GCHQ ran a programme that held an individual file on every visible user on the internet in the UK, and are about to do it again.
This week the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the mass surveillance programme carried out by the UK Government on its own people was unlawful. It proved vindication for Edward Snowden, the NSA Analyst who was vilified by authorities and much of the media, though he will have to continue to live out his life in hiding, currently believed to be somewhere in Russia.
The sheer magnitude of what the British Government chose to do to its own citizens is truly staggering. They created a mass surveillance programme on a depth and scale equal to that of Communist China. The grand chamber judgment is the culmination of a legal challenge to GCHQ’s bulk interception of online communications begun in 2013 by Big Brother Watch and others after Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing revelations concerning the interception, processing and storing of data about millions of people’s private communications by the eavesdropping agency.
People’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression weren't just infringed they were completely ignored. All your internet browser activity, every website you ever visited, every phone-call you ever made the content of that call, who you spoke to, the content of every email and every text message you ever sent or received was captured by GCHQ and placed in a file with your name on it. This was going on in secret with no parliamentary governance or oversight whatsoever. Even those who were tasked with overseeing the intelligence community didn’t know what was going on.
A programme called Tempora was used to intercept massive amounts of data on the internet. Tempora intercepts on the fibre-optic cables that serve as the backbone of the Internet to gain access to large amounts of Internet users' personal data, without any individual suspicion or targeting. The intercepts are placed in the United Kingdom and overseas, with the knowledge of companies owning either the cables or landing stations. The existence of Tempora was revealed by Edward Snowden, the former American intelligence contractor who leaked information about the program to former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald in May 2013 as part of his revelations of government-sponsored mass surveillance programs. Documents Snowden acquired showed that data collected by the Tempora program is shared with the National Security Agency of the United States.
But it gets worse, much worse.
Documents obtained by The Intercept from the U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower revealed that GCHQ had operated a second programme to work in conjunction with Tempora called KARMA POLICE: GCHQ had carried out the KARMA POLICE operation since about 2008. The KARMA POLICE operation swept up the IP address of Internet users visiting websites. The programme was established with no public scrutiny or oversight. KARMA POLICE is a powerful spying tool in conjunction with other GCHQ programs, because IP addresses could be cross-referenced with other data. The goal of the program, according to the documents, was "either (a) a web browsing profile for every visible user on the internet, or (b) a user profile for every visible website on the internet." Karma Police was apparently named after the Radiohead song "Karma Police", which includes the lyric "This is what you’ll get when you mess with us".
But it doesn't end there, in fact, we are just getting started.
Another Programme used by GCHQ for mass Surveillance called Optic Nerve secretly collected private webcam still images from users while they were using a Yahoo! webcam application. As an example of the scale, in one 6-month period, the programme is reported to have collected images from 1.8 million Yahoo! user accounts globally. The programme was first reported on in the media in February 2014, from documents leaked by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, but dates back to a prototype started in 2008, and was still very active in at least 2012.
The leaked documents describe the users under surveillance as "unselected", meaning that data was collected indiscriminately in bulk from users regardless of whether they were an intelligence target or not. The vast majority of affected users would have been completely innocent of any crime or suspicion of a crime. Optic Nerve as described in the documents collected one still image every 5 minutes per user, laughingly this was said to "comply with human rights legislation". But switching your webcam on and taking your photo, without your knowledge or consent makes a mockery of the whole thing. It should be noted, no discrimination between adults and children were made, targets were entirely random, but it is not known how many thousands of images of children were captured with the snooping software. The images were collected in a searchable database, and used for experiments in facial recognition, to monitor known targets, and, according to the documents, discover new targets. The choice of Yahoo! for surveillance was taken because "Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets". Unlike the US NSA, the UK GCHQ is not required by law to minimise the collection from domestic citizens, so UK citizens could have been targeted on the same level as non-UK citizens.
It doesn't stop there, GCHQ have a programme called JTRIG (don't let the lack of a snappy title fool you) The scope of the JTRIG's mission includes using "dirty tricks" to "destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt" enemies by "discrediting" them, planting misinformation and shutting down their communications. Known as "Effects" operations, the work of JTRIG had become a "major part" of GCHQ's operations by 2010.
Campaigns operated by JTRIG have broadly fallen into two categories; cyber attacks and propaganda efforts. The propaganda efforts (named "Online Covert Action" utilise "mass messaging" and the "pushing [of] stories" via the medium of Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube. Online "false flag" operations are also used by JTRIG against targets. JTRIG have also changed photographs on social media sites, as well as emailing and texting colleagues and neighbours with "unsavory information" about the targeted individual.
In 2011 JTRIG was used to attack the anti-government group Anonymous with a denial-of-service attack (DoS) to their network. It is thought that this programme has been used on a number of domestic targets with virtually anyone becoming a target due to there being no parliament accountability.
The mass surveillance programme is reported to have been initiated during Tony Blair's time as Prime Minister and implemented in 2008. Blair had previously attempted to push through ID cards but when that was rejected likely saw the potential of digital mass surveillance as being a far more effective programme. Blair is now the driving force behind Vaccine Passports, and even in the very early days of the pandemic he said: "Surveillance a price worth paying to beat coronavirus". in April last year he Blair told the Guardian a dramatic increase in technological surveillance is a “price worth paying” to fight Covid-19. He claimed
"Governments and private companies can use location data to track the success of lockdown measures, monitor bluetooth signals to help contact tracing efforts, or keep an eye on search queries to help identify new clusters of infection or previously unknown symptoms."
Now, a year on Vaccine passports are here, and they are even worse than we feared. The Privacy notice on the NHS website further states that data from the system will be used at ‘vaccination only events’, including shockingly states it will hold “Information relating to the individual’s physical or mental health condition,” as well as “Information relating to genetic /biometric details,” and “Information relating to the family of the individual and the individual’s lifestyle and social circumstances.”
Vision News has also discovered that the system can collect other information, such as what political persuasion you are, your sexual orientation, and even if you belong to a trade union. The disclaimer makes a point of listing these things and then 'promises' not to act on them, only for a following paragraph to suggest that it can and will if in the 'interest of national importance', which will of course be determined by the government of the day.
We expect our government to have these technologies but to be deploying them against enemy countries and terrorists, not holding huge files of all our information beyond Orwellian.
Communist China run identical programmes that they use for the countries social credit system, a way of controlling the population with the click of a mouse, and from what we see here, that is the end-game for the UK too.
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