Apparently some British Members of Parliament (MPs) are not terribly happy today. It came to light by way of some more leaked documents from Edward Snowden that GCHQ – the British equivalent of the CIA – has been reading the emails of Members of Parliament for years.
Given that Parliament is in the middle of debating a bill that is affectionately called the Snooper’s Charter (by those who don’t like it) that gives GCHQ even more power to snoop, it appears a bit disingenuous to complain about GCHQ snooping.
The best I can tell, they think it is OK to snoop on everyone else, just not them.
Here is the back story.
The UK government migrated to Office 365 in 2014, which means that all those documents and emails are stored in Microsoft data centers – in Ireland and the Netherlands. Since they are no longer INSIDE Britain, GCHQ legally can suck up all that data on those underseas fibers leaving Britain and check out things. The sender, recipient and subject is considered metadata, which has an even lower bar for snooping, so at least that data can be hoovered up.
According to ComputerWeekly, over 60% of the emails are routed internationally and EVERY ONE of those contained evidence of passing through computers connected to GCHQ. If there really is evidence of GCHQ hoovering, those folks need to go back to spy school. When NSA does that, there is no evidence left behind.
In addition, the emails are scanned for malware and spam by MessageLabs, which looks inside all the emails, so there is another place to get all the content.
GCHQ has, according to the Snowden documents, a program called Haruspex which allows them to scan emails on the basis of national security – exactly what the Snooper’s Charter aims to make even more invasive.
The NSA also reads those emails, too, based on ‘obligations’ it forces on Microsoft.
The Parliament’s IT dude, Rob Greig, told the IBTimes that “All Parliamentary emails are private and are strongly encrypted end-to-end whilst they are in our infrastructure” I guess Rob needs to pay more attention to the news. SSL, which is what he is calling encryption, was broken by the agencies years ago.
Some British MPs thought the “Wilson Doctrine”, an antique policy from the 1960s to stop people from listening in to MPs’ phone calls still applies. They should also be reading the news. Last year, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal said that the Wilson Doctrine was not “absolute”, meaning the spies were fine to ignore it. In fact, they went so far as to say that it was never absolute. So there!
Apparently, the Home Office, which has been pushing to get the Snoopers’ Charter passed through Parliament, has been getting some flack and is about to offer some amendments to the bill while defending the need for it.
In light of this revelation, they may need to make some more concessions – stay tuned.
Things get much more personal when it is my ox that gets gored.
Of course, all of this snooping is done without the approval of or even informing of Parliament – which makes them even more upset. Maybe they now understand how the rest of the country feels.
Personally, I just call it karma. And, as we know, karma can be a B**ch.
Stay tuned to see where this ends up.
Information for this post came from the IB Times.