back to article NSA PRISM-gate: Relax, GCHQ spooks 'keep us safe', says Cameron

British intelligence agencies have broken no laws and are subject to "proper" parliamentary scrutiny, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted today as the NSA PRISM scandal reached Blighty. He was forced to defend Brit spooks following allegations that UK eavesdropping nerve-centre GCHQ had access to the Americans' controversial …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's legal!

    Bless 'im, it must be OK then.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mar Hague says

    don't you worry your little (...) heads about it, we have the 1st class intelligence, don't you remember? Sadam's WMD, the threat of 45 min to the chemical attack on British soil, to name a few...

  3. Circadian
    Big Brother

    It's legal so...

    With the (deliberately) overbroad laws on the statute, it could well be legal. Still does not make it right.

  4. Ye Gads

    So this is a modest encroachment of our privacy

    So, what's a significant encroachment?

    They only do this because they can. At no point have our governments tried to read all our meatspace post. Now we know why: not because it is a authoritarian and anti-democratic thing to do, but because it was too hard...

  5. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    the PM insisted that UK spooks "operate within the law".

    AGAIN, there are problems with this statement:

    1. Classified programs operate based on an interpretation of the law. And because that interpretation happens outside the public's scope of knowledge, there is no public awareness to counteract the usual bureaucratic and political pressures towards the most authoritarian interpetation of the laws in question.

    2. UK spooks operate within the law and don't look at UK internet/data traffic without ministerial approval. And that ministerial approval is classified, so only the spooks the the pols know what's going on. It's not like there is an annoucement that "due to a perceived threat, the PM has OK'd the monitoring of emails for half of Leeds", or "5 families in London", or a "select group of 89 potential terrorist sypathizers"

    3. And GCHQ doesn't need to access Brit internet traffic directly. They can get the NSA to read emails/whatever for them and then give them a report on what they found. So now they aren't accessing Brit's data, just the report. Likewise the NSA can offshore it's domestic surveillance to the GCHQ. This kind of bending the meaning of words is why you had indignant tech execs saying "that we don't give the NSA DIRECT access to our servers". That's just legalese for "We copy a bunch of stuff for the NSA and put it into a data warehouse so that they don't slow down our servers and we can plead that there is no direct access"

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Marketing Hack Re: the PM insisted that UK spooks "operate within the law".

      1. ".....And because that interpretation happens outside the public's scope of knowledge....." Rubbish! Apart from the risk of whistleblowers or upset civil servants leaking to tame journos, politicians are always under the threat that they will be replaced at the next election by their political opponents who will think nothing of leaking their dirty laundry to a journo, regardless of the Official Secrets Act. Politicians are very wary of anything that could get them bad press and downright allergic to anything that could land them in jail, so the threat that their opponent could screw them over denies them the free hand you suggest.

      2. Politicians are vulnerable to being replaced by other politicians that will leak their misdoings for political gain, so politicians are actually a good form of check as they hate anything that could land them with bad press or jailtime. So the politicians will not sanction illegal spook activity without at least confirming they have a legal defence. The thirty year rule etc only protects the dirty laundry both the government and opposition of the day want to keep hidden.

      3. Complete cobblers. If the NSA/CIA made a request to our services they would have to go get ministerial approval to get the info the Yanks wanted, and if we went to the Yanks they would have to go through their approval process to do the same for us, so the idea they can negate the checks in place is simply stupid. Intelligence doesn't just magic itself out of thin air.

      TBH, stick to marketing.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge

        @ Matt Bryant

        1. And yet, we have Congressmen like Jim Sensenbrenner, who helped write the Patriot act, and he is complaining about the abuse of the law. He anticipated that the act would streamline the gathering of intel on specific named individuals or groups for whom there was a suspicion that they might be sympathizing with or planning terror attacks. Not a datamart on the whole U.S. population including phone records, credit card transactions and internet activities

        2. How does a pol who is not privy to the extent of these programs out another pol's support of these programs? I hate thieves and rapists, but since criminals don't make me privy to their activities I have yet to be able to name and shame one, much call the cops on them.

        3. The U.S. FISA courts rarely, if ever, deny a warrant for this surveillance. Part of this is their place in the bureaucracy that performs this snooping. Part is also the bureaucratic rules around the FISA court. For instance, there is no "privacy counsel" that gets to put forward a case why a given warrant SHOULDN'T be granted. There is just the intel community putting forward their argument why the activity should be blessed. Legal protections for foreign citizens are even less. There isn't even FISA court oversight for them.

        On a professional level, I will stick to Marketing. On a political level, it's my right (at least it was my right) as a citizen to oppose what I perceive to be unjust and intrusive governance.

      2. Psyx

        Re: Marketing Hack the PM insisted that UK spooks "operate within the law".

        "Complete cobblers. If the NSA/CIA made a request to our services they would have to go get ministerial approval..."

        Toss, Matt. That's not how intel sharing works. The source is never specifically named not only to protect it, but also to side-step legal implications. GCHQ and NSA do things for each other that it'd be grossly illegal for each to do on their own citizens, then hand it over as intel advisories.

  6. asdf
    Thumb Down

    we lose

    Lets see people will only be fired over this for it going public not for what they were doing which means in a few words, the bad guys have won. A handful of islamic terrorists have done what the USSR could not. They have successfully taken away some of our rights forever and the worst part is the public doesn't even care.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: asdf Re: we lose

      "....the bad guys have won...." What a completely moronic statement, only the most idiotic and blinkered sheeple could come up with such rubbish. Please go develop a sense of proportion, then go read up on the "liberties and freedoms" that were sacrificed during WW2 - ID cards, total mail intercepts, censorship. Do you want to suggest Hitler won then?

      1. asdf

        Re: asdf we lose

        The difference is after WW2 the government was willing to give rights back. They could also demonstrate a clear and present danger and clear line of when the danger is past. Not some 100 year open war on terror (like the eternal War On Drugs ie war with Eurasia, always with Eurasia) whatever that means. If PRISM is so great how come they didn't see the Boston bombers even though the Russians all but told them. How come in the UK they didn't see the soldier butcher dudes? Seems to me its just another way for the government to have an information asymmetry over any potential threats such as politicians (Senator, etc) trying to do the right thing. Oh you want to shut us down. Ok lets see want to explain to the public all these calls to this woman who isn't your wife? That's a rare leak Obama wouldn't investigate.

        1. asdf

          Re: asdf we lose

          The fact is you are more likely in the west to win the lottery almost than to die or be injured by an Islamic terrorist. IMHO people freak out more because of the economic panic than the actual violence. People are willing to piss away all kinds of rights in order to protect their pocketbook.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: asdf we lose

            Hmm, I wonder how long before the ID card is trotted out again 'for our safety'

        2. Psyx

          Re: asdf we lose

          "The difference is after WW2 the government was willing to give rights back."

          Like hell they were! You know that the only reason that we still don't have national ID cards is because a few years after the war someone actually said "Hold on: Why are we still legally obliged to carry this?!"

      2. Schultz Silver badge

        Matt: "Do you want to suggest Hitler won then?"

        In some ways, Hitler might feel vindicated:

        - Secret spying on every citizen: See, you do it too.

        - Secret courts: See, you do it too.

        - Extralegal vanishing and killing of state enemies: See you do it too.

        He would even claim that he did it all he did, honestly, to keep his people safe from terrorists, communists and other destructive forces. Democracy cannot work if the people are left in the dark about the working of their government.

        Here I agree with Obama: "[...]one of the things that we’re going to have to discuss and debate is how were we striking this balance between the need to keep the American people safe and our concerns about privacy, because there are some trade-offs involved. And I welcome this debate. And I think it’s healthy for our democracy."

        I just wonder why some poor bloke has to risk his career and maybe ruin his life to start this discussion.

  7. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    I love the way

    this is 'news'

    Its not, its been going on for years, everyone spies on everyone else and then the 'nudge nudge wink wink' of heres the dirt on the bad guys you want living in the UK, if we get the dirt on the bad guys we want living in your country.

    Its the nature of the business, and it always goes on behind closed doors.

    Heck for all you know that weirdo geezer in the raincoat behind you on the bus home could be a NSA spook listening to your music selection via a backhole in the bluetooth on your mobile.

    "But its my privacy.... " you wail.... best you stop posting the entire contents of your life on facebook then

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ministerial Approval

    Mr Hague is an honourable man and his statement: If the British intelligence agencies are seeking to know the content of emails about people living in the United Kingdom, then they have to get authority. seems pretty clear.

    That statement makes no mention of how the information is obtained, so can we be happy, then, that ministerial approval would be required even if the source was outside the UK?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So Theresa Mary May has been wasting my time with the Snoopers Charter bollocks?

  10. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Do I detect a strong smell of astro-turf?

    Some very odd comments on here (almost like party supporters you might think) and some highly suspect downvotes.

  11. asdf

    f__k Obama

    The history books will record the official downfall of the United States as during the W Bush / Obama turd sandwich. Obama is doing everything homeland bs security wise Bush did but on steroids. Even Bush didn't use the homeland security to go after copyright infringers. Stupid worthless Baby Boomers. F__k the village idiot W Bush and f__k Obama the Chicago hack.

  12. Recaf
    Big Brother

    Requires a warrant?

    UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said that "to intercept content of any individual’s communications in the UK requires a warrant signed by me or the Home Secretary."

    Translation: "I've given them permission to intercept your communications."

    1. Alfie Noakes
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Requires a warrant?

      ...but by definition, they _have_ to intercept the content to know that it is actual content (to be ignored) rather than header or footer information!

      Obfuscation as an art - Mr Hague :rolleyes:

  13. asdf

    100 years from now

    In the US a century from now (assuming we still exist as this rate) in history class in school they will talk about the whole war on terror in the same terms of embarrassment and disgust they talk about the communist witch hunts, the real Salem witch hunts and even slavery and Jim Crow laws. I am sure white people in Mississippi in the 1940s had rationalized why the system should be able to execute black men for sleeping with white women just like today they have rationalized why the government should be allowed to spy on the population in ways Stalin could only dream of all in the name of our security.

  14. asdf

    stop using death toll

    What I love is how we are willing to change our laws and our whole way of life when a bunch of goat farmers got incredibly lucky due somewhat to our own negligence and killed 2,996 people. In 1889 a handful of super wealthy %1ers built a hunting lodge on lake with a dam poorly built which burst and killed nearly as many (2,209) people and very little changed and the people who were responsible got off scott free. The difference is it was poor people killing some rich people in 9/11 instead of the usual vice versa so of course it was unprecedented. I guess my point is not only are most fellow americans retarded at geography but their history knowledge is garbage as well.

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick

      Re: stop using death toll

      New York got Carnegie Hall as a guilt offering. Lots of nice steam grates for the homeless.

  15. DF118

    "Let us be clear. We cannot give a running commentary on the intelligence services,"

    Yes we can. We can, and we will, if we so wish. Who are you to tell anyone otherwise you slimy-palmed little weasel?

    1. btrower

      Re: "Let us be clear. We cannot give a running commentary on the intelligence services,"

      Re: "you slimy-palmed little weasel?"

      Surely you do not have to 'soft pedal' it like that. You are way to easy on them.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ask yourself..How is this any different from Cold War Gestapo, Stasi or KGB tactics?

    And if you are honest with yourself, you will say there is NO DIFFERENCE.

    BTW, in no way can you relate any of this crap back to the sacrifices our parents made during a "Real War" like WW2. Those were real, not imagined reasons for security.

    Our collective governments have now done far more to violate our trust and civil rights than the "terrorists" have.

    As I have said in previous posts, no amount of surveillance will ever stop the concerted efforts of a terrorist, especially a small cell of the self radicalized variety. If they don't brag and stay off the radar, they can't be easily caught.

    The fact is that the "cure" is more harmful than the terrorists will be themselves.

    1. LaeMing

      Re: Ask yourself..How is this any different from Cold War Gestapo, Stasi or KGB tactics?

      "The Cure", as being presently enacted by our 'representatives' is what the Terrorists wanted for us all along, but on a scale they could never have achieved on their own.

  17. Gannon (J.) Dick

    I meta meta data.

    I meta meta data; I don't (heart) control freaks and hucksters leading me around by the nose.

    The biggest problem is not what the NSA knows, it is what Silicon Valley is telling them what they know without a shread of evidence their methods have validity.

    Silicon Valley: For an extra penny per gigabyte we'll tell you who is wearing green socks today!!!!

    NSA: Hmmmm green socks! That changes everything! Wait a minute, no it doesn't. Here's your penny.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    content of emails

    Committee chairman Rifkind told BBC's Radio 4 that the current law about intercepting communications was "quite clear.".

    "If the British intelligence agencies are seeking to know the content of emails about people living in the United Kingdom, then they have to get authority. That means ministerial authority," he said.

    And if all they ask the US for is the header info - to/from/time? Wouldn't that be the same info the Snooper's Charter was supposed to allow them to collect directly in the UK?

  19. Quinnicus
    Big Brother

    FOI Request

    What would happen if we all put in FOI requests on our own information? Would it be accepted or denied?

    Im sure it would be denied, what have they got to hide?

    1. MrXavia
      Big Brother

      Re: FOI Request

      Forget FOI, Use the Data protection act...

  20. Winkypop Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    You always operate within the Law

    When you ARE the Law.

  21. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Ugly Rumours to Stark Facts ….. A Journey of Discovery.

    It never rains but it pours .... Good (or bad) things do not just happen a few at a time, but in large numbers all at once, and all of the time in cyberspace if one knows what to do and what one is doing and where IT will lead to

    The Chilcot Inquiry report, which is seriously long overdue, and those sorts of uncomfortably and increasingly difficult to plausibly justify delays almost always are surely a signature indication of desperate attempts at furious nobbling and crass and crashing perversions of the course of natural justice, will give all in the world a true picture of the state of psychotic and/or maniacal pussy leadership in politically incorrect terrorist cells in UKGBNI, and their dumb mainstreaming media support teams which would be complicit and accessories to violent acts, both before and after the facts?

    It is nice to know though, and all of the evidence is clearly shared in the body of comments in this thread, that the strange workings of secret security intelligence services are safe and unknown, and known by only the few with needs to know.

    And that last paragraph is surely a Rumsfeldism?:-) Enjoy and wonder as you ponder on these brainy quotes of his.

    And is subversion, terrorism to pervert the course of natural justice and put in its place, a corrupt system of asset/man management to be run by a proxy team of para-military wannabe leader types/sub-prime clones and/or drones of the real thing, which obviously wouldn't be at all pleased with such an impertinence and would be both honour and duty bound to act as is necessary to right the wrong or suffer the dire consequences of what would be only classed as abject object and subject mis-rule? …….. globe trotting lunatics in charge of the asylum, always ends badly for asylum seeking globe trotting lunatics?. It is only natural and normal, and always to be fully expected, for it be universally supported by all but the criminally insane and/or moronic slow-witted and idiotic, and with Command and Control of IT and Media, is it just a tall tale and breaking news item away every day in a series of zeroday trades.

    And now y'all know, what some who may be many in bands of a chosen few would rather you didn't know, so that the unknown rules the roost and reigns with reins and rains of imagined terror/manufactured hardships/austere programs?

    And Intelligence Services make and rewrite the law and can fully justify the breaking of laws which are shown to be manifestly corrupt and self-serving to subversive regimes with oppressive inequitable support systems and right dodgy servers.

    Welcome to the New Reality of Virtual Reality Programming for Future Perfect Present Imperfect Projects with AIdDefinite Vision ProVision Supply, which is GCHQ working to assure and ensure you are insured against all manner of foul and rank risk ... 4ur2die42 is IT all said in GBIrish CodeXSSXXXX .... and whenever not an exclusive western confection/London Pride, does its IT direction and support automatically autonomously default to an inclusive eastern delight/Shanghai Surprise ....... such be the Present Future Nature of SMARTR Realities.

  22. Danez
    Big Brother

    I feel safe now!!

    All legal? Ok prove it!! Oh yeah you can't. Reassured by a professional truth-bender about something that can't be proven. I feel better now. Why not put a CCTV camera In everyone's front room( the innocent have nothing to fear). When Kim Jong-un was sabre-rattling last month, a common theme on the news was about how he (and his father) controlled North Korea by perpetuating a sense of fear in the population by repeatedly telling them they where under the threat of war. Seems to be quite a common approach.. If we didn't have the cold war and then the threat of terrorism, what would the US and UK governments spend all that tax money on? Do you think it is just a big protection racket?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I feel safe now!!

      They are trying that, with the XBOX one....

      Even Samsung ended up making their camera on the TV hide when not in use...

  23. Miek

    "We do live in a dangerous world and live in a world of terror and terrorism" -- As we have done for Millennia; What's your point Dave?

  24. MrXavia
    Big Brother

    So assume for a moment they are telling the truth and they are not using PRISM to bypass UK laws...

    Surely they should be actively protecting us from the US invading our privacy? Give advice on what services are subject/suspected of being monitored by US authorities?

    I'm making an active effort now to remove my data from US servers, and shift as much as possible to my own servers (of course with everything being cloudy this is nearly impossible)

  25. Purlieu

    Nothing to fear

    neither did Ann Frank


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