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back to article Leaked docs: GCHQ spooks secretly haul in more data than NSA

The spooks at Brit intelligence agency GCHQ have been secretly tapping hundreds of fibre-optic cables to slurp data, according to leaked documents seen by The Guardian. This massive interception effort operates under two programs titled, rather modestly, Mastering the Internet (as reported on by El Reg four years ago – Ed) and …

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Anonymous Coward

We have a light oversight regime compared with the US

Based on some experience of this, we have NO oversight regime compared to the US.

And GCHQ are happy to share with the rest of the Big 5 and even Special Branch.

Anon. Not that it helps but, y'know.

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Holmes

Re: We have a light oversight regime compared with the US

>"Anon. Not that it helps but, y'know."

Yeah - GCHQ knows EXACTLY who you are, pal.

Heh. Puts the whole "Anonymous Coward" posting thing in a new light, eh? Might as well do like I've always done - put your name on it - and don't say it if you don't want someone to know you said it.

Anyone who ever thought they were truly "anonymous" while putting data on a network backbone first created under US Dept. of Defense oversight is seriously fooling themselves.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: We have a light oversight regime compared with the US

It's not GCHQ who bother me about posting on the internet, it's the rather unhinged people who think that if you disagree with their choice of OS, you're somehow the enemy and the lack of impulse control some of these people sometimes exhibit really leads me to think that they might try to find out who I am...

I work on the principle that, if I'm of interest to "The Man", they already know more about me than I do and that I wouldn't even know that I'm being investigated. I don't think "The Man" would put a flaming dog poo on my doorstep...

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Coat

Re: We have a light oversight regime compared with the US

So, you're saying Eadon has access to dog droppings and matches? You're right, that is rather worrisome.

OH! What's this in my pocket?!

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No bureaucracy

It's refreshing to know that at least something in the UK is free of bureaucracy - and it makes sense. If you are going to take the liberty to spy on your citizens and thus impinge on their so-called rights on an industrial scale, unbeknown to them (it has to be more or less unbeknown in order to work properly), then why pretend and introduce bureaucratic red tape to make your own life difficult? You have the power, you use it, regardless of what anybody might think. Isn't that so? And then if someone finds out, you say it's to prevent 'terrorism'. And surprisingly, it works. Most people believe you and they love you for it.

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Trollface

Re: No bureaucracy

Hey! I'm sure there is a health and safety officer at each GCHQ analyst's workstation, on the lookout for repetitive motion injuries and papercuts! :)

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Big Brother

Re: No bureaucracy

The tragedy is that despite this industrial scale monitoring, they've still not been able to make much inroads in the more obvious areas like drugs and organised crime. Which leads me to the conclusion that either they don't care because the programme IS aimed at monitoring the peasants rather than protecting them. OR the programme is largely ineffectual.

Based on my engagement with government I suspect the latter. We're paying for this programme, but actually it's ineffectual, bureaucratic, and generally incompetent. Think of it as a "public service" and maybe that makes it OK.

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GCHQ health and safety officer?

Not at all, they wouldn't even notice if you went missing for weeks and even then they'd give the local bobbies a bell to do the inquiries.

--

"We currently do not have any jobs open for application due to maintenance".

Damn ...

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Re: No bureaucracy

For those of you who don't follow the news, there are things called Dark Nets which are very difficult to detect unless you trawl a lot of messages, these nets are what criminals use. Do you think that these networks don't have access to bright people who do their best to keep the nets from being found and hacked.

Dark Nets are by their very nature transient, and difficult to find, unless you know where to look, they don't advertise themselves on normal DNS services, they don't have fixed IPs, they aren't there 24/7.

Now what would you expect to happen if one such net was found? I somehow don't think you would read about it in the Grauniad.

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Re: No bureaucracy

Drugs and organised crime are big business.

Nothing is "ineffectual" in government, which is why this trawling of any, and all, data is taking place. It may be ineffectual TODAY, but tomorrow ?

Just because the gov.uk has not had its own "Utah" operation revealed does not mean it has none....it is probably called "The Home Office Personal Data Backup Storage" site...

The UK gov invented the meaning of the "right hand not knowing what the left is doing", and extended it to the "right hand not only not knowing what the left is doing, but does not know the left even exists", and denies it if anyone says it"

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Anonymous Coward

@ Ledswinger

But you've no idea what inroads they're making into drugs and organised crime - you probably open up your copy of the Daily Mail, notice all the stories about immigrants taking our council homes while getting let off lightly from stealing from the local supermarket to fund their drug habits which were a result of drug dealers getting their hooks into them, and assume the police and intelligence services do NOTHING, and achieve ZERO.

As for terrorism, well, all a big fuss over nothing, I'm sure you think - after all, we've not had any terrorism in the UK for ages. Duh.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No bureaucracy

"He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother"

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Re: No bureaucracy

But they do keep us safe from tigers.

Since the introduction of this program there have been very few tiger attacks on Britain's streets

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Re: No bureaucracy

If they just taxed the drugs like they do alcohol and tobacco then the organised crime wouldn't be a problem (At least anything like the same and as well resourced. You still get people selling fake illegal cigs/booze in some places but its not the same.)

That is the stupid thing about it there is enough money in that black market to pay off all our debt without changing anything else. They could beat it using the same type of tactics the supermarkets use with price wars. They could get them legitimately made for nothing kill off the black market and then increase the price gradually.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No bureaucracy

"they do keep us safe from tigers.

Since the introduction of this program there have been very few tiger attacks on Britain's streets"

Same principle as nuclear deterrence then, innit. Gotta work.

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Re: No bureaucracy

Yes, but it keeps the Daily Mail readers onside

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Enviable position

Of course they made a lot of effort to ensure they were in this enviable position way back at the start of the communications revolution. Its quite amusing how little that map has changed since the 1901 version.

All that's happened is the line have gotten faster.

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Anonymous Coward

They've been intercepting since before the Kaiser dropped bombs from zeppelins.

Things only get worse with time and technology.

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Anonymous Coward

makes sense, spy on uk and pakistan

Where better to listen to world terrorists than 'New Islamabad' , Redbridge.

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Holmes

Re: makes sense, spy on uk and pakistan

More likely that we're the utterly complicit Israel of Europe, being a pathetically willing extension of US intelligence into our poor European cousins under the 'Special Relationship' which, I suspect, is more akin to cock-in-arse than being a 'dialogue' with our Western 'cousins'.

*Waves at GCHQ*

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Unhappy

So *that's* what "Mastering the Internet" meant

It was usually described as being part of the IMP.

Note that rule.

"We can only intercept (data) calls where they are talking to someone abroad"

Exactly like the US FISA act.

And for exactly the same reason.

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Re: So *that's* what "Mastering the Internet" meant

"We can only intercept (data) calls where they are talking to someone abroad"

Interestingly, The NSA and GCHQ share data that they gather, and the US and UK are 'abroad' from each other.

So... Don't actually spy on your own, just let your buddy do it and pass along the data, right?

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Anonymous Coward

You have to ask

why there is a push to bring in IMP when its already being done on such a scale. I guess the key issue is a lack of storage on the part of the government hence the plan to get the ISP's to store the data.

The other part of this is that the ISP's must have been fully aware of the extra kit being inserted onto the networks they run and you have to wonder what deals where done to make this happen and to keep it under wraps.

What it also shows is that the past and present home secretaries calling for IMP to be implemented on the basis of the murder of Lee Rigby knew all along they where already doing this and it made no difference. The misuse of his tragic murder for political aims is as shocking as it is wrong. At least in Japan when caught out like this they do the honourable thing!

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Big Brother

Re: You have to ask

When much of the UK traffic routes around the UK on one companies pipes, and that company is still to really shake off its pre-nationalisation history, its probably relatively easy to get your interconnects setup. Especially when you also provide interconnectivity for the MOD too. Even independent providers have peering points in friendly locations, and failing that, would they come and investigate if there was a 'brief' blip in the network link (whilst the tap was inserted).

Its funny, I'd always assumed they were doing this anyway, despite all their protestations to the opposite.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You have to ask

There are 'special' rooms in this organisation.

Rooms you cannot go into, in fact, forget you ever even heard about them.

In fact, just where DID you hear about them? No, don't tell us, we just need to pull up your file.

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Re: You have to ask

@AC: said: "The other part of this is that the ISP's must have been fully aware of the extra kit being inserted onto the networks"

These 'taps' are not done at ISPs but rather at the carriers facilities.

I have a friend who is a senior supervisor and he says it is common knowledge which fibres are fed off to GCHQ and his men (and women) make a point of bending, crimping GCHQ feeds thereby damaging the fibres and reducing their throughput. It often takes, he told me, a month or more before GCHQ figures out they have a damaged cable.

The GCHQ cables, along with other high priority circuits, are flagged with special coloured 'protectors' that clip on to connectors.

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Facepalm

Re: You have to ask

".....I have a friend who is a senior supervisor and he says it is common knowledge which fibres are fed off to GCHQ and his men (and women) make a point of bending, crimping GCHQ feeds thereby damaging the fibres and reducing their throughput. It often takes, he told me, a month or more before GCHQ figures out they have a damaged cable....." I call male bovine manure - it takes seconds for a circuit check to show up a damaged cable, and anyone damaging a cable would be out of a job very quickly. Do you have any other imaginary friends you want to add, just for the comedy value?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You have to ask

Well all the people at the ISP have to sign the official secrets act before the big black boxes get installed.

Everyone that is except contractors it seems, who also go into the data halls and ask, what's that big black box for?

I think the deal is possibly along the lines, if you want to continue in operation, then install these and don't talk about them; you wouldn't want a multiple government investigation into your business would you?

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Boffin

Re: You have to ask

"Well all the people at the ISP have to sign the official secrets act before the big black boxes get installed....." The OSA is a legal act and therefore a national law, just like laws on speeding or murder. All British citizens anywhere in the World are subject to it. When you "sign the OSA" you are just signing a statement that says you have been made aware of the legal implications of the Act, a citizen can still be prosecuted under the Act even if they haven't signed a statement. That is because the one get out clause is to say you were not reasonably aware it was a secret when you disclosed whatever you disclosed. So, it would not be necessary for all the ISP staff to sign the OSA statement for the black box, but if one went and disclosed what the black box did then they would still be liable. An ISP employee in the UK dropping an email to Laura Poitras in America, telling her about the black box in their ISP that was slurping Internet data, would be a breach of the Act despite their not having signed a statement.

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Unhappy

Sadly, i suspected this was coming.....

There's a reason that every Brit government has jealously guarded the "special relationship" ever since Churchill was PM. Going beyond being able to train at u.s. bases and having a premium account at the pentagon help line, Britain and the u.s. have been sharing intercepts (you eavesdrop on the Nazis and we'll decrypt the Japs!) since before Pearl Harbor.

Only now its aimed at the population in general......

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Black Helicopters

Re: Sadly, i suspected this was coming.....

It's standard practice for the US and UK to swap intelligence

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From the looks of things this could include websites aimed at users within the UK and from the point of the view of the user would be considered domestic traffic. A few random examples: the foreign office website is hosted in the US. Amazon.co.uk is hosted in Ireland. pcworld.co.uk is hosted in France.

The list goes on. All of them would be intercepted under this scheme.

What's even more interesting though is the lack of any interest from most of the mainstream media outside of this website and the guardian itself. Go ahead - have a look. Searching for 'GCHQ' on the telegraph's website for example returns a handful or articles with the first one conveniently accusing Snowden of being a traitor. Most of the others seem to be more obsessed with that teacher that was sentenced today.

Scratch that, the BBC just mentioned it as I was typing this, although in typical pro-government BBC fashion it was very succinct and kept to a minimum and also stressed how GCHQ were repeating how they were scrupulous in following the law.

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Anonymous Coward

Watch out, there's a D Notice about

"the lack of any interest from most of the mainstream media outside of this website and the guardian itself."

You do know HMG has issued a D Notice on the subject to keep the media in order, right?

Our "free speech" in the UK, isn't. What a surprise.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/17/defence-d-bbc-media-censor-surveillance-security

and before that:

http://order-order.com/2013/06/08/d-notice-june-7-2013/

from

http://www.andmagazine.com/content/phoenix/13003.html

echelon green bush lodge blair orwell

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Re: Watch out, there's a D Notice about

Except that there are precedents to say that once something is in the public domain it can't be considered secret and as a consequence could presumably not be covered by a D notice.

Take this case for example from back into 2001:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1319549/Judges-open-secrets-floodgates-as-paper-wins-MI6-book-battle.html

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Watch out, there's a D Notice about

"once something is in the public domain it can't be considered secret and as a consequence could presumably not be covered by a D notice."

OK, but the D Notice also makes it clear that HMG don't want a particular topic covered, whether it's legal to cover it or not. Do you think that carries much weight with the taxpayer-funded BBC, for example? I'd guess it might. And with newspapers that get lots of government advertising money? And so on.

Wheels within wheels.

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Re: Watch out, there's a D Notice about

The BBC are considered to be untrustworthy by all sides, so they either a) try to be meek and mild (but still get criticised for not reporting the "right things", or b) make sure that they are still around in 20/30/40 years' time (the events regarding Greece's national broadcaster will not have gone unnoticed). I don't care - at least it isn't owned by Murdoch.

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Flame

Over 300 GCHQ and 250 NSA analysts sift through the data, which they use to identify communications relating to security, terror, organized crime, and economic well-being

Well they did a grand job of preventing the UK from being affected by the global economic banking screw-up.

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No shit

But, where do you think all that 'imaginary money' disappeared to...

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Joke

Re: No shit

But, where do you think all that 'imaginary money' disappeared to...

Aston Martin car pool for the 00s ? They've been a bit reckless recently...

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Joke

Re: A Non e-mouse Re: No shit

".....Aston Martin car pool for the 00s ?....." I reckon it went on that really long runway in Spain for the Fast & Furious 6 movie.

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Anonymous Coward

Is anybody really surprised...

...that the Government Communications Headquarters is intercepting communications? Really?

It's what they exist to do. I would be more concerned if they weren't doing it.

There are some important issues around this but the fact that the media is shocked that it is happening surprises me.

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Go

Re: Is anybody really surprised...

I had similar thoughts. With a name like that, I'd be really p*ssed off as a tax payer if they weren't intercepting communications.

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Anonymous Coward

If you've got nothing to hide, then you've got nothing to fear.

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Well done Sir! That's the spirit we need in our Police State!

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The innocent have everything to fear, mostly from the guilty but in the longer term even more from those who say things like "The innocent have nothing to fear". - Terry Pratchett

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"If you've got nothing to hide..."

I'd like to spend the time explaining the oh so many ways in which your statement is superficial, 1-dimensional and without serious merit of any kind. However, given your evident intellectual limitations, I think instead I will respond with a depth of clarity commensurate with your original statement:

You're an idiot.

(if, on the other hand, your statement aligns to your choice to go AC and therefore underscores a brilliantly subtle satirical irony - why didn't you give us a clue you bounder? :-0 I have to admit my bets on the former)

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Quoting Terry Pratchett???

"My that's a big hat!", said Big Ears to Noddy

Quoting fiction writers does not make a compelling argument.

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Re: Quoting Terry Pratchett???

Today's new word is "Orwellian". Look it up.

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