back to article PRISM scandal: Brit spooks operated within the law, say politicos

Claims that Britain's intelligence agency GCHQ circumvented UK legislation by using America's controversial PRISM programme to access the content of private communications are false, parliamentarians concluded today. The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), which is chaired by Tory politico Malcolm Rifkind and made up of …

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  1. Ian 62

    If whats been done is true...

    Then it's all good. They've abided by the law.

    However just one thought. GCHQ provided the committee with the evidence. And they've taken it on faith.

    Does that mean I can decide what proof to provide to HMRC about what income tax I'm due to pay and they can take that on faith?

    Why wasnt this done as an independent external audit?

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: Why wasnt this done as an independent external audit?

      Because an independent external audit would've given the wrong answer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why wasnt this done as an independent external audit?

        Because an independent external audit would've given the wrong answer.

        As far as I'm aware, that depends on how much you pay the "independent" consultancy. Money doesn't always talk, it sometimes silences. Any time a report needs a budget, he/she/it who pays has leverage.

    2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: If whats been done is true...

      Exactly. It's effectively saying "We didn't do anything wrong, and we can prove it by showing you this document we wrote ourselves, saying we didn't do anything wrong."

      Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, etc.

    3. Mike Richards

      Re: If whats been done is true...

      Do GCHQ and their bosses also get to vet who sits on that committee? I'm sure troublemakers aren't allowed anywhere near anything that might rock the boat.

      The government's mantra is still 'trust us, we don't trust you.'

    4. LarsG
      Meh

      Of course they will say this

      Who would be able to prove that they didn't?

      As it is covered by the official secrets act we will just have to believe them...............

    5. Homer 1
      Mushroom

      "From the evidence we have seen..."

      So GCHQ presents some cherry-picked examples of legitimate investigations, burying the vast bulk of them that aren't, and our sycophantic puppets just take that on blind faith (or more likely knowingly use it in a cover-up), justifying it with judicial "assurances" that are most likely blanket licenses to spy on everyone for any reason, "just in case" they might be doing something wrong.

      Guilty before and regardless of being proven innocent.

      And the supposed motive for this tyranny is the laughable "War on Terriers" (or is it Poodles?), or IOW the corporate-sponsored hostile invasion and takeover of foreign countries, and intellectual enslavement of the 99%.

      I think it's high time the people declared their own "War on Terror", and we all know who the real terrorists are.

    6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: If whats been done is true...

      "However just one thought. GCHQ provided the committee with the evidence. And they've taken it on faith."

      Correct.

      It could just have easily been called the "The Mushroom Committee," because they've been kept in the dark and fed s**t.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If whats been done is true...

      If whats been done is true...

      Then it's all good. They've abided by the law.

      Well, the tragic fact is that this is actually correct. Let's not forget that they do have a role in protection, like the NSA has too. The problem is what use is made of these facilities. NSA, GCHQ, they simply do what they have been tasked with, like a soldier going to battle they simply do what they're being told.

      What you need to examine is not the operator - it is the tasking. Politicians have to explain why GCHQ was asked to do x, y and z, and on what grounds and by whose authority this tasking was done. As always, the politicians have slope-shouldered that question onto the wrong party.

    8. streaky
      FAIL

      Re: If whats been done is true...

      Yeah it's unlikely (given their boasting about how much data they can hoover up) that they've operated within the wording or the spirit of the law.

      If the supposed oversight doesn't have f**ks to give then unfortunately this is just going to end up in court and potentially, down the road, some sort of revolution in the way we are governed.

      1. streaky
        WTF?

        Re: If whats been done is true...

        It's pretty clear from the ISC report that they've made no *attempt* to ascertain if GCHQ have been involved in breaches of RIPA Section 1 - which tells me they don't want to know. They've only really covered access to NSA data which nobody is really interested in.

    9. Psyx
      Stop

      Re: If whats been done is true...

      Of COURSE it's legal.

      That's the entire point of the project: To use legal loop-holes of international intelligence trading to sidestep local legislation against wiretapping et al.

      It's not ethical, in precisely the same way that tax avoidance is merely unethical, rather than illegal.

      1. streaky
        Facepalm

        Re: If whats been done is true...

        There are no loopholes. The law is cut and dry. If you are modifying a public communications network (in this case the internet) with the intent of monitoring communications when not warranted against a specific person or business you are, in fact, committing a criminal offence. It's not about when you read the data, the offence is modifying the network to do it. It's written like that for a reason.

        The ISC knows this, the police know this, the CPS knows this. What's the issue?

        1. Squander Two

          "If you are modifying a public communications network ..."

          No, the allegation is that the NSA modified the public communications network and GCHQ merely obtained data from the NSA, thereby circumventing the law, legally obtaining data second-hand that would be illegal for them to grab first-hand. We need a data equivalent of "receipt of stolen goods".

        2. Psyx
          Stop

          Re: If whats been done is true...

          "There are no loopholes. The law is cut and dry."

          There clearly are and it clearly isn't.

          Let's go through it slowly:

          "If you are modifying a public communications network (in this case the internet) with the intent of monitoring communications when not warranted against a specific person or business you are, in fact, committing a criminal offence. "

          Only if it's YOUR people you are monitoring and the specifics depend on where you do it. Nations don't have rules as regards targeting people overseas for such measures or against wiretapping overseas communications networks. So they snoop.on other people from other nations. Then when a friendly nations says "Have you got any info on one of our citizens, old bean?" you can hand it over. The information is illegally gained and inadmissible as far as that other nation is concerned... IF they knew how it was obtained. BUT intelligence reports do NOT divulge the source, for very legitimate operational security reasons. You don't get a piece of paper saying "Bob is planning a terrorist attack because his friend Fred told us when we blackmailed him". Lacking any evidence that the information is gained illegally it is effectively a legitimate report that can then be used to gain specific warrants for further surveillance under court order in an above-board manner.

          It's essentially 'laundering' surveillance information and giving plausible deniability. That's the entire point and it works perfectly. Plausible deniability is the absolute key in such matters:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plausible_deniability

          We can't ask the NSA how they got their data because it's classified, so it doesn't matter if it came from wiretaps, legitimate means or from pulling out someone's toenails. We do they same for them in return.

          Everyone can say it's legal and that they aren't illegally spying on their own people with a straight face.

  2. Glostermeteor

    If they operated within the law and still spied on us, why does Theresa May want a new law? Perhaps because creating laws keeps politicians in jobs? Thank god for Edward Snowden or none of this would have come out.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      we DO need a new law

      But not one that Theresa May would like.

      If GCHQ have been acting within the law then the law is flawed and needs tightening up so that it ISN'T within the law.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: we DO need a new law

        The point is that GCHQ operated within the _letter_ but not the _spirit_ of the law. That release was very carefully worded.

        OTOH there is also the issue that UK police have been pulling similar stunts to circumvent wiretap warrant requirements by asking GCHQ to provide the wiretap intelligence and then getting warrants based on that is provided.

        Once it starts coming out exactly which cases are involved, a number of convictions will be overturned, leading to quite nasty individuals being back on the streets thanks to some cowboy playing shortcuts.

        British law may not be bound by constitution, but UK judges take a very dim view of this kind of shenanigan.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Gimp

      @Glostermeteor

      "If they operated within the law and still spied on us, why does Theresa May want a new law?"

      Simple

      Because that's what the spooks told her she needed.

      Just like they told the seven previous Home Secs they needed it.

      She doesn't need it.

      You don't want it.

      They want it.

    3. Grave

      just because its "legal" doesn't make it right (in a number of senses, moral, ethical, etc)

      laws are made by parasites in power to keep them in power and protected

      and likewise, just because something deemed "illegal" doesn't make it wrong (a number of morally/ethically directed actions comes to mind, which are being pushed by cartels for criminalization and harsher sentences than stuff that does real, not imaginary harm to people - violent crimes, murder, assault, rape, etc)

    4. Psyx
      Stop

      "Thank god for Edward Snowden or none of this would have come out."

      Piffle.

      It's now just sliced up for popular media consumption. There's a hero, there's a powerpoint presentation, there's media traction. It's not NEWS: It's been going on and people have known about it and been shouting blue murder about it for at least two decades, as a cursory search or two on Google will reveal; but the tale never gained media traction or reached general awareness.

      Not that it changes anything still. The revelations have been deflected and in a month GCHQ, the NSA, DGSE et al will be breathing a sigh of relief at the public returning to its fascination will celeb gossip and the latest murder, and things will go on as before.

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
        Coat

        in a month GCHQ, the NSA, DGSE et al will be breathing a sigh of relief at the public returning to its fascination will celeb gossip and the latest murder, and things will go on as before.

        As conspiracy theories go, I have yet to hear someone observing that that Royal baby seems suspiciously well timed. This would somehow suggest the Palace knew this 9 months ago. You heard it here first :).

        No, of course I'm not serious, but I do wholly agree with the point about the public attention span which rarely exceeds that of a hamster on speed.

        I'll have the one with all the wires hanging out, thanks.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Definition of Irony

    GCHQ operates within the law spying on the personal info of millions in the EU and politicians are fine with it.

    Mega-corps operate their taxes within the law, but politicians are up in arms about it.

    So if it's to their advantage, they seem to be fine with warping the laws to their benefit. Hmmm...

    1. Cubical Drone

      Re: Definition of Irony

      "So if it's to their advantage, they seem to be fine with warping the laws to their benefit."

      You're just arriving to that conclusion now? Also, on the tax thing, you will notice lots of screaming but very little to no action, since they also don't have an issue with warping the laws to protect their Mega-corp overlords.

  4. Rol Silver badge

    We are innocent

    So say us.

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Re: We are innocent

      And we know where all your skeletons are buried

    2. Anonymous Cowerd
      Black Helicopters

      Well, they would say that...

      wouldn't they?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Government says they need to spy on us to ensure we're behaving. Government tries to get around or stop disclosure of their conduct via freedom of information laws.

    What is it with the ruling elite these days? We can't even read the letters that old jug ears is sending to MPs despite him being a publicly funded parasite.

  6. Def Silver badge
    FAIL

    "Claims that Britain's intelligence agency GCHQ circumvented UK legislation by using America's controversial PRISM programme to access the content of private communications are false, parliamentarians concluded today."

    Well they would say that, wouldn't they?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      re: GCHQ circumvented UK legislation

      That is true they didn't - because they didn't have to. The existing legislation lets them do anything they want.

      They may have allowed the NSA to circumvent US legislation, but that's because the US doesn't have as much control over it's subjects as we do.

      1. Psyx

        Re: re: GCHQ circumvented UK legislation

        "The existing legislation lets them do anything they want." - No it doesn't. Not by a long chalk (yet).

  7. Ted Treen
    Flame

    I wonder...

    Would these be the same MPs who thought that charging the taxpayer (i.e. us) for their hanging baskets, bog seats, and rent paid to lovers etc. was also legal, above board & honest?

  8. Don Jefe

    Timing

    It took 3+ weeks for them to rebut the claims? You know something is really sketchy if it takes that long to build an ass covering backstory.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: Timing

      Well, it takes a while to sift through everything finding the few that actually have warrants....

      1. Smooth Newt

        Re: Timing

        "From the evidence we have seen, we have concluded that this is unfounded." Looks like a bit of arse covering wiggle room there too. The ISC can later say "Oops we didn't see that bit of evidence."

  9. Steve Evans

    Odd isn't it...

    GCHQ operated within the law, so everything is ok.

    Google obeyed the tax laws, but gets dragged in for questioning because they were "morally" naughty.

    So which one is it HMGov? Letter of the law, or spirit of the law?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Odd isn't it...

      The founders of Google? Didn't go the right schools. And they're foreigners, to boot. Not like those splendid chaps working hard to protect us from the terrorist menace... KCMGs all round!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Odd isn't it...

      nothing odd here:

      With Google, Amazon, etc tax debacle, the spirit of the law, because the politicians can blame those companies because:

      a) it gives them brownie points with the voters (they think)

      b) it shifts the focus of attention from WHO INTRODUCED LAX TAX LAWS (politicians).

      whereas,

      with snooping, it's the letter of the law, because there's nothing to gain by the politicians, if they were to harp on the morality of snooping. And, if anyone raises the moral ground, they'll be quickly shot down with "paramount interest of protecting [the great, British] public.

      In either case, with or without demands from the public, neither laws or will get changed.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They didn't operate within the law

      RIPA permits targeted surveillance with warrant (unfortunately political, signed by William Hague, rather than a judge).

      Grabbing all the data, storing it in a big database, then filtering for a target is not equivalent to that.

      It's not equivalent, because William Hague has no way of determining the legality of the surveillance, that data included client-lawyer data, medical data, financial data, Parliament communications, the lot. The search is what reduces it to a legal result or not.

      The search occurs later, after the warrant is issued.

      So the two processes are not equivalent, and Hague is wrong to pretend untargeted mass surveillance with data retention and filtering is equivalent to a targeted intercept as provided by RIPA.

      As to PRISM, well USA has a filter for 51% American, GCHQ has no such filter. So are Brits less of people to William Hague than Americans? I mean GCHQ are 'fine upstanding people' and Brits are not, because we don't even deserve a warrant with evidence? Not even a crappy filter?

      1. Steve Evans

        Re: They didn't operate within the law

        Re the PRISM filter where they say "it's okay, we're not watching Americans", it immediately makes me think, so you leave that to GCHQ to do, and then they share the data.

        I'm amazed HMGov didn't try the same con whilst acquiring the data they didn't collect from the Americans.

        They're all a bunch of two faced liars, the lot of them.

        Semtex, AK47, arms shipment, assassination.... Chew on that.

  10. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Legal?

    I really don't think legal or not is the real issue here.

  11. Pete 2

    Redacted

    "It has been alleged that GCHQ circumvented UK law by using the NSA’s PRISM programme to access the content of private communications. From the evidence we have seen, we have concluded that this is unfounded."

    And who provided the evidence that was seen? And what did the three monkeys: hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil & wait for the New Year's Honours politicians do to ensure that what they were given (by GCHQ: the same lot who were accused) was a full, complete and accurate account of the goings on?

  12. g e

    "Operated within the law"

    Google, Amazon, Starbucks, Vodafone...

    Ahhhh politicians, they always want to EAT the cake as well....

    1. Jon Double Nice

      Re: "Operated within the law"

      Most people like eating cake

      1. Don Jefe
        Happy

        Re: "Operated within the law"

        Vote YES for cake!

        I was going to come up with a nifty campaign slogan, but cake is hard to rhyme.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Operated within the law"

          How about For f@@ks sake just vote for cake?

          1. K.o.R
            Happy

            Re: "Operated within the law"

            Given that the alternative is "or death", I don't think you'd need that much of a campaign.

        2. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Unhappy

          @ Don Jefe

          Fake rhymes pretty well with cake, and that's what the gubbermint response is.

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: "Operated within the law"

        I thought the cake is a lie ...

  13. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Isn't that the problem?

    It certainly is Over Here.

  14. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    To paraphrase the Daily Show...

    We're not shocked that you did it, but we're shocked that you didn't have to break the law to do it.

  15. Vimes

    Further, in each case where GCHQ sought information from the US, a warrant for interception, signed by a Minister, was already in place, in accordance with the legal safeguards contained in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000

    This would be the same Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 that had to be amended back in 2011 - despite huge government resistance - because it failed to comply with legal obligations placed upon us a result of EU wide legislation and the government here were taken to court by the EU commission?

    I have a copy of the correspondence between the EU commission and the UK government in regards to that case and it's depressing reading. Once you take out all the meaningless crap you're left with 'we take privacy very seriously' and pretty much nothing else. It's difficult to believe that any modifications to laws will do anything other than make it even easier to spy on all of us.

    As for existing measures: given that there's only one warrant to cover multiple requests, I can only assume that there is littler ministerial oversight from day to day and the warrant is little more than a convenient way to circumvent inconvenient limitations.

    1. Vimes

      Not sure who down voted me but whoever it was might like to consider this: Ian Livingstone was recently made a trade minister in this government. This is the same Ian Livingstone that during his time at BT saw the illegal interception of traffic of hundreds of thousands of it's own customers.

      With people like that in positions of authority what sort of future do you think we'll see with this government?

      I guess I shouldn't be surprised though. If you're an individual journalist involved in phone hacking you get arrested and charged. Do something similar to an entire country however and the results is being given a position in government.

      Go figure.

      1. Don Jefe

        There are, unbelievably, a few people who support massive government surveillance programs. Whether it is because they draw their paycheck from the associated pork or they are among the 'cowering peasants' who are scared of everything & want the government to protect them it hard to say.

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Happy

          "There are, unbelievably, a few people who support massive government surveillance programs......" Oh, sorry, I forgot, you sheeple like to claim you are the "99%", right? Well, if you're so sure of that, please put your money where your mouth is and fund a political party to mount a one policy campaign for election. If what you claim to be such a widely and dearly held ideal for the vast majority of the population is true then you should be laughing all the way to Whitehall (or Washington DC). But don't come crying to me when you lose your deposit because it turns out you are actually the 0.099%.

          1. Vimes

            @Matt Bryant

            Google, Microsoft and even the government itself all seem to think that the majority have a problem with this. Why else would so much effort suddenly be put in to fighting government demands if the public had no problem with them?

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Vimes Re: @Matt Bryant

              "Google, Microsoft and even the government itself all seem to think that the majority have a problem with this....." No, Google have a fear that people will realize they already happily let Google collect far more data. And what they really fear is that the easily led (i.e., those that buy the latest fashionable gadgets and services, such as Facebook), will see that Google et al are worse and will stop giving them their data.

              "..... Why else would so much effort suddenly be put in to fighting government demands if the public had no problem with them?" What massive effort? The majority of the effort has been on publicly shouting about their "objections" in a desperate attempt to deflect the attention of the masses from Google and co's own activities.

              1. Vimes

                Re: Vimes @Matt Bryant

                You're forgetting that Microsoft and others have also been forced on the defensive, not just Google.

                http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/17/microsoft-prism_n_3611285.html

                As for the shouting, why bother making any noise at all if you don't believe that people care?

                1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                  Boffin

                  Re: Vimes Re: Vimes @Matt Bryant

                  "You're forgetting that Microsoft and others have also been forced on the defensive, not just Google...." <Sigh> Did you even stop to try and comprehend my post before bleating? I am not denying that Google et al are on the defensive, I am saying it is because they see their cash flow potentially at risk (especially from lawsuit-happy Yank consumers) if they don't stand up and claim they were forced into it. For all we know, the agreement between the NSA and major corporations may have been something along the lines of "OK, we'll not really fight you on the data requests as long as we can cover ourselves so it LOOKS like we did..." The interesting bit is what did the corporations get in return?

                  "....As for the shouting, why bother making any noise at all if you don't believe that people care?" No, they fear the public in general can be made to care, rather than just the shoutie sheeple. By posturing as being forced by The Man into giving up surveillance data, Googel et al hope to avoid the public in general stopping and thinking "Hey, what happens to the data I let Google et al collect?"

                  Remember, the primary concern of many corporations is to keep the money rolling in and do so without their CEOs ending up in court. Standing in the way of the NSA meant they would have risked operational issues from a vengeful US government. Being caught complicit with the NSA without a get-out would have risked losing business through bad publicity. Do you seriously want to pretend that, if the CEOs of those major international corporations had really wanted to scupper the whole PRISM show, they couldn't have leaked it out via a tame politician or reporter, either in the US or abroad?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heed the precise wording

    To a cynic like me, the sentence "... the allegations are unfounded..." means just that and does not necessarily mean that they are untrue. Simply that the process or the premises that allowed one to draw these allegations are found to be lacking.

  17. Cpt_Yukka
    Angel

    Seems Legit

    So the committee has accepted documents provided by GCHQ as proof that the GCHQ did not perform any illegal activities.

    Strikes me as being the equivalent of a teacher accepting a note written and signed by a school boy saying that his homework has been eaten by a dog

  18. Miek
    Linux

    "(1)There shall continue to be a Secret Intelligence Service (in this Act referred to as “the Intelligence Service ”) under the authority of the Secretary of State; and, subject to subsection (2) below, its functions shall be—

    (a)to obtain and provide information relating to the actions or intentions of persons outside the British Islands; and

    (b)to perform other tasks relating to the actions or intentions of such persons."

    So they obtained/provided information on subjects within the British Islands when in fact they are supposed to be obtaining/providing information on subjects outside the British Islands, sound familiar?

    1. Dave 32
      Coat

      I always seem to get those terms, inside and outside, mixed up. After all, it's easy to get confused. Which side of the line am I standing on? Is that the inside or the outside? Isn't it all relative?

      Dave

      P.S. I also have trouble with the concept of left and right. Maybe that's why I had such trouble in kindergarten? ;-) I ought to be a shoe-in for a job with an intelligence agency!

      P.P.S. I'll get my coat. It's the one that's inside-out (or, is that outside-in?).

  19. Miek
    Linux

    "The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), which is chaired by Tory politico Malcolm Rifkind and made up of peers and MPs" -- Well, I'm glad we had some unquestionably honest people looking at the issue.

  20. edoardo

    "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal."

    Legal does not mean right, when a a Judiciary and Parliament powers are subservient to the Executive powers.

    "We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws."

    Martin Luther King Jr.

    from Letter froma Birmingham Jail

  21. William Boyle

    Security via obscurity

    So, what the politicos are saying is something like "There is nothing to see here. Move on now."... The problem is that when sensitive data is collected, there is a finite probability that it will be maliciously exploited, no matter how "secure" it is stored (and usually it isn't very secure in absolute terms). So, storing so much personal data, no matter where or how, someone is going to get access to it for their own personal exploitation. This is one of the major issues about these data scooping activities that isn't being adequately discussed - it affects ALL of us!

  22. ritey
    Pirate

    Let's not forget

    And we all know the law is an ass. So GCHQ can wiggle through any laws that are put in place.

    Germany hasn't forgotten eastern germany so nor should the rest of us.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Let's not forget

      "Germany hasn't forgotten eastern germany so nor should the rest of us."

      Part of the problem.

      Despite the McCarthy witch nuts America has never experience a real repressive regime.

      Perhaps when they wake up to what their country has turned into they will think twice.

      1. Alan Esworthy
        Thumb Down

        Re: Let's not forget

        @John Smith 19: "Despite the McCarthy witch nuts America has never experience a real repressive regime."

        Demonstrably untrue: 1861-1865 under Abraham Lincoln, and during the ensuing Reconstruction in the former CSA. To a lesser (but not much) degree during the Great War (WWI) under Woodrow Wilson.

        1. phuzz Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Let's not forget

          That's a pretty fluffy version of a repressive regime you've got their mate. I'm glad I never grew up in, eg Poland 30 years ago, or I might be quite offended by your comparison.

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Let's not forget

          "Demonstrably untrue: 1861-1865 under Abraham Lincoln, and during the ensuing Reconstruction in the former CSA. To a lesser (but not much) degree during the Great War (WWI) under Woodrow Wilson."

          Let me qualify my statement.

          In living memory.

          In Europe there are a great many people who know exactly what a regime of mass surveillance and arrest without trial felt like.

          AFAIK most of them don't think of those time as "The good old days."

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Johnnie Thicko Re: Let's not forget

            ".....In Europe there are a great many people who know exactly what a regime of mass surveillance and arrest without trial felt like....." Be that as it may, you have completely failed to show that there is either the oppressive intent/practices or even the same level of surveillance as used in Europe by such people as the KGB, Stassi, etc., or even the Nazis. All you did was just more melodramatic hyperventilating, aka bleating.

            1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              Re: Johnnie Thicko Let's not forget @ Matt

              Why the ad hominems, Matt? I know you are capable of putting forward reasoned arguments, but you seem to have given up on this one, preferring to use bullshit and bluster instead.

              You have failed to show that we have nothing to fear - since we do fear, surely it is up to you to put the other side, of which you clearly feel you have privileged information.

              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: Intractable Pothead Re: Johnnie Thicko Let's not forget @ Matt

                "......You have failed to show that we have nothing to fear - since we do fear, surely it is up to you to put the other side...." Wow, what an incredibly stupid statement. When your kid says he's scared there's a monster in the closet, you don't waste hours proving beyond scientific doubt that there is zero possibility there is ever actually going to be a monster there, you simply reassure them and buy them a nightlight, and wait for them to grow up out of the problem. You seem to still have a lot of growing up to do. And, seeing as you're not my kid I feel no obligation not to poke fun at your immature paranoia.

                1. Vimes

                  Re: Intractable Pothead Johnnie Thicko Let's not forget @ Matt

                  Wow, what an incredibly stupid statement.

                  Not when you consider past history. RIPA was brought in and we were assured it wasn't going to be abused. It was. The idea of the level of data gathering that is actually going on seemed absurd. Now we know it's going on. Even the official secrets act has been abused. The list goes on.

                  What you seem to fail to recognise is that people are capable of noticing patterns of behaviour, and merely throwing around cheap insults in response to what seem like legitimate concerns do you no favours whatsoever.

                  Just who are you anyway? Do you happen to work for Detica or one of the other companies with a vested interest in this sort of thing?

                  1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                    Facepalm

                    Re: Vimes Re: Intractable Pothead Johnnie Thicko Let's not forget @ Matt

                    "Not when you consider past history...." That is the problem - you frothing sheeple have no insight into history. What has Snowden revealed that wasn't already known, documented, or at least strongly hinted at? The Web is full of info on GCHQ, Frenchelon, even many details on PRISM short of the actual name, from long before Snowden's little tantrum.

                    ".....RIPA was brought in and we were assured it wasn't going to be abused....." Those of us with a clue expected and saw the get-out clauses for GCHQ and friends in RIPA, they were only a surprise to the sheeple that blindly accepted what politicians told them. The details of RIPA and Section 8's get-out clause have never been hidden. What you call "abuse", and what more seasoned and realistic observers might call "expected wriggle room for the spooks", was built in.

                    "..... The idea of the level of data gathering that is actually going on seemed absurd...." Again, those of us with a clue had seen all the signs long ago. TBH, the surprise is it is not even more, though I suspect Putin's willingness to gag Snowden hints that there is also plenty of data being exchanged with the Russians.

                    "....What you seem to fail to recognise is that people are capable of noticing patterns of behaviour, and merely throwing around cheap insults in response to what seem like legitimate concerns do you no favours whatsoever....." ROFLMAO! Seriously, it's like some kid that ignores the warning "low lintel", bangs their head, then shrieks about how terrible and unfair it is! Snowden revealed nothing that wasn't already out there, and shrieking about how upset you are to hear the news just identifies you as as one of the obtuse.

                    ".....Do you happen to work for Detica or one of the other companies with a vested interest ...." Apart from the amusing hint of paranoia, did you stop to think that working for The Man is not a requirement to read such basic sources as Wikipedia? Once again, read more and bleat less.

                    1. Vimes

                      Re: Vimes Intractable Pothead Johnnie Thicko Let's not forget @ Matt

                      "Not when you consider past history...." That is the problem - you frothing sheeple have no insight into history. What has Snowden revealed that wasn't already known, documented, or at least strongly hinted at? The Web is full of info on GCHQ, Frenchelon, even many details on PRISM short of the actual name, from long before Snowden's little tantrum.

                      Interesting that you should accuse me of paranoia further down in your post - I'm sure if this hadn't come out and I started talking about ECHELON and the rest of it *before* Snowden said anything that you'd still be accusing me of belonging to the tin foil hat brigade. It's a bit difficult to win this sort of argument when the very information you say is readily available tends only - until recently - to exist on conspiracy websites, so I won't even bother trying.

                      There's also a small difference between something being hinted at and being handed concrete proof.

                      Again, those of us with a clue had seen all the signs long ago.

                      Again, only on sites of questionable reliability.

                      Apart from the amusing hint of paranoia, did you stop to think that working for The Man is not a requirement to read such basic sources as Wikipedia?

                      I have yet to see a single person actively support this. Some may be resigned, but I have as of yet met nobody that thinks that this either acceptable or a good idea. The fact that you do is highly questionable.

                      read such basic sources as Wikipedia?

                      Seriously? Wikipedia is a 'basic source'? I don't really think there is much I can say in response to this given how warped the entries often are. As for the rest I note that you never answered the question.

                      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                        Happy

                        Re: Vimes Re: Vimes Intractable Pothead Johnnie Thicko Let's not forget @ Matt

                        ".....It's a bit difficult to win this sort of argument when the very information you say is readily available tends only - until recently - to exist on conspiracy websites, so I won't even bother trying....." Wikipedia is not a conspiracy theorists' website, not by the longest stretch. And since you are so dismissive of Wikipedia, what does it say that you do not even know what has been available on there for years? Would you like a spade to help you keep digging?

                        1. Vimes

                          Re: Vimes Vimes Intractable Pothead Johnnie Thicko Let's not forget @ Matt

                          If you really think that a website that can be edited by anybody is anywhere near reliable for that sort of thing, then I have a bridge I'd like to sell you...

                          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                            FAIL

                            Re: Vimes Re: Vimes Vimes Intractable Pothead Johnnie Thicko Let's not forget @ Matt

                            "....If you really think that a website that can be edited by anybody is anywhere near reliable for that sort of thing...." Once again, you are trying to avoid the fact that a website you denigrate as "unreliable" is actually much better informed than you are. If you want to pretend Wikipedia is so untrustworthy, please demonstrate which parts of the long-established posts on the NSA, GCHQ, Frenchelon, Echelon, or FISC are favtually incorrect? you can't because you know nothing on the subject. Stop denying your ignorance, just admit it and try reading up on the subject, THEN forming an independent opinion rather than mindlessly parroting one that you have been told is "cool".

          2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: Let's not forget @John Smith 19

            'AFAIK most of them don't think of those time as "The good old days."'

            That may not be quite as true as you would hope. I have quite a lot to do with ex-Iron Curtain countries, and there are quite a number of people (often those who were adult during the regime, rather than adolescent when the change came) who privately think that the change from then to now was not a good a thing, and that they might have made a mistake in supporting the downfall of the communist regime. There have been some quite startling gains made by far-left parties in some areas.

  23. Tombone

    No, they got around the law

    The PRISM document has no filter shown for UK data, only US and then only 51% USA. So use of PRISM data is necessarily spying on Brits communications. Those comms were also handed to the US, which has no protections available.

    Thus you cannot just look at the result of the GCHQ filter and say "is ok", all of the US queries run on UK data captured by GCHQ are also relevant. If USA provided access to AUS, NZ, Canada, then all of those queries are relevant too, as are all future queries by all future users, since this data is kept by the US.

    Conversely, NSA has analysts in UK, reading the GCHQ feed. The GCHQ feed has no filter for USA, not even 51%, 0% filtered. So those NSA analysts are getting around the token protection the NSA put in for USA citizens in the US by accessing the UK feed.

    "Further, in each case where GCHQ sought information from the US, a warrant for interception, signed by a Minister, was already in place,"

    No, the warrant is there to check the search is warranted, if its already in place then the Minister could not have checked the lawfulness of the request. He is not a time-lord. He cannot travel forward in time to check it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No, they got around the law

      Consider Tempora,

      A) legal use: "GCHQ spies on comms data of "Terry Wrist" known bomber suspected of planning a bombing."

      B) illegal use: "CGHQ spies on David Camerons data, known politician who like cut their budget and limit their power'

      GCHQ captures *all* data, Terry Wrist and David Cameron's on a blanket warrant. The warrant cannot determine if the target is A) or B) because they capture both.

      At some point in the future it runs queries on that data. GCHQ runs out of space after 30 days, NSA has data for 5 years or more currently. Queries can be run on either database and contain Brits data.

      So the future queries can be of type A or type B.

      So for Tempora, William Hague could not have approved the intercept and storage of that data because RIPA only permits just intercept and NOT this mass-intercept-storage-filter-later that he's pretending is equivalent.

      He could not have determined it was legal, because the query that determines A) or B) is done at a future time, and also outside of GCHQ in the case of the data they handed to USA. Thus the two types of intercept are not equivalent.

      Thus the law could not have been designed for him to replace a targetted intercept with an untargetted mass trawl with data retention. i.e. it's not even legal within the letter of the law.

  24. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Keep calm and carry on....

    And please stay in view of the cameras! There's a good chap....

  25. phytodoc

    Now, let me get this straight. The UK spy apparatus has reassured us that the UK spy apparatus is operating within the law, right?

  26. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Happy

    LMAO!

    Did some of the schools break up early for summer hols? So many emo adolescents bleating "I want to believe!" It's legal, whether you like it or not, so just get over it, mmmkay?

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: LMAO!

      Still bleating I see.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: hspasm Re: LMAO!

        "Still bleating I see." Still getting confused by your reflection in the mirror?

    2. Mr Young
      WTF?

      Re: LMAO!

      I sometimes wish I believed in the law like you do

    3. Vimes

      Re: LMAO! @Matt Bryant

      'It's legal, get over it'? Seriously? That's the best you can come up with?

      Laws have been used for all sorts of atrocities throughout history, and the moment we accept that something is automatically right merely because it's legal is the moment we cease to make any progress whatsoever as a society.

      To use one extreme example: slavery used to be legal. Do you think that the slaves should have just 'got over it'?

      'It's legal' just goes to show how broken the system is, not that what is happening is right.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Vimes Re: LMAO! @Matt Bryant

        "..... That's the best you can come up with?....." It's all I need to come up with. There is copious amounts of info out there which should explain to even the densest sheeple that they are urinating into the wind, so if you haven't realized that by now then don't act surprised when others laugh at how wet you're making yourself.

        The authorities have made it clear from day one that they have zero intention of actually doing anything, they had the "it's legal" defence all ready to go. You may get some political posturing like an enquiry or two, maybe some weasel-word changes to the NSA remit at best. Those changes will be about politicians being seen to be doing something and will do nothing to actually impede their or the NSA's activities. Meanwhile, they will play the "ignore the right hand, look over here at what my left hand is doing" politics, as Obambi is doing now with his posturing around the Zimmerman trial. Why is Obambi getting so deep on Trayvon Martin unless he knows it does him zero harm whilst appealing to his liberal and black voters? In the UK we will have something similar over Europe or political funding (two areas all three major parties are happy to shout about). Meanwhile, Putin will have gagged Snowden. Game over!

        Those of us cynics with a clue will simply sit back and enjoy watching the sheeple froth and bleat whilst the rest of us get on with our lives.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Gimp

          Re: Vimes LMAO! @Matt Bryant

          "Those of us cynics with a clue will simply sit back and enjoy watching the sheeple froth and bleat whilst the rest of us get on with our lives."

          Except you're rather more than a cynic aren't you Mattie?

          You don't just sound like you're OK with mass surveillance, you want more of it.

          For someone who claims they want to "get on with their lives" you seem very keen on telling the rest of us not to worry about it. The more you post the more you sound like a vested interest than a neutral party.

          The more of your outpourings I've read the more I keep picturing this character

          Just remember Mattie, when the beast runs out of victims to eat, it starts eating itself.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Johnnie Thicko Re: Vimes LMAO! @Matt Bryant

            "Except you're rather more than a cynic aren't you Mattie?...." Oh dear, the paranoia is extra strong with this one! Seriously, loosen up the tinfoil.

            ".....You don't just sound like you're OK with mass surveillance, you want more of it......" That's like insisting that someone that says they support the Police actually wants all black people locked up - just a rediculous leap of paranoia.

            ".....For someone who claims they want to "get on with their lives" you seem very keen on telling the rest of us not to worry about it. The more you post the more you sound like a vested interest than a neutral party....." Again, you are wrong. You are confusing my laughing at your stupidity with some desire to mislead you into a false sense of security. Boy, you really are going for Paranoid Loon Of The Year, aren't you? Hint - many people taking the piss out of you are doing it for no other reason than amusement at your paranoia.

            "....The more of your outpourings I've read the more I keep picturing this character...." I could suggest in return that you remind me of this guy (http://www.savagechickens.com/images/chickenparanoia.jpg), only I suspect you never get past first base because you're too busy looking for the NSA under the bed.

            ".....Just remember Mattie, when the beast runs out of victims to eat, it starts eating itself." <Sigh> It's just too tempting to poke your paranoia and point out the likelyhood that the sheep will be victims before the wolves..... Enjoy!

            1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
              Happy

              Matt Bryant unmasked as an internet predator "I am a wolf" he screams.*

              No, not quite what you said, but close enough.

              A little nip here, a little tuck there and you're a danger to society. Think of the children, right Mattie?

              Like you're own for example.

              Still never mind. No harm done as long as it doesn't get on a huge database to be used against you later on?

              *Actually I filed it under "grossly inflated image of himself."

              1. Vimes

                Re: Matt Bryant unmasked as an internet predator "I am a wolf" he screams.* @John Smith 19

                For some reason Matt Bryant reminds me of HamsterWheel and all the time he spent trolling forums trying to persuade people that Phorm stock would shoot sky high any moment now.

                1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                  Facepalm

                  Re: Matt Bryant unmasked as an internet predator "I am a wolf" he screams.* @John Smith 19

                  ".... Matt Bryant reminds me of HamsterWheel...." I would have to say you and a lot of your fellow sheeple posters remind me of this (http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gAYL5H46QnQ&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DgAYL5H46QnQ) with your determination to be so righteous. But, once again, you cannot offer any argument or insight, only a rather poor attempt to link me with another bit of sheeple bleating. Loosen up the tinfoil, there's a good chap.

                  1. Vimes

                    Re: Matt Bryant unmasked as an internet predator "I am a wolf" he screams.* @John Smith 19

                    you cannot offer any argument

                    I'm not the one supporting the idea of using the law to allow unsupervised spying of millions, so I don't think that I'm the one that has to offer any arguments.

                    Just what is life like being a pro-government sock puppet?

                    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                      FAIL

                      Re: Vimes Re: Matt Bryant unmasked as an internet predator "I am a wolf".....

                      "...I'm not the one supporting the idea of using the law to allow unsupervised spying of millions, so I don't think that I'm the one that has to offer any arguments....." But that is the whole problem you face - you present no reason for anyone to accept your side of the discussion. You have insisted that you and the other sheeple are the only ones with insight, only to be shown to actually know nothing about the topic, despite the wealth of information already out there. Then you insist what GHCQ and the NSA did and are doing is illegal, only for that to be proven wrong. You still insist there is some vast conspiracy to harm you and the equally vacuous, yet when challenged you cannot show ant evidence of harm. Instead, you retreat into childish attempts at insults, and not even humourous ones. You are just a big dollop of fail.

              2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: Johnnie Thicko Re: Matt Bryant unmasked as an internet predator "I am a wolf"....

                Once again, another post where you cannot add any insight or argument to the topic of the thread. Yawn, TBH.

        2. Vimes

          Re: Vimes LMAO! @Matt Bryant

          You may get some political posturing like an enquiry or two, maybe some weasel-word changes to the NSA remit at best.

          You're forgetting that the UK has been forced to change RIPA once before by the EU commission when they took the UK government to court, so these things can and have changed in the past despite all the resistance put up by government.

          In particular I wonder if some ways in which RIPA is being used to conduct unquestioned surveillance (merely saying 'here's your get out of jail card' is not the same as supervision) goes against privacy related EU legislation in some way. The clash between UK and EU law has already happened before after all.

          Court cases are also in progress now, with both the ACLU and EFF engaged in court action in the US and it being threatened in the EU by Germans and others. It's already past the point of merely posturing.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Vimes Re: Vimes LMAO! @Matt Bryant

            "You're forgetting that the UK has been forced to change RIPA once before by the EU ....." LOL, and what changed that in any way stopped GCHQ carrying on as it and the Government wanted? Section 8 is still there. You have fallen for the political windrow dressing and failed to see that the "changes" stopped little if anything.

            ".....In particular I wonder if some ways in which RIPA is being used to conduct unquestioned surveillance....being threatened in the EU by Germans......" What, you think the Germans and Fwench haven't been fed little tidbits of information every now and again? You forget, there has been NATO-wide and EU-wide anti-terror plans, plus anti-drugsmuggling, anti-paedophile and anti-econutter programs, all including intelligence sharing, for years. Merkel and co are merely doing a little political posturing for their voters, but behind the scenes it will be business as usual.

            1. Vimes

              Re: Vimes Vimes LMAO! @Matt Bryant

              You're not the this Matt Bryant are you?

              Linked in profile

              Current employer is the same CGI that is currently part of the MoD's DCPP (see: http://www.esecurityplanet.com/network-security/uk-government-announces-defense-cyber-protection-partnership.html) and whose previous employers include BT security, SOCA and Roke Research?

              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: Vimes Re: Vimes Vimes LMAO! @Matt Bryant

                Haven't you heard? The other sheeple and posters here have accused me, at one time or another, of working for MOSSAD, BAe, IBM, hp, Phorm, BT and as soldier and a New Labour councillor in London! If you want to play that game then you really need to go back through my posts and READ some stuff, like the fact I voted for Maggie at her first election, which was probably well before your Mr Bryant's date of birth!

                Anyway, can we assume that your amusing efforts to dox me are becasue you have admitted defeat on the conversation thread?

                (PS: Shhhh, no-one tell him I've posted many times that Matt Bryant is a nom de plume, it's far too funny waiting to see what he comes up with next!)

  27. zb

    Brit spooks operated within the law, say politicos

    Politicos should change the law, sez us

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How surprising

    Pack of liars say their friends all trustworthy, nothing to worry about.

    Jesus Christ. Do they actually think we give a damn about their pathetic public posturings?

  29. moiety

    SO how big was this document exactly?

    "The listening agency sent the committee a number of reports detailing counter-terrorist ops for which spooks were able to fetch intelligence from the US in any relevant area.

    It also provided the politicos with a list of all the individuals who were subject to monitoring via such arrangements (<--the weasel words) who were either believed to be in Britain or flagged up as UK nationals."

    As far as I know; everyone is being monitored. Yes, intercepting email and never looking at the database entry still counts as being monitored; because it's still being intercepted. And I'm fairly fucking sure that everyone wasn't listed in their document. Last time I looked, the population of the UK was around 60 million which would make for a fairly chunky list.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They would say that, wouldn't they?

    "Claims that Britain's intelligence agency GCHQ circumvented UK legislation by using America's controversial PRISM programme to access the content of private communications are false, parliamentarians concluded today."

    As far as you voters know...

  31. Ramon Zarat

    "Brit spooks operated within the law, say politicos"

    So the conclusion is the law is wrong, period. The real questions is who voted those laws and why.

    What they did might be within the law, but it's absolutely impossible to justify morally. This is a completely artificially induced paranoia on the cover of doing "good" at the the expense of the citizen freedom and privacy. All this at the service of the military-industrial complex who sell all the cameras and surveillance equipment to the government (billions if not trillions in computer infrastructure, software etc..). This is exactly what the German Stasi and Russian KGB used to do on an industrial scale: Everyone is a suspect, for the "good" of the nation. This is NOT democracy, this is dictatorship.

    If the body of government democratically elected is incapable of ***actually*** defending its citizen most fundamental interests and rights, if that government is nothing more than a puppet at the service of conglomerates, corporations, special interest groups and lobbyist, then this government has become the enemy and must be brought down by any means necessary.

    Our democratic institutions are so rotten to the core, there's so much ego, power and money involved, expecting it to ***rapidly*** and ***effectively*** reform itself would be delusional. A this point and time in history, the only way to eradicate this generalized cancer is to terminate the institution itself and start all over again with new laws and a new constitution that would prevent any outside influences and incursions in the democratic system so this system become 100% independent and at the service of the citizen first.

    By the people, for the people.

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