Exclusive: Edward Snowden leaks reveal UK’s secret Middle-East internet surveillance base

EEV: Base has been Compromised

 

 

 

Data-gathering operation is part of a £1bn web project still being assembled by GCHQ

Duncan Campbell, Oliver Wright, James Cusick, Kim Sengupta

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Britain runs a secret internet-monitoring station in the Middle East to intercept and process vast quantities of emails, telephone calls and web traffic on behalf of Western intelligence agencies, The Independent has learnt.

The station is able to tap into and extract data from the underwater fibre-optic cables passing through the region.

The information is then processed for intelligence and passed to GCHQ in Cheltenham and shared with the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States. The Government claims the station is a key element in the West’s “war on terror” and provides a vital “early warning” system for potential attacks around the world.

The Independent is not revealing the precise location of the station but information on its activities was contained in the leaked documents obtained from the NSA by Edward Snowden. The Guardian newspaper’s reporting on these documents in recent months has sparked a dispute with the Government, with GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives containing the data.

The Middle East installation is regarded as particularly valuable by the British and Americans because it can access submarine cables passing through the region. All of the messages and data passed back and forth on the cables is copied into giant computer storage “buffers” and then sifted for data of special interest.

Information about the project was contained in 50,000 GCHQ documents that Mr Snowden downloaded during 2012. Many of them came from an internal Wikipedia-style information site called GC-Wiki. Unlike the public Wikipedia, GCHQ’s wiki was generally classified Top Secret  or above.

The disclosure comes as the Metropolitan Police announced it was launching a terrorism investigation into material found on the computer of David Miranda, the Brazilian partner of The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald – who is at the centre of the Snowden controversy.

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Scotland Yard said material examined so far from the computer of Mr Miranda was “highly sensitive”, the disclosure of which “could put lives at risk”.

The Independent understands that The Guardian agreed to the Government’s request not to publish any material contained in the Snowden documents that could damage national security.

As well as destroying a computer containing one copy of the Snowden files, the paper’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, agreed to restrict the newspaper’s reporting of the documents.

The Government also demanded that the paper not publish details of how UK telecoms firms, including BT and Vodafone, were secretly collaborating with GCHQ to intercept the vast majority of all internet traffic entering the country. The paper had details of the highly controversial and secret programme for over a month. But it only published information on the scheme – which involved paying the companies to tap into fibre-optic cables entering Britain – after the allegations appeared in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. A Guardian spokeswoman refused to comment on any deal with the Government.

A senior Whitehall source said: “We agreed with The Guardian that our  discussions with them would remain confidential”.

But there are fears in Government that Mr Greenwald – who still has access to the files – could attempt to release damaging information.

He said after the arrest of Mr Miranda: “I will be far more aggressive in my reporting from now. I am going to publish many more documents. I have many more documents on England’s spy system. I think  they will be sorry for what they did.”

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One of the areas of concern in Whitehall is that details of the Middle East spying base which could identify its location could enter the public domain.

The data-gathering operation is part of a £1bn internet project still being assembled by GCHQ. It is part of the surveillance and monitoring system, code-named “Tempora”, whose wider aim is the global interception of digital communications, such as emails and text messages.

Across three sites, communications – including telephone calls – are tracked both by satellite dishes and by tapping into underwater fibre-optic cables.

Access to Middle East traffic has become critical to both US and UK intelligence agencies post-9/11. The Maryland headquarters of the NSA and the Defence Department in Washington have pushed for greater co-operation and technology sharing between US and UK intelligence agencies.

The Middle East station was set up under a warrant signed by the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband, authorising GCHQ to monitor and store for analysis data passing through the network of fibre-optic cables that link up the internet around the world

The certificate authorised GCHQ to collect information about the “political intentions of foreign powers”, terrorism, proliferation, mercenaries and private military companies, and serious financial fraud.

However, the certificates are reissued every six months and can be changed by ministers at will. GCHQ officials are then free to target anyone who is overseas or communicating from overseas without further checks or controls if they think they fall within the terms of a current certificate.

The precise budget for this expensive covert technology is regarded as sensitive by the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office.

However, the scale of Middle East operation, and GCHQ’s increasing use of sub-sea technology to intercept communications along high-capacity cables, suggest a substantial investment.

Intelligence sources have denied the aim is a blanket gathering of all communications, insisting the operation is targeted at security, terror and organised crime.

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/exclusive-edward-snowden-leaks-reveal-uks-secret-middleeast-internet-surveillance-base-8781082.html#

All expenses paid: the full scale of MPs’ lavish globetrotting revealed

 

Special Investigation: Hundreds of politicians have each accepted thousands of pounds worth of trips to exotic locations. So what do their hosts want in return?

 

Oliver Wright, Matthew Macaulay

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Backbench MPs have gone on more than £1.5m of trips with all expenses paid by foreign governments, pressure groups and companies in little over two years, The Independent can reveal. Several MPs have spent months out of the country on foreign trips, sometimes while Parliament is sitting, while many of those funding the visits have a vested interest in lobbying MPs.

After the trips, a significant number of MPs have made speeches in the House of Commons supporting the political positions of the governments and countries they have visited.

The Independent’s analysis reveals that 242 MPs have declared “fact-finding missions” and visits worth an average £6,500 to countries including Sri Lanka, China and former Soviet States since the last election.

The highest-claiming MPs include the former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband who, since losing the Labour leadership to his brother, has gone on 14 foreign trips costing £47,600 and taking up 47 days – mainly to give speeches and attend conferences.

The foreign trips taken by Mr Miliband, who declared in the aftermath of his leadership defeat that “South Shields comes first”, have helped him to earn £400,000 in addition to his MPs salary.

The findings show that:

* One in five Conservative backbench MPs had been taken on trips to Israel and Palestine since 2010 – the majority paid for by pro-Israeli lobbying groups. In total 79 MPs have been funded to visit the region at an approximate cost to their hosts of more than £130,000.

* Saudi Arabia paid £36,000 to take 12 MPs on a four-day trip to Riyadh. MPs have also accepted £41,000 worth of trips to Azerbaijan.

* MPs have been on 36 visits to China and Hong Kong, 23 visits to India and 34 visits to the US since the general election, but only one MP has accepted a trip to Afghanistan and only two MPs have visited Belgium. Six MPs have been on trips to Australia, five to Brazil and three to the Cayman Islands.

The furore over Nadine Dorries’ trip to Queensland to participate in the television show I’m A Celebrity… has thrown a spotlight on MPs taking time away from their constituencies and Parliament.

Mark Hendrick, the Preston Labour MP who chairs the all-party China group, has spent over four months out of Britain since 2010, accepting seven foreign trips costing £43,211 – including a month learning Mandarin in Beijing.

Barry Gardiner, the MP for Brent North, has accepted £52,071 in foreign trips since the election, spending a total of 73 days out of the country as Vice-President of Globe International – an international group representing parliamentarians.

Andrew Rosindell, the Conservative MP for Romford, has accepted £25,000 worth of trips to the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Switzerland, Taiwan and Uzbekistan, among others.

The MPs defended the trips saying that they always tried to travel when Parliament was not sitting and the trips were an important way of fact-finding and building UK relationships abroad.

The Independent has also established that a significant number of other MPs have used knowledge gained on trips to ask questions and make speeches in the House of Commons often supporting the political positions of countries that they have visited.

The MPs concerned stressed that these statements are unconnected to the hospitality they received and point out that accepting foreign travel is one of the few ways for Parliamentarians to educate themselves on international issues.

But critics claim some of the trips are inevitably “one-sided” with MPs only seeing what their hosts want them to see.

The Conservative Bob Blackman, who was elected to Parliament as the MP for suburban Harrow East in 2010, has accepted two trips to the value of £6,600 to Azerbaijan paid for by the European Azerbaijan Society. The first visit took place at the end of May 2011, and a month later he secured a debate in Parliament on the country in which he described the country as “making tremendous strides as a democratic republic”.

Mr Blackman also backed Azerbaijan in its diplomatic stand-off with Armenia and called on the Government to increase its economic ties with the country. “The fact is that there is a great opportunity for Britain and its economy, for the promotion of jobs and for furthering British interests in the region,” he said. He made no mention of human rights in his speech despite the authorities in Azerbaijan being accused of arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions and torture. In the 2012 Press Freedom Index, Azerbaijan ranked 162nd out of 179 nations. Other MPs raised human rights during the debate. Mr Blackman told The Independent that subsequent to his visit a human rights group had contacted him and he would be raising the subject with the Azerbaijani authorities on his next visit. But he defended accepting the trips and speaking about his experiences. “I think that one of the problems with MPs is that they speak before they see,” he said.

“Britain has a big investment in Azerbaijan and as the Minister acknowledged in the debate it was a aluable trip.” In another case, the Bournemouth MP Conor Burns, a Conservative, went on a £3,279 trip funded by the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs in October 2010 to observe elections in the country. Early the following year he was quoted as saying: “We were able to go anywhere we wanted and speak to anyone. Whilst not flawless, these elections are way ahead of anything else seen in the region.”

However a report from the international group Human Rights Watch documented allegations that in the run-up to the elections the Bahraini government detained prominent opposition activists on terrorism charges, closed publications and websites, and intimidated civil society activists.

“What we are seeing in Bahrain these days is a return to full-blown authoritarianism,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director, that October. Mr Burns could not be contacted for comment.

In another instance, earlier this year Labour’s Grahame Morris, the MP for Easington in County Durham, travelled to Venezuela courtesy of the President of the National Electoral Council.

Two months later he asked the Foreign Secretary William Hague in the House of Commons: “Given that Venezuela has held more elections than nearly any other country in the world in recent years, and that these have been independently verified as free and fair by international bodies, will the Foreign Secretary join me in calling for all parties in Venezuela, including the Opposition, to recognise the outcome of October’s presidential elections, whatever the result may be?”

In the question he did not mention his trip or the funding of it – although this is not currently required under Parliamentary rules. In some previous elections Venezuela has not invited international election observers into the country and anomalies have been claimed, especially in the 2004 referendum to recall President Chavez. Mr Morris said that an Independent columnist had been on a similar trip to Venezuela and had written about it.

The Conservative MP for Shrewsbury, Daniel Kawczynski, visited Saudi Arabia accepting hospitality costing £3,025 in December 2011. Later he said: “I think we have a Guardian-reading liberal elite who want to denigrate Saudi Arabia at every opportunity. The BBC, with its left-wing bias and determination not to report anything positive from Saudi Arabia, also contributes to the extraordinary drip, drip effect of negative press that it gets in this country.”

Mr Kawczynski also received flights and accommodation worth £3,220 from a lobbying group for the Mauritanian fishing industry, Industrie de Peche & Representation, for a trip to the country in June 2011.

Later in the House of Commons he said: “On a recent visit to the country, as well as meeting politicians I spent a little time standing on the coast, watching the fishermen bring in their fish. It was quite extraordinarily difficult for them to drag their small boats on to the sand to get their catch.

“Many promises that the EU made…have not been fulfilled. One was that a pier or jetty would be built… but that has still not been put in place. I very much hope that [the minister] will use his good offices to find out what the European Union’s promise of assistance was to the local fishermen, and that he will do everything he possibly can to help them.”

Mr Kawczynski told The Independent that both visits were aimed at improving relations and trade with Britain and that that his point about the Mauritania fishing industry was not one that would have helped his hosts – but unrepresented fisherman. He added that he was proud to be the first British MP in recent times to visit the country.

On Saudi Arabia Mr Kawczynski said he had always been a supporter of the country and the trip had in no way influenced his views: “What saddens me is the perception of conflicts of interests even when there is none. Sadly there is no government money to fund these trips even when they are important economic trading partners so the only way to go, meet senior government officials and build relations is if they pay.”

Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said it was important that MPs did not become “little Englanders” but that “serial” trip takers needed to be looked at.

“My worry is when you have MPs taking large numbers of trips they give the impression that they are taking every freebie that is around. And that, I fear, would have to come at the expense of their constituents.

“Then there is the question of MPs who have been on trips then using their Parliamentary position to push the Government to back a particular policy. That to me is cause of legitimate concern.”

Tamasin Cave, of the transparency group Spinwatch, added: “These freebies almost make Nadine’s trip to the jungle look well-judged. At least we can see what she’s up to. MPs do need knowledge of other countries but the list of states that feel the need to court politicians includes many with dubious reputations. This is not a new game. London-based PR firms have for years laundered the reputations of countries with dreadful human rights records, but MPs should not be drawn into this. Let’s hope they spend as much time talking to pro-democracy and opposition groups from those countries.”

A spokesman for David Miliband said a number of his visits were over weekends or during Parliamentary recesses so he only missed 13 sitting days from Parliament. He added: “South Shields comes first – any outside activities are fitted around Parliamentary commitments.”

Mr Hendrick said that all his visits were of a political and economic nature and took place mainly when Parliament was in recess. “As Chairman of the All Party China Group, I thought it was extremely important to stay in contact with the political and economic developments in China through regular contact with Chinese political leaders and their business counterparts at a time when China is emerging as the second largest economy in the world and has now become a political super power,” he said.

Mr Rosindell said that part of his declaration was a £5,000 upgrade on a Virgin flight to the Turks & Caicos Islands. He stressed that all of his overseas visits were entirely for work connected with his parliamentary duties and responsibilities. “I am a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee,” he said. I can fully justify every visit made.”

Mr Gardiner could not be contacted for comment.

Tomorrow: ‘I am not the Sri Lankan government’s cheerleader…’

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales marries Tony Blair’s former diary secretary in star-studded ceremony… and Alastair Campbell played the bagpipes!

  • Ceremony in London attended by Tony Blair  and his former spin doctor Alastair Campbell wearing a kilt and playing  bagpipes
  • Celebrities including former Simply Red  singer Mick Hucknall invited
  • Marriage to Kate Garvey was updated on Jimmy  Wales’ Wikipedia page

By Larisa Brown

PUBLISHED:09:24 EST, 7  October 2012| UPDATED:09:45 EST, 7 October 2012

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales married Tony  Blair’s former diary secretary in a star-studded ceremony attended by celebrity  guests and politicians.

Mr Wales, 46, and his wife, Kate Garvey, 40,  tied the knot on Saturday at a private ceremony at Wesley’s  Church in London.

His Wikipedia page was updated accordingly,  where under ‘personal life’ it read the couple met in Davos, Switzerland, and it  is Mr Wales’ third marriage.

Happy couple: Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Tony Blair's former diary Secretary Kate Garvey tie the knot 

Happy couple: Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Tony  Blair’s former diary Secretary Kate Garvey tie the knot

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife  Cherie attended the ceremony, as did Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair’s former spin  doctor.

Mr Campbell – who is known for busking around  the world with his bagpipes – donned a kilt in Clan Campbell tartan and played  the bagpipes.

Cherie wore a fitted knee-length dress,  silver necklace and bracelet and black kitten heel shoes.

Other guests included David Miliband and his  wife Louise – David was carrying a present wrapped in pink tissue  paper.

The newlyweds and their guests, including the bridal party, pose for pictures outside Wesley's Church in London on SaturdayThe newlyweds and their guests, including the bridal  party, pose for pictures outside Wesley’s Church in London on Saturday

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie in a knee-length dress and black kitten heels Former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie in  a knee-length dress and black kitten heels

Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s former director  of strategy, and his wife Rachel Whetsone, who is an executive of Google were  among the invitees.

Mick Hucknall, former lead singer of  Simply  Red, Lily Cole, the model and actress, and former Labour minister Lord Adonis  also attended.

The wedding is the third for the internet  entrepreneur from Alabama and the first for the bride, who is now a director of  Freud Communications.

Blair's former spin doctor Alastair Campbell wore a kilt and played the bagpipesBlair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell wore a kilt  and played the bagpipes

Lily Cole, the model and actress, wearing an electric blue dress, and Mick Hucknall, former lead singer of Simply Red, behind, were among the celebrities who attendedLily Cole, the model and actress, wearing an electric  blue dress, and Mick Hucknall, former lead singer of Simply Red, behind, were  among the celebrities who attended

Mr Wales has one child with Kate, who he met  at the World Economic Forum at Davos, and one with his ex-wife Christine  Rohan,who he met through a friend when she was working as a steel trader for  Mitsubishi.

Mr Wales set up the free, open content,  online encyclopedia in 2001. As Wikipedia’s public profile grew, he became the  project’s promoter and spokesman.

He has been named by Time magazine as one of  the 100 most influential people in the world.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2214123/Wikipedia-founder-Jimmy-Wales-marries-Tony-Blairs-diary-secretary-star-studded-ceremony.html#ixzz28dJv4qwi Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook