majority of US lawmakers don’t have a problem with the NSA monitoring the phone
calls, emails and digital activity of hundreds of millions of people without any
requirement for higher judicial authority.
Not only has the US house kept the Prism project running but there have been efforts
to expand it. For those of you who missed the recent stories about the NSA and the
FBI/DHS trying to get hold of the SSL Master Encryption Keys for the major internet
This would remove about the last section of your online activity that is protected from
the prying eyes of the spooks. Past this point unless you are using personal encryption,
single use codes or the most modern and secure types of PGP then everything you do
online will be an open book to anyone with even a tenuous reason to access it.
Given that a long list of US and British organisations seem to be on the “Team”to access
this data you should not be surprised to find in the future that the NHS checking the
contents of your weekly shop on your supermarket card to make sure your diet is healthy.
GCHQ is not allowed to do this sort of thing but since they get the data from the yanks
they seem happy. Also since the yanks seem to feel that eavesdropping on all of Europe
is part of US National Security the spooks at the GCHQ are probably getting lots of tasty
details from every corner of Europe.
Of course here in the UK our MPs are on the case. Since Mr Clegg was too busy to attend
the meeting we have been regaled almost daily with stories of our concerned MPs looking
into this matter and investigating on our behalf how widespread this is. You can hardly
turn on the TV or open a paper without finding GCHQ monitoring as the main story.
Oh wait, I’m wrong, that was the Royal Baby.
Rather than be concerned with the situation our Government is actively trying to add layers
of censorship and monitoring to the mix. By working with the major search engines and
forcing them to monitor every search you run and by actively blocking things that you can
find our PM is working hard to turn the internet into a wholly Government controlled medium.
Does anyone actually believe that once the government has forced the big search engines to
monitor your Key Word searches that the next step is to record who was searching for what.
We have been fobbed off with a review of the situation by the Intelligence and Security Committee
who assure us that there is no problem. Don’t worry they say everything is fine, oh but we are
going to take a wider look into the matter. Expect an answer in a year or two after you have all
forgotten about it and don’t be surprised if the 1,000 page report packed full of obscure jargon is
realised on the same day the next royal baby arrives.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind who chaired the ISC said that the security services operated under a framework
governed by acts of Parliament. He later on revealed that under some fairly obscure legislation in
the Regulation of Investigative Powers Act the security services can monitor a huge range of data
under a single warrant or authorisation as long as they can provide a link to the matter being
investigated. Since the link can be extremely tenuous this can mean that everyone in north
London is monitored since a suspect is known to have friends in that area.
He also added that the review had been specifically into data that the GCHQ had requested from
the NSA. It did NOT look into data that the NSA had gathered on UK or European individuals and
companies that the NSA was offering under data and security agreements between the US and the
UK since they did not deal with specific cases.
So a review into reports from a Whistleblower that the GCHQ was second hand monitoring the
activities of millions of UK citizens and companies via data given to them by the NSA specifically
did NOT include any data that the NSA was giving the GCHQ on the activities of UK citizens and
Sir Rifkind said that three key pieces of legislation: the Intelligence Services Act, the Regulation
of Investigative Powers Act and the Human Rights Act were all still relevant despite the fact that
they had all been passed at least 13 years ago.
He did very generously mention that a wider investigation of the legislation would be undertaken.
Some information for anyone not ware of RIPA:
It was passed in 2000 to address the increasing use of communications technology and encryption
online. Given that technology has radically changed over the last 13 years that alone makes it
hopelessly out of date.
A Law to govern communications monitoring that dates from a time when monitoring someone’s
messages still meant going to the local exchange or junction and moving wires around is
considered to still be appropriate to an era when someone can monitor every email, phone or
mobile call and every action online along with the actions of every person contacted by those
calls and emails with a few clicks on the desktop PC.
Not only that but RIPA can be invoked by government officials specified in the Act on the grounds
of National Security, for the purposes of detecting crime, preventing disorder, public safety,
protecting public health, or in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom.
Just how broad is that definition. Someone on a web site talks about demonstrating against the
government, that is justification to monitor the activities of every user who has ever logged onto
that site. The economic well being of the UK, well that is carte blanche to monitor the national and
international activities of every UK based company. Public safety, detecting crime, protecting
public health. Very open ended justifications and yet this is an act of Parliament that is still relevant in 2013.
The cry often goes up from those who are either not aware of just how intrusive this government
Monitoring is or from those who seem happy to live in an Orwellian Police State ala 1984 is that
“If you are doing nothing wrong you have nothing to hide and should not object”.
We are constantly regaled with stories of just how competent our Government and security s
ervices are with regard to our data. Laptops packed full of military secrets left in Taxi’s or Toilets.
USB sticks with millions of names, addresses and social security numbers seem to walk out of
offices about once a month. Lowest bidder private companies that have been retained for major
IT projects managing to misplace or corrupt data and records. Have any of you ever tried to correct
a fault with your tax records, years of fun.
We have nothing to hide. Of course we do. National security has nothing to do with our affairs
and liaisons, our following of legal political parties, our purchasing of legal goods and materials.
If I am working for a client and we are discussing a new business venture, a new design,
software upgrade or any of a thousand other things that mean success or failure of a business
in this competitive age I don’t want some ham fisted minimum wage idiot making notes and
selling them on to the competition.
If I email a friend to say that my new Machine Guns have arrived, that I am assembling them
now and that this weekend is going to be a massacre I don’t expect a special forces team to
smash down my door and maybe kill me while I am painting my newly arrived heavy weapons
teams for my 28mm war gaming army.
In an ideal world we would have nothing to fear.
In the real world our protection against the misuse of our private lives and personal digital
activities rest in the hands of the lowest bidders and of politicians who themselves want
access to that data or who are so out of touch with modern technology that they are happy
to not bother attending the meetings.
We cannot even trust that when we are told such details are not monitored or recorded that
we are even being told the truth.
Welcome to 1984/2013