back to article Brit spooks slammed over 'gentlemen's agreement' with telcos to get mass comms data

Privacy International has slammed the UK's spy agencies for failing to keep a proper paper trail over what data telcos were asked to provide under snooping laws, following its first ever cross-examination of a GCHQ witness. The campaign group was granted the right to grill GCHQ's star witness after he made a series of errors …

  1. JassMan Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Give them an inch...

    So much for all those government re-assurances.

    I'm sure we promised that the snoopers charter was fully equipped with checks and balances and that no one need worry about spooks taking the law into their own hands.

    Still, guess its nothing new and spook agencies all over the world do exactly the same.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Give them an inch...

      You can just imagine what #hashtag Amber Rudd signs off... Anything.

      Mouthpiece, conjecture, utter.

      I can't help thinking the spooks found her 400 votes at the last election to keep her Hastings and Rye seat, given the revelations here.

      (Losing Rudd, would have forced out Theresa May at the time, for sure, given Rudd had stood in for May during TV debates).

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Give them an inch...

        "You can just imagine what #hashtag Amber Rudd signs off"

        Using the latest in making-stuff-up technology, I can exclusively reveal to you how such a meeting happens:

        GCHQ: "Hello HomeSec, we'd like to tap all the communications of this person"

        Home Sec: "Are they a naughty person?"

        G: "Oh yes"

        HS: "Oh go on then, here you go *scribbles signature*"

        Check and balances eh?

    2. Mark 65

      Re: Give them an inch...

      When your title states "Give them an inch..." are you referring to the security services or to the politicians? They're both duplicitous pricks in my books.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't think these are all gentlemen's agreements, I think the people on the receiving end of the requests aren't stupid enough to say no to our spy agencies without first learning how to tie themselves up in a duffel bag,

    1. cantankerous swineherd

      and don't forget the spooks have an unlimited budget for ladies underwear.

    2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      I'm pretty sure there aren't any gentlemen involved here. Sounds like mostly cads.

  3. }{amis}{
    Black Helicopters

    No surprises here

    You can be forced to disclose what you don't know.

    GCHQ is a spy agency of course the are going to be committed to hiding their actions buy any method they can come up with.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: No surprises here

      GCHQ is a spy agency

      But we had naively hoped that they were spying on the enemies of the country, rather than the enemies of the current home secretary

      1. smudge

        Re: No surprises here

        The Secretary of State who oversees GCHQ is Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Right Honourable Boris Johnson MP.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No surprises here

          I don't think Boris oversees GCHQ even though it's his job otherwise GCHQ headquarters would look like a toddler party with food everywhere. I'm not even sure the man could oversee what he has for breakfast without f*cking up the eggs.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        But we had naively hoped that they were spying on the enemies of the country,

        Don't be stupid.

        The real enemy of such organizations is not their counterparts in other countries.

        It's the subjects of their own country.

        All the terrorism/drug trafficking/paedophila is self serving bu***hit.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No surprises here

        "But we had naively hoped that they were spying on the enemies of the country, rather than the enemies of the current home secretary"

        But the only way of making sure that they find the enemies of other countries is by spying on everyone...

        You have nothing to fear if your are innocent!*

        * Important note: by innocent we mean completely innocent of everything, including putting your rubbish in the correct recycling bins. Our political masters will take care of making everything illegal in someway so that our spying is justified.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did they get approval from the Belgian government.....

    .....for the hack on the Belgian government?????

    ......probably not!!! And then again was the hack legal under BRITISH law???

    ......probably not.

    STASI at work in Cheltenham!!!!

    1. Aladdin Sane

      Re: Did they get approval from the Belgian government.....

      'Multiple exclamation marks,' he went on, shaking his head, 'are a sure sign of a diseased mind.'
      - Sir Pterry Pratchett


  5. Nick Kew


    There seems to be a missing element to this story.

    Did the telcos (all of them?) just roll over and provide data on request? Or did they at least insist on some form of Due Process? Wouldn't the latter in itself create a documented evidence trail (at least in theory)?

    And did all our telcos behave exactly the same? Or is the story glossing over something, or perhaps generalising from a single GCHQ-telco relationship?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Telcos?

      ummm GCHQ has a policy of not writing anything down if it can be avoided. Deliberately to avoid being held responsible, especially if they can point to the blame being elsewhere.

      This causes the police no end of grief when asking for a paper trail...Its no wonder they don't like each other much.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: Telcos?

        ...GCHQ has a policy of not writing anything down if it can be avoided...

        ALL the intelligence services have a policy of producing as little documentation as possible. This is because of their history - WW2 and then Cold War. During WW2, for instance, the SOE were famous for telling people as little as possible about what they were doing. And at that time there were very good reasons for limiting information distribution. Lots of people would get killed if the information got out, because you were in a total war....

        This background and tradition is completely at odds with peacetime work - the rule of law, and the principles of justice which require examination of evidence in an open court. While the Police don't seem to be very good at this, they at least have the requirement for open evidence collection as a fundamental requirement for their work.

        You might wonder why we still maintain an arm of the executive which operates secretly and ignores the law, given that we are no longer fighting a war for the continued existence of the country. You would be right to so wonder...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Telcos?

          The police have access to some of the same tools as GCHQ. In fact one system has a mode specifically for the police where by it can only intercept traffic with a valid warrant associated with the track and the software won't function without it. Even then, I don't think the evidence can be used in court.

          Oddly the same software gets installed without those 'restrictions' elsewhere..... That same software also gets sold into the middle east and other questionable places. My morals kicked in at that point and I left.

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon

            Re: Telcos?

            Telcos (plural).

            Who are they kidding? There is one Telco in this country that *still* owns 95% of the underlying transport system for data, even if other 'ISP's' rent some of it off them and re-sell it.

            It would therefore have to be a Telco with a Retail and a Wholesale department.

            It's only a two letter acronym, based on where it is and what it does.


  6. Aodhhan

    Pointless battle

    Let's say the s9 is disapproved by the system, but the PM still wants to intercept information on British citizens... all they do is contact their buddies in the CIA to set up their equipment for interception and get the information through them.

    --thanks for playing. the PM wins either way.

  7. scrubber

    "This is clearly unacceptable."

    It was actually illegal. But don't expect anyone to go to jail or even get fired. We're all about looking forward these days.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unfortunately powers to keep the public safe are often confused with powers misused to keep the establishment rich.

  9. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Telco and Government Dept - Gentleman's agreement

    Where have we seen that before?

    Now that's a taxing question...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How long

    How long until stories like this don't get written due to, to many "accidents" happening to reporters :(

    1. genghis_uk

      Re: How long

      I was just wondering why this is not mainsream news. It affects us just as much as Brexit but not a mention on any channel, just the same old political drivel plus snow of course

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