Evidence of how GCHQ extremist surveillance spawned culture of encryption

Robert Hannigan.

Robert Hannigan

Today, Robert Hannigan, the new head of the UK spy agency GCHQ, penned an opinion piece in the Financial Times arguing that by introducing encryption to their facilities social media organisations are by default providing support to terrorists. This encryption technology is a response to the public backlash to the revelations made by Edward Snowdon against GCHQ and its partners. However, not only is such encryption technology being bypassed by GCHQ and its partners – see examples below – but, ironically, it is the decades of extremist surveillance practised by these spy organisations against ordinary politically-aware individuals and civil libertarian organisations that has spawned and encouraged this culture of encryption.

Of course there would have been less or even nil demand for encryption tools such as Tor, Tails, VPNs, PGP, etc had journalists and political protesters not been concerned at the way spy agencies are operating, conducting illegal monitoring and McCarthy-style surveillance. As such, it was inevitable that these tools would eventually be adopted by not just criminal organisations, sex-traffickers and paedophiles, but also organisations and individuals deemed as terrorist. Consequently Hanningan’s argument is disingenuous as he ignores completely the blame that GCHQ and the other spy agencies must accept in creating this state of fear.

As for the so-called debate on privacy vs surveillance that Hannigan is keen to engage in, had it not been for the revelations of Edward Snowden, whom Hannigan and his colleagues so demonize, then GCHQ and the NSA would have merrily continued its total surveillance activities ad infinitum, hoping the public would never know the extent of this gross misuse of their respective mandates.

Nor is it a coincidence that Hannigan’s opinion piece is published at a time when the Bureau of Investigative Journalism is pursuing GCHQ through the European courts.

Here are just five examples from scores of how GCHQ is deploying blanket surveillance technology…

1. How GCHQ deploys psyops via its dirty tricks unit, the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group. See also a slide show presentation by GCHQ on these ops. Here is an analysis.

2. How GCHQ gains warrentless access to bulk NSA data. Eric King, Deputy Director of Privacy International, comments… “We now know that data from any call, internet search, or website you visited over the past two years could be stored in GCHQ’s database and analysed at will, all without a warrant to collect it in the first place. It is outrageous that the Government thinks mass surveillance, justified by secret “arrangements” that allow for vast and unrestrained receipt and analysis of foreign intelligence material is lawful. This is completely unacceptable, and makes clear how little transparency and accountability exists within the British intelligence community.”

3. How the Snowden documents revealed the existence of Tempora, a program established in 2011 by GCHQ that gathers masses of phone and internet traffic by tapping into fiber-optic cables. GCHQ shares most of its information with the NSA.

4. How GCHQ (and NSA) gets backdoor information from Apple and Google.

5. How GCHQ uses mobile phone intercepts (from an internal GCHQ doc).

See also: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/03/privacy-gchq-spying-robert-hannigan

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