United Kingdom

During the 1950’s, the UK government became concerned that emanations could be captured and then reconstructed. Obviously, the emanations from a blender aren’t important (at least not then, now they may become important in the “internet of things”), but emanations from an electric encryption device would be. If the emanations were recorded, interpreted, and then played back on a similar device, it would be extremely easy to reveal the content of an encrypted message. Research showed it was possible to capture emanations from a distance, and as a response, the TEMPEST program was started.

Nobody envisaged the exponential growth of traffic from telecoms and internet service providers, or that the GCHQ could have found a way of storing and analysing that information as part of its overarching Mastering the Internet project. TEMPORA started in 2008, and can retain for up to 30 days an astronomical amount of unfiltered data gathered from cables carrying internet traffic. The data from Tempora is shared with the NSA, and the NSA’s principal tool to exploit data links, MUSCULAR (a back-door collection from Google and Yahoo private clouds), is operated jointly with the GCHQ.

The Intelligence Services Act 1994 gave GCHQ some powers for the “passive collection” of data, including from computer networks. The British government used RIPA warrants to get taps on to the fibre-optic cables (by the summer of 2011 GCHQ had placed interceptors on over 200 fibre optic cables). These cables carry internet traffic in and out of the country and contain details of millions of emails and web searches. The information from these cables went straight into the Tempora storage programme. End of 2016, extreme surveillance became UK law with barely a whimper.

The GCHQ has also helped counterpart entities in France, Germany, Spain, and Sweden develop methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic.

The Military Intelligence, Section 5 (MI5), also known as The Security Service is the domestic counter-intelligence and security agency of the UK and is directed by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). MI5 is bound by the Security Service Act 1989 and the Intelligence Services Act 1994. It is directed to protect British parliamentary democracy and economic interests, and counter terrorism and espionage within the UK.

After 9/11 MI5 started collecting bulk telephone communications data on which telephone numbers called each other and when, authorised under the Telecommunications Act 1984 instead of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which would have brought independent oversight and regulation. This was kept secret until November 2015.

Details of MI5 targeted surveillance techniques were revealed in October 2015 in a court case involving three Co Armagh republicans accused of serious charges, including conspiracy to murder police and prison officers. When the judge asked for more details about a vehicle tracking device that had been used to gather evidence, the Public Prosecution Service refused to reveal the information and the case collapsed. The operation apparently involved audio surveillance, tracking devices fitted to vehicles, a helicopter, and maybe even drones.

The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), also known as MI6, is the British intelligence agency which supplies the British Government with foreign intelligence. MI6 operates under the formal direction of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). The existence of the SIS was not officially acknowledged until 1994.

In june of 2013, Sir Mark Waller, head of the UK’s spy watchdog, stated the agencies should set out the specific invasion of privacy requested so that a proper assessment could be made of whether it was justified and made the recommendation part of his report for 2013.

In 2014, Sir Mark Waller refused to attend a hearing by the Home Affairs Committee on the UK’s anti-terrorism efforts, which would include discussions on programmes such as PRISM, Tempora and Optic Nerve. He was summoned to appear.

During the hearing, Big Brother Watch, present in the second part of the hearing, reiterated the necessity to update, upgrade and adapt current oversight legislation to the actual capacities of GCHQ – capable of bulk data collection, metadata storage, extensive methods of developing and installing malware – that otherwise escape this obsolete system. It took several minutes and an extremely tense back-and-forth between Nick Prickles and Ellis to establish that the Snowden leaks were in the public interest; that they refused to see it any other way, and that they were, in fact, looking at provisions of the Human Rights Act to defend their position to fight against privacy intrusion (this provoked a little sneer from Ellis, which is unsurprising) ~ Career opportunities: intelligence services oversight.

The Defence Intelligence (DI) is a part of the Ministry of Defence (MOD). The primary role of Defence Intelligence is that of 'all-source' intelligence analysis to support military operations, contingency planning, and to inform defence policy and procurement decisions. The assessments are used by the MOD, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), other Government Departments and International partners (NATO and EU). It is this “all-source” function that makes DI different from SIS and GCHQ that focus on the collection of 'single-source' HUMINT and SIGINT.