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. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Jim 59 Re: TRAITORS

        The obvious problem with option A, that Big Brother is planning to impose tyranny, is asking why it hasn't happened yet? If the sheeple are so convinced that is the plan, what is Big Brother waiting for? After all, if they are gathering info on all of us they have been doing it for fifty-odd years, what's the hold up? Of course, the sheeple can't give an answer to that. At which their paranoid delusional fantasy collapses like the house of cards it is.

        1. kraut

          Re: Jim 59 TRAITORS

          <quote>The obvious problem with option A, that Big Brother is planning to impose tyranny, is asking why it hasn't happened yet? </quote>

          Who says it hasn't? Maybe you just didn't notice?

          I'm still trying to understand how being an offensive arse merits a longer sentence than GBH http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-26579717 ... or why making jokes about airports get you prosecuted.. or why we use "anti terrorism" legislation to prosecute people for dog muck (*) and trying to get their kids into decent schools.

          Slippery slope, opium of the masses, blah blah.. more people probably(***) voted for Eurovision and BGT than in the European elections....just because it doesn't look like a coup doesn't mean it isn't one.

          (*) which they absolutely SHOULD be prosecuted for. And littering. But not using "terrorism" legislation (**)

          (**) and there should be a &%&%&^!" warrant.

          (***) Even I can't be arsed to check. Pretty sure that some "reality" TV shows top the abysmal electoral participation in the UK. (****)

          (****) As a pure conjecture, disqualifying anyone who's voted in some "reality" TV show in the previous 18 months from voting in real elections might give us more sensible results. OTOH, introducing a voting system that doesn't disenfranchise the majority of the populace (PR, if you can't look it up) would be even better.

        2. Shaha Alam

          Re: Jim 59 TRAITORS

          you're expecting that big brother will implement the sort of tyranny where jackboots press down on your neck and you have to show your 'papers' to an 'official' every time you walk down the street.

          not all tyrannies are like that.

          maybe ours is the sort where people no longer question why so much of our lives is spent "working" and so little "playing". in that sense, Big Brother has thoroughly done his job.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Shahahahaha what a sham Re: Jim 59 TRAITORS

            ".....maybe ours is the sort where people no longer question why so much of our lives is spent "working" and so little "playing"....." Bullshit. My grandfather worked sixty hour weeks every week in a draughting office and considered himself lucky. Miners and the like in the Twenties worked much longer hours in much worse conditions for much less pay than the average office "wage slave" of today. Before people start bitching about how they have it tough they really need to go read some history and get some perspective.

      2. kraut

        Re: TRAITORS

        You forgot about

        C - The government engages in secret activities to spy on other nations and organisations, and mass-monitors millions of citizens, blatantly breaking even the ludicrously generous laws (RIPA etc) that the last Junta passed. Wasting huge amounts of money, to remarkably little actual security improvements (*), but nevertheless threatening democracy. The government also introduces backdoors in systems, and sabotages hard encryption, thus weakening everyone's online security even further.

        The point is, simply, governments have to act within the law. And it's the job of the press and the public to make sure that they do, and that the laws aren't bad.

        (*) Even the NSA, who are perfectly happy to lie to their Congress, weren't bold enough to point to any evidence their surveillance had actually uncovered any real plots

      3. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: TRAITORS

        @ Jim59

        B, especially in view of the facts (1) that there seems to be no supporting evidence presented that the secret activities spawned actions to threaten the current largely democratic regime; and (2) the government has plenty of local actors available if they choose to become tyrannical and in consequence have little need or use for internal signals intelligence.

    1. Maty

      Re: TRAITORS

      Luke 11?

      Okay looking up Luke 11.9&10 gives us

      'Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.'

      Spookily relevant to tapping data channels ...

    2. RobHib

      Re: TRAITORS - @ Luke 11

      " TRAITORS... ...You people absolutely disgust me.

      Perhaps it's real democracy at work! At the time of my reading, the votes were to the tune of 14/193. That's almost 14:1 against your view!

      With numbers like that, it's little wonder our supposed democracies have to keep even the very existence of such surveillance secret.

    3. Mike Smith
      Thumb Up

      Re: TRAITORS

      Hey Luke,

      Looking at the downvote rate, you'll be in with a chance of winning a vacuum cleaner by Friday!

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: TRAITORS

      What? Do you honestly think for one moment that your country is the only one who does this? Oh.. and besides the USA? I daresay that every country of any size is engaged in this type of operation. And yes, they spy not only on each other but also on their own citizens. It's not just about national security anymore otherwise they wouldn't spy on their own citizens. It's about power.

      As for traitors... I think you need to look around at some of the more "patriotic" types and what they are doing with their power.

    5. David 45

      Re: TRAITORS

      Satire, sarcasm - or what? Difficult to tell.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: TRAITORS

      you mean that you knew all of this long before it was published...and you didn't tell me, and me being a taxpayer and all, a pensioner to boot, who can't get proper social welfare or a decent pension. Don't you think that calling the Reg a traitor is like yourself looking in mirror?

    7. ian 22

      Re: TRAITORS

      But, but, but, we're the good'uns!

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: TRAITORS

      Some might argue that you should be first up against the wall for supporting secret wide ranging government orders and other extrajudicial activities against their citizens. Governments act on behalf of and are accountable to their citizens. How can the citizens make an informed decision if the government acts against the entire population in secret?

      Don't you think it's strange that other law enforcement seems to operate effectively with transparency and an open judicial process?

      I don't think it's unreasonable or detrimental for the government to tell their citizens they want to intercept all of their domestic or foreign communications for the specific reasons, then let the public decide what they want in the due course of the normal electoral process.

      The issue with secret wide ranging warrants and secret interpretations and obfuscated laws is the function creep. Notice how "serious financial crime" is included. Where does it stop? What are the limits? Why not include murder investigations or even petty crimes? The US has the situation where it's reached the point of the government secretly intercepting communications, using the information in court without disclosure or the rigours of the established legal process.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: TRAITORS

        "The issue with secret wide ranging warrants and secret interpretations and obfuscated laws is the function creep. Notice how "serious financial crime" is included. Where does it stop? What are the limits? "

        Given that local councils have (ab)used such powers to spy on people putting out rubbish bins on the wrong day or fibbing about what school they live near, the question has to be rhetorical.

    9. RTX1138

      Re: TRAITORS

      Agree completely. This is appalling. Snowden is a traitor, end of story. Nonetheless, he at least was acting based on his principles, however misguided and naive. This article, in contrast, is just treachery for titillation. And for the titillation of whom? Answer: the ethical retards who unfortunately seem to make up the bulk of Register readership.

      I had a high opinion of The Register's editorial maturity prior to this article but no more.

      1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Re: TRAITORS

        "I had a high opinion of The Register's editorial maturity"

        Maturity? Christ, I need to try harder with the headline innuendo.

        C.

        1. Vic

          Re: TRAITORS

          > I need to try harder with the headline innuendo.

          Always a good idea to check a poster's registration date before getting too worked up about negative feedback...

          Vic.

    10. JeffyPoooh
      Pint

      I can foresee a problem...

      If the Adult video industry ever gets around to naming their performers with keywords such as "Plutonium", then all the world's adult entertainment, making up 75% of the world's traffic, will be redirected through the spooks' servers and sent for human Analyst review. At that point the entire iSpy system will simply collapse.

    11. b0hem1us
      Linux

      Re: TRAITORS

      You are sick already so no need to try fool.

    12. 3x2

      Re: TRAITORS

      I have to say that I would be more shocked if our 'security services' were not doing this.

      The long term problem I see is that it has just got out of hand and your (RIPA enabled) local council can delve into your comms at will if they can come up with some law breaking (wrong rubbish, wrong bin) activity that you are involved in.

      It is one thing to 'spy' upon potential enemies and quite another to use that as an excuse to monitor your home population in order to help some local council fuckwit in its upcoming court case.

      Mi(?) monitoring 'foreign activities' I can live with. Who wants some IRA bomb exploding in my local shopping centre?

      But ... The ability of 'Sir' Cyril Smith (via his contacts in Government and 'The Party') or Savile (via his local council and BBC contacts) being allowed to monitor the activity of anyone who gets close to their 'activities'... Well now we see the problem in giving any 'government' employed wank stain (on childrens bed sheet) the ability to shut down any 'journalist or 'victim' that might come close to exposing them.

    13. This post has been deleted by its author

    14. Uncle_Sam

      Re: TRAITORS

      i don't think it's a huge loss.

      A lot of the cabling can be reused/turned transparent and create better backbone for the internet. As for the locale , you can make like a school or something useful out of it. the agents, make them promote good business and economic/social ties between the countries so as to not need spying at all.

      But I hate people who pretend to be offended on the behalf of Secret Service, If you want a more gaping example of waste of taxpayer money , look at all the fucking wars started in the region.

      you sir are a complete buffoon.

    15. WatAWorld

      Re: TRAITORS

      The people doing this spying are the traitors.

      That is the thing. When those in government and military service put loyalty to unit, division, department or ministry ahead of loyalty to the nation and its people they become the most vile form of traitors.

      "these installations cost tens of millions to design and build"

      That's tens of millions of dollars spent by the most traitors acting against the interest of the British public.

    16. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: TRAITORS

      Can you really not believe how disgusted you are? I don't think you've seen very much of the world at all if this disgusts you.

      Have you been sick yet? Bless you, you're quite funny.

    17. Infosec Guy

      Re: TRAITORS

      I have to agree with luke11. I am intrinsically linked to the work our government security services provide and it is careless for a UK publication to publish this. I am hugely disappointed. If you don't don't think that every single government across the world with any capability does not do as much secret spying as possible then you are a fool. Reg, you are upsetting important political balances that our country has spent hundreds of years cultivating. Whilst we are small we still have a bit of clout and I for one want it to stay that way. To publish this so you can get a few more hits and flog a bit more advertising space to IBM/MS/HP is frankly disgusting.

    18. Oh Homer
      Childcatcher

      Re: TRAITORS

      In an increasingly totalitarian regime, like the United States of Britain, one has a moral obligation to be a traitor.

  1. J P
    Black Helicopters

    So long El Reg, it's been nice knowing you. (I'd have posted AC, but what would be the point..?)

  2. Paul Crawford Silver badge
    Alien

    Dissapointed

    I would have hoped that "3 levels above Top Secret" would be flying saucers and such like, not yet another politically sensitive spying-at-scale program.

    1. 's water music

      Re: Dissapointed

      I would have hoped that "3 levels above Top Secret" would be flying saucers and such like

      No, silly, the aliens are 11 levels above Top Secret

      1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

        Re: Dissapointed

        I thought "11 levels above Top Secret" was the latest Spinal Tap album...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dissapointed

        The aliens are the government.

    2. bigtimehustler

      Re: Dissapointed

      I actually thought when I read this, talk about secrecy creep! Why on earth do we need 3 levels about top secret, top secret was supposed to be the top (hence the name) and there are already levels lower than that! Tells you all you need to know about how well the various secret organisations manage to keep things secret.

  3. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Britain's got secrets

    > classified 3 levels above Top Secret

    Looks like the good old Top Secret isn't quite so "top" any more.

    A case of inflation or just using the "onion" strategy of having layer upon layer?

    It does make you wonder, though. At what level are things really kept secret, so that only those who need to know, actually *are* the only ones who do know. And what is it that they seriously don't want us (or The Guardian) to know about.

    We should be told!

    1. MrXavia

      Re: Britain's got secrets

      Yes, we need to know!

      But the people in power will never tell us (I mean the Civil service of course, not politicians, they have no power that the Civil Service don't let them have, or have I been watching too much Yes Minister?)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Britain's got secrets

        How on Earth can you watch too much "Yes Minister"?

        1. alun phillips

          Watching too much Yes. Minister

          Maybe he's watched the ruinous retread

    2. Psyx

      Re: Britain's got secrets

      "It does make you wonder, though. At what level are things really kept secret, so that only those who need to know, actually *are* the only ones who do know."

      Classified.

      ALL Classified+ information is need to know. Beyond all classification levels is the idea that the information is disseminated only to those who need to know it. If one has TS clearance, one cannot just read everything that's classified as TS, because one does not need to know.

    3. Emperor Zarg

      Re: Britain's got secrets

      They don't want us know all the dirty little deals that were done in our name, that quite possibly were not in our collective interest and were definitely done without our knowledge or informed consent. And they are fully cognisant that if we had known, we would have vociferously objected.

      They know perfectly well that the public will be incandescent when they fully realise what has been going on. They fear that.

      1. hplasm
        Meh

        Re: Britain's got secrets

        "They know perfectly well that the public will be incandescent when they fully realise what has been going on.."

        If only. The UK public would stain to reach a dim red glow, unless it's about TV or sport- on TV.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Britain's got secrets

          >If only. The UK public would stain to reach a dim red glow, unless it's about TV or sport- on TV.

          Bread and Circuses have always been used to control the public. Just as spying has been used probably since people started to form complex societies and structures such as villages, towns, cities and then countries. They are three tools used keep the people in power in power.

          Luke 11 could be a Troll or one of the most naive readers of El Reg - after all most people who read this site know of Echelon and are smart enough to understand bread and circuses references. Luke please see Duncan Campbell's 1988 article in the Newstatesman for some of the earliest info on data gathering. Oh and I think people said similar things of Campbell as they are saying of Snowden.

          We have to assume that since Bread, Circuses and Spying are fundamental to human existence then these will evolve in complexity as society does. Echelon has evolved into today's data gathering and data mining. The question then is not "do they monitor us?" - but "is that power evidently being abused?" Snowden so far has only told us what a reasonably intelligent person could have guessed in that governmental powers use technology to spy on people.

          So we should consider that monitoring can be done, and worry about the controls around that monitoring. Whilst the argument from some quarters would be that they don't abuse the power, and that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear - I would question that view. Society without proper checks and balances is not a good society. If people have a reason, based on a sound suspicion or evidence, that someone's communications need monitoring, then take that evidence to a person appointed to be an independent arbiter. If the arbiter signs off then monitor and analyse, but if it turns up nothing then destroy the collected information. We need to ask if the approach we appear to be allowing our security services to indulge in; ie monitor and analyse everything, is acceptable. That approach wouldn't have been out of place in Stalins Russia or Hitlers Germany and isn't something we should just accept.

      2. Jason Bloomberg
        Big Brother

        Re: Britain's got secrets

        They know perfectly well that the public will be incandescent when they fully realise what has been going on. They fear that.

        I don't think they do. They won't welcome it but they certainly won't fear it. The worst which will happen in Britain is they get pushed out of office but the system will endure and they will find their way back in after a few years or decades. Meaningful outrage, revolution and fundamental change is for other countries.

        In fact it's a fundamental part of the elected dictatorships the west calls democracy and is what makes those a success. Governments can fall on their swords to appease the citizens but the system and establishment remains untouched.

        Big Brother isn't running the show from parliament nor Downing Street. You are simply looking at puppets there.

        1. RobHib

          Re: Britain's got secrets -- @ Jason Bloomberg

          "Big Brother isn't running the show from parliament nor Downing Street. You are simply looking at puppets there."

          Right. I can remember the time when Tony Blair's government was about to come into existence. Blair or one of his cohorts made the promise that they'd reverse the onus of the FOI laws--meaning that all government documents would, by default, be unclassified and available and that public servants etc. would have to apply to have them classified otherwise.

          At the time I thought this was a deliberate election promise for the truly gullible or they were just damn stupid if they actually believed they could pull it off.

          Of course 'Big Brother isn't running the show from parliament nor Downing Street', but his stronger-than-spider's-web strings firmly extend back to HQ (as they've always done).

      3. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: Britain's got secrets

        >They know perfectly well that the public will be incandescent when they fully realise what has been going on. They fear that.

        I think you overestimate the public. Consider the number who voted for UKIP, apparently believing that a former commodities trader with a history of creative expense claims is a political novelty item.

    4. Christoph

      Re: Britain's got secrets

      "At what level are things really kept secret"

      That would be Strap 4, which covers codewords like CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

      1. Bloakey1

        Re: Britain's got secrets

        "That would be Strap 4, which covers codewords like CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN."

        Do not forget that we also have our secret Raven's who spy by making liasions and friendships with parties of interest. I believe that their security level is s strap a dicktome.

      2. Trainee grumpy old ****
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Britain's got secrets

        >>"At what level are things really kept secret"

        >That would be Strap 4, which covers codewords like CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

        Beyond that you have to have signed paragraph 4 of the OSA.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Britain's got secrets

      Pre-Snowden and barring the odd leak the first most people would hear about TOP SECRET material was when it was officially released 30 (or sometimes more) years after the event, so marking something TOP SECRET would have done the job.

      Contrary to popular belief (and Register headlines) there's nothing 'above' TOP SECRET. Material may be compartmentalised and have a limited distribution, as is the case here, but it's actual classification will still be TOP SECRET.

      Aside from these details, is anyone really surprised that GCHQ has assets in the Middle East? Really?

    6. Ben Norris

      Re: Britain's got secrets

      So this inflationary system is where they got the idea for the new a level grades. ;)

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