The US-UK axis of espionage

The Snowden revelations keep coming faster that the efforts by the Obama administration and supporters of the national security state to downplay them. Their claims that they had access to ‘only’ the metadata and not the content of the messages themselves, while bad enough, has been exposed as a lie as the extent to which the NSA and Britain’s spy agency GCHQ collaborate and share data is revealed.

One key innovation has been GCHQ’s ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation, codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months.

GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects.

This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user’s access to websites – all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets. [My italics-MS]

The existence of the programme has been disclosed in documents shown to the Guardian by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as part of his attempt to expose what he has called “the largest programme of suspicionless surveillance in human history”.

“It’s not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight,” Snowden told the Guardian. “They [GCHQ] are worse than the US.”

It looks like the US and UK have teamed up to spy on people on a scale even larger than previously thought. You can read how they do it here. They clearly have the support, willing or unwilling, of private companies and you can be sure that it is only a matter of time before those companies’ names are revealed.


  1. intergalacticmedium says

    I think he is smart in the way that he is pacing the revelations as people will get information overload if a huge amount all at the same time. This strategy keeps it in the news and under public scrutiny.

  2. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    So when NSA spies on UK citizens, and GCHQ spies on US citizens, they are not breaking any laws. And if they later exchange their catches, that also is A-OK, because the snooping laws do not apply on data exchange with foreign intelligence services.

    @intergalacticmedium: it’s the Guardian that paces the revelations, not Snowden. The Grauniad developed the strategy with WikiLeaks to maximize the effect of Cablegate.

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