Departing GCHQ Boss Insists GCHQ Isn't Engaged In Mass Surveillance… If You Define 'Mass' And 'Surveillance' The Way He Does
from the but-not-the-way-the-rest-of-us-do dept
With the UN declaring mass surveillance a violation of human rights, the proper thing for the world’s biggest intelligence agencies — who regularly engage in mass surveillance — to do, might be to cut back on the practice and go back to targeted surveillance projects that most people find acceptable. Or, you know, they can do what the outgoing head of the GCHQ (the UK’s equivalent of the NSA), Sir Iain Lobban, did and just redefine the English language. That’s easier.
?The people who work at GCHQ would sooner walk out the door than be involved in anything remotely resembling ?mass surveillance,?
Of course, this basically contradicts everything that we’ve learned about the GCHQ recently. In fact, it’s abundantly clear that the GCHQ regularly engages in programs of mass surveillance. It has a whole program, called TEMPORA, that is entirely focused on tapping into fiber optic cables and snarfing up pretty much everything that goes over them.
Just like the folks at the NSA, the GCHQ likes to have its own dictionary on these things. To them, it’s not “surveillance” if no one actually looks at the data or if they don’t store it all in a particular database (but rather keep it in another database). The NSA and GCHQ insist that they’re just doing all of this for safekeeping, and the surveillance part doesn’t start until someone actually looks at the data collected. And, it’s not “mass” surveillance, even though it collects data on everyone, because they only think the people who someone took the time to directly snoop on count in the equation.
The end result, though, is that for everyone else, we recognize that the GCHQ is one of the leaders in mass surveillance, and having Lobban pretend otherwise doesn’t make anyone feel safer. It just makes them think that there’s another liar in charge of an intelligence agency.