back to article 'We can handle politicos, OUR ISSUE IS JUDGES', shout GCHQ docs

Leaked internal documents from Blighty's mass-surveillance agency, GCHQ, shows that it frets not over parliamentary or political oversight ... but instead describes judicial oversight as "THE MAIN ISSUE FOR US". The note, and yes, it was made in all caps, is included in slides posted from the Snowden store released by The …

  1. Whitter
    Megaphone

    Love the photo

    And yes, I do want Dredd II.

    1. dogged

      Re: Love the photo

      So do I. Is there a petition somewhere? Or a kickstarter?

      1. sabroni Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Love the photo

        Didn't realise how well he'd done with the grimace until I saw it up close. That is classic McMahon Dredd mouth!!

      2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Love the photo

        Is there a petition somewhere?

        Sure there is (https://www.facebook.com/MakeADreddSequel) but it unfortunately is not likely to have the stated desired effect.

  2. hplasm Silver badge
    Big Brother

    GCHQ

    Gestapo Central HQ?

    1. druck Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: GCHQ

      It's all very easy to throw words around, especially if you don't really know what they mean.

  3. Chairo

    They could always take a job at VW

    They already have the proper attitude...

  4. joed

    self-policing

    "Hammond, who receives copies of the agency's compliance documents to ensure they are following the relevant legislation. These are documents the spooks provide themselves. Hammond is also responsible for signing warrants under RIPA."

    I bet it works as well as VW's compliance with emission rules.

    1. Smooth Newt

      Re: self-policing

      Yeah. Policed by a politician.

  5. Anon

    Boggle

    "Can also visit ministers to check that they understand the reasons why they've signed the warrants."

    So ministers may be signing warrants without understanding why?

    1. leon clarke

      The reason why is obvious - they're interacting with real spooks. How 007 is that? What could be cooler? And the real spooks said all sorts of stuff about how the meaning of the warrant is terribly complex, technical, not at all scary and absolutely essential to national security.

      Oh, and accidentally destroying civil liberties is less of an electoral liability than accidentally allowing an unsuccessful terrorist plot to get further than it might otherwise do, so the safe thing to do (from an electoral liability point of view) is to sign everything put in front of you.

      Simple really.

      1. Anonymous Blowhard

        "destroying civil liberties is less of an electoral liability than accidentally allowing an unsuccessful terrorist plot to get further than it might otherwise do"

        Or

        "destroying civil liberties is less of an electoral liability than GCHQ publishing your browsing history"

    2. David 18

      Re: Boggle

      "So ministers may be signing warrants without understanding why?"

      Most of the time I would imagine - most of them are completely ignorant of any issues except what is stopping them sticking their filthy, greedy snouts into the trough as far as they would like. (And I am talking about politicians of any persuasion or seniority BTW)

      It stands to reason that spooks would want them signing warrants, not a learned and impartial judge whose life has spent serving the cause of justice.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Boggle

        I'm sure there are some decent MPs. They may not end up leading their parties, mind you. But I'm sure they're there. The issue with not fully understanding what you've signed is, well, how could you? When there's only one source of information on something (your intelligence agencies) they can present things in all sorts of ways. Anyone here has probably seen enough comments on a divisive issue that would convince almost anyone if there wasn't an opposing viewpoint or someone to provide context. I've seen posts both pro- and anti- global warming either of which would equally convince someone who had just wandered in without any background and in many cases the content of those posts is factually true in both cases. How much easier is it to fuddle some minister who you're telling lives may depend on them signing some bit of paper and that you know all sorts of things they don't that make it valid.

        Of course there is a need for someone (apparently judges) to come along and say "well... did you know that when they said this they meant that?"

        Which of course is why this document describes judges as a threat. Same way someone who is trying to convince you that AGW is true / false regards anyone not allied with them as a threat. GCHQ strive to be the only source of information to MPs and when you're the only source of information, getting signatures is usually pretty easy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Boggle

      "visit ministers to check that they understand the reasons why they've signed the warrants."

      translates as

      "visit ministers to show them what dirt they have, and show some of it"

      - pictures of Bullingdon club rituals, unusual predilections etc.

  6. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    This is the whole reason the judiciary is independent in the first place

    That they are far less likely (all things being equal) to be lent on by other arms of the state.

    Our ancestors were wise when they decided to set the country up this way - it seems dangerous to assume they were wrong given all the things we have learnt in the last decade.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. asdf Silver badge

      Re: This is the whole reason the judiciary is independent in the first place

      >Our ancestors were wise when they decided to set the country up this way - it seems dangerous to assume they were wrong given all the things we have learnt in the last decade.

      Yeah who knew due process was a good idea huh? Sure would have made closing Gitmo easier.

  7. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    "Senior High Court judges they are INDEPENDENT, non govt and not openly swayed by personal contact" (emphasis is our own)

    "Senior High Court judges they are INDEPENDENT, non govt and not openly swayed by personal contact" (emphasis is more likely)

  8. Michael Palmer

    You Can't Rely on Politicians

    It's clear to me that reform of GCHQ won't come in the lifetime of this parliament (not while the Tories are in government; but Labour might be unelectable for a few good years so it might be longer). If anything the spooks are likely to get even greater powers if the new surveillance bill becomes law next month. It's up to individuals to take what measures they can to make it harder for themselves to be tracked (though strong encryption is likely to be outlawed as well). But it's David-vs-Goliath. Plus most people aren't really that interested in being spied on. They are of the "nothing to fear if nothing to hide" brigade.

    1. dephormation.org.uk

      Re: You Can't Rely on Politicians

      You're hoping Labour might reform surveillance? Good luck with that; Phorm, Communications Data Bill, Jacqui Smith, Lord West, Gordon Brown, DRIPA, UKCCIS etc.

      Not forgetting that most of the programmes revealed by Snowden manifested themselves under a Labour government.

      Sadly, the only reform you are likely to get from Labour is yet more surveillance, not less.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You Can't Rely on Politicians

      Labour might be unelectable for a few good years so it might be longer

      Regardless of their electoral appeal, or even manifesto promises, what makes you think for one tiny moment that the Labour party will address this? They've always been even more enthusiastic for the big state, snooper's charters, surveillance, identity cards and all the other things that GCHQ maintain they need.

      And if you go back a few short years, it was the last Labour government that initiated the very concept of "interception modernisation".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You Can't Rely on Politicians

        Regardless of their electoral appeal, or even manifesto promises, what makes you think for one tiny moment that the Labour party will address this? They've always been even more enthusiastic for the big state, snooper's charters, surveillance, identity cards and all the other things that GCHQ maintain they need.

        Britain has only just got back a Labour party after 20 years of Tory rule.

      2. Roj Blake Silver badge

        Re: You Can't Rely on Politicians

        Tom Watson is definitely anti-surveillance, and I'm pretty certain that Jeremy Corbyn is too.

        1. Mycho Silver badge

          Re: You Can't Rely on Politicians

          If Corbyn actually stood on a strong anti-snooping platform he'd probably get in.

    3. Vic

      Re: You Can't Rely on Politicians

      strong encryption is likely to be outlawed as well

      It isn't, despite Camoron's bleatings. It's quite clear he has no idea what he's talking about.

      Even if it were possible to remove strong encryption from the populace[1], that's an instant election-loser; people *like* to be able to buy shit over the Intertubes...

      Vic.

      [1] It isn't.

  9. Trollslayer Silver badge

    Any chance of democracy?

    Maybe with judicial oversight.

  10. Your alien overlord - fear me

    "not openly swayed by personal contact" - but can easily be brought or blackmailed if need be.

  11. Bota

    "GCHQ is answerable to all three of Blighty's arms of state in theory, but in practice only to those with money and power, using blackmail *cough dolphin square cough * to keep its minions in order."

    FTFY.

  12. cortland

    Hasn't ANYONE been reading

    US news? It is easier to to hide suborning government officials and lawmakers than judges, and in the long run, cheaper, overall: Buy a decision and you'll have to buy another; buy the law and be done with it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hasn't ANYONE been reading

      just remember the definition of an honest politician ..

  13. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    So the government has contempt for the electorate and the spooks have contempt for everyone?

    Is anyone surprised at this "revelation"?

  14. scrubber
    Alert

    Safety vs Security

    What if I think a 7/7 every couple of years is an incredibly cheap price to pay to have the government keep their noses out of my internet browsing history and allowing secure encryption for banking and transactions?

    Where's that option? Who's making that case? Shit, we could reduce road deaths to virtually zero by having a 10mph speed limit, but we accept the inevitable deaths of a higher speed limit for convenience and commerce, why can't we do that for surveillance?

    1. TwoWolves
      Facepalm

      Re: Safety vs Security

      I was just wondering how high and mightily principled you will be once your legs and genitalia are blown off whilst innocently making your way to work one day?

      Also, how many attacks would be acceptable to you? Once a year, once a month, week - day? Do you think we will get to choose?

      This issue is far more complicated than internet rent-a-gobs are willing to admit.

      1. sed gawk

        Re: Safety vs Security

        It's not a choice.

        The basic premise of being able to stop all bad actors prior to some event occurring is flawed.

        Given this inescapable fact, we accept the risk and live a possibly shorter but definitely freer life.

        The alternate is to live in servitude, and there is no safety in that condition.

        You might disagree about the word "servitude", and I ask you to consider how under effective blanket surveillance, we'd ever strike down an unjust law again?

      2. Old Handle

        Re: Safety vs Security

        If you accept that freedom is sometimes worth dying for (the premise behind pretty much every war ever fought), it only makes sense to apply the same values in other cases.

      3. Fraggle850

        @ TwoWolves Re: Safety vs Security

        The OP did state his preferred level of risk quite clearly: once every couple of years.

        Everyone's principles go out of the window when they're on the shitty end of the stick and all issues are more complicated than 'rent a gobs' (Internet or otherwise) give credit for but that doesn't make their point invalid.

        Terrorism is an excuse for increasingly oppressive and covert state security mechanisms, which in turn can engender greater alienation among communities who might be suggestible to terrorism. It's quite conceivable that, had we not spent a lot of our history playing politics and subterfuge in other people's countries we wouldn't be such a target today. Our spooks have played their part in this and continue to do so with five eyes and assistance with extraordinary rendition (and god knows what else that we have no idea about but that is done in our name).

        Life is dangerous and always fatal. I suspect that terrorism is probably quite low down the random horrific fatality ratio in the UK despite your painting of it in lurid language.

        1. TwoWolves

          Re: @ TwoWolves Safety vs Security

          @ Fraggle850

          I think you missed the very point I was making, that we don't get to choose the frequency of attack. We either do nothing; in which case the terrorists select the frequency or we channel resources at the problem to reduce it to an acceptable level, whatever that level is a big debate.

          Has it occurred to you that the worst case scenario is what's happening in Syria right now? Can you live with that? Where would you flee?

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: @ TwoWolves Safety vs Security

            >>"Has it occurred to you that the worst case scenario is what's happening in Syria right now? Can you live with that? Where would you flee?"

            Has is it occurred to YOU that Bashar Assad's Syria was a place with an out of control state apparatus where intelligence agencies / secret police didn't have to obey due process and the populace had no means of controlling them other than violent revolution? What makes you think that Syria is at the opposite end of a surveillance state, rather than its conclusion?

            1. TwoWolves

              Re: @ TwoWolves Safety vs Security

              @ h4rm0ny

              Good Lord, looks like continual abject failure has not dampened some people's ardour for idealistic regime change. The ghost of Tony Blair lives on!

              I'm afraid you'll find that ISIS is not a "rebellion" but in fact mostly foreign fighters, financed by foreign states intent in dominating the entire region. These boys are making Assad's regime look like pussies.

              The people who have been planning attacks here are also being radicalised, armed and trained by entities within these foreign states. This information is in the public domain I believe. [I want to make it clear though, I do not support Assad - just the least bad outcome for everyone]

          2. Fraggle850

            Re: @ TwoWolves Safety vs Security

            @TwoWolves

            We don't know how effective these systems are at preventing attacks because they hide everything under the blanket of state security. How much freedom are you prepared to give up for security? Freedom of speech? Freedom of assembly? Freedom to protest? If you are involved in a battle with the state, and people legitimately are on occasion, then this stuff will be used against you if you are enough of a pain in the arse.

            I'm not sure what the current situation in Syria has to do with this, other than (as mentioned by another poster here) to illustrate the possible outcome for excessively oppressive states. Perhaps you mean that if poor old Bashar had had access to such a system he'd have been able to round up and finish off the dissenting voices before they got to the point of a popular uprising? Syria is a fine example of our meddling in other people's affairs. We supported this oppressive regime to further our own ends.

            And yes, I can live with that as I've no plans to go to Syria and therefore will not need to flee. (My trolling aside, I didn't support Blair's messianic middle eastern adventure so consider my conscience clear)

            1. scrubber

              Re: @ TwoWolves Safety vs Security

              @Fraggle850: "We don't know how effective these systems are at preventing attacks "

              We kinda do - you think if they stopped something big they wouldn't be jumping up and down shouting about it and how we're all better off with them looking out for (and on) us?

              Look at their examples of 'success'; it's almost always police/FBI stirring up some loner to try to commit an atrocity using (fake) materials given to him by the police/FBI.

              1. Fraggle850

                Re: @ TwoWolves Safety vs Security

                @scrubber

                Good point, well made.

                I suspect things are a little different in jolly old blighty but probably not that much. We do get occasional headlines about some preemptive, intelligence-led police operation. I don't think we're ever told the nature of the intel. As you say if it could be attributed to GCHQ's monitoring systems they'd probably make that known in order to justify its existence but then they are a secretive bunch so maybe not.

                I wonder what chance a FOI request regarding the number of specific instances of all that data doing something useful would have?

                We are the most surveilled state in the 'free' world.

      4. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

        @TwoWolves Re: Safety vs Security

        Come to my patch of the Earth and any terrorist is going to get a rude shock when the populace shoots back and most likely a lot more accurately. That doesn't even take into account the ex-military proportion of the populace which is much higher than average. Great place for military to retire judging from results. When you look at terrorist events, and I count gang violence in there too, they happen far more often to populations that aren't likely at all to be armed. Miami-Dade county was the best recent example of that. Criminals would follow people who looked like tourists from the International Airport and rob them rather than take a chance with the higher than normal population that were armed. Taking a 1 in 20 chance enough times and you end up dead. Analytically, that's the proportion at which criminals change their target selection.

        I'm more than willing to give up preventing every attack if the government would get out of the business of mass data collection, especially considering that we've known every terrorist before the event yet the services seemingly have their attention somewhere else (like up their ass apparently). In any case, what they are doing here is completely unconstitutional. Isn't it interesting that every time the issue of constitutionality might be brought before the US Supreme Court that it gets sidetracked for one reason or another? Invalidating standing seems to be the order of the day, for now. Or that it's contractors rather than people in uniform that process most if not all of the information? I was told, while in uniform, that even repeating anything overheard from a fellow American would not be blatantly unconstitutional. My first damn day on the job, as a matter of fact. Unless it was treason, but that's covered in the Constitution already.

        Yeah, I'll take that risk. I hope the terrorists feel like taking a risk here. Anyone that targets civilians is on my better dead list and that includes my government if you need to know that too.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: @TwoWolves Safety vs Security

          >>"I'm more than willing to give up preventing every attack if the government would get out of the business of mass data collection, especially considering that we've known every terrorist before the event yet the services seemingly have their attention somewhere else (like up their ass apparently)."

          In a nutshell, the Intelligence Agencies' goal is to protect the state, not the people. For the time being, preventing terrorist attacks is part of that because terrorist attacks make people unsettled and demanding change, but it's not their only goal and it doesn't have to coincide. If the people become the threat to the government, then the people are the enemy. And to an extent, the people are always a threat to the government.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @TwoWolves Re: Safety vs Security

        I tried the genitalia innocently blown off whilst walking to work principle, alas my excuse didn't work with the old plod or the missus </sarcasm>

        I'm curious why use genitalia as an example? Do you consider your p*nis to be your end all of your existence? Could you not function in the world without it? The leg part indicates p*nis btw.

        I think one attack every so many years is silly, you know those attacks that even though we had mass surveillance at the time happened anyway. Boston Marathon, lee rigby, hebdo. slow hand clap for GCHQ and the NSA...

  15. dephormation.org.uk
    Childcatcher

    The IPT?

    Now there's a hollow sham of a regulator if ever I saw one.

  16. Fraggle850

    How inconvenient for the spooks

    Pesky independent judicial types interfering with the business of spying on the public. Better set all of that computing power on the primary task of getting some dirt on the judges...

    We really ought to be up in arms over such revelations but I don't suppose the Great British Public really cares.

  17. your handle is already taken
    Black Helicopters

    Mainstream Media

    I have checked all major[0] print media websites and only the Daily Mirror[1] and Daily Mail[2] have reported on these latest revelations. Nothing so far in the Telegraph, Times, FT, Guardian, Independent, Daily Express, Daily Star, Evening Standard,… Couldn't actually find a search function on The Sun's website, and Dear God, my eyes. And by the by, had never heard of the Daily Record before. Anybody care to comment on what all this means?

    [0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_newspapers_in_the_United_Kingdom_by_circulation

    [1] http://www.mirror.co.uk/search/simple.do?destinationSectionId=219&publicationName=mirror&sortString=publishdate&sortOrder=desc&sectionId=69&articleTypes=+news+opinion+advice&pageNumber=1&pageLength=5&searchString=gchq

    [2] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/search.html?sel=site&searchPhrase=gchq

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mainstream Media

      Ever heard of Chipping Norten? It's a lovely place where politicians and the media frolic in the fields dancing and telling stories of days past they didn't print because it could be seen in a negative way.

      It's like two friends that went ot the same posh school and have lots of money.

      One has the power to change laws that will stop the other from being naughty in what they do.

      The other has details on all the naughty things the other has done.

      So they strike up a nice balance and when the first friend is very naughty they get a judge to say they were very bad and don't do it again and get another judge to let them all off from any criminal charges as laws are for the peons not the rich and powerful in return the second friends thanks them by being all supportive and brainwash the peasants with silly articles so they stay in power.

  18. i steal your leccy

    QUESTION: If you were in charge of the country,

    how would you (legally) set about dismantling GCHQ?

    1. Demosthenese

      Re: QUESTION: If you were in charge of the country,

      Cut its budget.

      1. Mephistro Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: QUESTION: If you were in charge of the country,

        "Cut its budget."

        Yes, the NASA treatment, but this time put to good use!

    2. Fraggle850

      Re: QUESTION: If you were in charge of the country,

      Split 'em up and send them off to fix all the IT projects that would actually improve our country, yet which the government seems incapable of delivering.

    3. Measurer

      Re: QUESTION: If you were in charge of the country,

      EMP over Cheltenham.

      1. h4rm0ny
        Mushroom

        Re: QUESTION: If you were in charge of the country,

        You know the best way to generate a large EMP?

        1. Measurer
          Mushroom

          Re: QUESTION: If you were in charge of the country,

          Yes.

    4. Vic

      Re: QUESTION: If you were in charge of the country,

      how would you (legally) set about dismantling GCHQ?

      Plasma cutter.

      Vic.

  19. PassiveSmoking

    The watchdog of public oversight. Is there any lower form of life?

    </burns>

  20. Uberseehandel

    Check the Slides

    Somebody somewhere is having a laugh

  21. DougS Silver badge

    Open "book" tests

    Since the "book" in question is likely a PDF, they should be even easier these days!

  22. crayon

    "If you accept that freedom is sometimes worth dying for (the premise behind pretty much every war ever fought),"

    If by freedom you mean the freedom for one side to loot and plunder another side, and the freedom for the other side to defend against being looted and plundered, then yeah, pretty much every war is about dying for freedom.

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