Thanks to the big splash in today’s Guardian newspaper we now have more evidence of just how far we have travelled into an Orwellian present (not future).
“Britain’s spy agency GCHQ has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world’s phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency (NSA).
The sheer scale of the agency’s ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate.
One key innovation has been GCHQ’s ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation, codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months.
GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects.
This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user’s access to websites – all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets.”
As a means of scrutinising the behaviour of the general population of a nation this must surely rank beyond the wildest dreams of of the most dedicated of secret policemen. In fact it simply represents the logical outcome of the policies of mass surveillance implemented by the British government in the Occupied North of Ireland during the late 1980s and ’90s which had such a significant impact on its counter-insurgency war against the Irish Republican Army in the lead up to the Peace Process.
However it is not only the prying eyes of the state that one needs to watch out for. As the Independent reports:
“Some of Britain’s most respected industries routinely employ criminals to hack, blag and steal personal information on business rivals and members of the public, according to a secret report leaked to The Independent.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) knew six years ago that law firms, telecoms giants and insurance were hiring private investigators to break the law and further their commercial interests, the report reveals, yet the agency did next to nothing to disrupt the unlawful trade.
It is understood that one of the key hackers mentioned in the confidential Soca report admitted that 80 per cent of his client list was taken up by law firms, wealthy individuals and insurance companies. Only 20 per cent was attributed to the media, which was investigated by the Leveson Inquiry after widespread public revulsion following the phone-hacking scandal.”
And all this hacking comes even closer to home to us in Ireland. As Pól Ó Lorcáin points out over on Cic Saor there are links between the News Corp hacking scandal in Britain and former officers of the infamous Force Research Unit or FRU, Britain’s military intelligence grouping that orchestrated the assassination of the Irish human rights lawyer Pat Finucane in 1989. Layers within layers.
“Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity”