back to article 'Symbolic' Grauniad drive-smash was not just a storage fail

The word "cabinet" can mean a piece of furniture in which you store something and the digital version of this is a disk drive or flash drive. Having said that, the idea that by destroying the drive you destroy the data is so far from reality in today's data centres that anyone professing it is profoundly idiotic. Which brings …

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  1. Adrian Midgley 1

    thuggery isnt it?

    We don't like what you do so your property will be broken.

    1. TrishaD
      Thumb Down

      Re: thuggery isnt it?

      "Nice disk drive, Squire.... Be a pity if someone broke it...."

      Paranoia AND Stupidity. Not a great mix.

      1. g e
        Meh

        Not to mention

        An arrogant disdain for what the public opinion will be of the actions.

        I'd like to have said 'naive' but even C-for-Cameron's idiotic cabinet and ministerial lackeys are likely very aware of whatever the hell it is they're up to and they're starting not to give a shit if we know, too.

        1. cocknee
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: Not to mention

          Par for the course for Government really. There's an awful lot of clever people doing IT. However they are junior and only following orders and must have thought "it gets me out of the office for a day".

          It's the numpties in senior management and even worse the ministers who's to blame for this fiasco.

          Wanted to be seen to be doing something.

          "Yes Minister/Prime Minister, we'll get our top people on this right away"

          All I can think of is Life of Brian "Centuwian, thwow him to the floor", "thwow him woughly"

          Truly embarrassing really.

      2. Somerset John
        FAIL

        Re: thuggery isnt it?

        You left out "owner of weapons of mass destruction". Would YOU trust these idiots with nuclear tipped missiles?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: thuggery isnt it?

          Fortunately, the US has a veto on the use and targetting of the UK's nuclear missiles. Now you feel so much better.

          1. S4qFBxkFFg

            Re: thuggery isnt it?

            Source?

          2. Scorchio!!
            FAIL

            Re: thuggery isnt it?

            "Fortunately, the US has a veto on the use and targetting of the UK's nuclear missiles. Now you feel so much better."

            Wrong. That was once the case, but it no longer is.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            FAIL

            Re: thuggery isnt it?

            "Fortunately, the US has a veto on the use and targeting of the UK's nuclear missiles. Now you feel so much better."

            This garbage again. To quote the MoD: "Can the government of the USA prevent, veto or forbid the UK to use its own nuclear weapons?"

            "No."

            http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20121026065214/http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/E2054A40-7833-48EF-991C-7F48E05B2C9D/0/nuclear190705.pdf

            1. Scorchio!!
              Thumb Up

              Re: thuggery isnt it?

              I like the classic "HTH" ending to this unequivocal reply. I expect to be voted down, but you will be alright, as you are not me.

    2. SuccessCase

      Re: thuggery isnt it?

      Unfortunately, as much as I disagree with the Government's position, it seems the Guardian has been a little melodramatic in their reporting of this. It turns out there was no pressure from the government for the Guardian to destroy the data. The Guardian destroyed it of their own volition. They have also somewhat confused things in their reporting of the number of computers in the UK carrying the data and that they have destroyed. This story deserves reporting with forensic precision, otherwise there is a danger the Guardian will trip themselves up and give ammo to the Government.

      The Guardian act may have taken this action for quasi-symbolic legal reasons, eg to visibly proclaim there are no copies now available in the UK to UK employees, though there are copies available to employees outside UK and US jurisdiction. But this still doesn't make up for sloppy reporting on this extremely important subject. I hope the Guardian up their game on this front as it would be a shame for them to taint the massive win they can score for the common UK and US citizen.

      1. Barry Rueger

        Re: thuggery isnt it?

        Possibly, just possibly, the drives in question held information which would have compromised Guardian sources, and the Guardian was clever enough to refuse to hand them over, and instead "allowed" themselves to be bullied into destroying them.

        Under the current global regime, there would likely have been no legal avenue to refuse the government access to all data held on the machines, so smashing them to bits would have been a good way to go. And doing it at the "request" of the government is just a bonus insurance.

        (Coincidentally in the midst of reading "Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet

        By Assange, Julian, ioerror, and others. What they discussed a year ago is pretty much spot on what is happening today.)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: thuggery isnt it?

        It was made perfectly clear, destroy or go to court.

        When you've been held for 9 hours you aren't always that happy and logical in thought.

        1. Autonomous Cowherd

          Re: thuggery isnt it?

          IIRC They decided to destroy the equipment, as they would not be allowed to tell anyone about it if they were taken to court.

        2. Scorchio!!
          FAIL

          Re: thuggery isnt it?

          "When you've been held for 9 hours you aren't always that happy and logical in thought."

          Wrong; he was held for one hour, the extra eight hours were at his own choice as he waited for a solicitor other than the duty solicitor to arrive. It is also the case that Miranda was working for his partner, at Guardian expense, as an information mule. The Guardian have belatedly conceded this.

      3. Charles Arthur

        Re: thuggery isnt it?

        " It turns out there was no pressure from the government for the Guardian to destroy the data."

        You misinterpreted what was clearly reported. The government was threatening court action for the retrieval of the data, which could have prevented any reporting of the contents of the documents by the Guardian *anywhere in the world*.

        Given the choice between "be tied up in endless court battles which prevent reporting" or "destroy one copy and continue reporting", the Guardian chose the latter.

      4. Scorchio!!

        Re: thuggery isnt it?

        "Unfortunately, as much as I disagree with the Government's position, it seems the Guardian has been a little melodramatic in their reporting of this."

        Truly, and much more so than you report; it transpired that 8 (eight) of the hours spent by Miranda with the police were at his own choice, it being that he chose to rebuff the official/duty solicitor, and preferring to wait 8 hours for the solicitor of his choice to appear. This much the Guardian has had to concede, along with the fact that Miranda was travelling at the Guardian's expense and on his partner, Greenwald's behalf. There is no doubt that he was carrying classified information that was stolen from a NATO ally.

        As far as the root of the story is concerned, there has been a lot of misconceived debate about the collection of metadata, namely the collection of data that shows who calls/texts/emails whom, and that is a part of the confusion. Espionage, both internal and external, in this country began with Walsingham and his stunning coup with Mary of Scotland; her communications were intercepted and decoded; in one of them a correspondent offered to lead a rebellion that would ultimately have led to regicide and the overturning of the existing protestant state; Walsingham allowed this communication to go through, Mary bit hard on the bait and almost all of the rest, including the dramatic red dress worn by the drama Queen Mary (and there are plenty of those this very day) for her execution, is history.

        People have claimed that it was unethical of Walsingham to have allowed the intercepted communication through to Mary, that he facilitated her plot, but of course opinions are like arseholes, everyone has one. It is a fact that then as now the state was under internal and external threat, and the interception of communications was vital to maintaining security: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

        Otherwise, and as with the earlier case of LOIC users, people who steal secrets will ultimately pay for their misdeeds, as will those who accept and publish stolen goods. Where Rusbridger is concerned, it is all very well for him to say that he has withheld the most important and sensitive of the classified information - and do remember that Miranda has, in spite of his earlier claims to be an innocent party, announced during a hissy fit that he has lots of juicy information on British intelligence and security services that he intends to release, and it is now clear that he IS a courier - but how does he know? Does he work in the business and is he thus trained and experienced enough to know that everything of a sensitive and important nature has been withheld, and nothing damaging has been released? Pfc Manning made it quite clear that he was not appropriately qualified and knowledgeable, and I am certain that Guardian journalists are no more qualified/experienced than he. I am also more than certain that the information is not particularly secure in the hands of people like Miranda, notwithstanding the case of Snowden himself, about which I am sure intellectual lightweights will be more than happy to fire cheap shots.

        In the longer term, as various intelligence and security organisations around the world adjust to the implications of modern digital security, it will become clear both to journalists and those who might decide to slip information out of the office, that this is not merely illegal according to the appropriate jurisdiction, but punishment will swiftly follow, one way or another.

        Meanwhile, a lot of people are making a lot of money, writing articles based on the steam and cloud surrounding this confusion, and making it worse; Miranda lied, he was not held for 9 hours, he chose to wait 8 hours for a non duty solicitor and, in addition, he travelled at Guardian expense as a data mule on Greenwald's behalf.

        Please, do me the favour of applying the down arrow; the more the merrier, for it is a mark of distinction that fools disapprove of the truth and think that voting on it is of any relevance, other than to show that they are dense and cannot take it.

        HAND.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    brought to you by the same people who want a "porn filter"

    You just don't understand technology do you politicians ...

    1. walatam

      Re: brought to you by the same people who want a "porn filter"

      "You just don't understand technology do you politicians ..."

      No, but they do understand the value of symbolic gestures and I bet they hoped they would get "good press" from this.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: brought to you by the same people who want a "porn filter"

        Actually, they probably understand completely.

        Imagine that the Americans demanded that all copies were destroyed and our government was just going along with this. Our government can now say with a strait face to the Americans that they have done everything possible, and it was supervised by the police and staff from GCHQ.

        You can just see Sir Humphry putting the phone down and making a caustic comment about the intelligence of the people on the far side of the pond demanding the data be destroyed.

      2. Tom 13

        Re: I bet they hoped they would get "good press" from this.

        And they did.

        Depending of course on your definition of the phrase "good press."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: brought to you by the same people who want a "porn filter"

      Year 2000 - parliament passes Terrorism Act

      Year 2013 - someone who is obviously not a terrorist held for 9 hours, has data confiscated, is threatened with jail if he doesn't reveal passwords and answer any questions

      Year 2013 - government creates porn filter

      Year 20?? - ????

      If you can redefine terrorism to include investigate journalists exposing government abuses - in order to use sweeping terror laws agains them - you can easily redefine porn to include anything likely to corrupt minds and use it to block any political criticism. It is only a matter of time.

      1. Scorchio!!
        FAIL

        Re: brought to you by the same people who want a "porn filter"

        "Year 2013 - someone who is obviously not a terrorist held for 9 hours[...]"

        Wrong; he was held for one hour, the extra eight hours of the affair were due to his choice of solicitor, who took eight hours to arrive; The Guardian proved themselves as ever extremely unreliable for not admitting this sooner, as well as their failure to make it clear that Miranda was travelling at Guardian expense as his partner's information mule.

        1. John G Imrie

          Re: brought to you by the same people who want a "porn filter"

          citation needed?

    3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: brought to you by the same people who want a "porn filter"

      "You just don't understand technology do you politicians ..."

      As if they fully understand non-technical stuff,

      like ethics.

    4. scrubber
      Big Brother

      Re: brought to you by the same people who want a "porn filter"

      Ah, but they don't want a "porn filter", they want broadly worded legislation that can be used at a later date against (the) people for reasons of their choosing.

      A bit like they (mis-)used the Terror Act to detain someone who had absolutely no legal, logical or proximate relation to anything terror-related, a fact that was already known to them as shown by their refusal to ask any terror-related questions of their prisoner.

    5. gkroog
      Trollface

      Re: brought to you by the same people who want a "porn filter"

      "But its all just tubes, isn't it?"

  3. lansalot

    ...

    As you say, the techs on both sides will have been pissing themselves laughing. But it's the usual boss-syndrome; they don't understand IT and quite likely don't really want to know. All they want to hear is "were they destroyed; yes or no?".

    All you have to do is tell them "yes", they tick a box and go back to making more idiotic decisions.

    Still, don't know about the rest of you - but I feel much safer from the terrorists as a result. As for my Government, ummm.. not so safe.

    1. Danny 14

      Re: ...

      But then the guardian pops up with another copy and you get sent down to guantanamo for not doing a proper job and still saying yes. Boss has then found a scapegoat to appease their masters...

      1. Flywheel Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: ...

        All The Guardian has to do is to ask if the NSA could let them have their backup copy. Nothing works as well as a hidden, taxpayer-funded backup system..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ...

      Perhaps this is part of the research for "BOFH, the Sequel" I demand that we be told!

  4. nichomach

    " It was petty and stupid, the action of an ignorant and frightened bully...". Yep, that sounds like this government.

    1. Ted Treen
      Big Brother

      Correction

      " It was petty and stupid, the action of an ignorant and frightened bully...". Yep, that sounds like ANY government.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Corrected Correction

        " It was petty and stupid, the action of an ignorant and frightened bully...". Yep, that sounds like EVERY government.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Correct

      And this is why we need Labour back in power to sort the nation put.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Correct

        The very same party that gave us all these terrorism laws now being used for their intended purpose (which is not actually to fight terrorism).

        1. LaeMing
          Go

          Re: Correct

          Technically, if the Government is terrified of its people, that makes those people...

      2. itzman

        Re: Correct

        ..and ruin it beyond any hope of redemption for a thousand years.

        Don't you get it? no party wants to win the next election.

        they want an unholy mish mash of three parties so they cam all blame each other for the inevitable mess we are heading into.

        Problem is UKIP wont play ball and might just upset the balance to the point of one of them actually having to take responsibility. This of course, is intolerable

        1. wowfood

          Re: Correct

          What we need is the Monster Raving Loony party, at least their policies made sense.

          1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

            Re: Correct

            Or the Silly Party. I voted Tarquin Fin-tim-lim-bim-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F'tang-F'tang-Olè-Biscuitbarrel, last time, although I did consider voting Kevin Phillips-Bong, the Slightly Silly candidate.

            1. Scorchio!!
              Thumb Up

              Re: Correct

              "Or the Silly Party."

              Or Rupert the Hun from the All Night party. I haven't seen much of him lately. Pity.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Correct

        The Internet Sarcasm Filter is strong today Grasshopper.

    3. Scorchio!!
      FAIL

      " " It was petty and stupid, the action of an ignorant and frightened bully...". Yep, that sounds like this government."

      You will of course supply sufficient citations/examples as to constitute a 'course of conduct', won't you?

      As you do you will probably need to recall the Jewish Labour party member and wartime survivor who was thrown out of the Labour party conference for pointing out the obvious, namely that the Labour party was neither democratic nor caring. You may also wish to remember Labour's record for military adventurism, coupled with its clandestine immigration campaign, a campaign which, when highlighted by voters who called them out pointing to their manifesto commitment to 'maintain firm control' over immigration, prompted accusations of racism.

      Oh yes. This government makes the Labour party seem like your favourite nanny, doesn't it? After all, to keep the populace quiet as it made them (from the perspective of a sympathetic and grateful voting population) redundant, it fed them with so much in the form of benefits that going to work was pointless... ...meanwhile they blew our money on white elephants, such as the ID card fiasco, the emergency rescue coordination centres, a variety of government IT projects, oh and let us not forget the billions they spent on subduing Johnny Foreigner (admittedly not so much to the liking of many of their imported voters, who happened to have the same religion as 'Johnny Foreigner').

      Yes. Of course. This government is bullying you. Into working for a living, into taking responsibility for your lives.

      1. Pookietoo
        FAIL

        Re: This government is bullying you. Into working for a living

        Especially those people at the bottom of the pile who are chronically ill or disabled, and realistically unable to fully support themselves - reduce their benefits and make them pay more taxes, because they're not going to be able to fight it. How long before they bring back the workhouse?

  5. UtterTosh

    Thus demonstrating why Governments seem incapable of getting IT projects up and running

    1. Scorchio!!

      "Thus demonstrating why Governments seem incapable of getting IT projects up and running"

      In particular it is a classic criticism of Labour governments over the past four or five decades that they are incapable of getting any major project running, IT included, and that they waste vast sums of money getting nowhere to prove this point. I learned this in my 1980 lectures, and was disappointed to see that they had not learned their lesson by 1997. In fact I can see that they had learned no lessons at all, especially in fiscal/economic arena, where in the 1970s they had to call out the IMF to pull them out of the merde, and in this century they left us with the biggest peacetime debt in our country's history.

      Their claims that this had to do with the recession are infinitely weakened by their reckless handling of public spending (at the end civil servants refused to sign off wild expenditures and made their political masters do so, which is almost without precedent [Labour excepted], their piss poor handling of regulation - 'light touch regulation' - which led the economy into quicksand, they committed various parts of the public sector to debts that could not be managed (leading to NHS trusts facing bankruptcy, due to PFI over stretch), they borrowed silly amounts of money, and they encourage José and Josétte public to take on a trillion pounds of debt, and showed no signs of interest in controlling lending. As to selling 60% of treasury reserve gold when the market was at a 20 year low, announcing it in advance, selling it en bloc, absofuckinglootly clooless, and I would love to rap the bastards up the side of their pointy heads with a clue by four. Criminal stupidity.

      The list of recklessness is too large and with such manifold implications as to merit a vast treatise, rather than a paragraph or two in a forum like this, yet each time members of the last government are confronted about their recklessness the country is greeted by a mixture of Vicky Pollard and Pinochio.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even better

    "The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, had earlier informed government officials that other copies of the files existed outside the country and that the Guardian was neither the sole recipient nor steward of the files leaked by Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. BUT THE GOVERNMENT INSISTED THAT THE MATERIAL BE EITHER DESTROYED OR SURRENDERED."

    El Reg is covering the "destroyed" question, but the better one for the government is "surrendered".

    It's DATA. Just exactly HOW are you supposed to "surrender" it, fully, to the satisfaction of a government? 'Oops, I'm sorry that I have it! I'll just forward you [a copy] and we'll call it quits'? When you send a copy of a copy does that mean that my eyeballs and brain neurons had their data retention stream removed, as well?

    1. Thomas 4

      Re: Even better

      "When you send a copy of a copy does that mean that my eyeballs and brain neurons had their data retention stream removed, as well?"

      A government that lobotomises is a government that cares. <3

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Even better

        Email back the copy when you have finished reading it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Even better

      What's known can never be un-known.

      What's been invented can never be un-invented.

      Stable door, horse?

      1. AJ MacLeod

        Re: Even better

        Whilst I agree with the sentiment in this particular case, it's definitely not true that what's known can never become unknown.

    3. Naughtyhorse
      Thumb Up

      Re: Even better

      Clearly our dave has retained the services (no doubt at great expense) of david thorne for advice on all matters digital.

      http://www.27bslash6.com/overdue.html

      1. Danny 14

        Re: Even better

        Op: Easy! Affidavit that you have no copies and have deleted backups! Destroying the pc was just pointless.

  8. Ian 62

    And why aren't the Government using the law for these things?

    Because they suspect that the Government case isnt as strong as they think.

    If they really thought they had a legal case against the Guardian they could have used the appropriate laws to sieze and prevent publishing a story. "D-Notice" isnt it?

    If they really thought the lad Miranda was carrying stolen property (the documents from the NSA) they could have arrested him on suspicion of handling stolen property.

    But no, they used terrorism law and thinly vieled threats, with no requirement for the 'suspect' to have any rights or priviledges.

    If they'd carried out either of these acts using appropriate laws with oversight there wouldnt be half the political fuss there is now.

    1. a cynic writes...

      Re: And why aren't the Government using the law for these things?

      Oddly enough I think they did. I was reading the Official Secrets Act earlier (as you do). Section 8 - Safeguarding of Information has provisions in it for "an official direction to return or dispose of" confidential information. The alternative would be to prosecute under section 6 (informational given in confidence to other states).

      To be honest, I don't think they care that much what the Guardian has on its servers - it knew what to details to redact and those servers aren't going anyway soon. I think the real concern was what could be left on the train by a pissed hack. Of course they could have wiped the drives but then 5 minutes with a lump hammer is much more fun.

      1. Ged T
        Holmes

        Re: And why aren't the Government using the law for these things?

        OK - I'm familiar with the Act and it's sections.

        The really intertesting questions, for me, are framed in this: In what way does the *UK* Offical Secrets Act apply to Edward Snowden, a U.S. citizen, or indeed, to a Brazilian friend of the journalist that met and reported about the U.S.-sourced data and that journalist's employer?

        1. Andrew Oakley
          Go

          Re: And why aren't the Government using the law for these things?

          >In what way does the *UK* Offical Secrets Act apply to Edward Snowden,

          >a U.S. citizen, or indeed, to a Brazilian friend of the journalist that met

          >and reported about the U.S.-sourced data and that journalist's employer?

          The moment that data touched UK soil. The UK govt doesn't really believe it has destroyed every copy of the data. It just wants to make it a bit more difficult for the Grauniad to blatantly breach the OSA from within our own shores.

          It's not a question of "What did the UK govt achieve by doing this?" Rather, the question is, "What would the UK govt be implicitly encouraging if it did NOT do this?".

          Yeah, so the Graun can continue to run the story from overseas - keep doing that, and eventually they'll have to move the whole newspaper overseas. Be careful not to relocate to another NATO ally, because we all know that a secret here is a secret there too, so sooner or later you'll get your hardware trashed and your bum searched there too.

          If you enjoy the standard of living in South America or Eastern Europe, then that's your decision to defect (and let's be quite clear; moving your operations to a non-friendly state in order to avoid your home state's security is defection by any other name). But don't imagine for one moment that you can blatantly spill NATO secrets and then expect to be able to walk in and out of NATO borders without a shedload of trouble.

          1. Arctic fox
            Thumb Down

            No Mr Oakley it is more like........

            "But don't imagine for one moment that you can blatantly spill NATO secrets and then expect to be able to walk in and out of NATO borders without a shedload of trouble."

            ..............."Don't imagine for one moment that you can blatantly spill the beans on our political mendacity and still be able to go about your daily life without a shedload of trouble." There, fixed it for you - much more realistic.

          2. Naughtyhorse

            Re: And why aren't the Government using the law for these things?

            there may be a case to answer if the driver was national security, even the national security of an ally, at a stretch.

            But it ain't,

            The driver here is big bad govt. doing what it shouldn't and getting caught with it's hand in the cookie jar.

            and this is the same 'anti-terror' legislation misused in the past to suppress dissent at arms fairs??

            yeahhhhh, i kinda thought it might be.

            which side won the cold war again?

          3. Scorchio!!
            Thumb Up

            Re: And why aren't the Government using the law for these things?

            "don't imagine for one moment that you can blatantly spill NATO secrets and then expect to be able to walk in and out of NATO borders without a shedload of trouble."

            Yes. It would seem that a lot of people here do not understand the basis and the point of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and it seems to me to add strength to my view that the greater number of reg posters here are indeed of the acne kind. True, NATO has had a hard time defining its role in the shadow of the USSR's collapse, but the beauty of such an organisation - take for example also the now sadly defunct SEATO - is that all members come to the aid of one another when attacked. Hence George Robertson consulted after the WTC attack and announced that if one NATO member is attacked, all members are attacked. That is the point and the basis of the military, intelligence and security functions of the alliance; the intelligence and security functions secure rear areas and also enable the organisation and its members to determine, hopefully accurately, forthcoming threats.

            What the WTC attacks demonstrated was that a core member of NATO, the USA, was riddled with significant and hampering problems; these were due to the a) the competing nature of national security organisations, b) the excessive number of national security organisations, c) the lack of an overall command structure to supervise and task organisations, thereby preventing wasteful and unnecessary and dangerous competition and d) the problems of an inflexible form of 'need to know' that prevented these organisations from inter communicating, sharing data and sharing analyses. (Pfc Bradley Manning apparently took advantage of the lazy password habits of his colleagues, namely their tendency to write their passwords on Post-it notes which they stuck on their monitors, and I believe also the use of weak passwords.)

            In addition to the 2001 attacks the key to understanding how we came to be here is to remember the attack on the USS Cole, the earlier WTC attack, the embassy attacks in Africa, the killing of a number of private citizens such as Daniel Perl whose murder was filmed and made publicly available, the Bali bombings and many, many other such examples across the world. Clearly something has to be done in order to understand, anticipate and prevent further attacks, and this means more than pissing about with spy satellites, recruiting people en situ and other such techniques; traffic analysis is crucial, especially in data sharing alliances such as NATO whose members are the exemplar/premier Al Q'aida attack targets. That means us, human beings, people on the bus and the tube; people on holiday in Egypt (the Muslim Brotherhood wiped out a bus full of German tourists years back; even Jewish tourists in Romania aren't safe, never mind Australian and British tourists in Bali).

            The scale of the problem is daunting, especially at a time when NATO members - indeed even their former enemies in Russia and similar - are cutting back on military expenditure for reasons of recession. Clearly the sensible way forward is to monitor the very facilities used by terrorists and fellow travellers to collaborate and to communicate. Given the widespread availability of PGP - something which the USA tried during the 1990s to prevent, rating it as weapons grade software - opening email is unlikely to profit anyone. Indeed, using software such as True Crypt to encrypt substantial files and place them on various 'cloud' storage sites is even more effective, where greater amounts of data are to be transmitted. Given the request by Brazil's intelligence/security services for the CIA/FBI to decrypt/break into a True Crypt container, which resulted in failure, this form of encryption would appear to be as unbreakable as PGP/GNU PG.

            All that is left is traffic analysis; who is contacting whom, and so on. Those who object do so short sightedly. The wars of the future may not involve large alliances and nation states. Indeed, as long ago as 40 years back Arthur C Clarke was predicting this, saying that drugs barons, private armies/terrorists and private nut cases (the unabomber is case in point) would constitute the greatest problem. Yes, the threat would come from within our ranks, and here it is, now, today. Aside from Al Q'aida, Laskar e Tauba (I forget the spelling but this is phonetically close), Ansar al Islam, the 'real IRA' and many other such muddled nutcase organisations, there is now a very significant problem in the form of drugs barons, their armies and their finances; it is so bad in Mexico that even the Mexican marines experience difficulty in subduing the problem, and you will notice they always wear a balaclava on ops. Remember for a minute the murder of a British soldier on UK streets, and you will see that the problem is to be found everywhere, in singular form, in group form and in loosely knit group/ideological form.

            So far every attempt to deal with the problem has been met with specious objections by a variety of people who think they have a reason to fear traffic analysis, but do not. Intelligence and security agencies do not have time to waste on petty criminals, or people with a penchant for zoophilia, or whatever other private secrets these sorts of people could better communicate using PGP encryption. What they want are the links between people that will enable them to trace the skeins back to the originators of these messages to known hostile individuals and groups. It is here that "24" was far ahead of its time, anticipating the use of a variety of proxy styled means of communication that would help hostiles to remain ahead of their pursuers.

            It was quite clearly recognised during WWII that people would necessarily have to lose freedoms in order to defeat a common enemy, one who would slaughter many of us during the process of defeating us, and during the process of 'pacifying' us. Our problem now is that we are complacent, we are individualists, we do not identify with the group and we do not identify enemies of us as a group; we scarcely even think of ourselves as - in particular - English, not least because the last government was indisposed to such a national culture, identifying it with racism, such was the non sequitur thinking of those who represented us, and came from our midst, thus reflecting a prevailing trend.

            Most of the blinkered exchanges that go on here and in The Guardian completely miss the point, lives on the razor's edge of sensationalism and is useless, except perhaps to occupy idle and perhaps to be charitable small minds. The work will go on, sensationalist nonsense about it will always be there and will be encouraged, in much the same way that the CIA encouraged belief in UFOs in the region of area 51, focusing people's attention on the area, but at the same time diverting it from the true product, namely high flying spy planes, followed by stealth fighters and bombers, and then the successors to these things.

            If people here think that the Prism data are spectacular they have evidently not been paying attention to the other forms of intelligence gathering, the sub text of which can be read in between the lines of UK government unwillingness to disclose material in court, for to do so would publicise the source and techniques. It seems largely to work. I don't seen anyone here mentioning it, but if you go to Usenet newsgroups people quite frequently chatter about it, and I suppose possibly even on Web 2x +, though I believe from observing the content in one or two sites that they are not populated by the brightest lights in the harbour. Usenet still seems to be the domain of intellectuals, along with closed lists.

            Meanwhile the bunfest will continue, until such time as the next large slaughter takes place and then, eventually, people will forget the last slaughter and start to consider what they think is an invasion of their privacy, when in fact invading their privacy will prove to be a waste of precious processor and manpower time. The point is to prevent the people who wish to slaughter others, by interruption, by interference, by disclosing knowledge of their plans, by reducing the profile of targets, by increasing awarenes, by recruiting cooperation from target populations, by means of IT, and by means of human espionage on site, and by means of satellite monitoring where relevant.

            The bunfest will continue. People will escalate their beliefs, desires and inclinations into absolutes, and they absolutely will not bother to understand what the military, intelligence and security functions of NATO are for. Perhaps the common misattribution to Eric Blair is illustrative of the things that we forget in this domain: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

        2. Tom 35

          Re: And why aren't the Government using the law for these things?

          "In what way does the *UK* Offical Secrets Act apply to Edward Snowden"

          Some of the data leaked is stuff the UK gave to the US and/or stuff the US gave to the UK. Stuff that shows the UK is actively taking part in the data suck in partnership with the NSA.

          In other words it makes some important people in the UK look bad too.

          1. Kubla Cant Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: And why aren't the Government using the law for these things?

            Some of the data leaked is stuff the UK gave to the US

            So, now we know they can't be trusted to keep it secret, I expect we'll stop giving it to them.

      2. Admiral Grace Hopper Silver badge

        Re: And why aren't the Government using the law for these things?

        "I think the real concern was what could be left on the train by a pissed hack."

        Indeed. That's the MoD's job.

      3. david 12

        but then 5 minutes with a lump hammer is much more fun.

        Dunno that I agree with that.

        There is a standard way to dispose of hard drives that have contained confidential information.

        That standard way is physical destruction. Physical destruction under supervision.

        Obviously, the reason why it became standard to do physical destruction instead of just wiping the drive is because it has repeatedly happened that drives which were supposed to be "wiped" weren't. Whereas physical destruction under supervision has a good track record. And it's cheaper too.

        But regardless of that, once you have a standard procedure, why not follow the standard procedure? It is absolutely what I would expect any sensible company to do, not just goverment departments.

    2. Naughtyhorse
      Thumb Up

      Re: And why aren't the Government using the law for these things?

      Alan Rusbridger got it dead right when he said:

      "When you conflate terrorism with journalism, as a country i think you are in some trouble."

      This whole thing stinks. and we all know that the intelligence value of what snowden leaked is absolutely fuck all. plaintext over a mobile phone connection?

      If thats what they are doing to 'fight the war on terror', then alice and bob are safe for the forseeable. it's just the rest of us that are fucked.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: And why aren't the Government using the law for these things? @Ian 62

      I think you are missing the point:

      "...had earlier informed government officials that other copies of the files existed outside the country and that the Guardian was neither the sole recipient nor steward of the files leaked by Snowden..."

      What the UK government were able to do by this symbolic gesture was to be able to say: to their knowledge as of whenever the disks were destroyed, no other copies of the files were know to exist in the UK, hence they have done their duty under any agreement with the USA over intelligence and made it more difficult for the US to try to extradite UK citizens...

    4. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: And why aren't the Government using the law for these things?

      Data isn't covered by the Theft Act, only physical goods, and electricity. If he had personally logged onto the NSA's computer systems and downloaded the stuff, they could possibly do him for unlawful abstraction of electricity under the theft act if he was in the UK at the time he did it, but there is no suggestion that he did that.

  9. Dunstan Vavasour
    Meh

    Ticking Boxes

    Both sides knew it was a pointless act, with copies in other places held by other organisations.

    But some manager somewhere will have been able to put a tick in a box.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Our rulers have been found out and now they're lashing out at anyone and everyone to try and distract us from what we know. This is not going to end well for anyone who values personal freedom and liberty. Oh sorry, i forgot, if you've nothing to hide...

    1. Scorchio!!
      FAIL

      "Our rulers have been found out and now they're lashing out at anyone and everyone to try and distract us from what we know. This is not going to end well for anyone who values personal freedom and liberty."

      This sort of specious argumentation exemplifies to me the problem of misunderstanding. Lashing out? Are you projecting here? Do you think that the government has actually taken a disliking to the very electorate whom they hope will return them to office next election time? Really, this is too much, too sensationalist, too removed from reality. As for the 'nothing to hide' quip it smacks of the paranoid sensationalism that populates alt.* Usenet newsgroups, where people set off tidal waves of silliness with a mere faux truth or two.

      Keep wearing the mask. It makes you seem more ridiculous, while preventing people from ridiculing you in person.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This really is embarrassing in 2013.

    This one sums it up for me!

    https://twitter.com/Three_Sixty_IS/status/370115432960622592

  12. Evil Auditor Silver badge
    Trollface

    "petty and stupid"?

    C'mon, two Mac books less on earth!

    Just trolling. Even for guvemint officials this is moronic beyond belief.

  13. Code Monkey
    Big Brother

    Stupidity? Malice? Both?

    I really can't work out whether this is stupidity malice, or both. I suspect the former.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stupidity? Malice? Both?

      No, it's an angry man who's been pissed on by The Prez (Graun being a Brit paper) telling someone to do something and said someone can't tell him the facts of life without losing his job. The Miranda thing probably stems from the same motivation.

  14. Anomalous Cowshed

    A bit of an insight into why this happened

    As this is a very controversial event, our researchers have been analysing the mental waveforms detected around the scene on that day and recorded by our secret, super-advanced patent-pending sensors, which were very planted there as part of another surveillance operationhappened to be lying around. The result is that we are able to reproduce the actual thought processes going on in some of the protagonists' minds, which led to the events being commentated on here:

    <before>

    RRrrrrrr. Waff wafff. Grrrrrrrr. Waf! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!

    <hard disks and memory destroyed>

    Rrrrr. Wif. Wif wif.

  15. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    A word of caution

    A bully that is scared that they are losing control is probably the most unpredictable and dangerous one you can have.

    I'm expecting to see some really nasty stuff bubbling up soon.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No Suprise.

    The rozzers took 6 PCs from me a few years back, every single one was returned in an inoperable condition, and the laptop was scrap.

    1. SD24576

      Re: No Suprise.

      Did you sue them?

    2. Hollerith 1

      Re: No Suprise.

      It's how they punish you. Because you should be punished. You clearly did something wrong or they wouldn't have needed to pay attention to you. And also to remind you that they have the power to hurt you without you being able to do anything about it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Snap.

      I lost two laptops for three weeks. Both were returned with the battery compartments rent asunder (screwdriver damage - it looked as though someone could not work out how to release the battery) and the disk drives wiped. Complaint still working its way through the system - then it will be the IPCC, then...

      Coincidentally (and it might give some people here a little frisson of pleasure) they were both Macbook Pros (looked like an Air in those Grauniad photos).

      1. Frankee Llonnygog

        Re: Snap.

        Macbooks? They probably broke them while trying to find the Start button

  17. El Presidente

    Don't forget the lying bit.

    The cabinet claimed no prior knowledge of Miranda's detention, then that they admitted they knew.

    Then they denied the Rusbridger story then the cabinet confirmed it was true.

    In any other walk of life, that much duplicity and outright incompetence would see them sacked and the police called in. But this is the cabinet. They are above the law in the way they claim nobody is.

    Shocking, brazen lies and getting away with it in public. Shameless.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Don't forget the lying bit.

      Never believe anything until it's been officially denied

    2. Joefish
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Don't forget the lying bit.

      Someone needs to brief the cabinet that threats to government credibility and threats to national security are not necessarily the same thing.

      Same as the fact that they still haven't learnt the difference between 'party holdings' and 'public ownership'.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I got a refurbished PC from a seller on ebay a few years ago that had a floppy disk in the drive which contained documents which were about classified military camouflage techniques.

    the documents were pretty old (file dates showed late 1990s) but it just goes to show how easy it is for classified info to get forgotten about onces its been copied to somewhere else.

    I told the person i who bought the PC from and asked do they want the disk back and they just asked me to smash it and then throw it away, which of course i did ;)

  19. Roo

    It does set an irritating precedent

    In that if you were (for example) to browse to a website that had the forbidden data you would then (potentially) have a copy cached on your hard drive... Which in turn could lead to people wasting tax payer's money, your time and your equipment (literally wasted in this case).

    It could get very expensive for the Grauniad if the authorities decide to continue being silly funts.

    1. El Presidente
      Thumb Up

      Re: It does set an irritating precedent

      "It could get very expensive for the Grauniad if the authorities decide to continue being silly funts."

      Probably why Rusbridger didn't use the special procedure material defence.

      Easier to smash up a laptop and get a story out of it than spank hundreds of thousands in a futile defence.

      Looks like he played a blinder this time in letting the spooks spaff egg all over their own faces and that of the cabinet.

  20. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    A common theme in totalitarian SciFi is somebody on a quest for, eg, "the" US Declaration of Independence (eg The Stars Like Dust, an episode of Sliders). Whenever this crops up my immediate thought is: how on earth is there only *one* copy of such a document? There were millions of paper copies of the US DofI within years of it's original creation, and even before the Web it would have been impossible to iradicate its existence.

  21. Colin Millar
    Coat

    The word "cabinet" can mean a piece of furniture

    - alternatively it can mean a bunch of planks and a bag of hammers with nothing resembling a sharp nail anywhere to be seen.

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. theblackhand

    The conversation went something like...

    Spook A: What do we do with our equipment that has top secret information on it?

    Spook B: We destroy it physically

    Spook A: Well then, send some chaps to the Guardian to do the same

    Whether there was any dissent I don't know, but I'd suggest it's Grey's Law:

    "Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice. "

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: The conversation went something like...

      First I've heard of Grey's law - I approve. Have an upvote!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The conversation went something like...

      I think most of the spooks know what they are doing and are getting on with their jobs. They would like nothing better than for everyone to shut up so we can forget all about it.

      Unfortunately the politicians seem to have decided to start a campaign of bully tactics and intimidation.

  24. GreyWolf

    The purpose was intimidation

    1. This time it's your computer that gets the hammer. Next time you publish something, it's your head.

    2. This time it's your boyfriend gets done over. Next you publish something, it's you, and it won't be the hammer, it'll be an HIV infection, your home burnt down, and your boyfriend renderd to an American jail.

  25. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    so the Cabine Secretary is one of the "Shady Whitehall figures"

    Interesting to know.

    But man, does Cameron across as ignorant of about the last 3 decades of the modern world?

    Still what can you expect of someone who hires Clare Perry to advising him on keeping kiddies safe on the interwebs?

    Definitely a candidate for a tap with the clue stick.

  26. Tony Green

    It wasn't about putting the data beyond use

    It was all about intimidation.

    "We don't like the fact that you're exposing our dirty-works so we're going to show you how we can order you about".

    That's how government works today. And in truth, has always worked. In its OWN interests, not those of the people it's supposed to serve.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: It wasn't about putting the data beyond use

      We are going to walk into the offices of the major anti-government newspaper and give it a story that makes the government look bad and puts the Guardian onto front page news everywhere in the world - at the cost of a couple of bits of old hardware.

      There are only two possible explanations:

      1, The government and the intelligence agencies REALLY ARE that stupid

      2, The secret intelligence service is still being run by KGB agents. But being British Intelligence they don't know they cold war is over and think the Guardian is still a hot bed of lefty radicalism - and are trying to help their fellow Trotsky-ites stick it to the Tory government.

      1. IT veteran
        Big Brother

        The Guardian is so "anti-government"

        1) it supported one of the parties now in the coalition in the last election

        2) one of its journos went on to become speechwriter for a certain David Cameron

        3) it regularly publishes articles by tory ministers

        Don't get me wrong, I like the Guardian, but the "anti government" line is so 1980s.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: The Guardian is so "anti-government"

          Still perhaps the nearest thing there is to an official opposition !

  27. phuzz Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Turns out even ex-MPs have a trouble getting their heads round the idea of 'copy'.

    Louise Mensch ‏@LouiseMensch 20 Aug

    Edward #Snowden stole it and thanks to our first rate security police at LHR, our security forces have it back. Well done to the police

    https://twitter.com/LouiseMensch/status/369841559434326017

    1. Frankee Llonnygog

      That massive sucking sound you just heard was either:

      - The data swirling from the Internet back down the NSA plughole

      - The vacuum between Mensch's ears imploding

    2. Naughtyhorse

      awww! bless!

      She has a hard time getting her head round anything.

      Rumour is she only went stateside to make palin appear engaged

  28. smudge
    Black Helicopters

    You've all missed the point, except me :)

    These are NSA documents. They will be US-owned Top Secret documents, and things like the PRISM presentation that was published by the Guardian carried the NOFORN marking - meaning that it could not be seen by non-US folk.

    Her Maj's Gummint has no more right to have them than Snowden, Greenwald or Miranda does.

    They probably want to see them so that they can find out what the colonials are getting up to, including how much they spy on the UK.

    You can be sure that they would much rather the Grauniad had surrendered the documents. And that's why they spent nine hours on Sunday coaxing Miranda's passwords out of him.

    1. GT66

      Re: You've all missed the point, except me :)

      "They probably want to see them so that they can find out what the colonials are getting up to, including how much they spy on the UK."

      Then wouldn't it have been easier and far more stealthy for them to just read the Guardian articles when they came out?

      1. smudge

        Re: You've all missed the point, except me :)

        Except that they have no way of knowing what the Guardian will publish. There could be stuff there of significance to HMG but which the Grauniad never publishes.

        And anyway, they'd want to know before us.

    2. Naughtyhorse

      Re: You've all missed the point, except me :)

      <nervously put's up hand>

      err... i can see it, and i'm forn!

      (i was born in alberta, eth-eth-eth, eth-eth-scorchio!)

    3. Scorchio!!
      FAIL

      Re: You've all missed the point, except me :)

      "[...] And that's why they spent nine hours on Sunday coaxing Miranda's passwords out of him."

      Thank you for proving that a lie spread by the Guardian will, in spite of correction by same rag, replicate unhindered. FYI, the Guardian have admitted that 8 of the 9 hours were spent by Miranda waiting for the solicitor that he decided to contract, rather than using the nearest available duty solicitor; in the absence of a solicitor he could not be interviewed, he was kept for one hour, he kept himself for 8 hours, presumably because he is an idiot, ditto the Guardian for lying.

      Next, it is the case that Miranda was working for his partner, as an information mule/carrying data for him, whilst it is also the case that the Guardian paid his travelling expenses.

      I do not expect you to believe me; I expect you to continue to perpetuate these fairy stories and accept Guardian bullshit as uncritically as people here write about government lashing out at its bread and butter, openly, publicly, unlike New Labour, which did so by privately breaking from its mandate, and denying in public that it had done so. A considerable difference, and the silliness that I read here reinforces me that some posters here really ought to tell their parents what they are up to in their bedrooms.

  29. Tom 7 Silver badge

    They aren't allowed to use drones in airports and offices

    but they can spread the collateral damage by other means if they have to.

  30. Black Rat

    Offered: Pemex Memory Doubler

    Unwanted gift, used only once...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not even Snowden understands what he has stolen

    Snowden thinks it is a civil liberties thing with Governments spying on their own people.

    The security agencies have been slurping all data for years, not just personal but corporate.

    That includes the banking system laundering money from drug dealers and terrorist regimes through the City and Wall St, where it originates and whose pockets it finally lands in.

    Follow the money.

  32. MaxHertz

    grinding madness

    They seem to have got a little carried away with the angle grinder.

    In the picture on the Guardian page, there appears to be the case from a MacBook, two MacBook mainboards, a PCI express graphics card and motherboard from a PC.

    All bear evidence of having been enthusiastically attacked with an angle grinder. Odd, as none of these would seem to offer much utility for the long term storage of documents.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    What else do you expect from thick, public school pr1cks?

  34. Magnus_Pym

    So either ...

    Dave: 'Yes mister US spook master sir we destroyed everything'. chuckles behind hand, chinny recon.

    UK Spook: 'Smart move sir, we'll soon know all their secrets'.

    OR

    UK Spook: 'But sir, it doesn't make sense and it won't work'.

    Dave: How dare you talk back me? Do you know who I am? I went to Eton, for gods sake. What provincial state funded muggle shithole did you get dragged through. You don't get paid to think, You Oik. You get paid to do what your elders and betters tell you to do.

    Which sounds more likley given the governments track record in IT?

  35. TitterYeNot

    Angle grinders? Hard drives and memory chips? Incompetent idiots in charge? I thought this was the latest episode of BOFH for a minute there...

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      There certainly is matter for inspiration here.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As much as I hate the relentless mental masturbation of Alan Moore...

    He nailed it for us, some time ago:

    "There are, of course, those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now orders are being shouted into telephones and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there?

    Cruelty and injustice...intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance, coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission"

    HAND.

  37. tony2heads
    WTF?

    another act of Security Theatre

    Surely we must get to the end of this stupid show soon. This drama is poor stuff - I can only hope that the powers that be don't take any of the seriously.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tick, tick, tick ...

    "Hello! Is that MI5? This is Charles Pointless Lifeform, MP for Nowhere Special - I've just received an email from someone claiming to be a supporter of Ed Snowden. It has a large encrypted file attached - no, I don't know the password but the email says that will be published tomorrow in several printed and online media. What do you mean I am going to need a new computer? Oh, you've got one now as well, and all sorts of senior civil servants too? Better warn the Treasury and the PM - we're going to need a new tax to pay for this"

  39. swaygeo
    Coat

    Gosh

    This "Guardian" newspaper, surely does sound like a ripping good read, I must go forth and purchase it immediately!

    Might be raining out, I'll get my coat...

  40. Rick Giles

    So....

    Why doesn't everyone with a copy of Snowden's documents just email them to every UK public official they can?

    Tit for tat.

  41. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Prime Minister

    To me, it sounds like the Prime Minister said "get these disks destroyed", probably was told "Well there'll be backups" and... well, insert appropriate action from "Yes, Prime Minister" and here we are. 8-)

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