back to article Shady US sigint base upgrade marred by stolen photograph

An upgrade to a major US signals intelligence centre in Northamptonshire, UK, has been struck by controversy – after architects acting on behalf of the US Air Force and Blighty's Ministry of Defence nicked a photo of it from a website devoted to uncovering secret military bases in Britain. Alan Turnbull, who runs the excellent …

  1. Semtex451 Silver badge

    Par for the course

    It's not the first time I've seen architects to do unsporting things with golf balls.

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Par for the course

      Join the club...

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Coat

      "It's not the first time I've seen architects to do unsporting things with golf balls."

      Ah, golf.

      The big G.

      It's less a wind breaker and more a shiny latex dinner jacket.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Makes me laugh though

    A secret base design using images marked secret base.

    I imagine the site itself is not really that secret albeit the activities may be. A proper architect would use their own drone or similar. Given that the NSA HQ pics used are normally 20-30 years old its hardly a guarantee of accuracy for actually planning to dig holes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Makes me laugh though

      Given that the NSA HQ pics used are normally 20-30 years old its hardly a guarantee of accuracy for actually planning to dig holes.

      In that case I would have thought the locals would enjoy a malevolent pleasure in encouraging their use :).

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Makes me laugh though

      A secret base design using images marked secret base.

      That's their excuse. They didn't know it was a watermark but assumed the RAF had mown "secretbase" into the grass for the convenience of Russian spy sats

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can of worms time, did the copyright get transferred to Turnbull and did he have the right to give the Register permission to use it ? Also did the photographer have permission to photograph what is possibly a prescribed place under the official secrets act?

    1. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
      Headmaster

      PrEscribed - Drugs recommended by a doctor

      PrOscribed - Forbidden by law.

      1. malle-herbert Silver badge
        Joke

        NAzi - Person who hates jews and bad grammar.

        1. Cipherpunk

          Just run of the mill bad spelling

      2. MKingpyro

        Prescribed by the act or a prescription order under the act.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's in the Public domain.

      1. RedCardinal

        what is? The photo?

        I think someone needs to read up on copyright law. The photo in question is certainly NOT in the public domain (something users of Pinterest need to learn...)

      2. FuzzyWuzzys
        Facepalm

        AC, just 'cos a photo is on the Internet does not make it automatically in the public domain! I post my photos on the Internet but they are still protected and you still need to ask my permission to use them, unless by using a particular website I relinquish that right. There are lot of images on WikiCommons and they're free to use but they're still copyrighted to the original photographer, they simply let you use them ideally with credit back.

        1. Snorlax Silver badge

          @FuzzyWuzzys

          @FuzzyWuzzys:"AC, just 'cos a photo is on the Internet does not make it automatically in the public domain! "

          Totally agree with ya. BTW, don't ever look at @for_exposure_txt on twitter or you'll blow a gasket.

          1. frank ly

            Re: @FuzzyWuzzys re. @for_exposure_txt

            I worked my way through the poorly expressed, spelled and 'grammared' posts to find this gem:

            "I think there is a difference between compensating artists for their work, which is obviously a good thing, and allowing them to keep our culture hostage. At a certain point art becomes bigger than the artist."

            Oh wow!

            1. FIA

              Re: @FuzzyWuzzys re. @for_exposure_txt

              "I think there is a difference between compensating artists for their work, which is obviously a good thing, and allowing them to keep our culture hostage. At a certain point art becomes bigger than the artist."

              Isn't that the point of copyright? (Before it got abused by people with money and lawyers...) Allow people to correctly profit from their work but not devalue culture overall.

              Amen brother.

            2. The Indomitable Gall

              Re: @FuzzyWuzzys re. @for_exposure_txt

              " At a certain point art becomes bigger than the artist. "

              In my case when a work measures more than 165cm in its largest dimension.

    3. Chrissy

      Who knows what we're allowed to photograph??

      "did the photographer have permission to photograph what is possibly a prescribed place under the official secrets act?"

      Where and what is a "proscribed place" (or more accurately "prohibited") is almost impossible for the "man on the Clapham omnibus" to now work out if even the Ministry of Justice don't have a clue:

      http://p10.hostingprod.com/@spyblog.org.uk/blog/foia/2008/09/current-prohibited-places-under-the-official-secrets-act-1911.html

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Who knows what we're allowed to photograph??

        If its a secret place you would imagine even the RAF would avoid putting a fucking great painted sign outside of it.

        Well not long ago you would have thought that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Who knows what we're allowed to photograph??

          That part of the country is littered with unmarked places that nobody talks about much - I've known a few people who worked in them and they were completely unable to say what they did and had to report everything that they did that might become known or detected by their superiors. Mostly I kept my mouth shut around them too - this was a long time ago, how long? Weed was 16 quid an ounce then.

      2. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: Who knows what we're allowed to photograph??

        In the case of an RAF base:

        "any work of defence, arsenal, naval or air force establishment or station, factory, dockyard, mine, minefield, camp, ship, or aircraft belonging to or occupied by or on behalf of His Majesty, or any telegraph, telephone, wireless or signal station, or office so belonging or occupied"

        Seems fairly obvious, even to a girl from Clapham.

        Or, more practically, there tends to be a sign outside.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Who knows what we're allowed to photograph??

          "any work of defence, arsenal, naval or air force establishment or station, factory, dockyard, mine, minefield, camp, ship, or aircraft belonging to or occupied by or on behalf of His Majesty, or any telegraph, telephone, wireless or signal station, or office so belonging or occupied"

          On the other hand, on a visit to an RAF base to do some work recently, I got there a little early so looked for somewhere to eat my sandwiches before going in. I parked in the specially created "viewing area" under the flight line just off the main public road which passes by.

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Who knows what we're allowed to photograph??

          Presumably somebody runs up and down in front of Buckingham Palace shouting "this is secret don't photograph it" then denying that it exists or that it is secret or there is any list of secret places.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not sure if it was this one, or possibly another "RAF" base elsewhere, but I was chatting to some ex-GCHQ staff, who found it hilarious that at one base the yanks had had enormous trouble with rabbits eating through their cables. "British bunnies munching American cables" was their reaction :)

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      rabbits eating through their cables

      [add poor russian or german accent, replace officer with common derogatory slang for americans] "There's on officer in charge who probably doesn't find Bugs Bunny as amusing any more"

    2. alain williams Silver badge

      What animal munching ?

      "British bunnies munching American cables"

      Your GCHQ friends did not quite tell you the truth, what munched the cables was not British bunnies but British moles.

  5. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
    Coat

    Pictures or it didn't.....

    ....sorry, as you were.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Pictures or it didn't.....

      but shurely there is no playmobil

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google Wak

    Being a provincial and not knowing Latin. I googled ipsos custodietting and got a single result pointing to this article. I'll be off. Both for not recognising ipsos custodiet and also for bothering to type this... There's probably grammatical errors to be ashamed about also.

    Bye.

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: Google Wak

      I think it's an attempt at being clever with "who watches the watchmen" in Latin. It might have been better to have tried translating an English phrase derived on it, instead of just mangling the Latin.

    2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: Google Wak

      "...custodietting ..."?

      I read that as my ideal snake-oil subject - Custard Dieting. Along with a nice free from something obscure jam roly poly ... new year's health resolution here we come!

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        Re: Google Wak

        ... and an ideal subject for any mites from Glut ...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When I were a lad.

    There was a 'secret' military listening post just out of town. It had the best conker trees along the outside of its perimeter. We used to sneak up and hide behind the trees when ever there came traffic to and from the base. The innocence of this, thinking no one had spotted us, brigs a smile to my face as I type.

    Also, more than once I was, asked directions to the secret air base. We gave them naturally.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When I were a lad.

      You were a good and useful part of the training regime providing light relief to the very bored security teams. Also you were much cheaper than using official pen testers.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: When I were a lad.

          In the early nineties I used to keep my horse next door to some Raytheon offices and labs, one day I saw a bunch of guys panting hardware in the ground along the fence line. I walked over to be most and asked what the gadgets were, One of the security guys told me they were hypersensitive geophones that could pick up anyone crossing the fence line or walking close to it.

          Needless to say after that we regularly galloped up and down the fence line to keep them amused.

  8. Pete 2

    snookered!

    Given the picture shows three balls in a row with another further up the "table", shouldn't they be coloured green brown and yellow (going L to R) with the one in the background being blue?

    C'mon yanks. Show a bit of cultural awareness.

    1. Pedigree-Pete
      Black Helicopters

      Re: snookered!

      @Pete2. I believe there's a spare "white" Golf ball available for sale near Kinross, Scotland if you have a spare mil£. PP

      http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/iconic-golf-ball-kinross-shire-8278076

  9. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    of copyright...

    The register are using the image in fair use plus they are citing the source of the image and giving credit for it (which is pretty much the entire article). So I think So reg is in the clear over this.

    1. Andy J

      Re: of copyright...

      Well since fair use is an American doctrine, and el Reg is nominally a UK-based site, that should be 'fair dealing'. Except that there is no fair dealing exception which would permit this sort of use. The copying of photographs for the purpose of reporting current events is strictly prohibited by section 30(2) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 [http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/48/section/30]

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Re: of copyright...

        Normally I'd agree but since the internet is ruled by Google and by proxy the Americans fair use seemed more apt. That or hand them a dmca takedown for shit and/or giggles

        1. Andy J

          Re: of copyright...

          I'm afraid you really don't understand how copyright liability works, do you? The putative owner of the copyright (the secretbases site) is based in the UK and so is the corporate base of the Register. Even if the piece had been written by one the Register's US based journalists, the fact that they have a UK trading presence still means the UK is the jurisdiction where the 'harm' occurs. Ergo, any action for infringement would need to be carried on in the UK courts and under UK law. That is not to suggest that the Register has in fact done anything wrong. They claim to have permission to use the image and if true, then there is no problem.

    2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: of copyright...

      Or they got a permission from the copyright owner. Sometimes it can be had for just asking nicely.

    3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: of copyright...

      Or, you know, RTFA

      "Picture supplied by Alan Turnbull of Secret-Bases.co.uk and used with permission"

      So they got permission to use it. No 'fair use' or similar exceptions needed.

  10. Snorlax Silver badge

    Reminds Me Of That Time...

    ...Mark Thomas flew a hot air balloon over Menwith Hill to piss off the Yanks.

    1. My Alter Ego

      Re: Reminds Me Of That Time...

      That video's great. I don't know how have I never heard of him up until now.

      1. Snorlax Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Reminds Me Of That Time...

        The Mark Thomas Comedy Product and Brass Eye were two great Channel 4 shows.

        I wonder what would happen if he tried the same stunt these days; he’d probably be shot out of the sky or locked up for terrorism offences.

      2. FIA

        Re: Reminds Me Of That Time...

        That video's great. I don't know how have I never heard of him up until now.

        If you can find it the programme where he got a load of sixth formers to set up an arms dealing business is well worth a watch too.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Reminds Me Of That Time...

      Brilliant!

  11. Commswonk Silver badge

    FYI...

    Croughton is formally designated as a Royal Air Force station to comply with various obscure laws about permanent foreign military bases on British soil...

    Are we to assume that you mean the Visiting Forces Act 1952? Being a cynic I suspect the words "obscure laws about permanent foreign military bases on British soil" were used to avoid having to take the trouble to find out the name of the act in question.

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      Re: FYI...

      Visiting Forces Act of 1952? When that visit began, Frank Sinatra was probably number one on the pop music charts! That was back when the NSA officially didn't exist and wags said that acro stood for "No Such Agency"!

      (Like "The Chairman", the NSA does it their way.)

  12. Alister Silver badge

    thieving gits

    A mate of mine had a similar experience with Transport For London, who, in their online documentation for the London Exclusion Zone, nicked a photograph of his to illustrate a type of vehicle that was not compliant.

    The photograph, which was taken by him of his own vehicle, was published on his own website which was for enthusiasts of that type of car. Under every image on his site there was a copyright notice, but sadly he didn't watermark the image.

    TfL didn't even bother hosting the image themselves, they just linked to my mate's server, which is how he found out about it - he noticed a sudden increase in traffic to the site.

    When he contacted TfL to get them to stop, they claimed they had tried to find the copyright owner before using the image, but couldn't. Clearly bollox.

    He said afterwards that he regretted the missed opportunity of replacing the image with one of the same filename, but different content...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: thieving gits

      "He said afterwards that he regretted the missed opportunity of replacing the image with one of the same filename, but different content..."

      Or of getting an income from advertising. Perhaps Uber would have paid him for an ad.

    2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: "Tried to find"

      Seems to often be "put a post it note on someone else's desk, that got lost, and forgot about".

    3. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: thieving gits

      He said afterwards that he regretted the missed opportunity of replacing the image with one of the same filename, but different content...

      That's what I would have done. I did once find someone who had done just that. There was a risqué picture on an otherwise very uninteresting website and the caption didn't fit the image. When I checked the website that was hosting the picture it turned out to belong to a photographer. He'd replaced the image after learning that someone was using it without permission. The description beneath it explained why the risqué pic was there.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: thieving gits

      "He said afterwards that he regretted the missed opportunity of replacing the image with one of the same filename, but different content..."

      I've had links to images on my site too and I did exactly that. I have no idea if the persons responsible or their site visitors were amused or not.

  13. Salestard

    Sekrit base is not sekrit, comrade.

    Soooo, this super secret base...

    Opened 'Maps' on my Lumia 950

    Typed in RAF Croughton

    Searched returned: 'RAF Croughton (United States Air Force)', along with a pin on the map, directions, and an estimated journey time of 2hrs and 1min.

    I eagerly await my offer letter from and/or detention by MI6

    1. Snorlax Silver badge

      Re: Sekrit base is not sekrit, comrade.

      @Salestard:Soooo, this super secret base...

      In a past life I lived near Faslane sub base, back in the days when it was blurred out of Google Earth.

      The story used to go that Russian spies could keep tabs on the comings and goings of subs by hanging out at the picnic area on the A817 which overlooked the base: https://goo.gl/maps/u1seNhNZ2cK2

  14. AndrueC Silver badge
    Joke

    I live a couple of miles away and used to drive past it on my commute. I still drive past once or a twice a month on the way to golf. There's a flock of sheep graze in the grounds. But I'm not worried. I'm sure they've all been thoroughly vetted.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Coat

      There's a flock of sheep graze in the grounds.

      It's not the gormless sheep that they worry about around there - it's the cagey bee.

  15. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    There's a flock of sheep graze in the grounds.

    The sub base will know if they've got intruders... The sheep will no longer be in the field, they will all be following the intruder... bah haha

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The domes look rusty!

    The place look's out of date and the domes are rusty and it looks jolly well unmaintained. Good ole england, glad to see our secret bases still stick out to every tom dick and harry, like a sore thumb!

    Good to know our Government is doing all it can to stem the rise of "Communism" considering so many of the poor where left embracing it, when it became common knowledge to chat, freely and openly about illegal wiretaps and there personal choice of which "Computer Operating System."

    Never a good idea to pick a fight with the Free Ones!

    They spank you, there was a Reason they called it the Computer "Revolution!"

  17. Blofeld's Cat
    Facepalm

    Nothing to see here ...

    In the mid 90s a colleague of mine was sent to repair some storm-damaged power lines which fed a TV repeater on the top of a hill.

    There were several other installations on this particular ridge, none of which officially existed. These installations did not appear on Ordnance Survey maps except as empty fields and suddenly truncated roads.

    His job sheet was however accompanied by a photocopy of a small, but detailed map showing all the installations and their associated power lines, lettered in Cyrillic script.

    It turned out that this map, which dated from the height of the Cold War, had been bought from a Moscow bookshop by an engineer who happened to be there for a conference.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nothing to see here ...

      Back when I had a security clearance we were half-jokingly told we couldn't read Pravda or listen to Radio Moscow because we might learn something about our own work that we weren't cleared to know !

  18. kmac499

    Croughton Local..

    Yeah I live close by as well..

    They used to have "gate guardians" by the main gate. I think one was a Voodoo and the other was a Sabre, in typical US style they weren't on their wheels on the ground but mounted like airfix toys on small pylons very dynamic. They've gone now and I don't know if they'll be replaced.

    Two of the old brown radomes had aircraft lights on top which was great at Xmas, cos they looked like giant Xmas puds.

    When they built a new white one it was a geodesic panel job, and they left the top open with a jagged rim, and just lifted the last few segment in one go by crane. So for a while it looked like a giants hard boiled egg.

  19. Tweetiepooh

    With these bases unless there is risk to flyover (actual risk to work, transport, sensitive information) why bother enforcing a no-fly. That just indicates there is something "going on" and attracts attention.

    A collection of domes in a field with some supporting infrastructure is hard to hide from physical view and not preventing flyovers really isn't compromising things. I'm sure they'd be aware of the difference between some hot air balloons occasionally passing over and repeated intrusions of a more suspicious nature.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HLM Architects - Serial Offenders

    It seems Alan Turnbull at Secret-Bases.co.uk has established that HLM Architects are serial offenders.

    They have stolen another RAF Croughton aerial pic off a specialist pilot/photographer Damien Dyer of Air Frame Photography @theflyinggopro (Twitter) for the very same US DoD planning application document.

    See his Flickr stream https://www.flickr.com/photos/tupperware_pilot/2808304855

    Turnbull has the write-up in his updated article.

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