Leaked docs show Brit intelligence was collecting journalists’ emails

posted at 5:21 pm on January 19, 2015 by Jazz Shaw

Despite our special relationship with the Brits and the fact that they have been staunch allies, every once in a while you run across a story which reminds you just how different our two cultures still are. (And maybe why we revolted in the first place back in the day.) Part of the trove of Wikileaks documents has turned up yet another salacious bit of info which has journalists up in arms and the the British government back on their heels. It seems that their Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ, part of their intelligence operations in cooperation with MI5) has been in the business of randomly sweeping up communications from and between journalists.

GCHQ’s bulk surveillance of electronic communications has scooped up emails to and from journalists working for some of the US and UK’s largest media organisations, analysis of documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Emails from the BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, the Sun, NBC and the Washington Post were saved by GCHQ and shared on the agency’s intranet as part of a test exercise by the signals intelligence agency.

The disclosure comes as the British government faces intense pressure to protect the confidential communications of reporters, MPs and lawyers from snooping.

The journalists’ communications were among 70,000 emails harvested in the space of less than 10 minutes on one day in November 2008 by one of GCHQ’s numerous taps on the fibre-optic cables that make up the backbone of the internet.

But wait, you might be thinking. They can’t do that, can they? Well, if you ask them, they’ll get a bit huffy.

A spokesman for GCHQ said: “It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.

“All our operational processes rigorously support this position. In addition, the UK’s interception regime is entirely compatible with the European convention on human rights.”

The attitude that GCHQ shows toward journalists is, if we’re to be honest, probably about the same feeling that our government has about the Fourth Estate much of the time, except the Brits are a lot more free to do something about it and never need to apologize. Some of the contents of their internal communications were less revealing in terms of national secrets and more interesting in their open admission as to precisely what a pain in the backside the journalists are and why they should be monitored.

One restricted document intended for those in army intelligence warned that “journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security”.

It continued: “Of specific concern are ‘investigative journalists’ who specialise in defence-related exposés either for profit or what they deem to be of the public interest.

“All classes of journalists and reporters may try either a formal approach or an informal approach, possibly with off-duty personnel, in their attempts to gain official information to which they are not entitled.”

It goes on to caution “such approaches pose a real threat”, and tells staff they must be “immediately reported” to the chain-of-command.

I particularly enjoyed the phrase, what they deem to be of the public interest. Here in the United States if we found members of Congress or the White House either doing or saying anything like this they would be hounded out of town on a rail after being drawn into endless hearings. In London this is business as usual, and if you don’t like it somebody from MI5 will be along to straighten out your poor attitude presently. But on the plus side, take a look at the building that GCHQ has. It’s totes awesome. (Picture at the link above.) Instead of a Pentagon they’ve got a flying saucer.

The upside to this story is that no matter how bad things get over here, you can still be glad that you live in America. Things are worse pretty much everywhere else in terms of freedom and transparency.


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Comments

Brits don’t really have any right to privacy that the British government is forced by law to accept. It’s more of a courtesy.

RBMN on January 19, 2015 at 5:28 PM

I’d be outraged too, except they aren’t “journalists.” They’re merely parrots repeating the left’s party line, spinning the narrative and when necessary making up stories out of whole cloth.

erp on January 19, 2015 at 5:37 PM

I particularly enjoyed the phrase, what they deem to be of the public interest. Here in the United States if we found members of Congress or the White House either doing or saying anything like this they would be hounded out of town on a rail after being drawn into endless hearings.

Huh??
Who was the last member of the WH or Congress that was hounded out of town on a rail?

leftamark on January 19, 2015 at 5:40 PM

Well sure. How do you think the IPCC emails got leaked about the AGW scam?

jake49 on January 19, 2015 at 5:47 PM

Here in the United States if we found members of Congress or the White House either doing or saying anything like this they would be hounded out of town on a rail after being drawn into endless hearings.

history makes me think you are wrong there.
they would blame a scapegoat if we are lucky.

dmacleo on January 19, 2015 at 5:50 PM

The upside to this story is that no matter how bad things get over here, you can still be glad that you live in America. Things are worse pretty much everywhere else in terms of freedom and transparency.

Right. Cause we are sure that this is not happening here… wink… wink.

Jazz… do you seriously believe your closing paragraph? Or were you laughing when you wrote that?

Walter L. Newton on January 19, 2015 at 6:02 PM

Here in the United States if we found members of Congress or the White House either doing or saying anything like this they would be hounded out of town on a rail after being drawn into endless hearings.

I’d get Sharyl Attkisson’s take on that if I were you.

whatcat on January 19, 2015 at 6:04 PM

Jazz: “You peons have no right to complain until you are less free than North Korea.”

iwasbornwithit on January 19, 2015 at 6:05 PM

I particularly enjoyed the phrase, what they deem to be of the public interest.

Well Jazz, given Pinch Sulzberger and Bill Keller – and their release of how the US tracked terrorist money….I can see where the Brits are coming from.

If you recall, Pinch and Bill stated the operation was ILLEGAL – and therefore needed to be exposed.

Only later was a small retraction posted, something along the lines of “er….ah…..never mind, it was LEGAL….our bad!”

And where was the prosecution by the DOJ?

GarandFan on January 19, 2015 at 6:07 PM

Yeah, the British people have less freedoms than we do, too bad, but it’s OK for their government to spy on them because they’re our staunch ally and they’re a lot like us except for the freedom thing (they at least speak English which makes them A-OK with the average Joe over here) and besides our government never spies on us and if they did we’d do something about it, dammit, so count your blessings, scum.

Am I reading all this correctly?

Dr. ZhivBlago on January 19, 2015 at 6:09 PM

Here in the United States if we found members of Congress or the White House either doing or saying anything like this they would be hounded out of town on a rail after being drawn into endless hearings.

This made me LOL.
Did someone forget their sarc tag?

Steele on January 19, 2015 at 7:00 PM

Since I view pamphleteers as being the primordial enemy, I have no problems with keeping tabs on them.

OldEnglish on January 19, 2015 at 7:26 PM

Despite our special relationship with the Brits and the fact that they have been staunch allies, every once in a while you run across a story which reminds you just how different our two cultures still are.

Yes, good thing that can’t happen here.

Good thing, as well, that GCHQ would never share said info with the NSA.

thirtyandseven on January 19, 2015 at 7:35 PM

Here in the United States if we found Republican members of Congress or a Republican White House either doing or saying anything like this they would be hounded out of town on a rail after being drawn into endless hearings. and quartered.

Edited for accuracy.

Am I correct in thinking Jazz lives in some country other than the Yoonited States circa 2015?

Dolce Far Niente on January 19, 2015 at 7:53 PM

Thr brit intel HQ looks like a hubcap. A cheap one too.

Andy__B on January 19, 2015 at 9:22 PM

I think that for the time being, the media have forfeit their right to any special treatment or considerations. If at some point as a group they care to re-adopt their Constitutionaly contemplated, neutral watchdog role we can revisit the issue, but for the foreseeable future we should view and treat them as what they are: biased, agenda-driven hacks more interested in advancing their own political agendas than any form of legitimate journalism.

Blacksheep on January 19, 2015 at 11:08 PM

I’d be the faintest hint of angry if the media, for the past 40 years, hadn’t been anywhere from sympathizing with to actively conspiring for hostile foreign powers. Communism and Islam are just the easy ones to name.

At this point every Western government should be actively sifting through the correspondence of known leftist airheads in the media to see what military intelligence they’re going to ‘leak’ this time or what terror group they’re getting funding or attack immunity from to shill for.

LawfulGood on January 20, 2015 at 11:25 AM

Leaked docs show Brit intelligence was collecting journalists’ emails

So, they recognize journalists as enemies of the state?

Doesn’t sound so far-fetched to me.

Especially in the US.

There Goes the Neighborhood on January 20, 2015 at 5:03 PM

As for the extravagant bullseye shape of the GCHQ building, did anyone worry about how easy an aerial target is is?

virgo on January 21, 2015 at 2:16 AM