back to article Revealed: GCHQ's beyond top secret Middle Eastern internet spy base

Above-top-secret details of Britain’s covert surveillance programme - including the location of a clandestine British base tapping undersea cables in the Middle East - have so far remained secret, despite being leaked by fugitive NSA sysadmin Edward Snowden. Government pressure has meant that some media organisations, despite …

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    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: TRAITORS

      Gosh, what a rant.

      Lets work through your lines one by one.

      "You people absolutely disgust me" -- Not quite sure that you can be any more disgusted than just disgusted, but I'll accept that this has upset you.

      "Disseminating this information puts us and government personnel in danger." -- How has this put you in danger? I assume you include yourself in "us", What has this done that makes your life more dangerous than yesterday. Please provide examples not take from the Daily Mail or any US govt information sheet. Please also provide citations and and anything else you can to show how some arbitrary government personnel are also in danger. My partner works for the govt and I'm now worried that she is a target for some no-named organisation based on this. Should I suggest she packs her job in?

      "You're as bad as that traitor Snowden and should be hung for treason." -- So first of all Snowden hasn't been found guilty of treason or of being a traitor. The US laws on treason oddly enough makes it difficult for Snowden to be convicted of that particular crime as it needs to be witnessed by two people. Then again, the US has never let laws get in the way of a good lynching. Again I'm struggling to understand how this is treason for the UK. I have no doubt that The Register has good lawyers and that these were consulted before this article was written. I have to confess to not being a lawyer, so what I say could be wrong, but if this was treasonous I expect the lawyer to have pointed this out to El Reg and indicated some of the potential pitfalls in publishing. Since they did publish, I have to assume that the lawyers are either a) incompetent or b) thought it wasn't treason. On the other hand I have to agree that some people at The Register should be hung, drawn and possibly quartered (can you be quartered in this metric age, should they be 0.25'ed) based on other articles that were awful. I know its harsh but true.

      "Bugger the fact that these installations cost tens of millions to design and build so you're essentially throwing hard earned tax payers money down the drain" - Not sure what sodomy has to do with this, but we'll gloss over that. Do you really think that other intelligence agencies didn't know about this? Did you really think that they don't super-duper encrypt stuff using their special spy ring encoding wheel as a matter of course? Any wannabee double oh seven would always assume their communications are insecure and that the message is intercepted. Same goes for the terrorist groups. This installation is aimed at spying on you and me. Do you think (no evidence for you on this so far) that this installation will not carry on doing exactly what it has been doing for the last few years? Nothing has been wasted or thrown down the drain. It spies on you and me and will carry on doing so.

      "I can't believe how disgusted I am right now. You make me want to be sick." - If you can't believe how disgusted you are, what makes you think I can? Wanting to be sick is a form of self-harm, I suggest speaking to a doctor or other counselling group to cure you of this affliction, I would also suggest giving up reading the Daily Mail, voting UKIP and getting out more and meeting real people.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: TRAITORS @AC no.1

        A splendid reposte only slightly spoilt by your AC status - have an upvote

        1. RobHib

          Re: TRAITORS @AC no.1 - - @ El Reg

          [El Reg, it would seem like a good idea to number ACs as above. Numbering each AC would reduce confusion when referring to earlier posts or following threads especially when there's many, as here. Alternatively, indent or colour-code threads.]

      2. Malcolm 2
        Black Helicopters

        Re: TRAITORS

        "... giving up reading the Daily Mail, voting UKIP and getting out more ..."

        Dear AC, I hope that you will not be too offended if I object to your lumping of the Daily Mail and voting UKIP in the same sentence. I am not a Daily Mail reader, but, for my sins, I did vote UKIP at the recent EU election. My reason for doing so is that I believe in a democratically accountable state (naive I know), something that current the European plutocracy is not. I voted "yes" in 1975. That was for a common market and a mutually beneficial alignment of neighbour states. If there ever is another referendum, I will be voting to leave.

        1. kraut

          Re: TRAITORS

          <quote>I did vote UKIP at the recent EU election. My reason for doing so is that I believe in a democratically accountable state</quote>

          That's sadly a bit like believing in the Easter Bunny these days.

          And UKIP is hardly going to lead to more democracy. Quite the opposite, I'd suggest

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: TRAITORS

          As did I, Malcolm. On the whole, UKIP is against big government and militarism. It all wastes money and makes life worse for the ordinary citizen.

        3. lotus49

          Re: TRAITORS

          Indeed it is not fair to lump The Daily Mail in with UKIP.

          One of these is only supported by people who are merely closet racists, the other by overt racists. Here are some examples.

          http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/28/ukip-councillor-sacked-newly-elected

          http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Outrage-prospective-MP-condemns-Islam-blog/story-12089789-detail/story.html#ixzz2KYhtrxjS

          http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/05/19/farage-ukip-tired_n_5349828.html

          http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/aug/06/ukip-godfrey-bloom-bongo-bongo-land.

          http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2013/05/19/more-ukip-horror-as-investigation-exposes-racist-abuse

          http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2537834/UKIPs-vile-Mandela-slave-rant-exposed-New-racism-storm-following-remarks-former-South-African-President-murdered-teenager-Stephen-Lawrence.html

          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/ukip/10828481/British-Asian-Ukip-youth-leader-quits-racist-and-terrifying-Ukip.html

          Shall I go on?

          Whatever your views on the EU, UKIP is a party of and for xenophobes, racists and bigots. It is the BNP with (slightly) better marketing.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TRAITORS

        Spying on you and me, is that an admission that you are a terrorist? I'll take that as a yes then, but do not include me in your rant. I am not a terrorist and even a casual review of my communications would bore the backside off a half reasonable intelligence officer. Mind you that may well be half of the problem, if Snowden is anything to go by getting even 1/10th reasonable officers is impossible these days.

        I have said it before if the best that vetting can come up with is feeble idiots like Snowden then all the operations are doomed. No doubt the Iranians and other 'friendly folks' will be lapping up all the stupid froth.

        Just think for a moment, with billions of communication every day, most of which are of the level of my wife's call about a supermarket order. This included an unordered item for which there was no charge; is that what intelligence people want?. What intelligence needs or wants is useful stuff not dross about supermarket order mistakes or what some dippy clot had for breakfast and posted on idiot book.

        But he-ho if it helps an idiot from Psychopaths for the Devil plan their next underground bombing trip or inspires them to do something stupid that they had only previously thought about, who cares? I do not use the underground and do not work in London either and have not done so for over 12 years. While I did work in that hell hole it was a different branch of Psychopaths for the Devil who were blowing things up, including a pub a few doors away from my office. So lest anyone think that this is aimed at one special group, I include all religious and political nut jobs who think the answer to anything is to blow people up.

        Frankly if anyone can stop them rather than encourage or inspire them that is A GOOD THING.

        Has Snowden done anything useful NO, No and once more NO, he is an irrelevant stupid fool who has only helped to increase the cost of keeping people who care about living alive. If you think that making that more of a challenge is a great achievement I am not going to agree with you any time soon.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: TRAITORS

          "I include all religious and political nut jobs who think the answer to anything is to blow people up."

          Time and time again the REAL long-term answer to those kinds of crazies has been shown to be "ensure that people have a decent standard of living".

          It's poverty and deprivation which breeds extremists. The US and UK armies have been the best recruiting tool that al Quaeda and various other organisations could wish for.

          On the subject of Syria: The vicious military dictatorship in place there was established by the USA, who backed a coup against the civilian, secular, democratic govt of the time.

          There's a good reason most of the middle east population don't like or trust western powers and it's called "A recent history full of malevolent activities". (Not that the ex-USSR is any better). The area's been everyone's stomping ground for the last century and the locals are fairly justified in being pissed off.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            Stop

            Re: Alan Brown Re: TRAITORS

            ".....It's poverty and deprivation which breeds extremists....." Bullshit. Bin Laden was a millionaire from an extremely influential Saudi family. Al Zwahiri comes from a well-off Egyptian family who had an university education and worked as a surgeon before dedicating his life to killing infidels. The nonsense that all extremists are just poor souls that need a little love, cash and education is so easily debunked I'm amazed anyone is still trying to peddle it.

      4. dr2chase

        Re: TRAITORS

        I agree with you completely, except on one point, and that is that these facilities could only be designed to spy on ordinary civilians because all the baddies are already encrypting anyway. I don't think most of them are. Based on some of the various terrorist exploits in the last dozen years, I think we need to keep in mind the Mr. Evil (as opposed to Dr. Evil) model of terrorists. A shoe bomb? An underwear bomb? A butt bomb? (it did go off, but failed to achieve its effect, mostly because it was shielded from its victims by the body of the terrorist) The guys who tried to attack an airport in Scotland failed utterly and got their asses kicked. The Madrid bombers, who did kill, were caught because they were reusing SIM cards in their throwaway phones. There may be some sharp and organized guys at the top of these organizations, but it is definitely not geniuses all the way down (not unlike any other organization).

    2. Psyx

      Re: TRAITORS

      "Disseminating this information puts us and government personnel in danger. You're as bad as that traitor Snowden and should be hung for treason."

      How?

      No it does not.

      The facility is fairly common knowledge in the region. Until this article the vast majority of people who knew about it either lived in the region or worked for the intelligence agencies of other nations. How precisely does letting the citizens of the nation who operates it create any operational danger?

      If you love your country so damn much you should be less ignorant about it.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: TRAITORS

        If you love your country so damn much you should be less ignorant about it.

        Which would, of course, include knowing that you can't be hanged (or hung, or hinged) for treason. Like all EU member states we have abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: TRAITORS

          Like all EU member states we have abolished the death penalty for all crimes.

          Despite the fact that 70% of the population want to see it brought back.

          1. kraut

            Re: TRAITORS

            50% of the population have an IQ below average.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: TRAITORS

              Mean, median or mode?

          2. BillG
            Big Brother

            Re: TRAITORS

            There is real danger in keeping all this secret.

            There is power, dangerous power in these wiretapping activities, including the power to rig elections, manipulate public opinion, and suppress political opposition.

            Keeping this power secret opens the door wide for abuse. Without public knowledge, this power can quickly be used AGAINST those it is supposed to PROTECT.

            Kudos for making this public!

          3. Psyx

            Re: TRAITORS

            "Despite the fact that 70% of the population want to see it brought back."

            If 70% of the population wanted to be able to murder anyone who stepped on their lawn, would that be a justification, too?

            Just because a lot of public (50% of which has a below average IQ) want it back, it doesn't mean it could or should happen.

        2. RobHib

          Re: TRAITORS -- @AndrueC

          "Like all EU member states we have abolished the death penalty for all crimes."

          Just because it's the current status quo doesn't mean it will always be so. From time immemorial the death penalty was ever present in most countries until recently; with recent politics moving to the extreme right in many places, there's more than a possibility such laws could be reversed.

          Citizens' vigilance is essential to see they're not.

          1. kraut

            Re: TRAITORS -- @AndrueC

            Pardon me for not checking the details - but I was under the impression that getting rid of the death penalty permanently was a prerequisite to joining the ECHR and EU.

            No judicial system is perfect.

    3. Peter Simpson 1
      WTF?

      Re: TRAITORS

      You want to really blow lunch? Read "Blind Man's Bluff". Published ten or more years ago, it made very clear that the US had the ability to tap undersea cables.

      Anyone who did not have a strong feeling this was going on is living in a fantasy world. Nobody learns anything new from this article, except a bunch of code names and some hypothetical locations. And the data is still being gathered.

      If you want to get really ill, think of the amount of data being slurped, in Oman, where it arguably does some good, but also in the US and Great Britain. Yup, mate...that naughty email you sent to your wife or girlfriend, or both, is right now sitting on some GCHQ numpty's screen. That should loosen your lunch a bit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TRAITORS

        that naughty email you sent to your wife or girlfriend, or both, is right now sitting on some GCHQ numpty's screen. That should loosen your lunch a bit.

        Do you seriously think that anyone at GCHQ has the time, or interest, to look into the average El Reg commentard's extra-martial philanderings? Unless the initial comment came from an IP address flagged as somewhere like the Palace of Westminster, or other plave of interest, I doubt if the message even got noticed.

        1. Peter Simpson 1
          Facepalm

          Re: TRAITORS

          Do you seriously think that anyone at GCHQ has the time, or interest, to look into the average El Reg commentard's extra-martial philanderings?... I doubt if the message even got noticed.

          Message? No.

          Selfies of wife/GF in reply? Definitely.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: TRAITORS

            The NSA has had to routinely discipline staff for illegally looking up exes, girlfriends. boyfriends, celebrities, neighbours, etc

            As have UK police and the NHS

            Do you honestly think GCHQ staff aren't doing it? It's human nature to find what dirt can be dug on people around you in order to have leverage over them - ESPECIALLY amongst the kind of personalities which gravitate to these organisations.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The trouble...

          Said philanderings will be noticed and used if a government agency finds it convenient to use them as a lever to exert pressure on the citizen in question, for whatever reason they see fit. Power corrupts, so what makes anyone think that THIS power won't corrupt and be misused?

          Think this is paranoid BS? Look up Hoover, J. Edgar, and Nixon, Richard Milhouse; consider what they would have got up to if they had unlimited access to everyone's communications...

        3. Les Matthew

          Re: TRAITORS

          "Do you seriously think that anyone at GCHQ has the time, or interest, to look into the average El Reg commentard's extra-martial philanderings?"

          No, but I bet that supercomputer they have in the basement scanned it for keywords.

          1. AndrueC Silver badge
            Big Brother

            Re: TRAITORS

            No, but I bet that supercomputer they have in the basement scanned it for keywords.

            In GCHQ that GCHQ case GCHQ I GCHQ hope GCHQ this AARDVARK wastes GCHQ a GCHQ few GCHQ processor GCHQ cycles.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: TRAITORS

          "Do you seriously think that anyone at GCHQ has the time, or interest, to look into the average El Reg commentard's extra-martial philanderings?"

          Some think Edward Snowden a traitor for stealing information, many will not agree on that, but we would all agree he took info and gave/sold it to someone/everyone else. How many other stealers of information might there be in GCHQ/NSA? What info might they steal on people and who for, criminals, big businesses, other govts?

          You might not fear the agencies, but they're crammed full of personal info and they're full of employees, human beings, with all their faults.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: TRAITORS

            You might not fear the agencies, but they're crammed full of personal info and they're full of employees, human beings, with all their faults.

            So's every HR department in the country. I'd be a lot more scared of their incompetence than GCHQ's malice.

            1. kraut

              Re: TRAITORS

              <quote>You might not fear the agencies, but they're crammed full of personal info and they're full of employees, human beings, with all their faults.

              So's every HR department in the country. I'd be a lot more scared of their incompetence than GCHQ's malice.</quote>

              Take the incompetence (and malice) of the average HR department. Give them everything you've ever done online.

              Multiply by 10^6.

              Still not worried?

        5. alun phillips
          Big Brother

          the problem in a nutshell

          Unless your email is explicit "Hey George w bush let's go an invade Iraq a week on Thursday I will supply the ground troops to soften up the palace guards, yours Tony Blair" it'll be missed completely unless the ip address is already flagged, in which case it would've been picked up anyway, data slurping of this magnitude will just overwhelm the system.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: the problem in a nutshell

            "data slurping of this magnitude will just overwhelm the system."

            I'm sure some of us can arrange to push it just that bit harder.

        6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Big Brother

          Re: TRAITORS

          "Do you seriously think that anyone at GCHQ has the time, or interest, to look into the average El Reg commentard's extra-martial philanderings? Unless the initial comment came from an IP address flagged as somewhere like the Palace of Westminster, or other plave of interest, I doubt if the message even got noticed."

          True.

          But I'll bet it got filed "just in case" that person turns into the 0.03% of the UK population who might be planning to commit a terrorist act (nail bomb set off at the houses of Parliament, egging Nigel Farage, who knows).

          1. Bloakey1

            Re: TRAITORS

            <snip>

            "egging Nigel Farage"

            <snip>

            God that sounds nasty. How about adding some flour, whisking it up and we could have him battered possibly with some chips from his electorate's shoulders.

        7. Shaha Alam

          Re: TRAITORS

          if anything, the Snowden revelations have shown that:

          - the agencies *do not* notice important information

          - *do* probe information about spouses and lovers

        8. paulc

          Re: TRAITORS

          they don't actively look at all your emails, they just bulk store them, but if you ever pop up in their viewfinder, they can easily trawl the entire backlog looking for dirt to have you incriminated or destroyed with...

        9. Graham Cobb Silver badge

          Re: TRAITORS

          Do you seriously think that anyone at GCHQ has the time, or interest, to look into the average El Reg commentard's extra-martial philanderings?

          Are you being deliberately difficult or do you really not realise what the issue is with allowing untargetted data collection?

          Of course GCHQ is not intereted in your, or my, email or our personal failings. Not unless we become a "person of interest". For example, write an exposé article for El Reg, or get our MP to ask an embarassing question, or investigate corruption, or campaign for or against abortion, or animal rights, or organise a national strike. At that point, it would be very convenient for the government if they could look back at everything we (and our friends and family) ever did or wrote and try to find some way to discredit us.

          I am not worried for myself, I am worried for investigative journalists, campaigning lawyers, radical politicians, or anyone else who should be being given the full protection of the law but instead are being shafted by it. Government ministers are the last people who should be able to authorise wide surveillance powers -- that should be an emergency power, only used in time of overwhelming national need, authorised by parliament and made in public.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: TRAITORS

            very convenient for the government if they could look back at everything we (and our friends and family) ever did or wrote and try to find some way to discredit us.

            Paranoia rules!

            Why would such a government waste time looking for such stuff when it would be easier just to make it up if and when they needed it? That's what governments have been doing for centuries. It's much simpler, cheaper and quicker than storing everything just in case they might need it, especially when they would then have to own up to where they got it from.

        10. Ted Treen
          Paris Hilton

          @AC 6 Days ago...

          "...the average El Reg commentard's extra-martial philanderings..."

          extra-MARTIAL philanderings?

          Why should commentards fancy (or be) a bit of rough?

    4. Morat

      Re: TRAITORS

      Clearly a GCHQ employee - how else did he get First Post?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Trollface

      Re: TRAITORS

      Well trolled Luke....

      Clearly everyone fails to look up your name and see you are a ranty, shouty little child.

      Hats off.

    6. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: TRAITORS

      If you want to talk about treason and treacherousness, I would suggest that you consider whether wholesale and indiscriminate monitoring and data collection on communications by normal people strengthens or weakens security.

      Firstly, it depends on what you mean by security. If you mean the peace of mind one gets from the freedom from persecution, I would suggest that having unregulated agencies with no oversight spying on everyone and everything does not strengthen this, and in fact puts it at jeopardy.

      If you are talking about the freedom of said agencies to do whatever they like 'in our name', despite their lack of oversight, then I fail to see how this helps anyone other than them, whoever 'they' are.

      What we can deduce from this article, is that money from the UK treasury (collected from taxpayers), has been spent on building and maintaining a base conducting data collection activities, on foreign soil, in order to monitor other foreign nationals in a wholesale manner. it is questionable whether this even represents good value for money, let alone whether we should be doing it. Furthermore, we have learned that large sums of money from our treasury have also been paid to BT (and other companies) to maintain this capability. Without public oversight.

      Now, I don't know what your personal opinion of BT is, but I don't trust them one iota, since they were found doing something very similar with their customer's data (in the name of targeted advertising), for which they were conveniently never prosecuted despite being quite possibly in breach of several data protection laws. Only the nave would think that this was not also being fed to GCHQ for their purposes, and here we see another link between the (supposedly) non-governmental BT and the spooks.

      Personally, what disgusts me is the wasting of public money on something like this, at a time of 'austerity', where the cost of living is rising rapidly for normal people, and the funnelling of further public funds to a private enterprise.

      What is more, if you actually get the opinions of security experts, you will find that the consensus opinion is that this sort of monitoring does nothing to gather any useful information, as it is far too untargeted. The analogy is like trying to find a needle in a haystack by adding more hay.

      So, I will end by asking who the real 'traitors' are - people who wish to see this sort of thing reach the light of day, so we can know what our governments are doing in our name, and ensure that they do not draw more power to themselves (which is undoubtedly not in our interests), or those who would draw such power to themselves?

    7. hi_robb

      Re: TRAITORS

      And by reading the article, you Sir are as much a traitor as El Reg or I.

      Just how many hands is that horse of yours? Be careful you don't hurt yourself when you fall off.

      D

    8. corestore

      Re: TRAITORS

      You ARE Louise Mensch AICMFP

    9. Creamy-G00dness

      Re: TRAITORS

      I assume by your fervor that you will now be leaving the Reg membership?............shame

      Hang on, did someone mention Snowden?

      Just waiting for Matt Bryant to turn up in his helicopter made entirely of opinion.

    10. steward
      Devil

      Re: TRAITORS

      @Luke 11:

      "You make me want to be sick."

      But you're not sick. Perhaps this reveals some secret sympathy with Vulture Central that you don't even want to admit to yourself - because if you really believed what you said, you would be sick.

      Maybe a nice cuppa with a counselor or psychoanalyst could reveal what actually -does- make you sick, as opposed to what you think you wish you would be sick about.

    11. Alan Bourke

      Re: TRAITORS

      How about you FUCK OFF SPYING ON ME

    12. Adam T

      Re: TRAITORS

      I don't see what the problem is.

      It's obviously not *that* secret - it even has a nice big X to stand out all the better from Google Maps.

      And the rest...I can only second what everyone else has pointed out. It's hardly "hidden from view".

    13. Gnomalarta
      Big Brother

      Re: TRAITORS

      "You make me want to be sick."

      Pass him the gripe water, someone.

    14. Jim 59

      Re: TRAITORS

      Oh come on 'tards. Look, the opposing arguments are as follows, and both have some validity:

      A - The government engages in secret activities to spy on us which could threaten our democracy, and in the worst case, lead to tyranny in the UK. Not in the UK citizens' interests. Not acceptable.

      vs.

      B - The government engages in secret activities to spy on other nations and organisations, who could otherwise threaten our democracy and in the worst case, lead to tyranny in the UK. In the UK citizens' interests. Acceptable.

      El Reg and many 'tards believe A. I am with B (sorry). I see the (A) viewpoint. But even in a democracy there is an unhappy requirement for the government to carry out secret activity. If it didn't, it would be impossible to have a country in any recognisable form. Twas ever thus.

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