back to article GCHQ 'smart collection' would protect MPs from spies, says NSA expert

Protecting members of Parliament from mass surveillance by bulk collection is “exceedingly simple”, according to the US co-inventor of the high technology devices and programs now used by GCHQ to intercept optical fibre cables carrying Internet data in and out of Britain. Bill Binney, formerly Technical Director of the NSA’s …

  1. msknight Silver badge

    "GCHQ said it did not want to comment."

    So it did, in fact, comment. And fron that, we infer guilt.

    1. NoneSuch
      Coffee/keyboard

      It isn't like people in power spend time with hookers, snort cocaine and wear bras. No security risks there, they are beyond reproach.

      George Orwell's Animal Farm in real life.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        "It isn't like people in power spend time with hookers, snort cocaine and wear bras. No security risks there, they are beyond reproach."

        Don't forget David Mellor's toe sucking.

        Oh, and of course some other things done by MPs/peers: sleeping with prostitutes (again), insider trading in Anglia Television shares (allegedly), stealing three suits, cheating at a sprinting race in 1964, perjury, perverting the course of justice, and so on. And that was all by the same guy.

        1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge
          Trollface

          Yes but let's be fair, that particular guy is so stupid (cunning maybe - he ripped off the best writers) he wouldn't know how to turn the internet on.

        2. h4rm0ny

          You know, I really don't care what David Mellor gets up to in his bedroom. Or anyone else's really (with the exception of mine where I would care a very great deal if I found him there). I am totally and completely fine with MPs being exempt from this as I'm sick of politics being based around people's image / sex life / browsing habits. In fact, given that I want GCHQ and the Home Office to have as little leverage on those we elect to represent us as possible, I want them to be exempt.

          I just want everyone else to be exempt as well.

          So lets just not make this law. Sound good?

          1. kwhitefoot
            Unhappy

            But we all know that we won't be exempt even if they are. Perhaps we should just embrace the technology, learn to love the bomb so to speak, and go for the inadvertent solution described in Clarke and Baxter's the Light Of Other Days and just make everything available to everyone.

        3. emmanuel goldstein

          and that bloke with the orange in his gob!

    2. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

      ""GCHQ said it did not want to comment."

      So it did, in fact, comment. And fron that, we infer guilt."

      Nah, they've got nothing to hide.....

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    Want to protect MPs ? - Take away the iPads

    These were given to MPs earlier this year, IIRC some were also given a few years ago.

    It is safe to assume that anything on these iPads has ended up at the NSA via Cupertino.

  3. Flywheel Silver badge

    Who has more power?

    Lets see now - I'm an employed, taxpaying citizen and the power I have to cause actual trouble is minimal: probably an angry comment in the online newspapers. MPs don't give a flying f**k what I think after they've been elected.

    An MP on the other hand has the power to influence governments, heads of industry and sundry other "high-ups", so I'd say that they're an obvious, nay, essential target to watch. What have they got to hide?

    1. strum Silver badge

      Re: Who has more power?

      >An MP on the other hand has the power to influence governments, heads of industry and sundry other "high-ups", so I'd say that they're an obvious, nay, essential target to watch. What have they got to hide?

      An MP also has constituents, who have a right to bring grievances to their representative, without their evidence being snorted up by GCHQ (who may well be the subject of that grievance).

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        Re: Who has more power?

        @strum Since Parliament is supposed to be democratic, our politicians must be subject to the same protections and laws as the rest of us. That includes encryption and privacy on the net.

        The ideal solution is just to forget about this whole sorry mess, and permit hard to break encryption.

        The next best solution is to educate everyone how to use Tor, and write off the public internet as a sorry fucked up mess.

        Finally, if we must have broken encryption, politicians must have broken encryption too - and whistleblowers will have to fall back on the old, non electronic methods.

      2. Bluto Nash
        Big Brother

        Re: Who has more power?

        An MP also has constituents, who have a right to bring grievances to their representative, without their evidence being snorted up by GCHQ (who may well be the subject of that grievance

        Fine that the MP doesn't have his email snaffled, but what of the aggrieved constituent who's emailing them? Their email isn't exempt from being hoovered, is it? I'm failing to see the protection being afforded the "little guy" in this scenario.

  4. M7S

    Much as I like the idea that communications with MPs (and a few other types) should be privileged

    I can think of several MPs that I'd want to except from this in the national interest, and I'm not being snide about expenses or anything, some of them have apparently been communicating with our enemies and not in an "engaging for the purposes of reasonable negotiation" kind of way.

    It's a toughie.

    1. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

      Re: Much as I like....

      It's not tough at all, either everyone's data is hovered or no ones is. I prefer the latter.

      There's no justification in saying MP's should be exempt so that their constituents communications are confidential because the constituents email is hovered at their ISP.

      There's no justification for saying MP's should be exempt because of national security because it's our spooks doing the hovering we're talking about.

      Everyone or no one - anything else is Animal Farm.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Much as I like....

        Instead of anyone or no-one, how about some middle-ground of 'anyone provided you get a warrant first'?

        In fact, if there's no provision to surveil MPs whatsoever, then I'd say they've left a bit of a loophole.

        1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

          Re: Much as I like....

          Of course there are exceptions, our Lords and Masters want it that way. It's the same over here. Our Congress regularly exempts itself from the Law of the Land.

          What about the dog that didn't bark; Civil Service?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Much as I like....

            The Civil Service is expected to live up to a Code they are not allowed to meet.

            Most parts of the civil service have been under that Orwellian Boot for some time, those that weren't sold off to the commercial arm of an American organisation.

            Bark, the neutered and de-voiced Civil Service cant even dream about barking.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Goose, gander, etc.

    So the MPs that want to spy on everybody are complaining about being spied upon?

    1. Fonant

      Re: Goose, gander, etc.

      Different MPs. They're not all nasty.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: Goose, gander, etc.

        Galloway seems not to be a saint if you do some research. The jury's out on the green lady.

        Now if it was David Davis complaining he might have had a piont but I suspect he's far too aware of the galloping hypocrisy of doing so whilst still remaining a pro-privacy campaigner.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Goose, gander, etc.

          Galloway is publicly dodgy. What do you have on the 'Green Lady' or this just scuttlebutt?

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "dooming themselves to failure by bulk acquisition"

    Isn't it soooo predictable, that the UK government decide precipitately to do morally the wrong thing, with no public mandate, at great cost, and guarantee failure up front?

    Nothing has been left to chance on this.

  8. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Obviously

    If GCHQ collect all the communications and keep them locked in a big safe - the terrorist won't be able to get their hands on them.

  9. maffski

    I can't help but be impressed by politicians

    On the one hand we have promises that bulk interception will just be the 'envelope' and 'no more intrusive than an itemised phone bill'.

    On the other the ground work for a reaffirment that the Wilson Doctrine will be abided by. The only way I can see to do this is to scan the contents of the traffic. So they can construct laws that will mean they can publicly promise the information is not being 'read' to protect privacy, while simultaneously obliging themselves to 'process' the information to protect privacy.

  10. Vittal Aithal

    Smart selection...

    "Smart selection is smart collection" - I wonder if anyone has pointed this out to the Home Secretary given that she's bent on slurping up absolutely everyone's network history.

  11. Greg J Preece

    So what we have here is an argument amongst MPs as to whether the government is going to treat them as badly as it does the rest of its citizens?

  12. John Crisp

    Live by the sword...

    And die the same way.

    AFAIAA MPs are subject to the same laws as the rest of us.

    If they have done nothing wrong, why should they worry....

  13. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    GCHQ Replies Truthfully .....

    It is neither really intelligent nor virtually smart for any party/organisation to allow, or for anyone to think one is somehow allowed especial and exclusive protection and/or exemption from comprehensive surveillance, in these days of ways and means and memes of right dodgy deals and perverse and corrupt practices.

    Therefore will any and all services which supply intelligence and provide security ignore such a nonsense and waste no time or effort at all in even thinking to debate and elaborate further on the matter.

    Such an exclusion for any sector or vector of opinion will always be fully abused to create all manner of unpleasantnesses.

  14. Cincinnataroo

    Strategy to get some control of the mess

    Maybe we need a principal here:

    Elected reps, civil servants, lobbyists, those paid out of tax funds and those who fund political parties... get protected last. In other words the normal people get protected ahead of them.

    Might sort things out.

  15. Mycho Silver badge

    Protect them from whom?

    GCHQ are recruiting in huge numbers. Let's not pretend that both Putin and IS haven't slipped some people in there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Protect them from whom?

      Slipped? they can probably buy who they need in place - after the CS has been treated they way it has.

  16. JassMan Silver badge
    Big Brother

    You know when someones lying

    "He conceded that parliamentarians’ emails “may have been collected” by GCHQ in these operations, but claimed that, technically, this could not have been prevented because the data could not be understood."

    So, if it couldn't be understood there would be no point in collecting it would there.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      You know when someones lying whenever the truth is not shared

      Well, JassMan, what ever do you expect? It's all smoke and mirrors and obscure obfuscation in spookdom, is it not, and whenever nothing is as it seems, is everything different and a surprise to uncover and discover, and with IT in Creative Command and Cyberspace Control with Computers and Communications, is it a Brave New Orderly World Order Play for Dummies if one doesn't have the Constructive Force and Destructive Power to both Secure Secret Anonymous Supply and Protect Vast Autonomous Delivery of Alternative Virtual Reality Programs ....... Sublime and Seductive Alien Product to Code XSSXXXX Standards.

      Is that what Sovereign Defence of the Realm and Nations via a Variety of Proxy Networks is/are doing nowadays in these days with zerodays to exploit with vulnerabilities, GCHQ?

      And what say you, Duncan? Certainly more than just likely and probable, or quite an IMPossible Mission for Certifiable Intelligence Agencies to Complete to Compete ?

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: You know when someones lying whenever the truth is not shared

        And the latter half of this earlier post …… http://amanfrommars.blogspot.ru/2015/08/150813.html …. asks the same questions of supposed Secretive and Special Intelligence Services as the ones above, and in so doing proves that necessary future better beta intelligence to rule and reign quite differently, and successfully without mounting deficits, is still missing from those organisations and companies/deluded individuals presuming to be leaders in the Great Game and Greater IntelAIgent Games Fields.

  17. Jedibeeftrix

    "Parliamentary protections should be built into law"

    No, Caroline, you should have to feed at the same trough as the rest of us!

  18. Velv Silver badge
    Big Brother

    "...ensure that constituents and whistle-blowers can contact parliamentarians without fear of being spied upon".

    without fear of being legally spied upon - fixed it for you

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