Monday, 10 June 2013

Obama 'Prism' Spying now extends to UK Government.




It would seem that the US Government citizen spying programme called 'Prism', has been used by the British Government as a 'back door' to getting intelligence bypassing British law.

William Hague, the UK Foreign Secretary and former leader of The Conservative Party, will today make a Statement to The House of Commons. A forthright man (we've interviewed him in Streamabout) and generally decent, fair-minded man, gave a dodgy performance on The Andrew Marr show yesterday. Uncharacteristically dodgy, in so far that he was unusually trying to dodge questions, which is not his style.

Indeed, he could easily have asked Theresa May to deal with The House of Commons today but has chosen not to - probably in order to kill the controversy at birth - which he won't be able to.

GCHQ, the UK's listening post has been gathering information through co-operation with The US National Security Agency since 2010 and The Guardian says they've generated at least 197 reports from Prism last year alone. They're circumventing UK legislation. Their work, in their own words, should be carried out "in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework" and it looks like it's not. 

Meanwhile Obama, in accepting that Prism exists and goes on, said that his Government "had struck the right balance" in collecting this data in the fight against terrorism. There's nobody doubting that terrorism data needs to be collected however, under a Court order in order to protect the rights of citizens. 

It's ironic too given Obama's criticisms of the Bush administration doing something similar (although to a far lesser extent) and on the same day when he is meeting China's President to discuss their spying and their anti-democratic controls. 

Ironic too that Obama has called his administration, "the most transparent administration in history". 3 months ago, Senator Ron Wyden a member of The Senate Intelligence Committee no less, asked James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions of Americans?". "No sir" came Clappers reply which we now know to be a lie. 

Last night the same James Clapper said the Prism programme was "important and valuable". So if your Director of National Intelligence is prepared to lie to an Intelligence Committee Senator, what does that tell you?

Prism collects data on US citizen phone calls (time, length, location on every phone call made in America) and there still remains the controversy about access to internet servers. 

Facebook released a statement under Zuckerberg's name, to say "we do not provide any Government with direct access to Facebook servers". Indeed. The key word there is direct access.

But what seems to transpire, according to informed sources, is that they do provide the information through a "drop box" scenario. So the Facebook language revolves around "direct access" when it does seem they do supply it, but just in a different way.

A reported NSA slide show also shows that Microsoft were the first to comply in 2007 and Apple complied last year. It also noted the compliance of Google and Yahoo. We hear too of compliance by Skype, YouTube, PalTalk and AOL

Twitter does not feature and has come out clearly and strongly of its refusal to take part.

This story is only starting. The difficulty Obama has, is the deceit and furthermore, the manner in which a scheme like Prism has been set up to get around the law. There's never been any problem getting data, just the safeguard is that you do it with a court order.

The British government are starting to get into trouble too for using Prism secretly and again, bypassing law. 

But perhaps more pointedly is the use of the data. Whilst the cries of anti-terrorism might have some bearing now, if that data was used politically, it will cause problems. In others words, to identify leaks to media or activities of politicians who are not pro-Obama. It's just the same as breaking into a Watergate building.

It will also cause huge problems to the Internet companies who provide data on you and me, globally and yet feigned privacy. 

This is the sort of story that brings down Governments. And rightly so. The whole thing is rotten.