zealand, though it is revealed that it well could be happening due to the Dotcom case in which US intervention was the objectionable scenario.

  17. heh. phoenix woman had put up a piece at fdl the other day laughing at folks who thought he’d been murdered by the security state thugs hell, you can tinker with a car, for godssake (brake lines, steering, accelerator). if there were no forensics done on the car…oy. i only scanned the comments, but as i remember it, a number of people disagreed with her premise. i suppose buzzfeed must have it then, too. la times would have likely tried to verify the email’s authenticity, no?

    thank you for the update, j.

  18. re: the nz piece: yes, it’s becoming only too clear to people who are beginning to see that the nsa programs had zero to do with ‘foiling terrorist attacks’. the lies by clapper, mueller, et. al. were shown to be utter bullshit, and that it was old-fashioned police work, applying for warrants, that helped.

    i wish i’d copied all of kgb’s many explanations into a document for refreshers, but i’m pretty sure that he’d told you once that nz’s notions of tweaking any of it were patently absurd, give that the data collection is all *upstream*. if i get what he meant, as long as the hardware (split fiber optics) are in place, nothing can be tweaked or sorted.

    i may yet try to capture what he tried to teach us (i failed the course in spades) when i have time.

  19. Yes, both he and someone else,( maybe TarheelDem?), pointed that the secret spies could simply move to some junction point further out in the Pacific, a node or something. Sure. But that would not be New Zealand’s own government giving away the store and preying upon its own people on behalf of the US, which was really pending in the legislation being proposed. Plus I’m sure that a future Rainbow Warrior XVIII would send divers eventually to find and chop that node up in wee little pieces – or get the porpoises on our side to do that. This is the spirit that needs nurturing every place possible. Just do what you can, hobbits!

    At least the Ring myth adoption by New Zealand, corny as it may be, has this going for it – it really is about overcoming the evil empire, little folk determined to do that. Not a bad new myth for a country that really needs one. Better than cannibalism after all. (And I say that with fighting maori in my own blood!)

  20. I will just add that being anti-nuclear might also seem quixotic, but it has saved New Zealand from installing nuclear power stations – there could well have been a South Pacific Fukushima incident when Christchurch toppled, so bad as that situation still is, it could have been mega.

    Spirit is what counts; I really believe that.

  21. i may have misread what kgb said then. and of course spirit counts, and can spread to others all over the planet, and i believe that the spreading is key, so that more and more of it is in the air we breathe, and might cause the chimes to stir within our breasts increasingly.

    one of the famous tipping points to *action* (whatever forms they may take) is that when 10% of a population strongly believes in the fact that ‘these things cannot stand’, change is not inevitable, but likely. i have not written part five of my tipping point series yet; wonder if i ever will? ;~)

    yep, brave hobbits in NZ; i love it. and the maori women in solidarity with idle no more…pure bliss.

  22. I am sure your take is accurate, wendye. I just simplified, and of course, once stuff like that is in place, who knows? We see that it may seem to have been eradicated but like your bindweed, there it comes again. There’s that lovely bit near the end of ‘The Little Prince.’ St. Exupery says:

    “Here then is a very great mystery. For you who also love the little prince, as for me, nothing in the universe is the same if somewhere, one knows not where, a sheep that we never met has – yes or no – eaten a rose…

    “Look up in the sky. Ask: the sheep, yes or no, has it eaten the flower? And you will see how everything changes …”

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