from the metadata-on-everyone...-for-everyone! dept
The fun thing about leaked documents is that they almost always reveal something more than just the focal point. The leaked reports that showed British intelligence agencies to be drowning in data also exposed a previously hidden part of the UK intelligence apparatus.
The documents confirm that a little-known policing body called the Scottish Recording Centre (SRC) was given access to information logs that includes millions of communications data including phone activity, internet histories, and social media behaviour on Facebook.
The confirmation that UK state spy agency GCHQ ran a specific programmed, called “MILKWHITE”, to share data with devolved policing and tax authorities is the first Snowden leak to directly implicate Scottish authorities in the controversial policy of ‘bulk data’ collection.
And just like that, the "obscure Scotland-based surveillance unit" is no longer obscure. It's safe to say most of Scotland's citizens were unaware of its existence until the latest revelations. While there's probably only been a small bump in general public awareness, it has mobilized activists and given them the ammo they need to question their representatives.
Richard Haley, chair of human rights group Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, has said that the SRC raises “very serious questions”.
Haley asked: “The Scottish Recording Centre might be unknown to most of us, but the Scottish Government must be familiar with it because of its role in legally authorised interception. Did the Scottish Government know of its involvement in MILKWHITE? If not, why not? And if they did, why didn't they sound the alarm? And for that matter, what is the Scottish Recording Centre? A real set of offices and computers, or just an organisational concept?”
Haley and others are seeking answers. They likely won't be getting them any time soon. The Police Service of Scotland -- which partakes of the SRC data haul -- says it won't discuss "intelligence matters." GCHQ added its own boilerplate in response, stating it also won't discuss "intelligence matters," and that everything it does is subject to multiple legal authorities and strict oversight: two claims leaked documents keep refuting.
Those claims are even refuted within this article about the leaked documents. Michael Gray of CommonSpace points out that the Police Service of Scotland previously spied on communications between journalists in violation of the law. The service has also been linked to targeting of political activists -- none of which sounds particularly "lawful," much less "authorised, necessary, and appropriate," to borrow a phrase from GCHQ's non-comment.