Whistleblower now turns to GCHQ

Western liberal democracy has been quite successful in making many blind to the falsehoods.

Former US National Security Agency (NSA) worker turned whistleblower Edward Snowden has now turned his attention to the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British equivalent of the NSA.

On Friday, Snowden released documents to The Guardian newspaper in the UK to back up his claims that GCHQ has secretly accessed fibre optic cables carrying huge amounts of internet and communications data. Snowden told the newspaper that the NSA has a more prolific British ally in GCHQ. (GCHQ is one of three UK intelligence agencies, alongside MI5 and MI6.)

Although it is physically impossible for the intelligence agencies to read everyone’s emails, for instance, GCHQ can apparently record phone calls, read email and Facebook postings and review website traffic if they so wish. It can also access entire web use histories on individuals. GCHQ operation can tap cables that carry global communications with the potential to carry 600 million daily ‘telephone events’.
This massive interception effort operates under two programmes: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation. The revelations come alongside reports of the NSA snooping on US and international citizens via the metadata held on them by telecommunication companies and secret data-sharing agreements between the NSA and consumer-web giants, such as Facebook, Google, Apple and others under the PRISM scheme.

The GCHQ is able to capitalise on the UK‘s position at the edge of Western Europe, by tapping into the vast quantity of data flowing through cables around the UK and abroad. Over 300 GCHQ and 250 NSA analysts sift through the data, which they use to identify communications relating to security, terror, organised crime, and economic well-being.

Transatlantic cables

GCHQ operatives tapped the fibre-optic cables over the last five years at the point where the transatlantic cables reach British shores – these cables move Internet and telephone data from North America to Western Europe.  All of this was done with agreements with the communications companies, described by the document as “intercept partners.”

Britain and the US are rapidly perfecting the system to allow them to capture and analyse a large quantity of international traffic consisting of emails, texts, phone calls, internet searches, chat, photographs, blogposts, videos and the many uses of Google.

Writing in The Guardian, Henry Porter states that ‘Mastering the Internet’ treats the rights of billions of foreign web users, the possible menace to the privacy of British and American citizens and the duties of their legislators with equal contempt. He goes on to state that after Iraq and the banking crash, the world may come to see MTI as further evidence of a heedless delinquency in two of the world’s oldest democracies.

For too long, many people in the West have been led to believe that governments in major western liberal democracies operate with benign intent, that ‘the government’ acts on ‘our’ behalf and in ‘our’ interests and that only those with something to hide have anything to fear.

This belief stems from a dominant narrative that seeks to mislead and to mask the real essence of power and the true nature of intent behind notions of patriotism, nationalism, bowing down to the flag, militarism and that ‘we’, ‘the nation’, are in united in cause and belief. What Snowden’s revelations illustrate is the unaccountable face of power. And this should concern us because it’s not the greater good of humankind, queen, flag or country that this power serves. It ultimately serves big corporations and the extremely wealthy.

Look no further to see who funds the major political parties or individual politicians to do their bidding. And look no further to see who owns the major corporations and banks and who sits on the bodies that hammer out major policies.

Western liberal democracy has been quite successful in making many blind to the falsehoods that underpin the system and to the chains that bind them to it.

However, with the economic meltdown, ‘austerity’, increasing public awareness of corporate crimes, disillusionment with mainstream politics and the ramping up of wars and the stripping away of civil liberties, social control is no longer able to operate on the relatively benign level that it once did. The collapse of the economic system and its propping up has laid bare just who that system benefits. State violence and mass surveillance is now part of the changing agenda of societies that are no longer able to hide behind the pretence of being liberal or democratic.

There is no clearer indication of this when people who expose state-corporate abuses of power and try hold the powerful to account end up being put on trial, like Bradley Manning, incarcerated in an embassy, like Julian Assange, or are charged with espionage and live in fear for their life, like Edward Snowden.

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