back to article Revealed: GCHQ's beyond top secret Middle Eastern internet spy bawe

Above-top-secret details of Britain’s covert surveillance programme - including the location of a clandestine British base tapping undersea cables in the Middle East - have so far remained secret, despite being leaked by fugitive NSA sysadmin Edward Snowden. Government pressure has meant that some media organisations, despite …

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Re: TRAITORS - @ Luke 11

" TRAITORS... ...You people absolutely disgust me.

Perhaps it's real democracy at work! At the time of my reading, the votes were to the tune of 14/193. That's almost 14:1 against your view!

With numbers like that, it's little wonder our supposed democracies have to keep even the very existence of such surveillance secret.

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Re: TRAITORS @AC no.1 - - @ El Reg

[El Reg, it would seem like a good idea to number ACs as above. Numbering each AC would reduce confusion when referring to earlier posts or following threads especially when there's many, as here. Alternatively, indent or colour-code threads.]

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Big Brother

the problem in a nutshell

Unless your email is explicit "Hey George w bush let's go an invade Iraq a week on Thursday I will supply the ground troops to soften up the palace guards, yours Tony Blair" it'll be missed completely unless the ip address is already flagged, in which case it would've been picked up anyway, data slurping of this magnitude will just overwhelm the system.

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Big Brother

Re: TRAITORS

No, but I bet that supercomputer they have in the basement scanned it for keywords.

In GCHQ that GCHQ case GCHQ I GCHQ hope GCHQ this AARDVARK wastes GCHQ a GCHQ few GCHQ processor GCHQ cycles.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: KUDOS

He's not fourteen, dogged, he's eleven. He says so in his name. Unless he means '11 - which would make him three.

Anyway, as he'd recall, had he been born at the time, Snowden saw fit to take himself on a jolly little tour of the most powerful and interested countries on earth BEFORE releasing the material to the public media. There, he negotiated the PRICE and terms with the Chinese then Russian governments. This was always a story of either greed or counter-intelligence. Both equally likely and it's practically impossible for us, the ignorant private observer to determine which it is. EITHER way, however, the information published by El Reg is ancient news to the Chinese government, the Russian government, and the world's media. The only people on earth who don't know about this are us - the poor ignorant sods under whose name and at whose expense it's being done!

To my utterly untrained and uninformed eye, the whole thing stinks. FAR too lax - even for those pesky 'merkins.

I'd chance a tenner on that thing at Seeb being a desalination station.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: TRAITORS

Like all EU member states we have abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

Despite the fact that 70% of the population want to see it brought back.

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Thumb Up

Re: TRAITORS

Hey Luke,

Looking at the downvote rate, you'll be in with a chance of winning a vacuum cleaner by Friday!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: TRAITORS

Spying on you and me, is that an admission that you are a terrorist? I'll take that as a yes then, but do not include me in your rant. I am not a terrorist and even a casual review of my communications would bore the backside off a half reasonable intelligence officer. Mind you that may well be half of the problem, if Snowden is anything to go by getting even 1/10th reasonable officers is impossible these days.

I have said it before if the best that vetting can come up with is feeble idiots like Snowden then all the operations are doomed. No doubt the Iranians and other 'friendly folks' will be lapping up all the stupid froth.

Just think for a moment, with billions of communication every day, most of which are of the level of my wife's call about a supermarket order. This included an unordered item for which there was no charge; is that what intelligence people want?. What intelligence needs or wants is useful stuff not dross about supermarket order mistakes or what some dippy clot had for breakfast and posted on idiot book.

But he-ho if it helps an idiot from Psychopaths for the Devil plan their next underground bombing trip or inspires them to do something stupid that they had only previously thought about, who cares? I do not use the underground and do not work in London either and have not done so for over 12 years. While I did work in that hell hole it was a different branch of Psychopaths for the Devil who were blowing things up, including a pub a few doors away from my office. So lest anyone think that this is aimed at one special group, I include all religious and political nut jobs who think the answer to anything is to blow people up.

Frankly if anyone can stop them rather than encourage or inspire them that is A GOOD THING.

Has Snowden done anything useful NO, No and once more NO, he is an irrelevant stupid fool who has only helped to increase the cost of keeping people who care about living alive. If you think that making that more of a challenge is a great achievement I am not going to agree with you any time soon.

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Re: TRAITORS

You might not fear the agencies, but they're crammed full of personal info and they're full of employees, human beings, with all their faults.

So's every HR department in the country. I'd be a lot more scared of their incompetence than GCHQ's malice.

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Re: TRAITORS

What? Do you honestly think for one moment that your country is the only one who does this? Oh.. and besides the USA? I daresay that every country of any size is engaged in this type of operation. And yes, they spy not only on each other but also on their own citizens. It's not just about national security anymore otherwise they wouldn't spy on their own citizens. It's about power.

As for traitors... I think you need to look around at some of the more "patriotic" types and what they are doing with their power.

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Re: TRAITORS

Satire, sarcasm - or what? Difficult to tell.

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Terminator

Re: TRAITORS - "hung parliament and a hanged parliament"

With the current bunch of oxygen thieves my preference is for the latter.

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Happy

Re: Jim 59 Re: TRAITORS

The obvious problem with option A, that Big Brother is planning to impose tyranny, is asking why it hasn't happened yet? If the sheeple are so convinced that is the plan, what is Big Brother waiting for? After all, if they are gathering info on all of us they have been doing it for fifty-odd years, what's the hold up? Of course, the sheeple can't give an answer to that. At which their paranoid delusional fantasy collapses like the house of cards it is.

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Meh

Re: TRAITORS — @ I ain't Spartacus

"And I'm perfectly happy for that to include allies like Angela Merkel."

Perhaps you're right. Irrespective, I reckon these Snowden (and associated ) revelations are of such an extent that they've the power to shock even the complacent into action in ways that The Secret State and similar revelations were never able to do.

Furthermore, with the enormous proliferation of smartphones worldwide, millions are now aware they're being snooped upon by their governments—and even if they're as innocent and white as newly-fallen snow, they're left with nasty feelings of their privacy having been violated.

This could change the ballgame altogether. In the past, people never responded to the The Secret State and such revelations so emphatically as they have now done here; back then these matters were more abstract, now they're immediate, up-close and personal. The CERN scientists' newly and promptly developed encrypted email based in Switzerland is likely only the beginning of considerable research and development in obfuscating communications.

Currently, the 'weakness' in mail is that interception is easy, as the source and destination addresses are known or can be readily determined—certainly so with IP addresses (with snail-mail knowing the source may be more problematic but the destination is usually clear). Even if mail is encrypted, its metadata is abundantly clear (and thus useful to interceptors).

As I've mentioned in previous posts on similar matters, it seems to me there'll not only be considerable research into encrypted email that's easily used but also in ways of bringing stenography back into the main stream. However, stenography isn't as easy as it seems. Data that's obfuscating messages can be statistically analysed which reveals the presence of messages even if they're not able to be decrypted and the metadata (sender/receiver's ID etc.) may indicate reasons for intent to obfuscate.

To get around the metadata problem, any modern form of stenography would have to obfuscate both source and destination addresses. I've little idea how this would be achieved except to say that it would perhaps have to involve the 'smearing' of addresses over multitudes of servers combined with say breaks in the communications chain—by say inserting wireless links into cable/fibre paths to disrupt directly-traceable routes. (Radio circuits would enable source and destination to appear at different virtual locations other than actual real ones. If a fuzzy distributed system that used smartphone wireless connections were ever conceived then tracing source and destination would be a nightmare if nigh on impossible.)

If heavy-duty research into such methods hasn't already begun then I'd be mightily surprised.

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Re: TRAITORS -- @AndrueC

"Like all EU member states we have abolished the death penalty for all crimes."

Just because it's the current status quo doesn't mean it will always be so. From time immemorial the death penalty was ever present in most countries until recently; with recent politics moving to the extreme right in many places, there's more than a possibility such laws could be reversed.

Citizens' vigilance is essential to see they're not.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: TRAITORS

you mean that you knew all of this long before it was published...and you didn't tell me, and me being a taxpayer and all, a pensioner to boot, who can't get proper social welfare or a decent pension. Don't you think that calling the Reg a traitor is like yourself looking in mirror?

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Re: TRAITORS - - @ DavCrav

"... that isn't a good argument."

Right, the argument is logically correct but that's not the real point!

What's significant and key is that the citizenry's trust in its governance and belief in democracy is low and continues to fall*. That even the act of surveillance is made covert by The State (rather than just its substance) is further aiding and abetting that belief/perception.

__

* Just tally the up/down votes on this story/posts alone and there's little doubt as to the truth of this statement. Even with the wildly anarchical tendencies of many El Reg readers, the stats are too strong to fudge. The figures are too strong to conclude otherwise for the general population.

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Re: TRAITORS

But, but, but, we're the good'uns!

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Re: TRAITORS

I agree with you completely, except on one point, and that is that these facilities could only be designed to spy on ordinary civilians because all the baddies are already encrypting anyway. I don't think most of them are. Based on some of the various terrorist exploits in the last dozen years, I think we need to keep in mind the Mr. Evil (as opposed to Dr. Evil) model of terrorists. A shoe bomb? An underwear bomb? A butt bomb? (it did go off, but failed to achieve its effect, mostly because it was shielded from its victims by the body of the terrorist) The guys who tried to attack an airport in Scotland failed utterly and got their asses kicked. The Madrid bombers, who did kill, were caught because they were reusing SIM cards in their throwaway phones. There may be some sharp and organized guys at the top of these organizations, but it is definitely not geniuses all the way down (not unlike any other organization).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: TRAITORS

Some might argue that you should be first up against the wall for supporting secret wide ranging government orders and other extrajudicial activities against their citizens. Governments act on behalf of and are accountable to their citizens. How can the citizens make an informed decision if the government acts against the entire population in secret?

Don't you think it's strange that other law enforcement seems to operate effectively with transparency and an open judicial process?

I don't think it's unreasonable or detrimental for the government to tell their citizens they want to intercept all of their domestic or foreign communications for the specific reasons, then let the public decide what they want in the due course of the normal electoral process.

The issue with secret wide ranging warrants and secret interpretations and obfuscated laws is the function creep. Notice how "serious financial crime" is included. Where does it stop? What are the limits? Why not include murder investigations or even petty crimes? The US has the situation where it's reached the point of the government secretly intercepting communications, using the information in court without disclosure or the rigours of the established legal process.

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Re: TRAITORS -- @AndrueC

Pardon me for not checking the details - but I was under the impression that getting rid of the death penalty permanently was a prerequisite to joining the ECHR and EU.

No judicial system is perfect.

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Re: Jim 59 TRAITORS

<quote>The obvious problem with option A, that Big Brother is planning to impose tyranny, is asking why it hasn't happened yet? </quote>

Who says it hasn't? Maybe you just didn't notice?

I'm still trying to understand how being an offensive arse merits a longer sentence than GBH http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-26579717 ... or why making jokes about airports get you prosecuted.. or why we use "anti terrorism" legislation to prosecute people for dog muck (*) and trying to get their kids into decent schools.

Slippery slope, opium of the masses, blah blah.. more people probably(***) voted for Eurovision and BGT than in the European elections....just because it doesn't look like a coup doesn't mean it isn't one.

(*) which they absolutely SHOULD be prosecuted for. And littering. But not using "terrorism" legislation (**)

(**) and there should be a &%&%&^!" warrant.

(***) Even I can't be arsed to check. Pretty sure that some "reality" TV shows top the abysmal electoral participation in the UK. (****)

(****) As a pure conjecture, disqualifying anyone who's voted in some "reality" TV show in the previous 18 months from voting in real elections might give us more sensible results. OTOH, introducing a voting system that doesn't disenfranchise the majority of the populace (PR, if you can't look it up) would be even better.

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Re: TRAITORS

<quote>You might not fear the agencies, but they're crammed full of personal info and they're full of employees, human beings, with all their faults.

So's every HR department in the country. I'd be a lot more scared of their incompetence than GCHQ's malice.</quote>

Take the incompetence (and malice) of the average HR department. Give them everything you've ever done online.

Multiply by 10^6.

Still not worried?

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Re: TRAITORS

50% of the population have an IQ below average.

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Re: TRAITORS

You forgot about

C - The government engages in secret activities to spy on other nations and organisations, and mass-monitors millions of citizens, blatantly breaking even the ludicrously generous laws (RIPA etc) that the last Junta passed. Wasting huge amounts of money, to remarkably little actual security improvements (*), but nevertheless threatening democracy. The government also introduces backdoors in systems, and sabotages hard encryption, thus weakening everyone's online security even further.

The point is, simply, governments have to act within the law. And it's the job of the press and the public to make sure that they do, and that the laws aren't bad.

(*) Even the NSA, who are perfectly happy to lie to their Congress, weren't bold enough to point to any evidence their surveillance had actually uncovered any real plots

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Re: TRAITORS

<quote>I did vote UKIP at the recent EU election. My reason for doing so is that I believe in a democratically accountable state</quote>

That's sadly a bit like believing in the Easter Bunny these days.

And UKIP is hardly going to lead to more democracy. Quite the opposite, I'd suggest

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Re: TRAITORS@ I ain't Spartacus

Bear in mind that an Israeli Air Force General, when asked 'how far would you go to stop the Iranian nuclear programme?' answered 'about 3000 miles'.

You are conflating the intelligence community with political ambition. Even if there had been no intelligence whatsoever about Sadam Hussein's regime (and let's face it, what little there was was made up by politicians and their shills), Bush and Blair would still have gone to war on some pretext or other.

As H L Mencken said "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." It's the politicians you need to fear, not GCHQ or the NSA. Damaging the latter does us no service whatsoever. When the next undetected Islamist attack kills dozens of innocents, think about how you wanted to disable the intelligence gatherers. Snowden is a traitor of historic importance, but the intelligence community will recover. The dead from the next downed plane, or eviscerated train or bus won't.

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Gimp

Re: TRAITORS

"Not that I'm defending reading ordinary peoples' mail. But spying on foriegn governments is what we have intelligence services for. And I'm perfectly happy for that to include allies like Angela Merkel. The German government's position on various global and European issues is vital to British national interests. And no nation with a foreign intelligence service itself has any right to complain too much when it gets spied on. Well the game is, you complain loudly for a bit, for appearances, and maybe get some concessions, then go back to business as usual."

If only.

The whole point about this saga is it's indiscriminate spying on everyone, all the time.

That's not "targeted intelligence gathering," that's data fetishism.

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Big Brother

Re: TRAITORS

"Do you seriously think that anyone at GCHQ has the time, or interest, to look into the average El Reg commentard's extra-martial philanderings? Unless the initial comment came from an IP address flagged as somewhere like the Palace of Westminster, or other plave of interest, I doubt if the message even got noticed."

True.

But I'll bet it got filed "just in case" that person turns into the 0.03% of the UK population who might be planning to commit a terrorist act (nail bomb set off at the houses of Parliament, egging Nigel Farage, who knows).

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Re: TRAITORS — @ I ain't Spartacus

"The Secret State"? Presumably the book by Peter Hennessey; a reference would have been helpful.

ProtonMail may be good, but is new and untried (and temporarily deferring new accounts due to demand). It is not clear how (or if) they are solving the metadata problem, although they hint at it.

Presumably you mean steganography, the art of concealing a secret message in a plaintext one rather than stenography, the taking of shorthand dictation.

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Re: TRAITORS

@ Jim59

B, especially in view of the facts (1) that there seems to be no supporting evidence presented that the secret activities spawned actions to threaten the current largely democratic regime; and (2) the government has plenty of local actors available if they choose to become tyrannical and in consequence have little need or use for internal signals intelligence.

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Re: TRAITORS

As someone who only just avoided being blown up on 7/7, I'm not particularly impressed by the publication of these details. Terrorism is a real danger and its childish to pretend that GCHQ and NSA are the real enemy.

Next time a train or plane is blown up, and there is a very good chance there will be a next time, I hope those who have supported these leaks feel comfortable with themselves. Apparently targeted individuals have changed their behaviour, making it much harder to track them.

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Re: TRAITORS

if anything, the Snowden revelations have shown that:

- the agencies *do not* notice important information

- *do* probe information about spouses and lovers

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Anonymous Coward

Re: KUDOS

"Spies spy, it's their job".

I'm actually pretty sick of seeing that remark. The implication is that spying is just part of nature's rich pageant, just another line of work that some people do.

But the wording is carefully calculated to blur the fact that spying is often unethical or illegal. Indeed, it's almost always illegal according to the people being spied on.

How come other nations' spies are filthy cowardly traitors who deserve to be executed or kept in prison for the rest of their lives - while our nation's spies are self-sacrificing heroes doing an essential job to keep us all safe?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: hung/hanged

"I would rather be well hung than well hanged".

Unless you're a deer or a partridge, of course.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: TRAITORS

As did I, Malcolm. On the whole, UKIP is against big government and militarism. It all wastes money and makes life worse for the ordinary citizen.

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Vic

Re: KUDOS

How come other nations' spies are filthy cowardly traitors who deserve to be executed or kept in prison for the rest of their lives - while our nation's spies are self-sacrificing heroes doing an essential job to keep us all safe?

That's Melchett's Law, isn't it?

Vic.

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Vic

Re: TRAITORS

Apparently targeted individuals have changed their behaviour, making it much harder to track them.

If such individuals could be tracked and prevented from committing their atrocities prior to these revelations, how come we didn't do so?

There are two possible explanations - at least one of which is inescapable :-

- Our security services are actually staffed by people dimmer than those we are trying to catch

- All this surveillance has no effect on catching bad guys.

We've heard lots of bluster from "anti-terrorist" groups on both sides of the Atlantic about how fabulously the whole thing works, but when pushed to provide details of a *single* atrocity that's been prevented, there is much navel-gazing and shuffling of feet...

The prevention of terrorism is best achieved by communities watching themselves - and that does not happen when said community does not feel any affection for the State. So all this mass-snooping actually makes terrorism more likely, not less so.

Vic.

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Re: TRAITORS

Agree completely. This is appalling. Snowden is a traitor, end of story. Nonetheless, he at least was acting based on his principles, however misguided and naive. This article, in contrast, is just treachery for titillation. And for the titillation of whom? Answer: the ethical retards who unfortunately seem to make up the bulk of Register readership.

I had a high opinion of The Register's editorial maturity prior to this article but no more.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: TRAITORS

"I had a high opinion of The Register's editorial maturity"

Maturity? Christ, I need to try harder with the headline innuendo.

C.

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Pint

I can foresee a problem...

If the Adult video industry ever gets around to naming their performers with keywords such as "Plutonium", then all the world's adult entertainment, making up 75% of the world's traffic, will be redirected through the spooks' servers and sent for human Analyst review. At that point the entire iSpy system will simply collapse.

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Re: Jim 59 TRAITORS

you're expecting that big brother will implement the sort of tyranny where jackboots press down on your neck and you have to show your 'papers' to an 'official' every time you walk down the street.

not all tyrannies are like that.

maybe ours is the sort where people no longer question why so much of our lives is spent "working" and so little "playing". in that sense, Big Brother has thoroughly done his job.

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Vic

Re: TRAITORS

> I need to try harder with the headline innuendo.

Always a good idea to check a poster's registration date before getting too worked up about negative feedback...

Vic.

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Re: TRAITORS

Well-hung porn stars are occasionally butchered if it's a snuff film.

I'm still trying to get my head (the one on shoulders) around "extra-martial affairs". If it were a well-hung extra-martian affair, we'd have an intergalactic incident on our hands.

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Re: TRAITORS

they don't actively look at all your emails, they just bulk store them, but if you ever pop up in their viewfinder, they can easily trawl the entire backlog looking for dirt to have you incriminated or destroyed with...

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Re: TRAITORS

Indeed it is not fair to lump The Daily Mail in with UKIP.

One of these is only supported by people who are merely closet racists, the other by overt racists. Here are some examples.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/28/ukip-councillor-sacked-newly-elected

http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Outrage-prospective-MP-condemns-Islam-blog/story-12089789-detail/story.html#ixzz2KYhtrxjS

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/05/19/farage-ukip-tired_n_5349828.html

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/aug/06/ukip-godfrey-bloom-bongo-bongo-land.

http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2013/05/19/more-ukip-horror-as-investigation-exposes-racist-abuse

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2537834/UKIPs-vile-Mandela-slave-rant-exposed-New-racism-storm-following-remarks-former-South-African-President-murdered-teenager-Stephen-Lawrence.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/ukip/10828481/British-Asian-Ukip-youth-leader-quits-racist-and-terrifying-Ukip.html

Shall I go on?

Whatever your views on the EU, UKIP is a party of and for xenophobes, racists and bigots. It is the BNP with (slightly) better marketing.

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Linux

Re: TRAITORS

You are sick already so no need to try fool.

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