Latest Leak: UK Spies Tap Internet Cables, Collect Nearly Everything With Little Oversight, Then Shares It With NSA

from the and-another-thing dept

Another day, another leak released from the Ed Snowden files. The latest: evidence that the UK's equivalent of the NSA is tapping into fiber optic cables to hoover up all sorts of internet data, similar to the NSA. The UK group, GCHQ, literally has called these program: "Mastering the Internet (MTI)" and "Global Telecoms Exploitation (GTE)." They're not much for nuance or code names across the pond, I guess. Apparently, they're collecting a ton of data:
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". (Metadata describes basic information on who has been contacting whom, without detailing the content.)
And, GCHQ and the NSA are teaming up to go through it all:
By May last year 300 analysts from GCHQ, and 250 from the NSA, had been assigned to sift through the flood of data.
But that's not all who have access to the data. The article claims 850,000 NSA employees and contractors with top secret clearance can access the GCHQ database. The report also notes that the UK spooks admit that they "have a light oversight regime compared with the US." Considering how light US oversight already is... In the US, there are those very weak minimization rules. In the UK, the analysts (including the American analysts working on the data) are told "it's your call."

The close releationship between GCHQ and the NSA is pretty clear. NSA boss Keith Alexander apparently visited the NSA's own Menwith Hill intercept station in the UK a few years ago and said: "Why can't we collect all the signals all the time? Sounds like a good summer project for Menwith."

The details in the report suggest that the data collection here is on a fairly epic scale. When discussing revealing how many people have had their data scooped up under the program, GCHQ's lawyers apparently said "this would be an infinite list which we couldn't manage." Think about that for a second.

As for how GCHQ is tapping directly into fiber optic cables? Apparently, they keep that under much tighter wraps than they do the information they're collecting on everyone:
This was done under secret agreements with commercial companies, described in one document as "intercept partners".

The papers seen by the Guardian suggest some companies have been paid for the cost of their co-operation and GCHQ went to great lengths to keep their names secret. They were assigned "sensitive relationship teams" and staff were urged in one internal guidance paper to disguise the origin of "special source" material in their reports for fear that the role of the companies as intercept partners would cause "high-level political fallout".

The source with knowledge of intelligence said on Friday the companies were obliged to co-operate in this operation. They are forbidden from revealing the existence of warrants compelling them to allow GCHQ access to the cables.
The tapping is done on transatlantic cables. If you want a sense of just who's likely to be playing along, why not check out this amazing interactive map of all 244 submarine cables around the globe. You can look up the names of the various cables to see who owns them, and you can pretty quickly get a fairly good sense of the companies who are likely "intercept partners." Here's a snippet...
Yet again, it appears that all the assurances that the NSA and the government have been giving us are not fully forthcoming about the extent of surveillance operations and what the NSA has access to. The NSA claims it gets rid of US persons from its own data, but says nothing about US persons' data collected by this data in the UK. And while the UK claims that it gets rid of UK data (though, with little oversight), assuming the NSA provides similar access back... that's all kind of meaningless, isn't it?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 11:50am

    Common sense

    Offsite backup is just basic data security.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 11:51am

    So basically this is the worst case scenario? Can they really be more evil than this?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    rw (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 11:59am

    Re:

    I wouldn't be surprised. I expect much more evil to come.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:01pm

    None of this NSA spying surprises me, I always assumed they spied on everyone. It's not just a conspiracy theory now, is all that has changed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:03pm

    Tapping directly into the infrastructure has got to be illegal.

    The EU won't like this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:04pm

    Sigh. If this is news to you... you're backwards by a decade.

    So let's go on to at least speculate that your precious Google isn't telling the whole truth, either. What evidence do you have besides narrowly phrased denials? Faith doesn't count.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:07pm

    These stories are great but really...

    Who with an even minimum amount of knowledge of the world was unaware that all this was going on. Sure not the details and not confirmed knowledge but we all knew it was happening.

    And who is going to stop it? No one. It is like the internet if you delete the file from one place it will pop back up in a dozen more.

    So we kill these programs and they just create new ones under different names and do a better job of hiding them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:11pm

    Re:

    They were not just tapping in to. They were given access. Like a vampire once they have been invited in they have the run of the house.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:12pm

    it is just further, damning proof that the UK government is just as big a fucking liar as the USA government. it also proves that it has no respect for anyone's privacy or freedom. i must admit that although i expected something like this, i didn't think the UK would be up there with or even above the USA. if these various governments are so scared of someone/gang going to do something without any prior knowledge being given or being found out, why dont they just go and live together on an island somewhere, leaving those of us that dont have this persecution feeling, or this ultimate, impending doom hanging round our necks live in peace or whatever we leave ourselves with? the feeling i have at this moment is one of abject horror because i dont know who is worse, the ones somewhere across the globe i keep being told are trying to take away my way of life, my freedom and privacy or the ones on my doorstep that are supposed to be on my side, but are actually doing exactly the same thing? stay in your own country and have your own government or one of it's 'allies' fuck you over, stay in your own country and have another country's government do the same thing or take a chance and move, only to find the fucking lot are at it!! God Almighty, what has happened to this world in which we live? what a predicament!!

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:15pm

    Re: These stories are great but really...

    No, we kill these agencies and anyone who tries to replace them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:16pm

    So if it's illegal for the government to spy on Americans, just route the traffic to our BFFs in England and let them do the spying for us.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:19pm

    'The NSA claims it gets rid of US persons from its own data, but says nothing about US persons' data collected by this data in the UK. And while the UK claims that it gets rid of UK data (though, with little oversight), assuming the NSA provides similar access back... that's all kind of meaningless, isn't it?'

    i said this yesterday and no one listened! everyone is being spied on and everyone's data collected by one country is being shared with every other country. i suppose the only thing you can say is that there is no favoritism!! each person is as equally fucked as the next one!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:20pm

    Re:

    Isn't there a law in most countries about circumvention of the laws? Maybe we can prosecute under those.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Re: These stories are great but really...

    But, but, but, think of all the children.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:22pm

    China is proud guys, keep up with the good work!

    Ahem. Despicable. Still, good luck processing and extracting anything useful.. I hope they bend and break under the weight of that much data. Gentleman, start your torrents with encryption enabled. Let us make hell break loose.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Ben (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:31pm

    Re:

    Tapping directly into the infrastructure has got to be illegal.

    The EU won't like this.
    It's not illegal with the right warrants... and the power/authority to say "and keep this secret!" (like that ever works). Even if it is illegal, when nobody knows about it, they can't object.

    I think there are very few groups that "like this"; the EU will just be one of the bigger ones to object (if/when they do).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Rapnel (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:32pm

    It would seem our governments have done a most admirable job of protecting themselves.

    They've ensured that there will never be another revolution in the "free" world.

    Dopplegangers. Blue pills. Red pills. Vendettas.

    "..That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.."

    I do not concede.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:33pm

    Why?

    When discussing revealing how many people have had their data scooped up under the program, GCHQ's lawyers apparently said "this would be an infinite list which we couldn't manage."

    How hard is it to write:

    "All of them."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:36pm

    Re:

    Sure they can: reason it out.

    Some of this data has considerable value on the black market -- to certain governments, to politicians, to CEOs, to bankers, to blackmailers, to extortionists, to anyone and everyone who'd like to get their hands on it.

    There are very large number of people with access to it.

    Therefore, since there are buyers, there are sellers. There's absolutely no doubt that some of this data is being carefully collected and packaged and sold under the table. Why not? The targets are unlikely to find out about it. Provided the sellers aren't idiots, they won't be caught. And the buyers have no reason to tell anyone about it, ever.

    "worst case"? Oh heck no. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The evil goes much, much deeper.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Rapnel (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: These stories are great but really...

    Wouldn't the children be the point of that exercise?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Sigh. If this is news to you... you're backwards by a decade.

    Do you still not see the difference between a private company you can choose to give data to and a government taking all the data? Or are you just being obtuse on purpose?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Bergman (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 1:11pm

    If you're a US government official and consider the American People to be your enemy...

    ...then you are probably a traitor, given the definitions of treason.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Bergman (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 1:12pm

    Re: If you're a US government official and consider the American People to be your enemy...

    Whoops, posted that on the wrong thread. WTB Edit Button!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Re:

    But it's not illegal for us to spy on other countries, and it's not illegal for other countries to spy on us outside of our borders, and it's not illegal for us to share the results of spying with our allies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 1:24pm

    Re:

    China is proud guys


    China even has a bit of moral superiority on this issue now. Sure, they spy mercilessly as well... but at least they have always been open and honest about doing so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    dr evil, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 1:25pm

    Re: no one listened

    say it on the phone, or send it in an email.. then someone (:-P) will (be) listen(ing)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Dave, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 1:47pm

    Too many movies?

    Okay, maybe I watch too many movies, but how long before (or how many already) people like Snowden meet with "unfortunate accidents" or such before they are able blow the whistle?

    Is my thinking warped by movies? or is this a reality?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    drewdad (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 2:21pm

    Sure I'm paranoid...

    ...but am I paranoid ENOUGH?


    Keep calm... and encrypt your transmissions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 2:31pm

    ...how long before (or how many already) people like Snowden meet with "unfortunate accidents..."


    Let me help your unease a bit...

    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/6/21/the_fbis_license_to_kill_agents

    http://losangeles .cbslocal.com/2013/06/19/wikileaks-hastings-said-he-was-being-investigated-by-fbi/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 2:45pm

    As time goes by my shoes go bad.
    Since I have high arches most sinkers are horrible to ware; they heart my feet but the cheap ones at Sears do very fine.
    Off to Sears for new pair.
    Payment time.
    I offer my debit card, I get my picture taken, my photo is taken, and the new security code entering device then proceeds to take my finger print.
    All of which I am sure was furnished directly or indirectly, voluntary or involuntary by Sears to the NSA.

    Since when do merchants take your picture and fingerprints to buy their product?

    That I do not know but what I do know is that it will be a very long time before I go to such a store as Sears again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
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    btrussell (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 5:50pm

    Re: Sure I'm paranoid...

    "Keep calm... and encrypt your transmissions."

    You missed an earlier story.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    M. Alan Thomas II (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 6:34pm

    Well, at least most communications traveling by transatlantic cable are probably international in nature. That's . . . something. Not much, but something.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    fiber optic cable, Jun 21st, 2013 @ 8:11pm

    Okay, maybe I watch too many movies, but how long before (or how many already) people like Snowden meet with "unfortunate accidents" or such before they are able blow the whistle?All of which I am sure was furnished directly or indirectly, voluntary or involuntary by Sears to the NSA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
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    Uriel-238 (profile), Jun 21st, 2013 @ 10:26pm

    Are Spectre, Kaos and the Guild of Calamitous Intent active?

    The only reason I think we'd need such huge-budgeted super-secret super-agencies is if we were suffering from a pandemic of evil overlords.

    Really, this is like some twisted comic book.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jun 22nd, 2013 @ 1:15am

    Re: Re: If you're a US government official and consider the American People to be your enemy...

    No worries, it's true no matter where it's posted.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2013 @ 2:04am

    Re:

    They could jut bounce all internal communications via the UK so that GCHQ can scoop them up. hat way NSA does not have to directly capture US communications.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Kara, Jun 22nd, 2013 @ 5:14am

    The 850,000 NSA employee number needs to be evaluated

    I couldn't find an email address to use, so this will be a long comment.

    "The article claims 850,000 NSA employees and contractors with top secret clearance can access the GCHQ database."

    This is not correct. I sent an email to the Guardian and I posted in their comment section, however no one seems to care. I would love it if someone would actually research this and correct it.

    According to the guardian.co.uk on June 6th, 2013 the NSA had 100,000 employees.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/national-security-agency-surveillance

    According to the Report on Security Clearance Determinations January 2013 the total amount of people in the US who have top-secret clearance is 1,409,969. 791,200 come from the government.
    http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/intel/clear-2012.pdf

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jun 22nd, 2013 @ 7:33am

    Re: The 850,000 NSA employee number needs to be evaluated

    "The article claims 850,000 NSA employees and contractors"

    The government tends to contract more people then they employ.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    Kara (profile), Jun 22nd, 2013 @ 7:44am

    Re: Re: The 850,000 NSA employee number needs to be evaluated

    I posted a document that stated exactly how many people had clearance (all types of clearances) in the US.

    Out of 1,409,969 people who have top secret classification 791,200 were government employees. 483,263 were contractors. 135,506 were other (defined as not either government or contractors).

    This is the total population that has top secret classification, not just for intelligence purposes. The NSA is not the only agency or department in the government that uses people who have top secret classification.

    P.3
    http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/intel/clear-2012.pdf

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    jeffm325 (profile), Jun 22nd, 2013 @ 8:17am

    Quantum computers will crack all encryption

    "....once quantum computers go into widespread use by the NSA, the CIA, Google, etc., there will be no more secrets kept from the government...." excerpted from here:
    http://www.naturalnews.com/040859_Skynet_quantum_computing_D-Wave_Systems.html

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2013 @ 12:49am

    Re: Re:

    Epic analogy. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Alex, Apr 22nd, 2014 @ 2:40am

    This is the right place where there is lots of information about how to upgrades kitchen! I am more than happy to see such a great blog with plenty of useful information.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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