UK Spies Knew That Its Surveillance Was Likely Illegal, Which Is Why They Fought To Keep It So Secret

from the but-of-course dept

The latest reporting on the Snowden docs by The Guardian shows that the UK's surveillance operation GCHQ was apparently well aware that its activities were almost certainly open to a "legal challenge" and therefore they were committed to keeping them secret to avoid such a challenge. Note that this is quite different than the official excuse always given about being worried about public disclosure putting national security at risk by revealing "sources and methods." Instead, here it seems clear that the secrecy was for the very reason that many of us suspected: they were pretty sure they're breaking the law, or at least coming so close that it was something the courts would eventually have to decide... but only if the info got out. And, it wasn't just them. They realized that the telcos willingness in passing on info likely opened up other legal challenges as well.
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 admissible 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 America's National Security Agency.
Amazingly, they seem to admit that the fear of a public debate/legal challenge was the key reason they fought (and won) a battle to keep such evidence out of trials. That is, even though they could have gone with the old favorite of "national security," instead, they finally admitted reality:
Our main concern is that references to agency practices (ie the scale of interception and deletion) could lead to damaging public debate which might lead to legal challenges against the current regime.
That other point mentioned above, about telcos going "above and beyond" in voluntarily handing over access is also pretty big, considering that the telcos in question had tried the "we're just complying with the law" excuse in the past. But, evidently, they were lying.
The revelations of voluntary co-operation with some telecoms companies appear to contrast markedly with statements made by large telecoms firms in the wake of the first Tempora stories. They stressed that they were simply complying with the law of the countries in which they operated.

In reality, numerous telecoms companies were doing much more than that, as disclosed in a secret document prepared in 2009 by a joint working group of GCHQ, MI5 and MI6.
Later in the report, a GCHQ memo notes that telcos "feared damage to their brands" if the extent of their over-cooperation was revealed. You know how they could have dealt with that? By not going so far above and beyond the law. But, once again, it seems like the telcos have been incredibly willing to screw over their own customers' privacy at every opportunity.


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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2013 @ 7:43pm

    Conspiracy?

    So can we throw the book at them for conspiracy now?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 10:39am

      Re: Conspiracy?

      "Conspiracy to defraud". In UK it is a catch-all for illegal actions, so I wouldnt be surprised if it could be used here.

       

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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Oct 25th, 2013 @ 8:16pm

    As long as our various governments keep secrets from the very people who elected them into positions in government, we'll always have people in our society who will find ways to expose those secrets.

    Government should never keep secrets from the very people they are supposed to be representing. We do not elect our representatives into government so they can keep secrets from us. If they believe that they are allowed to do this, then they are the ones to blame when these secrets are exposed to the people.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 10:48am

      Re:

      That seems a bit naive. Who are "the ... people"? How do you prevent the "secrets" from being abused by terrorists? And how is it fine to expose them assuming it could get people killed?

      The government needs some level of secrecy. On the other hand, what is getting exposed goes way, way beyond what is reasonable in scope and methods. There needs to be a better trust in the secret services and the only way to build that is through more transparency and regulation. It still doesn't mean they need to make everything public.

       

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        Brazenly anonymous, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 1:12pm

        Re: Re:

        If you build your systems around the idea that nothing is secret, no amount of information leaks can jeopardize anyone. You lose a small amount of capability, but if that is the price of liberty, it is a price well worth paying.

        The only secrecy a government working on behalf of its people has any legitimate use for is secrecy surrounding the exact deployment of its troops. What capabilities it has and who they are being directed at is not information that needs to be protected.

        Anything short of this deprives the people of the ability to carry out their responsibilities in a democratic society. Who are the people? We all are.

        On Trust: Bear in mind that these positions will not always be filled by those who have managed to earn your trust. We cannot operate on trust alone and indeed it is dangerous to trust any who hold power. A free society is a skeptical society.

         

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        Rapnel (profile), Oct 26th, 2013 @ 4:44pm

        Re: Re:

        The government needs some level of secrecy. On that I would agree. For the military and for the purposes of investigations where the latter is considered a temporary secrecy. For the rest there are better classifications than secret.

        The people are any people that consider themselves governed. The public.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2013 @ 8:21pm

    'regime' is more typically used with dictatorships or oppressive governments. What does this say about UK?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 8:18am

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Oct 25th, 2013 @ 8:21pm

      that was my thought. Nobody uses regime to describe their own government, especially an agency that specializes in counter-intelligence propoganda. Something's fishy here.

       

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      Rapnel (profile), Oct 26th, 2013 @ 5:08pm

      Re:

      A regime is pretty much any governed society. A society that has a will to enforce and/or protect its borders and people. Regime decisions and direction can rest on one person or many. It is the latter that a democracy aims for which is another reason these revelations are so important to all of us.

      Telecom has enabled mass surveillance. They've fed the data on everyone to government black ops and got fucking a get out of jail LAW for it AND we're supposed to be good with that.

      Telecom said "Hey Mr. Government Man, we can get you all this shit and there's plenty more where that came from. Mr. Government Man said "Fuck Yeah, we'll take it!".

      And Mr. Government Man got addicted. Mr. Government Man has no way out. There is no drug for him more intoxicating than information. The magnetic pin cushion in the haystack.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2013 @ 8:36pm

    We sure seem to have a lot of naked emperors running around loose, lately. How about some more popcorn?

     

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    Zem, Oct 25th, 2013 @ 9:24pm

    The UK changed their right to silence laws some time ago. Surely it would apply to UK spies as much as a petty thief.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2013 @ 9:53pm

      Re:

      A UK (or for that matter US) spy has money, political influence and blackmail on his side, that the petty thief doesn't. The High/Low court system is alive and well everywhere.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2013 @ 9:50pm

    GCHQ not telcos

    Look, lets be completely clear here.:

    GCHQ spies on Brits, for a foreign power, while lying to Parliament to cover the crime.

    The excuse is terrorism (0.2% of NSA's budget) but the reality is political/financial and industrial surveillance (99.8% of NSA's budget).

    GCHQ hands the feed to NSA for filtering and gets back the results from 40k or so filters.

    NSA gets the results back from 30k+ filters it runs, plus whatever other stuff its doing with the data (social graph, password & encryption key grabbing etc. etc.).

    Parliament is the head of the UK democracy. Not the government. Parliament wasn't told.

    Snoopers Charter, (previously called Interception Modernization Program under the last government) is the legal basis for GCHQ surveillance, it never became law because the voters didn't want it. 'Mastering the Internet' is the technical surveillance program, the computers etc..

    The law wasn't passed, it was too unpopular, Mastering the Internet went ahead anyway on a legal lie signed off on by William Hague. Who I think is a traitor to his country. No different that if Eric Honneker signed off on KGB spying on East Germany.

    Parliament would NEVER HAVE PERMITTED surveillance of data by GCHQ, at best you were to get metadata but didn't even get that. It certainly would never have permitted GCHQ to work for a foreign country to spy on Brits.

    USA are allies, not masters, there's no power structure over Britain that runs
    Obama -> NSA -> GCHQ -> a few traitors in Government -> Voters

    The structure is
    Voters -> Parliament -> GCHQ

    Because they've helped NSA spy on UK politicians, those politicians are compromised now. US has leverage over them, and you can see that in their every deeds.

    All manner of squirming as they try to justify why they are following the NSA's "collect it all" General (who wants mass surveillance) and ignoring the British voters who don't want it.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 12:54am

      Re: GCHQ not telcos

      Codswallop.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 3:55am

        Re: Re: GCHQ not telcos

        "Codswallop."

        I bet GCHQ lot are spying on the Guardian. We saw the arrest under anti-terror laws of Greenwalds family, so I can see you spooks believe the free press is a valid target. I can also see Parkers attack on the free press and witnessed the resulting astroturf.

        Did you GCHQ lot ever imagine you'd attack the free press for reporting a bunch of lies your boss told his political masters?

        You can all read Cleggs rejection of Snoopers Charter, you all know its not legal. Yet it continues and you are party to it.

        Its a tipping point here. It ends with our democracy becoming a East Europe stasi sham, or your boss sacked and hopefully prosecuted. Maybe not in the UK, but Belgium wants him in jail.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 7:49am

          Re: Re: Re: GCHQ not telcos

          Two dollops of codswallop.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 8:09am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: GCHQ not telcos

            "Two dollops of codswallop."

            What I'd like to see from GCHQ is a few Snowdens doing a few leaks.

            GCHQ lot, you can see for yourself Hagues claim of targetted/proportionate intercepts is a joke now we know about Tempora. You can see from these latest leaks, they feared losing a legal challenge if it was revealed. i.e. they knew it was likely illegal, exactly as Mike says.

            So you know the position you're in, you're not the good guys here.

            But you can still be the good guys. Leak it. Whatever Parker is so keen to cover up, leak it. Whatever secrets they're keeping from Parliament, leak it to them.

            Chris Hulme told us that the Cabinet wasn't told about these programs, what else should he have been told about that was kept from the Cabinet?

            What else do the courts need to know about that is illegal?

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 10:47am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: GCHQ not telcos

              Why on earth do you think I have anything to do with the fricking GCHQ?

               

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                Rikuo (profile), Oct 27th, 2013 @ 12:04am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: GCHQ not telcos

                Because only someone who works for the GCHQ and has an interest in what they're doing continue to occur would say that this article is codswallop (which is a pejorative mainly used by the English). It is simply unthinkable that a person with a functioning brain, who is NOT related to or beholden to the GCHQ in any way, would look at articles like this and still defend them, even when the GCHQ admits that its programs would not survive in court.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2013 @ 4:18am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: GCHQ not telcos

                  I believe I was replying to the person, not the article.

                   

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                    Rikuo (profile), Oct 27th, 2013 @ 4:24am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: GCHQ not telcos

                    That might have been a problem on your part. Go back through the thread of comments here. You just say "Codswallop" and "Two dollaps of codswallop". Not exactly very informative as to what exactly you have beef with, so I'm so very very sorry that I didn't divine that you were having a problem with the AC @ 9.50pm rather than the article (what exactly is codswallop there? The whole comment, or is there something specific?)

                     

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                      Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2013 @ 7:39am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: GCHQ not telcos

                      As I was specificly replying to a poster I can't see how one would think I was in fact replying to an article, whatever.

                       

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      Duke (profile), Oct 26th, 2013 @ 6:45am

      Re: GCHQ not telcos

      The Snoopers' Charter or Communications Data Bill wasn't about authorising this sort of mass-surveillance by GCHQ. It was about expanding it to any other authority, including police, tax inspectors, local government etc.

      GCHQ and the other security services were opposed to it, and lobbied against it, likely for the same reasons as above; they were afraid that if this law did pass, there would be much greater awareness of the sort of spying that was being done. It was being introduced because the police wanted access to this massive source of data they knew/suspected was already being gathered.

      The legal regime the current spying is done under is that in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. The reason it is causing a stir is because that programme requires a ministerial warrant for any interception, which targets "one person" or "a single set of premises." The thinking being that this power covered individual acts of targeted surveillance.

      It seems that the Government may have interpreted this as allowing the "single set of premises" to be the place where the tap is (so the cable junction or whatever), and lasts for 6 months with indefinite renewals.

      It may well be legal under domestic law, but that doesn't make it right.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 8:25am

        Re: Re: GCHQ not telcos

        "The Snoopers' Charter or Communications Data Bill wasn't about authorising this sort of mass-surveillance by GCHQ"

        Snoopers charter was the tory attempt to pass "intercept moderisation program' the failed legislation under Labour. The legal basis for "mastering the internet".

        http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/16/mps-peers-may-snoopers-charter

        "Blencathra is not alone in feeling angered by the failure of the Home Office and the security services to inform them of the extent of GCHQ's personal data harvesting operations in its Tempora programme, while pressing for even more snooping powers: "I sat on the committee and the Home Office misled parliament by concealing that they were already doing what the bill would have permitted," Strasburger said."

        Hague claim of legality is a work of fiction, as is his claim of only "targetted/proportionate/necessary" surveillance. We know about Tempora now.

        You missed the part where he's substituted mass data-retention for surveillance, and using one part of RIPA that lets him authorize spying on targets for a foreign power, with another, that lets him authorize broad capture of data by GCHQ for semi-foreign data. As if he can assemble his own rules simply by sticking bits together.

        Legal? Nah. Fiction. and deceiving Blencathra simply confirms they know the legal basis isn't a legal basis.

         

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          Duke (profile), Oct 26th, 2013 @ 9:41pm

          Re: Re: Re: GCHQ not telcos

          The Mastering the Internet programme (and Tempora, which appear to be parts of it) are likely authorised through warrants under Part I of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

          Whether or not they fully comply with that or other legislation is another matter. But the claim (yet to be rebutted) is that they are legal under the current regime.

          However, the Part I RIPA regime has restrictions and limits on it, such as the warrants either needing specific targets, or being limited to "external communications" - which is why the main Tempora taps are just off the coast (as "external communications" covers anything sent or received outside the British Islands).

          Under Part I RIPA, the surveillance technically doesn't have to be proportionate or necessary; the requirement is that the relevant Secretary of State (Hague) believes (reasonably or not) that it is proportionate and necessary. That said, the HRA imposes the duty to act compatibly with the relevant articles of the ECHR, even on GCHQ and the Cabinet, hence the current legal challenge to the Tempora etc. programmes in the ECtHR.

          What the Comms Data Bill did was take the narrow, limited and restricted schemes in RIPA and make them much broader, giving the Secretary of State (then Theresa May) much greater discretion in authorising stuff. That it was pushed by Theresa May (and thus the Home Office) not William Hague (and thus the Foreign Office), along with what I've picked up from various articles and meetings/talks on it, suggest that the drive for it came from the police rather than security services. Again, they were already doing it and believe it to be legal (as did the Parliamentary Committee which investigated).

          If you're interested in the detail of what they've allegedly been doing, and the legal basis for it, much of this is set out in Dr Ian Brown's witness statement to the ECtHR in this upcoming case.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2013 @ 2:25am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: GCHQ not telcos

            "which is why the main Tempora taps are just off the coast"

            Bob the Brit emails Tom the Brit and GCHQ listens in simply because of the route of the message. I think its a false claim that they can do that legally simply by virtue of tapping the line 'just off the coast'. I also don't believe they do tap it offshore, the leaks suggest they tap at the landing stations on UK soil. I think 'location of tap' a red herring, no different than if they use a spy satellite on Britain and claimed its done abroad (in space).

            In essence, I think they decided to take orders from General 'collect it all' and sought a legal justification, no matter how fanciful under UK law for obeying him.

            They lost the law in 2008 and against in 2012, so did it under a game played with RIPA.

            Having done that, they needed to keep it secret from Parliament and the Cabinet and the courts, because fanciful legal views don't stand scrutiny. We see that in claim from Cabinet members and Parliament members that they were told nothing.

            Now Snoopers Charter comes along, and it is sold as necessary for the Intelligence Agencies, and it fails. And now the Queens speech comes along announcing son of Snoopers Charter is also necessary for the Intelligence agencies. How can it both be necessary and yet unnecessary because it's already legal to do much more than that!?

            Well this leak reveals they know how fanciful their legal basis is.

            Snoopers Charter pushed by Theresa May, Intercept Modernisation Program was pushed by Labours Jacqui Smith. It makes no difference who is in that seat, the "collect it all" is pushed by General Alexander, and it makes its way down through GCHQ to the Home Secretary.

            William Hague chose to defend his decision rather than defend his countries sovereignty. He was just the idiot they got to sign the paper.

            "What the Comms Data Bill did was take the narrow, limited and restricted schemes in RIPA"

            Spin much?

            It makes sense to opt for an ECHR challenge because the venue is better. A legal challenge on how the Home Secretary (mis) interprets a Parliamentary law will face political obstacles from the traitors who let the NSA spy on us.

             

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              Duke (profile), Oct 27th, 2013 @ 9:19am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: GCHQ not telcos

              Just in case this wasn't clear, I campaigned against the Comms Data Bill, and if anyone was actually doing it, would campaign against Part I of RIPA. They are bad laws and, imho are being abused. I would certainly argue against the need for secrecy for these provisions.

              But that doesn't mean that I think the MtI programme is illegal. Yes, it doesn't matter where the tap is; what matters is that the communications being tapped are being sent or received outside the British Islands. This then is defined as being the entity sending or receiving the individual transmission of data, not the initial sender or ultimate receiver (so anything that leaves the country or comes into it is fair game).

              The extent of these programmes may have been kept from the Cabinet (other than Hague obviously, who signs the warrants) and/or Parliament (the Courts haven't really been involved), but now that they have been leaked, there have (apparently) been investigations within Parliament and the Cabinet into them, and both were happy that the programmes were legal. The ECtHR may disagree on human rights grounds, but that's just going to lead to another boost for the anti-human-rights brigade.

              While some of the spin for the Comms Data Bill was that it was necessary for the security services (which they claim it is on the basis of changing technologies), the driving force wasn't the security services (who lobbied against it), but law enforcement. Again, that's why it came from the Home Office (both under Labour and the Coalition) not the Foreign Office. There is a huge amount of pressure on the Home Office from Police groups and Arms Dealers to pass it, because they are the ones to benefit.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2013 @ 10:01am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: GCHQ not telcos

                Lets be clear here Duke,

                Unless you're in the ISC or you are a spook, then you haven't seen the warrants and can't then say the basis for their claim is legal because they were kept secret.

                The ISC did not say they were legal either. They said that use of *PRISM* didn't circumvent UK law.

                It did not cover Tempora at all.

                He can't issue a warrant for 100% of the data and say its relatd to terrorism or crime or whatever, because by definition 100% collection must be related to everything and thus not related to anything in particular.

                'proportionate' cannot mean 'all' and the Hague has no idea if its 'necessary' because he signs the warrant at one time, and the actual targetting happens in the future. He cannot see into the future to determine that.

                These are not legal orders, they have not been revealed and have not been challenged.

                ISC might give a gloss of review on them and pretend they are fine, but that does not make them fine. ECHR would be a good venue because it takes it out of Rifkin's hands.

                 

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 10:57am

      Re: GCHQ not telcos

      There needs to be a clearer democratic control over international subjects and treaties. A government robo-signing anything the secret service says they need and some far too friendly connection between other measures and the secret services makes for absolutely no checks and balances apart from the "learn the rules so you know how to really break them!".

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 25th, 2013 @ 11:14pm

    Scottish independence

    its the best reason for independence. we might get a constitution, we might be free from gchq, we might be able to lay our own inter national cables. we will still be run by corrupt self serving wee shites, but there is a chance of some privacy.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 1:28am

      Re: Scottish independence

      If Scotland went for independence nothing would change. (Not that any Scots I know think its even a good idea)

      Anyway if you were to you lay your own cables the data will still have to go to the US or the UK servers so you would be in exactly the same boat apart from a shit load of money out the window.

       

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    Simon, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 12:50am

    If a government cannot conduct itself legally how can they honestly expect citizens to do so?
    At this rate the government will be the primary cause for anarchy.

     

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    Brian Dell, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 12:53am

    no grand conspiracy here

    "UK Spies Knew That Its Surveillance Was Likely Illegal, Which Is Why They Fought To Keep It So Secret"

    More B.S. from Mike Masnick. A true headline would read that GCHQ knew its surveillance would be likely be legally challenged IF ITS SURVEILLANCE WAS ACTUALLY USED TO SUPPORT STATE COERCION. Notice the IF, which makes all the difference. If the IF wasn't satisfied, there wasn't a problem, and the truth is that that condition never was satisfied, because GCHQ intel was never used in court to support prosecutions.

    I should think you civil libertarians would be happy that GCHQ intel was never used in court because that would represent a REAL LIFE constraint on people's civil liberty. But, no, you are too obsessed with civil liberties violations in the abstract to be concerned with concrete reality. Can anyone provide an example of somehow who had his civil liberties violated in real life by the NSA or GCHQ and who wasn't a terrorist or foreign agent? I mean someone who actually got handcuffed. No, you can't. Sure, certain individuals like Angela Merkel had their privacy secretly violated. But think about that: a secret violation of privacy. A little odd no? Isn't the real concern with a privacy violation that something private has becomes public? Take a step back here and look at the odd spectacle of tremendous outrage being based on some guy coming out of the forest to tell you that something had happened in there, in the forest, behind the curtain. Would the tree that fell in there have even made a sound if this guy hadn't come out to tell you it had? This whole Snowden affair has had such an abstract quality about it it's practically metaphysical.

    Why would the telcos stop going along if the intel was used in court? BECAUSE THEN IT WOULD GENUINELY MATTER, that's why! It wouldn't stay in the forest but get out and turn into a genuine issue instead of an abstraction. People would be actually feeling the weight of the state. But no, tell yourself the telcos would only stop going along because they'd been caught, not because the extent to which the surveillance was a real problem would totally change. So much easier to indulge your conspiracy theories.

    Can you handle the idea that there is a continuum between the UK and North Korea such that if there are tens of thousands of NSA ops versus North Korea, and then thousands versus China, and then Russia, etc. that by the time you start getting to a country like Brazil which is far more like the UK in terms of being an ally but still not quite the UK there might be an operation or two against Brazil out of the tens of thousands because there is no magic moral line here that divides countries into the binary categories of allies and enemies that completely precludes Brazil? Greenwald is obviously cherry picking those few instances on the margins to generate maximum outrage despite the misleading picture this creates about the bulk of the NSA's work. Again, take a step back here and get some perspective.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 1:32am

      Re: no grand conspiracy here

      The simple fact that the people didn't want the 'snoopers charter' that was proposed by the intelligence agencies to make this all legal destroys your arguments.

      Th invasion of privacy is there whether they use the evidence in court or not.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 3:19am

      Re: no grand conspiracy here

      Article says no such thing and right to privacy doesn't require coercion. Third point is domestic propaganda, attacks on politicians, even if done through agents acting for GCHQ, are domestic propaganda, and domestic propaganda attacks on politicians ARE COERCION.

      " 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 admissible 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 America's National Security Agency."

       

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        Brian Dell, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 1:38pm

        Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

        "Article says no such thing"

        Yet you then quote from the article "GCHQ feared a legal challenge under the right to privacy in the Human Rights Act if evidence of its surveillance methods became admissible in court."

        See the "if" there? GCHQ did not want to be involved in actually bringing the boot down on people, which is what courts do. The Guardian has an agenda here and accordingly in their sensational article tried to generally minimize the extent to which there was a condition, but the fact is that the condition is still there.

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2013 @ 6:12am

          Re: Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

          You said " USED TO SUPPORT STATE COERCION"

          I said

          "Article says no such thing and right to privacy doesn't require coercion. Third point is domestic propaganda, attacks on politicians, even if done through agents acting for GCHQ, are domestic propaganda, and domestic propaganda attacks on politicians ARE COERCION."

           

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            Brian Dell, Oct 27th, 2013 @ 1:34pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

            OK if the NSA is feeding its masters information to be used to assassinate the characters of domestic dissidents that should help the left wing in America because the NSA answers to the Director of National Intelligence and the DNI advises the President, who is a Democrat. If Obama was using dirt scooped up by his intelligence services to smear political opponents those targets would be "right wingers" like Ted Cruz, no? Why aren't Republicans on the intelligence committees, who have inside information about the actual operation of these programs, up in arms about Obama's advantage here?

            I suggest taking off the tin foil hat and paying more attention to what is REALLY threatening freedom of expression in the good ole USA. This year a Texas couple filed a defamation lawsuit against anonymous posters who defamed them on Topix.com and won a $13.8 million judgment from a jury. I am posting under my real name, but if I thought one of you "Anonymous Cowards" was defaming me, I could potentially get a court to force TechDirt to turn over all its IP data and do a forensic investigation to track you down and then get a court to bankrupt you for life. But, no, the possibility of ending up someone else's indentured servant for life for something you merely SAID is too real life a constraint on your liberty to be of interest, right?

             

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 8:37am

      Re: no grand conspiracy here

      I can't comment on any prosecutions in the UK, but if the US government's actions are any indication of what the UK might do then all you have to look at is https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/08/dea-and-nsa-team-intelligence-laundering . This type of surveillance is being used against suspects in legal proceedings with them not being made awares as to subvert any legal challenges. Hence these violations of privacy are having real implications and aren't as abstract or metaphysical as you may claim.

       

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        Brian Dell, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 2:39pm

        Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

        "This type of surveillance is being used against suspects in legal proceedings..."

        This is not true. The complaint is rather that it is NOT being used IN LEGAL PROCEEDINGS. It has been used PRIOR to legal proceedings and the civil liberties crowd wants it brought into the court knowing it will be immediately be thrown out as a 4th Amendment violation or at least revealed to defence lawyers. How does that help the defendent? It doesn't in the particular case because the evidence at issue here is evidence over and above the evidence that is being used to support the prosecution. But although the evidence isn't being used against the suspects to secure a conviction, exposing it helps expose law enforcement tactics and thus generally weakens law enforcement versus defence lawyers which the civil liberties crowd supports in the abstract.

        Hence it is again an epistemological (and ideological) objection as opposed to a real one. It's the fact that law enforcement KNOWS that is the complaint here, and that's it. It's the fact that law enforcement didn't in fact just make a lucky guess about where to start that is the issue, just like it is the fact that the NSA knows so much or can know so much that is itself objectionable as opposed to any real state coercion of individuals.

        The irony here is that complaining about this is going to ultimately lead to police getting MORE in the face of innocent people if the legal system accepts the complaint (which it won't, this has been adjudicated in the courts and is settled law as acceptable). Why? Because they are going to have to find excuses to search everybody instead of just finding an excuse to search the guy they've been tipped off about. Enforcing inefficiency on law enforcement is not going to emancipate anybody innocent, it is simply based on the dubious logic that if the cops are handed a reversal, that creates some sort of victory for society, because you know law enforcement represents the gummint, "the Man," the oppressors whom rebelling against provides an opportunity to rebel and a sense of righteous purpose.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 5:34pm

          Re: Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

          "It has been used PRIOR to legal proceedings and the civil liberties crowd wants it brought into the court knowing it will be immediately be thrown out as a 4th Amendment violation or at least revealed to defence lawyers. How does that help the defendent? It doesn't in the particular case because the evidence at issue here is evidence over and above the evidence that is being used to support the prosecution."

          The evidence that stems from it is being used in legal proceedings. The so called "parallel construction". It helps the defendant because if the evidence against them was obtained as a result of the violation, then that evidence itself is tainted and thrown out as part of the violation.

          "Why? Because they are going to have to find excuses to search everybody instead of just finding an excuse to search the guy they've been tipped off about."

          They are already trying to do that with stuff like stop and frisk. That sort of broad searching and coming up with excuses to search everyone itself would be a violation of the fourth amendment.

           

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            Brian Dell, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 7:50pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

            "The evidence that stems from it is being used in legal proceedings."

            No, it is not. Law enforcement has to start at square one in building their case; any evidence found cannot be submitted if it's logically impossible to generate without prior use of evidence that would be thrown out under the 4th Amendment's exclusionary rule. It's like knowing that a guy murdered 10 people but only prosecuting him for 4 that would make for a solid prosecution. Knowing the details of the other 6 simply helps law enforcement build their case more intelligently, knowledge of the other 6 provides ZERO additional incriminating evidence as far as the legal system is concerned if those cases are not raised in court. The evidence for the 4 does not "stem" from the 6, it's called "parallel construction" not derivative construction. The bottom line is that if the defendant is never charged for the other cases there is no REAL problem with law enforcement being aware of those other cases.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 8:28pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

              The problem is all that "parallel construction" still relies on the evidence that would be thrown out under the 4th amendment. If a police man breaks into someone's home, finds out that they're a drug dealer, and tells his buddies to stop the dealer's car and come up with a reason to search it, the investigation did not begin with them "randomly" stopping the car and finding drugs, the investigation began with an illegal search courtesy of some breaking an entering.

              Or to use your example, whether they prosecute someone for 4 or 10 murders is irrelevant when they know he's a murderer only because they bugged his house without a warrant.

               

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              Rikuo (profile), Oct 27th, 2013 @ 12:11am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

              I take it then you never read the articles about NSA agents telling DEA officials that a drug supplier is in car XYZ...however the DEA can't say that they were tipped off by the NSA in their official reports, that would be used by the defendant's lawyer to get the case thrown out. So the DEA tell the local cops/sheriff, "Stop the car on the basis of a busted taillight or some other excuse, and just make it so you happen to find the evidence we need".

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2013 @ 6:18am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

                " that would be used by the defendant's lawyer to get the case thrown out"

                Only if it was illegal. If NSA's theory is correct and its all legal then it wouldn't matter.

                But there's a simpler answer. Agents for spooks plant the drugs, DEA fakes the finding of those drugs, person is neutralized.

                Planting drugs is sadly common (search Youtube, several uncover officers have been caught trying to do it to protestors). It seems to be the method of choice for discrediting someone.

                 

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                Brian Dell, Oct 27th, 2013 @ 1:51pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

                If a car is pulled over for a busted tail light and there's a body in the trunk, I don't think you'd feel too sorry for the driver if the body belonged to one of your relatives.

                Secondly if the guy has incriminating evidence in the vehicle and he's been pulled over for some bogus reason, if he has any brains he will say "in fact I do mind" when they ask if they can search his vehicle and explain to them that he has to object on principle because it is a civil liberties issue. If law enforcement persists over his objections he can challenge their search in court.

                As a society I think we'd rather law enforcement get fed tips that are, like, accurate than just rely on dubious tips from dubious characters like Frankie the Squealer and Jimmy the Snitch.

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2013 @ 5:36am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

                  Drugs are small and easy to hide, bodies are big and difficult to hide. I thought it was telling that we only heard about 'DEA' parallel construction and not other forms of it.

                  At this point DEA officers need to stick to 100% truth, the jig is up.

                   

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                  Brazenly anonymous, Oct 28th, 2013 @ 5:46am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

                  If a car is pulled over for a busted tail light and there's a body in the trunk, I don't think you'd feel too sorry for the driver if the body belonged to one of your relatives.


                  "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer."

                  The basis of innocent until proven guilty and still just as relevant Today as it was in 1760. You've deliberately evaded the possibility where they "find" drugs in the trunk after forcing a search because the police dogs "smelled" something, all to shut up someone the NSA or GCHQ doesn't like. Note that this is more likely than actually finding a body in the trunk based on an spy tip, given that that information is highly unlikely to be communicated to anyone by any means.

                  Our society is based in large part in strict rules governing the conduct of law enforcement. As a society, we ought to ensure these rules are enforced.

                   

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      Brazenly anonymous, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 9:36am

      Re: no grand conspiracy here

      It isn't use in courts that we are worried about. Use in courts would be legally challenged. It is extra-judicial use, bribery and blackmail, NDAA style disappearances.

      If we let them operate in secrecy, how are we to know if they have crossed the line to abuse? How are we to know when we need to reign them in? If we let them have this phenomenal power, if we ever accept it, how are we to have any ability to check improper use of it?

      The secrecy, the surveillance and the whole culture under which these groups operate is anathema to a free society. The NSA is part of the military, it should be bound to the same restraints as the military. Yes, that means giving up access to spying on our nominal allies. That is part of the cost to security that liberty demands.

      Spying should be treated as an attack on the integrity of a nation, given what that information can be used to impose upon elected representatives.

       

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        identicon
        Brian Dell, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 3:01pm

        Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

        "It is extra-judicial use, bribery and blackmail, NDAA style disappearances."

        In other words, a grand conspiracy. Look, I suggest finding that New York Times story about how the NSA has been very reluctant to share its data with other government agencies. Why? Because as long as they can keep duplicitous Greenwald-fan-boy sneaks like Snowden out of their systems and restrict access to patriots interested the nation's general benefit, the NSA knows how to keep a secret and use their information prudently, something that gets increasingly more dubious the closer one gets to local law enforcement detachments, where there are fewer institutional checks and balances. The NSA is actually on your side here, yet people perversely refuse to appreciate that hence when we learn the GCHQ is also not keen on sharing its stuff with prosecutors in Britain, instead of appreciating that it gets twisted into further evidence of malfeasance.

        You people could go through the electoral process to enforce change but, no, the system is so corrupt one has to pull a Snowden, lie your way into the system and blow the lid off from the inside, right? The individual hero against "the system." If only this view were not so insufferably arrogant and anti-democratic.

         

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          Rikuo (profile), Oct 27th, 2013 @ 12:23am

          Re: Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

          Oh wow, your comment is just full of fun terms, isn't it?

          Let's see...you say only "patriots" should have access to secret information. What the frig is a patriot? How do you define such a term? Is it someone who waves a US flag around while firing off a gun into the air while dressed up as Uncle Sam?
          How is the NSA on our side? All the evidence points to them not being, since they, you know, snoop through all of your electronic communications. I don't care how many times you beat your chest and shout "PATRIOTISM! 'MERICA FUCK YEAH!", they shouldn't be doing that.

          Here's a little thing I want you think about. Do you recognise the name Martin Luther King Jr.? You should, one of the most famous names in history. He was one of the most important leaders of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, who helped end segregation of African Americans.

          He was on an FBI watch-list https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO
          The FBI had dirt on him (extra-marital affairs), reported this to government officials, and at one point, even mailed him an anonymous threatening letter to try and make him commit suicide.
          That was in the 1960's and used by the FBI to try and neutralize the threat one of the greatest men of the 20th century had towards the current administration. Now fast forward to today. How many potential Martin Luther Kings are on a government watch-list, this time mainly run by the NSA, their communications tapped, all secrets told in electronic format known to government officials, all ready to be used against them should they step out of line?

           

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          Brazenly anonymous, Oct 27th, 2013 @ 7:53am

          Re: Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

          No grand conspiracy is needed for individual analysts to skirt any internal protections and make use of the information for extra-judicial purposes. NDAA style disappearances requires framing things the right way to the FBI, so this is probably only available to those higher up within the NSA ranks.

          Bribery and blackmail just requires getting information on the right people, either the target or someone they want to see fail. Those would be accessible to any single analyst in the NSA. All you need to do is "accidentally" type in the wrong phone number.

          The NSA stopped being on the side of liberty and freedom when they decided they had the right to twist Congressional laws and evade Court rulings (the "no standing" argument) to gain whatever powers they decided they needed. Those are the first steps on the road of the tyrant. They think they are on our side, but they don't listen to what we want.

          I'm somewhat less knowledgeable about the position of the GCHQ, but it seems they too are following that same path.

           

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 26th, 2013 @ 11:15am

      Re: no grand conspiracy here

      because GCHQ intel was never used in court to support prosecutions.

      Considering that just last night the US admitted it hid exactly such evidence from defendants in court... suggests that you're wrong.

       

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      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
         
        identicon
        out_of_the_blue, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 3:47pm

        Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

        Mike, you fell for the old "only terrorists" ploy: "who had his civil liberties violated in real life by the NSA or GCHQ and who wasn't a terrorist or foreign agent?" -- That slips in the notion that the State can arbitrarily strip some people of rights by labeling them terrorists; it's the payload of that comment, rest is just to conceal it.

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2013 @ 6:56am

          Re: Re: Re: no grand conspiracy here

          And Merkel, terrorists and Angela Merkel....

          I think a lot of people are missing the bigger picture here.

          New Zealand PM is very pro-American, so pro-American he legalized spying on New Zealander right after PRISM leaks!
          He also happened to come to power after his previous party leader resigned over leaked bad emails. Sounds like spook work to get a party leader that's pro-American.

          Merkel can't understand why she's been spied on since before she came to power, when she's so pro-America.
          If she was anti-America, she wouldn't have come to power! She'd have been leaked against, her opponents given helpful info on her, all manner of stuff. Why do you think the NSA spies on all these governments? For fun?

          I think Snowden was on the data collecting side and so we see mostly leaks about the data collection. The leaks on the data *usage* we get only hints at. So far. Bits of parallel construction, drone kills etc.

          But that seems to be changing, we're getting more into the nastier stuff they've been up to. The actual usage of the data.

          Hence Parker and General Alexander are suggesting free press crackdowns.

           

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 11:53am

      Re: no grand conspiracy here

      parallel construction

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 9:14pm

      Re: no grand conspiracy here

      You either naive or a b-shiter if you truly believe data collected GCHQ or any other government agency will not find uses elsewhere and that nobody will try to abuse it.

      There is no "IF" there is only "WHEN" in those issues.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 1:04am

    And this is about the same reasons why the NSA here in the states is afraid of the Snowden revelations. While telco's got a get-out-of-jail free card from Bush, the DOJ, the administration and the political apologists are busy as they can be preventing anything challenging their methods from surfacing in court. Barring preventing it, usually through the claim of National Security, if they can't prevent it they do their best to muddy the waters. Such as sealing evidence or claiming the evidence can't be viewed as it is classified. And the most common is claiming of no standing to prevent it from even surfacing.

    All in all it's pretty close to the same scenario as the GCHQ. Slowly bills are starting to peculate into being that restrict that unbridled access granted them through redefinition of the English language words. The unchecked gathering of all info, despite the intention of the Patriot Act to prevent that tells you exactly what is wrong. In a nutshell, no meaningful oversight.

    As far as Greenwald cherry picking, he should after that little episode in the airport. A little get back is not uncalled for. But Greenwald has lots of stuff the GCHQ should be as glad as the NSA that he does cherry pick because much of it hasn't reached the public that could indeed be damaging. Still there is plenty it appears even when filtering these revelations to prevent things like putting agents in jeopardy. Plenty enough to show these spying agencies have gone rabid and broken the laws and boundaries they were to stay within.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 5:02am

    then add in the supposed 'investigation' that was carried out in the UK which found that there was nothing done that broke the law!!
    they are just as big a liars as the NSA etc! the same goes for the telcos! they were doing whatever they were asked to do, and as usual, THE PUBLIC WERE SHIT ON!
    the really annoying thing is that when there is something done that the USA and UK agencies, eg, dont like, they kick up Joe fuck! every other country gets accused and shit thrown at them, just to take the eye off the real perpetrators, the USA and the UK!!

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 5:22am

    "damaging public debate which might lead to legal challenges against the current regime."

    Isn't that called democracy?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 12:52pm

    Isn't there a clause written in Article 215, which grants immunity to US telcos so they can't be sued for handing over personal information on their customers?

    If Article 215 is struck down, I hope that means these telcos are held liable for storing private information about their customers.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous, Oct 26th, 2013 @ 7:01pm

    And here I thought they wanted to keep it secret because they're, you know, spies.

     

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