Sir Jeremy Heywood, cabinet secretary to David Cameron also leads the UK’s civil service. He wields immense power and exercises it routinely in defence of the government and in furtherance of his own agenda.
Edward Snowden worked for the NSA for a time but became disillusioned with the service viewing it’s policies to be counter productive, invasive and illegal. He gathered sensitive information, disappeared from his office then surfaced in Hong Kong where he leaked copious amounts of information to, “the Guardian” newspaper who in turn released much of it to the UK public.
Needless to say the proverbial, “s–t hit the fan” and there followed many months of accusations, denials, warnings, threats and government interference which, at the time of writing is still on-going. Sir Jeremy featured at the UK end taking action against the Guardian designed to bring to an end, (without success) to the revelations of Snowden who subsequently took refuge in Russia.
There is a large amount of press coverage and I have gathered a selection of relevant writings for study, over some time. The content is disturbing but truly reflects the activities of the US and UK government’s secret services.
June 3 2013: British spy agency collects and stores vast quantities of global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls, and shares them with NSA, latest documents from Edward Snowden reveal
June 6 2013: NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily – Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama
June 7 2013: UK security agency GCHQ gaining information from world’s biggest internet firms through US-run Prism programme
June 7 2013: Obama orders US to draw up overseas target list for cyber-attacks – Top-secret directive steps up offensive cyber capabilities to ‘advance US objectives around the world’
June 8 2013: Barack Obama defends US government programs that have reportedly conducted surveillance of people’s personal phone and internet activity. Federal authorities have allegedly been mining data from companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook to gain access to emails, photos and other files allowing analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts. The US president insists the surveillance programmes strike a good balance between safety and privacy
June 9 2013: Edward Snowden. “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things” – video interview
June 9 2013: Data snooping: The foreign secretary, William Hague, says reports that GCHQ are gathering intelligence from phones and online sites should not concern people who have nothing to hide. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Hague claims all intelligence gathering done by the UK is governed by a strong legal framework. When asked directly about the UK’s links to Prism, the NSA’s secret surveillance programme, Hague declined to either confirm or deny it existed.
10 June 2013: Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations – The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows
June 11 2013: The NSA’s secret tool to track global surveillance data – NSA’s powerful tool for cataloging global surveillance data–including figures on US collection
June 11 2013: Edward Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills: At the moment I feel alone, her blog – in which she described life with her boyfriend on Hawaii was taken down after Snowden identified as source of leaks
June 17 2013: Phones were monitored and fake internet cafes set up to gather information from allies in London in 2009
June 21 2013: British spy agency collects and stores vast quantities of global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls, and shares them with NSA, latest documents from Edward Snowden reveal
July 8 2013: Edward Snowden. ‘The US government will say I aided our enemies’ – video interview
August 1 2013: Secret payments revealed in leaks by Edward Snowden • GCHQ expected to ‘pull its weight’ for Americans • Weaker regulation of British spies ‘a selling point’ for NSA
September 6 2013: NSA and GCHQ unlock encryption used to protect emails, banking and medical records • $250m-a-year US program works covertly with tech companies to insert weaknesses into products • Security experts say programs ‘undermine the fabric of the internet’
October 25 2013: Did Conservative MP Julian Smith endanger national security? Politician who claims Guardian endangered lives with NSA spying leaks shows photo of staff at high-security base in UK
October 25 2013: Leaked memos reveal GCHQ efforts to keep mass surveillance secret. Exclusive: Edward Snowden papers show UK spy agency fears legal challenge if scale of surveillance is made public
October 25 2013: The NSA scandal puts Europe to the test. EU member states have a duty to protect their citizens from snooping. There is surely more to come
October 25 2013: NSA monitored calls of 35 world leaders after US official handed over contacts • Agency given more than 200 numbers by government official • NSA encourages departments to share their ‘Rolodexes’ • Surveillance produced ‘little intelligence’, memo acknowledges
28 October 2013: David Cameron makes veiled threat to media over NSA and GCHQ leaks. Prime minister alludes to courts and D notices and singles out the Guardian over coverage of Edward Snowden saga
December 19 2013: In the US, the official response to Snowden’s revelations celebrates journalism and calls for real change. But in Britain, the picture is rather different
What a relief. It is, after all, possible to discuss the operations of modern intelligence agencies without having to prove one’s patriotism, be turned over by the police, summoned by politicians or visited by state-employed technicians with instructions to smash up one’s computers. The 300-page report into the Guardian’s revelations about the US National Security Agency commissioned by President Obama and published this week is wide-ranging, informed and thoughtful. It leaps beyond the timid privacy-versus-national security platitudes which have stifled so much of the debate in the UK. It doesn’t blame journalism for dragging the subject into the open it celebrates it. The five authors of the report are not hand-wringing liberals. They number one former CIA deputy director; a counter-terrorism adviser to George W Bush and his father; two former White House advisers; and a former dean of the Chicago law school. Not what the British prime minister would call “airy-fairy lah-di-dah” types.
Six months ago the British cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, was in the Guardian’s London office telling us there had been, “enough” debate on the matter of what intelligence agencies got up to. But here are Obama’s experts reveling in the debate; exploring the tensions between privacy and national security, yes – but going much further, discussing cryptology; civil liberties; the right of citizens and governments to be informed; relationships with other countries; and the potential damage that unconstrained espionage can cause to trade, commerce and the digital economy.
December 24 2013: The NSA, founded in 1952, is the USA’s signals intelligence agency, and the biggest of the country’s myriad intelligence organisations. It has a strict focus on overseas, rather than domestic, surveillance. It is the phone and internet interception specialist of the USA, and is also responsible for codebreaking.
December 26 2013: Israeli PM condemns US and UK spying on predecessor as ‘unacceptable’
December 29 2013: NSA ‘hacking unit’ infiltrates computers around the world • NSA: Tailored Access Operations a ‘unique national asset’• Former NSA chief calls Edward Snowden a ‘traitor’
December 31 2013: President Obama claims the NSA has never abused its authority. That’s false. The facts that we know so far – from Fisa court documents to LOVEINT – show that the NSA has overstepped its powers
Comment CaptCrash: The NSA failed to prevent the bombing at the Boston marathon, or a massive leak of it’s secrets to newspapers, but surveillance has managed to identify households buying baggage and cooking utensils in the same week. The sweep of all personal data clearly cannot be analysed without hindsight of previous methods of terror, each method made redundant, necessitating new actions and language. It’s Stasi style of creepy, subversive to democratic and economic change, free speech and international diplomacy, and paid for by the citizens who are subjected to such snooping. We can hold different opinions of whether it is the right thing to do, but it is probably more dangerous than effective, which is exactly why East Germany fell. That is to say, the economy didn’t work for the majority, and the powers that were thought that mass surveillance and spying would control dissent. For a while it certainly did.
January 5 2014: The left is too silent on the clunking fist of state power. Government’s role is vital, but an arrogant and centralised state is as big a problem as the out-of-control market
January 31 2014: Footage released of Guardian editors destroying Snowden hard drives – GCHQ technicians watched as journalists took angle grinders and drills to computers after weeks of tense negotiations – In two tense meetings last June and July the cabinet secretary, Jeremy Heywood, explicitly warned the Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, to return the Snowden documents. Heywood, sent personally by David Cameron, told the editor to stop publishing articles based on leaked material from American’s National Security Agency and GCHQ. At one point Heywood said: “We can do this nicely or we can go to law”. He added: “A lot of people in government think you should be closed down.”
February 27 2014: Snowden leaks. MPs summon security services watchdog. Sir Mark Waller, intelligence services commissioner, has repeatedly refused to address home affairs select committee
A security services watchdog, Sir Mark Waller, has been summoned to appear before MPs after he repeatedly refused to appear to answer their questions over the Edward Snowden leaks and other counter-terrorism issues. Waller, who is the intelligence services commissioner, refused to appear before the Commons home affairs select committee in a rare clash over the parliamentary accountability of Britain’s intelligence agencies. The summons was issued at midday on Thursday and is a rare move by a parliamentary committee which has the power to send for people and papers. The order to appear on 18 March was approved without a vote on the committee.
Waller is one of two former senior judges charged with the oversight of the security services, including MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, which have been at the centre of disclosures over the US National Security Agency’s mass digital surveillance programmes. The other retired judge, Sir Anthony May, is responsible specifically for oversight of the interception capabilities of the security services. He told the committee earlier that the 570,000 requests a year for communications data by public authorities was, “possibly too large”.
Keith Vaz, the chairman of the committee, said, “The intelligence services commissioner plays a vital role in keeping under review the way in which the home secretary and the intelligence services use the powers which they have been granted by parliament. This function was conferred on the commissioner by act of parliament, and Sir Mark must be accountable to parliament for the way in which he carries them out. “Both the information commissioner and the interception of communications commissioner have accepted invitations to give evidence to the committee in the last few weeks. We do not see why the intelligence services commissioner should be any different and the committee was disappointed by his refusal to attend. “Sir Mark has referred us to his published report. While information in this report is useful to the committee, effective parliamentary scrutiny requires the opportunity to ask questions and receive full answers. “We have therefore taken the unusual step of summoning Sir Mark. This happens only very rarely, where an essential witness declines to appear in response to an invitation. Indeed, it is the only time that this committee has summoned a witness in this parliament,” he said. The clash comes a fortnight after the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, called for a major overhaul of the oversight of Britain’s intelligence services, including reform of the commissioners’ roles as part of his campaign against, “unaccountable power”.
February 28 2014: Optic Nerve: millions of Yahoo webcam images intercepted by GCHQ
Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal. GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not. In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally. Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of, “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy”. GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans’ images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant.
February 28 2014: Senators to investigate NSA role in GCHQ ‘Optic Nerve’ webcam spying. UK spy agency’s ‘breathtaking lack of respect’ over interception of Yahoo users’ webcam images
Three US senators are planning to investigate any role the National Security Agency played in its British partner’s mass collection of Yahoo webcam images. Reacting to the Guardian’s revelation on Thursday that UK surveillance agency GCHQ swept up millions of Yahoo users’ webcam chats, senators Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Martin Heinrich said in a joint statement that “any involvement of US agencies in the alleged activities reported today will need to be closely scrutinized”. The senators described the interception as a “breathtaking lack of respect for privacy and civil liberties”.
On Friday, the Internet Association – a trade body representing internet giants including Google, Amazon, eBay, Netflix, AOL and Twitter – joined the chorus of condemnation, issuing a statement expressing alarm at the latest GCHQ revelations, and calling for reform. According to documents provided to the Guardian by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the GCHQ program codenamed Optic Nerve fed screengrabs of webcam chats and associated metadata into NSA tools such as Xkeyscore. NSA research, the documents indicate, also contributed to the creation of Optic Nerve, which attempted to use facial recognition technology to identify intelligence targets, particularly those using multiple anonymous internet IDs.
President Barack Obama said in a 17 January speech that foreigners ought to enjoy some degree of privacy from US surveillance, but has left the specifics undefined. In a statement, the Internet Association’s CEO Michael Beckerman said, “Today’s revelations, about British intelligence practices, are alarming and reaffirm the need for greater transparency and reform of government surveillance. Governments must immediately act to reform the practices and laws regulating surveillance and collection of Internet users’ information. The most pressing Internet user privacy issue continues to concern governments’ access to and use of electronic data. The Internet Association supports the Reform Government Surveillance principles and encourages legislation to limit governments’ authority to collect users’ information and increase transparency about government demands”.
March 2 2014: Labour to overhaul spy agency controls in response to Snowden files
Labour will on Monday propose substantial changes to the oversight of the British intelligence agencies, including the legal framework under which they operate, in response to the revelations emerging from files leaked by Edward Snowden. The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, is preparing to argue that the current arrangements are unsustainable for the government, and that it is damaging to trust in the agencies if ministers continue to hide their heads in the sand. In a speech that represents Labour’s most serious intervention since the controversy about the scale of state surveillance broke last summer, she will say: “The oversight and legal frameworks are now out of date. In particular that means we need major reforms to oversight and a thorough review of the legal framework to keep up with changing technology.
Cooper will also argue the government needs to conduct a full review of Ripa, which governs interception regulation, including whether the new forms of communication have dissolved the once clear distinction between content and communications data – especially given the information agencies and private companies such as Facebook can gather on the pattern of visited websites.
Cooper’s speech criticizes the response to Snowden by the intelligence and security committee, a group of MPs appointed by the prime minister and currently chaired by former Tory foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, arguing it simply has not had the capacity or resources for a full inquiry into the revelations. The committee’s legitimacy would be strengthened, she adds, if it were always chaired by an MP from an opposition party, so it is not viewed as an extension of the government.
Comment: jimpson. It would be encouraging to hear that Labour would review the limitations on our surveillance state. However, on the basis of the actions of the last Labour administration I have no faith, or trust, that they will put any transparent or effective oversight into how any of our security services operate. The commissioners these are establishment characters who are there to provide a figleaf of legitimacy. As for her claim that Snowden has seriously damaged national security this is just the same nonsense pushed out by the agencies who have been caught spying on all of us. Unfortunately unlike the US we have no constitution that protects us from the overweaning power of the state.
Comment: lilstevey. Further debate” is political speech meaning “do nothing while producing the impression of doing something”. Remember, the current Labour is headed by the same New Labour people who were there in the previous government doing most of the work of turning Britain into a police state, with widespread surveillance and arbitrary, authoritarian powers. Both in that regards and in regards to being strong supporters of tax-evading corporates and the very wealthy, the New Labourites are the same kind of scum as the Tories.
August 7 2014: Edward Snowden given permission to stay in Russia – video interview
October 17 2014: Edward Snowden on GCHQ, Facebook and his new life in Moscow – video
October 19 2014: Citizenfour review – Edward Snowden documentary is utterly engrossing – Laura Poitras’s documentary follows Edward Snowden as his leaks about the activities of the NSA shock the world
October 29 2014: GCHQ views data with no warrant, government admits. GCHQ’s secret, “arrangements” for accessing bulk material revealed in documents submitted to UK surveillance watchdog
British intelligence services can access raw material collected in bulk by the NSA and other foreign spy agencies without a warrant, the government has confirmed for the first time. GCHQ’s secret “arrangements” for accessing bulk material are revealed in documents submitted to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the UK surveillance watchdog, in response to a joint legal challenge by Privacy International, Liberty and Amnesty International. The legal action was launched in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations published by the Guardian and other news organisations last year.
Last week, the foreign secretary, Phillip Hammond, told parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee he expected that ministers who signed surveillance warrants would likely have to justify themselves in front of a public inquiry at some point in the future. “I’m sure I can speak for all of my colleague who sign warrants that we all have, in the back of our minds, that at some point in the future we will – not might be, but will – be appearing before some inquiry or tribunal or court accounting for the decisions that we’ve made and essentially accounting for the way we’ve applied the proportionality and necessity tests,” he said. Hammond was also criticised for some of his answers to the committee, with experts suggesting the foreign secretary appeared not to understand the legal framework for the warrants he was signing, following a mischaracterisation of which types of communication would or would not require individual warrants.
STEb1 commented. Much as I expected, the so called Snooper’s Charter was simply meant to legitimize what was already happening. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draft_Communications_Data_Bill
This would essentially appear to indicate that we have a government that only pretends to believe in the rule of law. That they just see the law as a means to an end and have no real respect for it. Of course we the public were never meant to know about this. If the Guardian had never broken the story the government would undoubtedly be still pretending that this was only going to start when the legislation was passed. This is unbelievably knowingly cynical and sneaky. Yet we are supposed to live in a democracy. Exactly what is this supposed to be protecting? It most definitely is not protecting democracy or the rule of law, because it’s just driven a coach and horses through it. I actually feel frightened making this comment, because clearly these people have no respect for free speech or any principles they espouse. It’s just what they can get away with.