Spies In Denial: GCHQ Boss Says Snowden Didn't Kick Off Debate Over Surveillance

from the you-look-foolish dept

For all the idiotic things said about Ed Snowden, at least US bureaucrats appear to have come around to the idea that he helped kick off a necessary debate on surveillance powers and privacy. Just recently we had former Attorney General Eric Holder admit that Snowden “performed a public service by raising the debate.” And regular surveillance apologist and former Defense Department lawyer Jack Goldsmith just said that “Snowden forced the intelligence community out of its suboptimal and unsustainable obsession with secrecy.”

It appears that some of their counterparts in the UK are still in denial about all of this. GCHQ’s boss Robert Hannigan, whose currently on a PR charm offensive (or should that be just offensive PR?) insists that Snowden has nothing to do with the ongoing debate, which he says was happening prior to Snowden leaking documents:

No, Edward Snowden had not sparked a global debate about privacy – that had been under way already – but terrorist targets GCHQ had been tracking had learned from his revelations with heavens knows what consequences, he said.

This is delusional, and calls into question whether or not the GCHQ has management that lives in reality or in a fantasy land. As someone who has followed this issue since well before the Snowden leaks, to argue that the debate was happening in any real way prior to them being splashed across the press is a flat out lie. You can disagree with what Snowden did — as Hannigan clearly does. But to argue that the revelations did not spark the debate is clearly wrong.

As for the latter part of Hannigan’s claim, that terrorists learned stuff from the Snowden documents that created “heaven knows what consequences,” that’s a load of bunk also. Actual studies showed basically no change in behavior by terrorists post-Snowden, as many already assumed that their basic communications were being tracked. And no one has yet to demonstrate any legitimate consequences from his revelations other than forcing people like Hannigan to have to answer questions about why the GCHQ and NSA seem to be spying on tons of people.

If this new PR campaign is about rebuilding trust in the GCHQ, Hannigan might want to recognize that spewing pure bullshit doesn’t make people trust him more. It makes them trust him a lot less.

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Comments on “Spies In Denial: GCHQ Boss Says Snowden Didn't Kick Off Debate Over Surveillance”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well I’m sure he logically feels any heaven he is accepted into would be free of people he deems terrorists. Since a percentage of people labelled as terrorists and killed as such are actually innocent and will be going to heaven he must conclude that there have to be multiple heavens. Concluding that he himself is more of a terrorist to the majority of the world and wouldn’t qualify for heaven could never even enter his group think mind.

SteveMB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In addition to denying reality, Hanningan’s not so hot with the idioms, either, pluralizing “heaven”. Unless GCHQ’s extensive surveillance extends into the otherworldly, and they’ve documented a plurality of heavens.

Maybe he would have gotten it right if he’s stuck to a metaphor from his own side of the aisle (“…with the devil knows what consequences…”)

Call me Al says:

Heaven knows

or perhaps he is being careful with his wording. We read heaven knows and assume he means that the consequences are vast and meaningful. Alternatively he could simply mean “there might be consequences, there might not be consequcnes… who knows”.

I suspect he will vary his answer if asked for clarification depending on who is asking and whether the answer will be documented.

Anonymous Coward says:

this is not just about denial on the part of Robert Hannigan, it’s typical of how the UK government in it’s entirety looks at things!what it has done is allow the UK government to become the worst nation on the planet as far as freedom, privacy and democracy is concerned, with nothing being more important now than total surveillance on every single person in the UK, every second of every day! how the fuck is any supposed to feel safe there? it will have so much information, by the time it has been sorted into the two relevant piles, one to do with terrorism and one to do with copyright infringement, those responsible will be long gone!!

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Close, but...

No, Edward Snowden had not sparked a global debate about privacy

Well he’s sort of right, in that aware people in the UK knew privacy was being screwed long before Snowdon and attempted to debate it… but the UK Government response has always been similar to the rest of his tirade – i.e. sticking his fingers in his ears and going “La, la la la la! I’m not listening!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Look… over there… see all the birds? Ah never mind about the man behind the curtain, he doesn’t exist.

Problem is while the public thought it was likely the GCHQ and the NSA were doing these things, they were hidden behind secrecy and no one had any proof beyond speculation. Once the Snowden documents started surfacing, it was no longer guess work but there was the proof.

Sure none of the spy agencies want to own up to Snowden making a difference but recall that the GCHQ was so concerned about the data they showed up and demanded the hard drives containing the Snowden documents be destroyed. Even though they knew it would not get rid of them.

The Snoopers Charter would not even have been considered had the activities of the GCHQ continued to have been hid. Politicians rushing to give the agency what it wants, despite the outcries of it’s citizens is another sure sign of what the Snowden documents did in exposure. They now have to make it legal or end certain practices.

So while they may deny the discussion taking place and having real life effects, they can’t deny the scrambling to make it all legal after the fact.

I.T. Guy says:

The truth lies in his own statement:
“with heavens knows what consequences”

Seems the head of a spy agency SHOULD know what consequences if any had occurred no? Seems a little irresponsible to let it lie in heavens hands no? Pure bullshit. Plain and simple. I know it… you know it… and he even knows it.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Big Lie

Joseph Goebbels took inspiration from the English in an article published 12 January 1941:

“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”

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