GCHQ's PRISM betrays wartime code breaking heroes
Journalist Steve Boggan had gate-crashed 'Secret Work in an
Open Society', an invite only gathering organized by MI5's
then Director General Stephen Lander. Britain's domestic security
service, he found, was quietly offering to sell secrets to
companies such as Rolls-Royce, BP, Ernst & Young, arms firm
BAe Systems and to a bank since proven to be a multi-billion
dollar money launderer HSBC.
Two decades before, in 1978, MI5's 'sister' signals
intelligence center GCHQ, now caught up in the PRISM storm, was
considered so secret that investigative journalists faced long
jail sentences at the 'ABC trial' for simply publishing
its name and discussing its existence. The ABC trial illustrated
to an incredulous nation that the mainstream press was part of
the problem, shielding the intelligence services from legitimate
public and political scrutiny.
London's alternative press alone, listings magazine Time Out, printed the truth. Only once the ABC journalists exposed establishment jury fixing and got off with a slapped wrist did the broadsheet newspapers find their courage and the penny dropped, they had a job to do.
GCHQ's cryptographers and translators are the descendants of Bletchley Park's famous World War Two code breakers. In a converted country house, fifty miles North of London, they arguably did more with their 'Ultra' decrypts than anyone in allied intelligence to enable the allies to blunt the element of surprise of Nazi attacks.
After World War Two in 1946 the 'UK/USA' intelligence sharing agreement was signed and generations of agreements culminated in the 1990s with keyword searching system 'Echelon'. Echelon was revealed by those on the inside who could see these 'agreements' being routinely being abused by the spooks.
So how did Echelon fit in with the legal obligation to get warrants for surveillance? The spooks found ways around the law. GCHQ is not allowed to spy on Brits nor the NSA on Americans, so the agencies simply spied on each other's citizens and handed the intel over outside the target country. Thus the two agencies have been outside the law for decades.
So back at MI5's secret info-auction, what exactly did Stephen
Lander mean by his 'open society'?. 'Open' not to
the public who pay his wages but to anyone with big enough bags
Steve Boggan's revelation received virtually no follow-up press because it re-opened a can of worms considered too indigestible in London's newsrooms. The creeping privatisation of MI5 was in progress, and who dared to contemplate where that might lead? Lander failed to recognise that the NATO powers can only rely on their spooks keeping mum if they stay on the angels' side of right and wrong, and he had crossed the line.
So Big Brother's magic box George Orwell warned of in our popular
culture now has a name: PRISM. It's not just 'Johnny
Foreigner' any more who is the 'enemy'. Conflicts are
not just about distant countries with easily forgettable names
Like Lander, GCHQ's once world-renowned spooks crossed the
Rubicon by allowing every man woman and child in Britain to
become a potential enemy. Cozying up to private corporate
interests, they compound this betrayal becoming a victim of a
hostile relationship they have imposed, an enemy of the
They have turned the great British legal principle: 'Innocent
until proven guilty', on its head. A 'guilty' public are dragged
back to the stone age as Foreign Secretary William Hague rattles
out: "In both our countries [UK & USA] intelligence work
takes place within a strong legal framework.""We operate
under the rule of law and are accountable for it."
Neither is true. The 'legal framework' is decades behind
2013's Signals Intelligence technology and neither the legally
required Home Secretary or High Court Judges' permission is being
properly sought in PRISM's mass data trawls.
"What you don't know about can't hurt you" goes the old saying, but it leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of blacklisted trades unionists, decimated small-business victims of banks or corporate espionage and with pubic figures brought down by anonymous tip-offs.
Edward Snowden has revealed a monstrous tip of an unaccountable
iceberg that can blacken the name of anyone and anything. But he
has also proved those who recoil from the corruption of the dark
actors up the spooks' chain of command can listen to their
conscience, take a deep breath, and tell the world.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.