Monday, December 19, 2005

Spying spying everywhere 

A great row in the USA over security service eavesdropping on US citizens. We are quite closely entangled with this in the UK, however. The current US dismay is about spying on US citizens when they are in the USA, using long-established mass surveillance technologies. US citizens abroad like foreigners have been subject to this surveillance for decades…
The UK is a vital part of this global US operation. The electronic eavesdropping stations based in Britain at GCHQ Cheltenham, at Morwenstowe in Cornwall and at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire collect phone calls, electronic mail messages and possibly now mobile messages and texts and use data mining techniques to sift through this. Look at the web for discussions of the ECHELON surveillance system.

This provide intelligence that is routinely shared with US agencies. In return UK intelligence services get a lot of intelligence data passed on from other US sources. This actually gives the UK a LOT more world intelligence coverage than it could pay for itself.

Going right back to the Bletchley Park days in WWII there have been very close relationships between Britain's Secret Intelligence Services and US Services. There are for example regular staff exchanges between services like the UK’s GCHQ and the US National Intelligence Service. Key UK intelligence staff in short spend a significant part of their careers working in US installations under US security clearances and supervision. As to how I know this for a fact I can't tell you so you will have to accept or reject this statement as it is presented here as you see fit. (But I am NOT a former or actual intelligence operative!).

The corollary is that the UK itself is vulnerable to potential blackmail from the US under threat of losing this unique boost to our world status and profile. As well as this, there is a capacity for the US to get commercially confidential information and accumulate information on political individuals in the UK which may or may not be abused if such a capacity does exist.

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