PRISM and GCHQ: Why wouldn’t you expect your government to spy on you?

gchq-logoThe mainstream media reports of the close relationship between GCHQ in the UK and the PRISM system in the USA shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has had their eyes open for at least the last 30 years.

According to the press reports, there seems to be shock and outrage that government agencies are spying on their own citizens, mining and filtering enormous amounts of data from the internet to identify ‘threats’.

Even before computers became advanced enough to make such tasks a whole lot easier, security agencies spied on their own citizens. The difference between now and then is that ‘in the old days’ there was not the manpower or technology to complete these tasks easily and efficiently.

Circumventing legal restrictions is also something that is not new to the spying game.

In the 1970s in the UK, telecommunications regulations stated that where there was monitoring of telephone conversations, an engineer from the national service provider (Post Office Telecommunications at that time) had to be present on the premises.

To get around this, the security services established anonymous ‘listening stations’ around the country, often housed in grey and indistinct buildings. Within these buildings there would be a monitoring section where only those with a high enough security clearance would be admitted, and another section where the telecom engineer would spend their days watching television, eating, reading, and so on. The engineer was never admitted to the monitoring section.

This arrangement complied with legislation, even though it was against the ‘spirit’ of the original aims of the legislators. If this was happening in the relatively low-tech world of the 1970s, then you can be sure that as technology has developed, the tactics used to get around legislative requirements will have become more sophisticated to keep up.

Governments are well aware of the activities of their security agencies. The only thing the decision makers are concerned about is that they have plausible deniability when the actions of the security services are discovered and enter the public domain and are able to hide behind a structure of committees and legislation.

For the current UK government to deny any knowledge of the arrangement between GCHQ and the US security services is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. They are well aware of what their agencies are doing on a daily basis, and aware of the sources of information they use to make decisions.

As Prime Minister, Cameron receives extensive reports from the Intelligence and Security Committee, which examines the policy, administration, and expenditure of the three UK intelligence services (Security Service (MI5), Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), and GCHQ). Cameron will have appointed members of the committee in-line with the procedures set out in the Intelligence Services Act 1994 and its associated regulations.

The Intelligence and Security Committee also oversees the Joint Intelligence Committee which is responsible for the activities of the UK’s intelligence services and regularly reporting to the government cabinet.

As Home Secretary, Theresa May will be kept well informed about the activities of the three security agencies, and it is part of her duties to know the source and reliability of intelligence information – she will be fully briefed.

GCHQ is stating that it is operating within a strict legal and policy framework in using the PRISM system to access information, and it most likely is. With the amount of data GCHQ processes, the systems in place will have been approved at the highest level because of the sensitive nature of filtering the personal data of hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people. Those in charge of GCHQ would not make decisions concerning the use of the PRISM system without it first being approved by a higher authority – that is the way the bureaucratic machine works in the UK’s civil service.

According to the Guardian newspaper, it has obtained documents that show GCHQ has had access to the PRISM system since at least June 2010.

The current UK government under Cameron has been in power since May 2010.

Another government policy which lends suspicion to their knowledge of the PRISM system is the continual insistence by Theresa May that the Draft Communications Data Bill (otherwise known as the ‘snooper’s charter’) should be implemented to allow the collection and storage of digital data on citizens of the UK.

Grey areas within the bill which have caused concerns with privacy and civil liberties campaigners (as well as the Liberal Democrat element of the coalition government) would allow for the security services to use the facilities of the PRISM system.

We have also seen a dramatic rise in mainstream media reports where more control of the internet is called for in the wake of the disappearance/murder of April Jones and the murder of Lee Rigby.

These reports are no doubt propaganda sourced from government and implemented through a network of controlled media contacts (as the government did during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq), in an attempt to gain public support for introducing the highly suspect legislation to justify the government’s surveillance activities – something the public would not accept under normal circumstances.

The evidence is very clear. The UK and US governments are trying to enable the surveillance of every citizen so they can identify threats to their own interests and administrations, and take pre-emptive action.

This kind of surveillance has never been about the protection of the country or the people. It has always been about governments protecting themselves.

If we take a brief look at fairly recent history, MI5 is known to have attempted infiltration (and been successful in some cases) of any organisations the government sees as a threat. This has included workers unions, environmental groups, animal rights groups, political organisations, and so on. They have also spied on their own members of parliament without any justifiable threat to the British people being established. Nothing to do with the security of the people and all about governments protecting their own interests.

Information about our governments dubious use of the security services has been in the public domain (even through mainstream media) for decades – so why the apparent shock at the arrangement between GCHQ and the PRISM system now?

The Big Brother surveillance and control state has been gradually creeping up on us for a very long time. Those in power have manipulated, deceived, and created situation after situation that have gradually eroded civil liberties and freedom.

In the age of fast, international communication they are desperate to control information that comes into the public domain and which threatens to reveal the truth of their corrupt activities.

Their actions have nothing to do with preventing terrorism – most of which they are responsible for anyway.

Their actions have nothing to do with protecting morality – most of them being the most psychopathic and depraved creatures on the planet.

Information about terrorism and pornographic material does not suddenly pop onto every computer screen in the world as soon as we start using the internet. In either case, it is necessary to go and look for that kind of material.

There is plenty of information and software available for people to make their own choices about what they access and what they stop their children from seeing or hearing. In the modern age, there is no excuse for people denying their own responsibility in controlling what comes into their homes.

So using terrorism and pornography as reasons to place further restrictions on the activities of citizens is nothing more than further manipulation and propaganda.

Gathering and filtering massive amounts of information using the excuse of protecting national security is also the stuff of fairy tales.

Security services (in the UK at least) already have extensive powers to monitor someone’s data activity – they just have to follow a few procedures and safeguards designed to protect the average citizen from intrusive government snooping.

No my friends – this is about collecting massive amounts of data and creating a profile for every citizen which can be used by commerce and the government to victimise and abuse the less fortunate in society – that is the reason – that is the objective.

George Orwell’s vision of 1984 is rapidly descending on us, and we need to take action to stop it before it is too late.

Follow @martynjsymons

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