New Book Says NSA Pressured GCHQ To Shut Down Publication Of Snowden Leaks By UK Journalists

from the unexpected-but-also,-sadly,-unsurprising dept

A new book written by journalist Richard Kerbaj, detailing the history of the so-called “Five Eyes” surveillance collaboration between the NSA and surveillance agencies in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, is revealing a few more postscripts to the Ed Snowden story.

Snowden’s first leak appeared nearly a decade ago. Since then, spy agencies have been reformed, sued, discussed heavily, and, ultimately, emerged largely unscathed.

The new book contains a couple of revelations that don’t appear to previously have been published. Perhaps the most shocking (but maybe not all that shocking) is the apparent fact that NSA applied pressure to its UK counterpart in hopes of preventing UK journalists from committing journalism.

The US National Security Agency (NSA) tried to persuade its British counterpart to stop the Guardian publishing revelations about secret mass data collection from the NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, according to a new book.

Sir Iain Lobban, the head of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), was reportedly called with the request in the early hours of 6 June 2013 but rebuffed the suggestion that his agency should act as a censor on behalf of its US partner in electronic spying.

The head of GCHQ felt comfortable rejecting the NSA’s request to somehow stop publication of the first Snowden leaks. But it wasn’t so resistant a few days later, when its own government apparently talked it into showing up at The Guardian’s offices and forcing employees to destroy hard drives that supposedly contained leaked NSA documents.

What’s not shocking about this is that the NSA would have likely done anything to stop the leaks from being published, especially if it could persuade a third-party located in a different country to apply pressure. That would free it from legal liability and allegations of rights violations and make another spy agency look like it was the one that couldn’t handle the pressure and pulled the trigger on an outrageous attempt to save itself at the expense of journalistic freedom.

The NSA’s supreme self-interest is further exposed in the book. NSA officials kept the agency’s closest so-called “partner” in the dark about the source of the leaks, allowing GCHQ to find out the name of the source the same time the rest of us not employed by the NSA found out.

Kerbaj reports that the US-UK intelligence relationship was further strained when the head of the NSA, Gen Keith Alexander, failed to inform Lobban that the Americans had identified Snowden, a Hawaii-based government contractor, as the source of the stories, leaving the British agency investigating its own ranks in the search for the leaker. GCHQ did not discover Snowden’s identity until he went public in a Guardian interview.

Yikes. Apparently, the NSA thought this was the best solution to its own problem. Making matters worse, Ed Snowden’s outing of himself further enraged GCHQ officials, who could not believe a mere government contractor (rather than an official NSA employee) had access to this wealth of classified information.

Despite their differences, the spy agencies remain united. They both agree the public shouldn’t know any more than they’re willing to officially release about spy programs that inadvertently or deliberately target citizens. They will both continue to go on joint fishing expeditions, pulling communications and data from offshore cables to remain out of reach of local laws. And presumably, they both still agree Snowden is the actual villain here, no matter how often they’ve ignored rights and regulations to engage in spying. But hopefully they both realize history will ultimately vindicate Snowden while the jury remains out on the effectiveness of counterterrorism programs that involve dragnet collections.

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Comments on “New Book Says NSA Pressured GCHQ To Shut Down Publication Of Snowden Leaks By UK Journalists”

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Ninja (profile) says:

history will ultimately vindicate Snowden

I’m near 40 now and I’ve seen enough to say History won’t, at least not fast enough to make any difference. We had a violent military dictatorship here in Brazil and the few ones that were actually convicted were either dead by the time they were convicted or very old and in both cases they lived a very nice life on top of the money they stole from the country. See the lots of nazis that died of old age. See nazism on the rise again. Almost a century after it caused all those deaths.

History will not do shit if people don’t work for it. And people will mostly settle for the profits rather than justice.

Elijah Josephs (user link) says:

UK Corruption


Liz Truss said nothing new, indeed she probably copied the boring bits from every other PM’s inaugural speeches and didn’t need an umbrella. Meanwhile Boris Johnson ended his lies as Prime Minister with a tale in a speech about a dog, a cat, a rocket and a treacherous Roman emperor before dragging Carrie off stage. There won’t be a sequel about Truss replicating the TV series about Boris Johnson et al called This England by Kenneth Branagh. It would be boring. Even so Branagh should have called it My Londongrad and had Russian puppets playing Larry the Cat and Dilyn The Dog. Why?

First ask yourself why hasn’t MI5 properly investigated Russian interference in British politics? Why should anyone believe Johnson put his country before himself or believe his anti-Russian rhetoric? In 2016 when campaigning for Brexit he accused the EU of provoking Russia’s attacks on Ukraine. Indeed, Johnson/Cummings delivered Brexit beyond Putin’s wildest dreams. Combine Brexit with Trump’s divisiveness and no wonder Putin concluded the USA/EU/UK/NATO club was a crippled anachronism.

There is some fascinating fact based research published on the web by Bill Fairclough (ex-spook codename JJ and author of The Burlington Files autobiographical espionage series) about Boris Johnson et al called Britain’s Dismal Dossier on Russian Political Infiltration. He puts forward hard evidence to support the facts that not only have many past British Prime Ministers been compromised by Russian intelligence, but so too have Trump, Johnson and Cummings (prior to becoming political bigwigs). Dozens of other Tory Party supporters, MPs et al with Russian leanings are named in the article. Any of them, Trump, Johnson and Cummings included, could have been unwittingly manipulated. After all, flattery is a narcissist’s best friend.

Indeed, Kenneth Branagh could have made hay while the sun shines with this research. It is published in Bill Fairclough’s name on LinkedIn or Google TheBurlingtonFiles and in the News Section select the article for July 21, 2021. You might also want to read Bill Fairclough’s biographical novel Beyond Enkription – it’s a must read for espionage cognoscente.

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