UK Government Refuses To Confirm Or Deny If Your Pronunciation Of Its Massive Surveillance Program 'Tempora' Is Correct

from the oh,-come-on,-stop-being-tiresome dept

A few weeks back, we reported that some digital rights groups were challenging GCHQ’s spying at the UK’s secretive Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). As Wired UK reports, a first hearing has now taken place, dealing with preliminary matters before the main case in July. Here’s one ridiculous problem that had to be addressed:

while the Prism programme has been officially acknowledged, the UK government will not acknowledge the existence of the operation named Tempora, as detailed in the documents released by Edward Snowden. Mr Justice Burton suggested that it might be wise to define the operation in other terms, so that it could be discussed as a factual hypothetical, rather than deal with the inevitable roadblocks that will consistently be encountered if it is called by its code name. Tempora, he said, could be referred to as the “fibre-optic interception programme” for presentational purposes.

This isn’t the UK government being purely bloody-minded. By refusing to confirm or deny Tempora’s existence, even though there are numerous leaked documents attesting to it, it is trying to persuade the IPT to hold a closed hearing, so as to stop the British public learning anything about what’s really going on here. But as the Wired UK report reveals, it’s taking this “neither confirm nor deny” policy to absurd lengths:

There was also some jovial discussion in the hearing over the pronunciation of Tempora and whether the emphasis should be on the “Tem” or the “por”. When called on to advise as to whether they were pronouncing the code name correctly, government counsel could neither confirm nor deny.

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Comments on “UK Government Refuses To Confirm Or Deny If Your Pronunciation Of Its Massive Surveillance Program 'Tempora' Is Correct”

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15 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

There was also some jovial discussion in the hearing over the pronunciation of Tempora and whether the emphasis should be on the “Tem” or the “por”. When called on to advise as to whether they were pronouncing the code name correctly, government counsel could neither confirm nor deny.

I can picture 2 British gentleman discussing in pompous words which term is the correct.

Anyway, just call it what they are. Massive-privacy-violating-totalitarian program.

Anonymous Coward says:

It is not a specific political wish to push that far in the surveillance direction. It is the police/military and the non-political parts of the administration pushing in these directions and the politicians not daring to go against the policy of necessities these interests represent today.

At some point there is a need for less opacity in those areas. Especially since they have a vague “threat to national security” leverage no educated people can argue against because of the secrecy surrounding the areas.

Jackson Polluck says:

Use your noggin

I’m assuming that asking for the government to clarify the pronunciation of Tempora is really a sly way of confirming whether the program does or does not exist.

Clearly if the government gave back an explanation on how to pronounce it, they acknowledge creating the name and the associated program.

A great trick though.

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