The late Sir Jeremy Heywood was the cabinet secretary to David Cameron and leader of the UK’s civil service. He wielded immense power and used it in defence of the UK government and in furthering his own agenda.
Edward Snowden worked for the US National Security Agency (NSA) but became disillusioned with it considering its policies counterproductive, invasive and illegal.
He gathered together sensitive information and disappeared from his office surfacing first in Hong Kong where he leaked copious amounts of information to the “Guardian” newspaper who released much of it to the UK public.
The “sh-t hit the fan” and there were many accusations, denials, warnings, threats and government pursuit mainly featuring Heywood and his actions against the Guardian which were designed to bring an end to the revelations of Snowden who subsequently took refuge in Russia.
There was considerable press coverage and some of the content is disturbing but is a true reflection of the activities of the US and UK government’s secret services.
3 Jun 2013: latest documents from Edward Snowden revealed British spy agency collected and stored vast quantities of global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls, and shared them with the NSA. (https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jun/21/gchq-cables-secret-world-communications-nsa)
6 Jun 2013: NSA collected phone records of millions of Verizon customers. Top secret court order required Verizon to hand over all call data showing the scale of domestic surveillance under Obama.
7 Jun 2013: UK security agency GCHQ gathered information from the world’s biggest internet firms through the US-run Prism programme. (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jun/07/uk-gathering-secret-intelligence-nsa-prism)
7 Jun 2013: Top-secret directive stepped up offensive cyber capabilities to advance US objectives around the world. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/07/obama-china-targets-cyber-overseas)
8 Jun 2013: Authorities in the US have been mining data from companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook gaining access to emails, photos and other files allowing analysts to track peoples movements and contacts. The US president insisted the surveillance programmes struck a good balance between safety and privacy. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2013/jun/08/obama-internet-surveillance-video)
9 Jun 2013: Edward Snowden. “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things” – video interview.
9 Jun 2013: Then foreign secretary, William Hague, said reports that GCHQ was gathering intelligence from phones and online sites should not concern people who had nothing to hide. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Hague claimed all intelligence gathering done by the UK to be 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 Jun 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 explained his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows.
11 Jun 2013: The NSA’s powerful tool for cataloguing global surveillance data–including figures on US collection.
11 Jun 2013: Edward Snowden’s girlfriend Lindsay Mills: Her blog in which she described life with her boyfriend in Hawaii was taken down after Snowden was identified as the source of leaks
17 Jun 2013: phones were monitored and fake internet cafes were set up to gather information from allies in London in 2009.
8 Jul 2013: Edward Snowden. ‘The US government will say I aided our enemies’ – video interview.
1 Aug 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.
6 Sep 2013: NSA and GCHQ unlocked encryption used to protect emails, banking and medical records. $250m-a-year US program worked covertly with tech companies to insert weaknesses into products. Security experts said programs ‘undermined the fabric of the internet’.
25 Oct 2013: Claims were made that Tory MP Julian Smith endangered national security following the publication of photos of staff at GCHQ. (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/25/conservative-mp-julian-smith-national-security-nsa-leaks)
25 Oct 2013: Leaked memos revealed GCHQ efforts to keep mass surveillance secret. (http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/25/leaked-memos-gchq-mass-surveillance-secret-snowden)
25 Oct 2013: The NSA scandal put Europe to the test. EU member states have a duty to protect their citizens from snooping. There is surely more to come. (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/25/nsa-scandal-puts-europe-to-test)
25 Oct 2013: NSA monitored calls of 35 world leaders after US officials handed over contacts. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/24/nsa-surveillance-world-leaders-calls)
28 Oct 2013: Cameron makes a veiled threat to media over NSA and GCHQ leaks. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/28/david-cameron-nsa-threat-newspapers-guardian-snowden)
19 Dec 2013: Official response to Snowden’s revelations celebrates journalism and calls for real change. But in Britain, the picture is rather different.
Last summer the British cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, entered the Guardian’s London office and told the editor there had been enough debate and reporting on the business of intelligence agencies. But a US government report on the Guardian’s revelations about the US NSA said it was informed and thoughtful and went beyond the privacy-versus national security platitudes of the debate in the UK. It did not blame journalism for providing information to the public and the authors of the report were not hand-wringing liberals numbering a 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.
24 Dec 2013: The NSA, founded in 1952, is the USA’s signals intelligence agency, and the biggest of the country’s myriad intelligence organisations. and maintains 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. (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/the-nsa-files)
26 Dec 2013: Israeli PM condemns US and UK spying on the predecessor. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/23/netanyahu-condemns-spying-nsa-gchq-unacceptable)
29 Dec 2013: NSA ‘hacking unit’ infiltrates computers around the world.
5 Jan 2014: The government’s role is vital, but an arrogant and centralised state is as big a problem as the out-of-control market. (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/05/left-silent-state-power-government-market)
31 Jan 2014: Footage released of Guardian editors destroying Snowden hard drives. GCHQ technicians monitored journalists at the Guardian taking angle grinders and drills to computers after the cabinet secretary, Jeremy Heywood told the editor to destroy records and equipment and to stop publishing articles based on leaked material from American’s NSA and GCHQ. Heywood told the editor: “We can do this nicely or we can go to law. A lot of people in government think you should be shut down.” (http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/jan/31/snowden-files-computer-destroyed-guardian-gchq-basement-video)
27 Feb 2014: The intelligence services commissioner repeatedly refused to address the home affairs select committee on disclosures over the US NSA mass digital surveillance programmes. The clash came not long 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”.
28 Feb 2014: Secret documents revealed Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, aided by the NSA intercepted and stored webcam images of millions of internet users. In one six-month period in 2008 the agency collected webcam imagery including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts.
28 Feb 2014: Three US senators are to investigate any role the National Security Agency played in its British partner’s mass collection of Yahoo webcam images. The senators described the interception as a “breathtaking lack of respect for privacy and civil liberties”.
7 Aug 2014: Edward Snowden given permission to stay in Russia.
17 Oct 2014: Edward Snowden on GCHQ, Facebook and his new life in Moscow. (http://www.theguardian.com/membership/video/2014/oct/17/edward-snowden-gchq-facebook-moscow-video?INTCMP=mic_233824)
19 Oct 2014: Documentary follows Edward Snowden as his leaks about the activities of the NSA shock the world.
29 Oct 2014: UK government admits GCHQ routinely views data with no warrant.
Comment. The Snooper’s Charter simply legitimized what was already happening. The government pretended to believe in the rule of law but it just saw it as a means to an end. The public was never meant to know about the eavesdropping and gathering of data. Had the Guardian not broken the story the government would still be pretending that data gathering would start only when safeguarding legislation was in place. Evidently, the government has little respect for free speech.