icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm
3 Jul, 2013 12:53

GCHQ's PRISM betrays wartime code breaking heroes

GCHQ's PRISM betrays wartime code breaking heroes

Four days before the 9/11 attacks the UK's Independent newspaper published an article under the headline: 'MI5 offers to spy for private firms'.

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.

RAF Menwith Hill base, which provides communications and intelligence support services to the United Kingdom and the U.S. is pictured near Harrogate, northern England (Reuters)

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 of cash. 

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 and faces. 

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 people. 

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." 

British Foreign Secretary William Hague (AFP Photo)

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.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.