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back to article MYSTERY of Guardian mobos and graphics cards which 'held Snowden files'

The Guardian’s picture of the computers it claims to have smashed in order to placate the British government over the Snowden affair has been called into question over both what it shows - and what it doesn’t. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger yesterday revealed that GCHQ operatives last month paid the paper a visit in order to …

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This is the equivalent of countries asking if you plan to overthrow the government when you enter them. If the Guardian still has a copy on UK soil, they can then have them up for lying about the destruction, that's all.

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"If the Guardian still has a copy on UK soil, they can then have them up for lying about the destruction..."

The Guardian folk would be in the clear if they don't have copies in the UK on the day they are asked.

They could have a bit of fun by phoning the men from the ministry to tell them every time they have had more copies in the UK for a week or so.

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"They could have a bit of fun by phoning the men from the ministry to tell them every time they have had more copies in the UK for a week or so."

I'm guessing part of it would be to sign an undertaking not to do it again...

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Trollface

But you can't be to blame if someone mails it to you...

So, it would be terrible if someone /outside the UK/ was to email a copy of the encrypted files to them. And cc-ed some random email addresses at the same time...

"Hi, GCHQ? Yes, we've got some copies of that file again. Oh, and would you like to go trash the mail servers at bbc.co.uk. thetimes.co.uk and bobsgerbilemporium.co.uk? I'm sure that will fix the problems..."

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"they can then have them up for lying about the destruction, that's all."

You can't be prosecuted for lying to people with GCHQ IDs who wander into your building. You can tell them whatever the hell you like: It's not a crime, they are not the police.

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Some of the GCHQ bods read and comment on el reg, so I'd assume most of them are pretty competent.

Their bosses on the other hand...

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Anonymous Coward

@Psyx

It's not a crime, they are not the police.

GCHQ personnel do not do site visits. They send Special Branch to do that kind of dogsbody work.

Hence, actually, yes it was the police.

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"countries asking if you plan to overthrow the government when you enter them."

No plans. I did so unintentionally.

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FAIL

A sign of competence?

I shall immediately add "Reads and comments on The Register to my CV. I don't expect it to do me much good, though.

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"This is the equivalent of countries asking if you plan to overthrow the government when you enter them."

Sole purpose of visit, dear boy; sole purpose of visit!

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Anonymous Coward

lies / police etc

Deception as it used to be known, now covered by the Fraud Act 2006 (fraud by false representation, fraud by failing to disclose information), is an offence under UK law.

It does not matter whom is deceived nor the subject of the deception.

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Stop

Re: @Psyx

"It's not a crime, they are not the police.

GCHQ personnel do not do site visits. They send Special Branch to do that kind of dogsbody work.

Hence, actually, yes it was the police."

<citation required>

The affected organisation said it was GCHQ, not police. We can only comment on it based on that.

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Anonymous Coward

Huge flaw in article

The picture might raise some questions, but honestly, the explanation is utterly obvious.

You're assuming the people from GCHQ are in some way competent. The fact that they're turning up in a physical place to destroy physical things when they're dealing with digital files shows how completely wrong that assumption is.

What you have here is people turning up with the concept of "find document, shred document, job done". They don't know what these things in the picture are. Is the graphics card a hard disk? Probably! Let's break it. What's this thing? Break it. Right, the files have been destroyed, job done!

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Re: Huge flaw in article

"What's this thing? Break it. Right, the files have been destroyed, job done!"

Why not just grab a handful of dusty floppy discs and snap them in front of the 'witnesses'.

Then take the magnetic bit and kill it with fire.

Sorted - data destroyed.

Or -- a new box of continuous paper, print it all out and a bonfire?

ps. does no-one do back-ups?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Huge flaw in article

"ps. does no-one do back-ups?"

Yes, they destroyed the photocopier too.

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Re: Huge flaw in article

"You're assuming the people from GCHQ are in some way competent."

If you assume they are competent for a second, it could've gone something like this:

Spook Boss: We've had a request that you supervise the destruction of computing equipment with Snowden's files on it.

Spook: But isn't that pointless, surely they'd have a backup?

Spook Boss: Yes, but the request has come from on high.

Spook: So i'm going to spend the day out of the office destroying computer equipment? Oh well, if i must...

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Re: Huge flaw in article

Modern photocopiers often contain hard disks, so it's quite possible that a photocopier might contain sensitive information.

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Boffin

Re: Huge flaw in article

"You're assuming the people from GCHQ are in some way competent."

Let's not be too condescending. Remember that these people are from the organisation that pretty much invented the computer*.

I think JonP has it about right.

* GCHQ was previously called GCCS, and was based at Bletchley Park.

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Pirate

Re: Huge flaw in article

The biggest flaw in all this is that there is no independant proof that there was any such visit. The Gaurdian _used_ to be too reputable to even think about making things up, but I'm not so sure these days - after all, we all know that GCHQ would routinely deny that their own grandmothers ever existed, so why not "embellish" a story here and there?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Huge flaw in article

I think the more likely scenario is that the folks from headquarters have what they want and that this is what the Guardniad agreed to publish so prevent any inconveniences occurring.

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Re: Huge flaw in article

Actual dialogue:

"Spook: So i'm going to spend the day out of the office destroying computer equipment? Oh well, if I get to claim expenses..."

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>>You're assuming the people from GCHQ are in some way competent

>>You're assuming the people from GCHQ are in some way competent

I suspect if you go head to head with GCHQ you'll find out they're perfectly competent, and stand a rather respectable chance of outcompetenting you (and pretty much the rest of us TBH).

I rather fancy their chances of reading your emails than the other way round, for instance.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Huge flaw in article

It's Grauniad, can't you spell?

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Holmes

Re: >>You're assuming the people from GCHQ are in some way competent

I rather fancy their chances of reading your emails than the other way round, for instance.

Hmmm..... arguing that one has the bigger means of being a bully does not speak for competency much.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: >>You're assuming the people from GCHQ are in some way competent

Which is why they smashed they said they were going to smash the hard drive, when in fact they smashed a computer.

(Watch the 1st episode of the IT Crowd when Renholm is interviewing Jen if you don't get it).

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Re: Huge flaw in article

If they showed up here I'd pull out my box of broken stuff that's going to be recycled as soon as I have enough to be worth the effort and hand that to them... It's all here. Let me smash it up for you... There are even two hard drives in the bin right now.

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Meh

Re: >>You're assuming the people from GCHQ are in some way competent

"I suspect if you go head to head with GCHQ you'll find out they're perfectly competent, "

...But I applaud taking every opportunity verbally to emasculate their expensive, unjustified and unmanaged activities, as well as those of the political classes (ie, all of them) who wash their hands of these excesses rather than doing the job of overseeing them as we expect them to be doing.

If that means assuming GCHQ doughnut smells of wee that's just fine.

There, fixed.

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Re: >>You're assuming the people from GCHQ are in some way competent

"I rather fancy their chances of reading your emails than the other way round, for instance."

How do you fancy the odds of them catching an actual terrorist (and not the usual US trick of finding some sucker online that's spouting off about blowing stuff up and giving them a fake bomb and waiting until they push the button).

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Big Brother

Re: Huge flaw in article

Spot on!

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Re: Huge flaw in article

The government has confirmed it sent the heavies to the Guardian.

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Re: Huge flaw in article

I kind of imagine the spooks egging the Guardian on.

"Yes, yes I know its pointless - nice reporting by the way - but make sure you don't miss a bit; the Home Office thinks the data can go and hide if you don't smash everything.'

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Even huger flaw in the article

You're assuming the people from the Guardian are telling the truth, and not just trying to add more spook factor to a story that's getting a little stale in the minds of the general public.

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Stop

Re: Huge flaw in article

"You're assuming the people from GCHQ are in some way competent. The fact that they're turning up in a physical place to destroy physical things when they're dealing with digital files shows how completely wrong that assumption is."

No it's not. The people who were sent might have been - and undoubtedly WERE, considering that trashing sensitive hardware is a routine chore in their line of work - completely competent. It's just the person who sent them probably wasn't. The boots on the ground were probably just on a bit of a per diem jolly into London and sniggering at the stupidity of it themselves.

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Re: Huge flaw in article

@Kubla Cant

No they nearly made sure the computer was not invented one man spent his own money to make it happen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tommy_Flowers

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Re: >>You're assuming the people from GCHQ are in some way competent

"How do you fancy the odds of them catching an actual terrorist"

Pretty good, considering the number they have caught. And y'know... all that stuff for the last few decades.

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Re: Huge flaw in article

"Yes, they destroyed the photocopier too."

Actually the green motherboard in the pic looks like it did come from the typical multifunction device with a lan or usb port below the mangled metal panel with serial and parallel connectors.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Huge flaw in article @Tom 35

"If they showed up here I'd pull out my box of broken stuff that's going to be recycled as soon as I have enough to be worth the effort and hand that to them... It's all here. Let me smash it up for you... There are even two hard drives in the bin right now."

Yeah, right.

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Re: >>You're assuming the people from GCHQ are in some way competent

So long as they pay them £23k a year, I suspect not

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Re: Huge flaw in article

"So, it seems that the Guardian has copies of some classified files. What's the required response from our department?"

(pulling a binder off a a shelf, blowing dust off of it) "Hmm... According to the regulations we need to ensure that the documents are destroyed along with any mimeographed copies of them, and at least two officers need to oversee the operation."

"Mimeo-what? How old is that book you're reading?"

"I can't make out the date but there's a reference to King Edward in the preamble. Anyway, rules are rules and if we don't march down there and start burning mimeographs it'll be our heads."

*sigh* "If you say so. Shall I head down to the stables and have them ready your coach?"

"If that's what the regulations say we have to do, then you'd damn well better."

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Re: >>You're assuming the people from GCHQ are in some way competent

Dunno about GCHQ but it's fairly clear that MI5 has never in its entire history managed to catch a spy withoug being handed said individual on a plate, with hors d'oeuves

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You're All Half Right

But I've drilled a hole in the drive containing this story so no one will ever read it. Suckers!

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Re: Huge flaw in article

"Number6

Modern photocopiers often contain hard disks, so it's quite possible that a photocopier might contain sensitive information."

...and if those photocopiers are Xerox a good deal of that information could be wrong ;)

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Re: Huge flaw in article

Interestingly photocopiers can be a source of data. They do contain copies of recent copies in various formats, not least of which the fuser assembly and the memory. Try buying a seconhand copier from any 'secure' organisation. Bet you can't

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Re: Huge flaw in article

"not least of which the fuser assembly and the memory"

I think you meant the formatter. The fuser is usually just a pair of heated rollers to melt the toner in place. Image formation happens earlier in the process and most fusers just have a power connection and motor.

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Re: Huge flaw in article

It was Tommy Flowers from the GPO that pretty much invented the computer.

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Re: Huge flaw in article

"The Gaurdian _used_ to be too reputable to even think about making things up, but I'm not so sure these days[...]"

Indeed. It is the case that Rusbridger had to climb down from the nine (9) hour claim; Miranda was in the presence of officials for one hour against his will, the other eight (8) are entirely his own fault, it being that he requested that a specific solicitor other than the duty solicitor attend; solicitor was busy, Miranda therefore had to wait.

It is also the case that (1) Miranda was travelling at Guardian expense and that (2) he was acting as an information courier for his partner, but this was previously denied.

Finally, given that Miranda was carrying highly classified documents that had been stolen from one of Britain's NATO partners, what the fuck made him fly a route that took him through the UK? Did he think that officials there would a) ignore him, b) say 'Hi there, don't worry about the classified documents or c) offer to carry his bags to make sure that, e.g., no one from Al Qaida/the IRA/any other terrorist organisation to whom these files would be of interest could steal them? Flying via the UK was a most stupid, amateurish act, worthy of a very hard kick up the arse; it was capped by buggering up his choice of solicitor.

So who is the biggest fool, Rusbridger of the Guardian, Greenwald whose information courier Miranda was, or the information courier himself. As readers may have observed, this is a rhetorical question, because I consider them all to be stupid fools, but Rusbridger is a liar for sure. He has had to recant which detracts from his credibility and that of the Guardian, a loss making paper that represents a few fools, would not survive without the backup of its investments and is thus the instrument of propaganda by, well, by and for whom?

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Re: Even huger flaw in the article

"You're assuming the people from the Guardian are telling the truth, and not just trying to add more spook factor to a story that's getting a little stale in the minds of the general public."

It is certainly the case that Rusbridger has had to recant substantial parts of his story.

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Pint

Re: Huge flaw in article

Modern photocopiers may also change your "6"s into "8"s under some circumstances.

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ok....

Time to brush up on the old party line ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pslgz9o8meM

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