GCHQ Neglected To Tell Its Overseers That The NSA Granted Widespread Access To PRISM Databases
from the oversight! dept
Ryan Gallagher, over at The Intercept, has a report on some previously unreleased Snowden documents, detailing how GCHQ was given a taste of widespread access to the NSA PRISM database as well as its bulk metadata collections during the London Olympics in 2012, and that they were basically begging for continuous unrestricted access to those databases. At the time of the documents, the NSA had not yet given GCHQ such access (beyond that one shot during the Olympics) but apparently seemed receptive to the idea. That wasn’t the most interesting part of the article, however. After all, what kind of spies would they be if they weren’t constantly seeking more access to the troves of info that the NSA had been collecting as well. The part that struck me as just as noteworthy is that it appears that GCHQ hid its level of access to the NSA databases from its overseers in Parliament:
[Julian] Huppert, the member of Parliament, served on a committee that reviewed – and recommended against – a push from the British government for more powers to access private data before the Snowden materials became public last year.
At no point during that process, Huppert says, did GCHQ disclose the extent of its access to PRISM and other then-secret NSA programs. Nor did it indicate that it was seeking wider access to NSA data – even during closed sessions held to allow security officials to discuss sensitive information. Huppert says these facts were relevant to the review and could have had a bearing on its outcome.
“It is now obvious that they were trying to deliberately mislead the committee,” Huppert told The Intercept. “They very clearly did not give us all the information that we needed.”
One of the common themes that these revelations keep re-emphasizing is that the intelligence community keeps insisting that they won’t abuse their powers because of their strong “oversight.” And yet, every time we get a chance to look more closely at the actual oversight, we find that the oversight is almost non-existent. The intelligence community is as cagey and misleading in private classified sessions as they are in public.