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UK Minister: British Cabinet Was Told Nothing About GCHQ/NSA Spying Programs

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the this-is-the-first-I've-heard-of-it dept.

Privacy 85

dryriver writes "From the Guardian: 'Cabinet ministers and members of the national security council were told nothing about the existence and scale of the vast data-gathering programs run by British and American intelligence agencies, a former member of the government has revealed. Chris Huhne, who was in the cabinet for two years until 2012, said ministers were in "utter ignorance" of the two biggest covert operations, Prism and Tempora. The former Liberal Democrat MP admitted he was shocked and mystified by the surveillance capabilities disclosed by the Guardian from files leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. "The revelations put a giant question mark into the middle of our surveillance state," he said. "The state should not feel itself entitled to know, see and memorize everything that the private citizen communicates. The state is our servant." Huhne also questioned whether the Home Office had deliberately misled parliament about the need for the communications data bill when GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping headquarters, already had remarkable and extensive snooping capabilities. He said this lack of information and accountability showed "the supervisory arrangements for our intelligence services need as much updating as their bugging techniques."'"

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HOT NEWS (-1, Offtopic)

akriad (3387949) | about a year ago | (#45062145)

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Re:HOT NEWS (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45062231)

WTF has SD become a government mouth piece or was it always this way? FUBO my friends.

Graft, money. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45062191)

There's a reason these programs are kept secret (along with their budgets) from the general "civilian" government. It's because they're huge money pits. They're pork. Free money for security services contractors. It's not some boogeyman new world order shadow conspiracy for power.

It's a much, much, older and familiar monster. Greed.

Re:Graft, money. (1, Funny)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#45062445)

Also, the Queen said "no". We really wanted to tell you and all, but she was kind of a bitch about it.

Re:Graft, money. (4, Insightful)

kilfarsnar (561956) | about a year ago | (#45063273)

There's a reason these programs are kept secret (along with their budgets) from the general "civilian" government. It's because they're huge money pits. They're pork. Free money for security services contractors. It's not some boogeyman new world order shadow conspiracy for power.

It's a much, much, older and familiar monster. Greed.

Funny, no one has suggested a new world order shadow conspiracy for power.

While all this surveillance is partly about money, that's not the whole of it (as I suspect you already know). Knowledge is power. These surveillance powers have already been used to conduct industrial espionage, intimidate political activists, blackmail public office holders and to provide secret evidence in criminal cases (mostly related to the drug war). All of these things are beneficial to the powers that be. In short these powers are used by the existing power structures to increase and enhance their power. This is why they are kept secret even from the people supposedly providing oversight.

I agree that this is a huge money train for all kinds of defense and other government contractors, and their stakeholders in office. But it's also about increasing power. So it might not be a "new world order shadow conspiracy", but the result is not too far off from that.

Re:Graft, money. (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about a year ago | (#45064513)

So its not a "new world order", but just the "existing world power" conspiracy? While on the surface that sounds exactly like what a NWO conspiracy nut would like, somehow I doubt it. I think they need to rename what they are afraid of. I'm not exactly sure if they even know. A reporter went to the Bildenburg conference, to try and figure out what they were protesting, but only got vague references to fluoride related mind control and "awareness".

Re:Graft, money. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45068037)

Remember that reporters also went to Occupy to find out what they were protesting ... nobody really had a coherent answer for that either.

Re:Graft, money. (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about a year ago | (#45074837)

At least they were doing what they said they were doing. What was the purpose of Occupy? Why Occupying stuff/places. That's something I, the potential protestor can understand and get behind. Who's streets?, our streets!

Bildenbug is all " new world order /vacines/ cancer mind control grrr". Just can't get behind that. Need to simplify and stay on message.

Re:Graft, money. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45071207)

You don't understand the new world order, they are the old world order but improved. 2.0, like the new iPhone is the same as the old iPhone but with better tracking and spying capabilities. Same shit, different day.

Re:Graft, money. (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | about a year ago | (#45074803)

Well, then the protesters really need to work on their marketing.

Re:Graft, money. (1)

cavreader (1903280) | about a year ago | (#45064405)

"utter ignorance" is the default state of every legislative body in the world. Politicians tend to be the biggest blabbermouths in the world. Telling them about every covert national security program would guarantee that everyone, friend and foe, would have all the details in about 15 minutes. And believe it or not there are some things that do need to be kept secret when it comes to dealing with other countries. Every other country in the world does the exact same thing. If every government in the world closed down their foreign intelligence operations the US could do the same but that is not happening any time soon. Just like every country could destroy it's stockpiles of WMD but until that day comes the US should probably keep some around for the inevitable wars coming in the not to distant future. Snowden started out as someone who wanted to inform US citizens about the NSA programs. Unfortunately he now he truly meets all the requirements to be charged under the Espionage Act. By releasing information on foreign intelligence actions he has sealed his fate and demolished his idealistic and noble claim of being a whistleblower. And he should already know that over the last 50+ years the US and the USSR/Russian Federation have regularly exchanged people that each country wants. Usually it involves exchanging intelligence operatives but right now the are several high profile people that were convicted in Russia that the US is refusing to extradite.

Re:Graft, money. (2)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#45066851)

So we have to subvert democracy in order to save it? No thanks.

Snowden is still a hero. At considerable personal cost he has exposed a domestic enemy of the people. Not only for the U.S. but for the U.K. as well. If he committed any sort of Espionage, it was FOR the people of the United States, the only legitimate power here.

Re:Graft, money. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45064861)

and Power. Greed and Power. So it's the much, much, older and familiar monsters. Greed and Power .... and Ambition.

Re:Political PR (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45066297)

I find it hard to believe they knew nothing of what there own spying agency was doing. And they could careless about the details or the protocol for collecting data on it own citizens. And as typical they voted or passed laws that allowed these agencies to conduct these programs, and even after these agencies had been exposed the politicians continue to pass (of course quietly) more laws that give them even more power.

-----However-----
Its not like they need these "terrorist laws" to do this, they where doing just fine behind everyone's backs.

And judging how brainless politicians are when it comes to common sense, and buying into its own propaganda, it is possible they're completely clueless as to how there own spy agencies have destroyed privacy.

Re:Political PR (1)

coastwalker (307620) | about a year ago | (#45068267)

Politicians don't have the slightest clue about technology. They all studied PPE at Oxbridge and worked as a political adviser before becoming an MP. Most of them are scientifically illiterate.

Its not at all surprising that they don't have a clue how far GCHQ and the NSA have got. Even Slashdot readers are surprised by the scale of it.

In theory the NSA and GCHQ now have sufficient power to actually run their respective countries,

the big question is why aren't they? Lack of imagination? Prefer to pull the strings from behind the scenes?

Follow the money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45066369)

The law , aka the Snoopers Charter* that was rejected under the last government, and again under the new government. The law that was the legal basis for spying on Brits internet connections, WAS NEVER PASSED. Yet the money to install the surveillance was paid out and spend, and those computer systems bought and budgetted for.

The program it would have legalized aka "Mastering the Internet", went ahead ANYWAY.

I suspect the money was from an upgrade for the serious crime office computers in 2010. The same time Jacqui Smith was pushing to spy on Brits internet connections. There are 4000 policemen in that office SOCA, Jacqui Smith announced an upgrade to SOCA's PCs costing 500 million quid. That's 125,000 per computer! Obviously hiding something, I suspect the budget for spying on Brits.

So you should ask yourselves, if Parliament didn't know, and the Cabinet didn't know, where did the money to do it come from??

http://www.theregister.co.uk/Print/2008/12/10/soca_it_revamp/

"The UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has budgeted up to £500m on plans to upgrade its IT systems for the 21st century. Between £300m and £500m will be spent on projects focused on replaced outdated legacy systems with an integrated system as part of the 2010 Programme. Tenders are invited with awards expected to be granted from 20 January."

See 2010, huge overspend on SOCA, just as they're setting up a cyber-crime unit. i.e. Internet connections on their budget would appear to match their remit, even if the money is insane for the work they were doing.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/05/03/gchq_mti/

"Spy chiefs are already spending hundreds of millions of pounds on a mass internet surveillance system, despite Jacqui Smith's announcement earlier this week that proposals for a central warehouse of communications data had been dumped on privacy grounds.

"The system - uncovered today by The Register and The Sunday Times - is being installed under a GCHQ project called Mastering the Internet (MTI). It will include thousands of deep packet inspection probes inside communications providers' networks, as well as massive computing power at the intelligence agency's Cheltenham base, "the concrete doughnut"."

See? Why wait for the laws to be passed if you don't work within a legal framework anyway. Once you have the surveillance, your political masters will never challenge it, because NSA/CIA would simply leak secrets about them. So effectively GCHQ has been re-purposed as an NSA spying agency against Britain, a Stasi for Britain.

Re:Graft, money. (2)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#45068983)

There's a reason these programs are kept secret (along with their budgets) from the general "civilian" government. It's because they're huge money pits. They're pork. Free money for security services contractors. It's not some boogeyman new world order shadow conspiracy for power.

It's a much, much, older and familiar monster. Greed.

I agree, but the other reason it was kept a secret because it's wrong, and they know it. They don't want the law makers knowing about it because either they will shut it down, or take it away.

Or the law makers will do what they have been doing before they knew about it, nothing.

duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45062215)

Didn't he hear the clicks on his phone line?

Duh.

I'm shocked, shocked (-1, Troll)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#45062233)

Maybe as the "climate change minister" he had no need to know?

Cabinet was told nothing about GCHQ spying programmes, says Chris Huhne [theguardian.com]

Huhne, formerly the energy and climate change minister, was jailed this year after he admitted perverting the course of justice over claims his ex-wife took speeding points for him. In February he was sentenced to eight months in prison but was released after serving 62 days.

Not sure he is entirely trustworthy.

Re:I'm shocked, shocked (2)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45062479)

In other words pompous self-aggrandizing politician learns his true standing in the pecking order and what the powers that be really consider his worth.

Re:I'm shocked, shocked (5, Funny)

SpockLogic (1256972) | about a year ago | (#45062787)

In other words pompous self-aggrandizing politician learns his true standing in the pecking order and what the powers that be really consider his worth.

You do realize that "Yes Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister" were documentary and not comedy?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes_Minister [wikipedia.org]

Re:I'm shocked, shocked (1)

jregel (39009) | about a year ago | (#45063665)

You do realize that "Yes Minister" and "Yes, Prime Minister" were documentary and not comedy?

Possibly the most true and insightful comment I've read on Slashdot for a long time!

Re:I'm shocked, shocked (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#45064299)

And Mrs Thatchers favorite program apparently.

Re:I'm shocked, shocked (2)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#45069799)

I understand that when it was on, the lady was not for turning.

Re:I'm shocked, shocked (1)

Cassini2 (956052) | about a year ago | (#45065805)

"Yes, Minister" is used as an orientation manual. Apparently, new cabinet ministers and even backbenchers in both the UK and Canada (and probably Australia) use them as such. There is some really good material in the programs about what tactics the bureaucracy can use to stop things, and how to overcome the resistance.

Remember: Just because the civil service follows your instructions - does not mean anyone wants the result!

Re:I'm shocked, shocked (1)

gsslay (807818) | about a year ago | (#45067911)

You seem delighted to put him in his place. Unfortunately he also happened to be an elected minister and the only influence you have on how your country is run.

So if his standing in the pecking order is worthless, where does that leave the rest of us?

Re:I'm shocked, shocked (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about a year ago | (#45062501)

His own reputation might be less than exemplary at this point, but I don't see that his ministerial position was particularly relevant here. Any MP, minister or otherwise, is the highest directly elected representative of their constituents in our government system. As a basic principle of representative democracy, it seems very dubious to me that anything like this should be "off limits" to someone in that position, or to people in that position acting collectively by asking questions in Parliament. I can accept reasonable arguments for keeping the specifics of individual cases or ongoing operations on a need-to-know basis and not routinely disclosing them to a few hundred MPs, but not the underlying principles and the existence of systemic practices.

From someone who has worked there... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45063383)

...Any MP, minister or otherwise, is the highest directly elected representative of their constituents in our government system. As a basic principle of representative democracy, it seems very dubious to me that anything like this should be "off limits" to someone in that position, or to people in that position acting collectively by asking questions in Parliament...

Look at the history.

Security Service, SIS and GCHQ are DIRECT descendants of the equivalent services which were running during WW2. At that time there were many things which the state was doing which would certainly NOT be presented to Parliament - for obvious reasons. Encryption capabilities, military strategy, operational data - many things would be kept secret. For good reason. And Parliament would not expect to be told about these matters.

In most cases the state structures set up at that time (for instance, Bombing Target Policy committees) were quite happy to close themselves down and return to civvy street when the war ended. Not so MI5 and MI6. They were involved in the diplomatic politics during the restructuring of Europe and seamlessly went into the Cold War. During the 1950s to 1970s many MPs were suspected of Communist sympathies - they would certainly not be told anything about the activities of the intelligence community.

By now that mindset is rock-solid. These people have always lived in a world where they were (secretly) defending democracy against the Nazis or the Reds. This stopped, suddenly, around 1990. Only 20-odd years ago. But they are still trying to work as they always have - in secrecy, with an unlimited budget, fighting on behalf of their country against an implacable and highly organised foe.

That foe no longer exists. So they are simply making him up. Kid hackers become Master Cyber-criminals, in the pay of the Chinese. Individual political activists with a grudge - Muslim or Chechen - who set off a bomb, become shadowy agents of a vast world conspiracy instead of individual murders who should be dealt with by the police. We bomb local politicians/gang leaders in the Middle East who are fighting their own local wars, and pretend that that we are saving Western civilisation.

Yes, it's partly the money. Working in the intelligence community is a comfy, well paid position with no competition. But it's also this mindset. Everyone who does not support you whole-heartedly is suspicious, and should not be told anything. It's standard World War paranoia - institutionalised....

 

Re:From someone who has worked there... (2)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about a year ago | (#45063699)

Yeah, you put in words what I was thinking for a while now. It's obvious that these problems aren't specific to the NSA or GCHQ. Rather they're due to a cold war mindset that too many senior civil servants and politicians seem unable to break out.

GCHQ has been hacking Belgacom to spy on the EU in Brussels. WTF? Why?! If they want to know what's going down in the EU then they can just ..... go ask. I mean the UK contributes its fair share of money to the EU, so what possible benefit is there to treating it as if it was the KGB?

These agencies need to be stripped down, badly, and the money saved reinvested into other things. The staff that are left can be given a purely defensive mandate (w.r.t internet stuff at least). But I don't think it will happen whilst the current lot are in charge. They seem to like the power too much. And maybe they are also trapped in a cold war mindset. Perhaps it will take my generation, the first post cold-war generation to enter politics before these problems get really fixed.

BTW the UK announced today that it was renaming the national police squad again. SOCA no longer, now it's the National Crime Agency, formed from merging several agencies together ...... and slashing the budget by 30%. So it is spending money to record all internet traffic, every last TCP ACK, but the actual police who deal with practical problems on British streets, like gang warfare, they're having their budget murdered. 999 response times have doubled since austerity began. It's obvious that a working national police force and working emergency services save more lives than GCHQ hacking oil firms and telcos.

Re:From someone who has worked there... (2)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#45064363)

Re: By now that mindset is rock-solid.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Gladio [wikipedia.org] and the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy_of_tension [wikipedia.org] shows the mindset of aspects of the EU intelligence community.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/posts/BUGGER [bbc.co.uk] is also insightful in recalling of the "Communist sympathies" years.
Yes now you have the computer power for the UK to finally do what it had to beg the NSA for years ago.
A generation of total digital information awareness, been offered back to tame political leaders if they are supportive of the intelligence community.

Adam Curtis wrote some great stuff about this (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45066045)

This makes fascinating reading. [bbc.co.uk]

He tells a bunch of stories about kooky paranoid MI5 spies and the general incompetence of the organization. Great stuff.

Re:I'm shocked, shocked (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#45064321)

The question is just as in the USA possibly he didn't read all his briefing papers and understand what he was being told. The lib dems have form in saying what people want to hear ask any Labour or Conservative activist and they will agree with me

Re:I'm shocked, shocked (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year ago | (#45064603)

"the supervisory arrangements for our intelligence services need as much updating as their bugging techniques."

Hear, hear.

Well, it'd be a start.

Re: I'm shocked, shocked (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45063969)

I would believe a word this lying dirtbag says

Re:I'm shocked, shocked (1)

ISoldat53 (977164) | about a year ago | (#45064159)

From Casablanca: Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds? Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money] Croupier: Your winnings, sir.

Re:I'm shocked, shocked (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#45064287)

Yes lets be honest as a very junior minster from the junior partner in government what did he expect its not like he is the Home secretary (Security Service) or the Foreign Secretary (SIS and GCHQ).

You mean National Security Council (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45066587)

He was on the NSC, the body in government that overseas the security services.

Take your propaganda cold fjord and fuck off. Yeh, we get it, anyone who speaks out will be attacked with propaganda, and anti terror laws.

Do you get it? You are not defenders of democracy, you are the Stasi, you are the ones undermining democracy.

Re:I'm shocked, shocked (1)

pupsocket (2853647) | about a year ago | (#45079875)

We are all absolutely certain that his being jailed for covering up traffic offences, surely the most egregious criminal evasion in modern British history, is completely unrelated to his opposition to unlimited and possibly unlawful spying on all classes of British subjects.

Should have invested a few millions in stocks ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45062245)

... then you could have claimed you were an NSA/GCHQ customer.

Web traffic must be significantly compressible (3, Interesting)

Boss, Pointy Haired (537010) | about a year ago | (#45062307)

I keep hearing astonishment at how so much web traffic can be stored with relative ease.

Sure, it's going to be a lot of data, but a whole lot of that data is duplication, and where there is duplication there can be compression. And where it's not, even at level 6/7 you can identify significant commonality (facebook user home page) and simply store the delta.

It's not like they're storing every byte sent and received by every Internet user at all.

Re:Web traffic must be significantly compressible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45062455)

I was hoping they stored everything verbatim. I don't like having to write letters or make phone calls to the assistants of my slimy congress people. I'd prefer the NSA just tell these folks how I feel about them; heck the NSA already knows, right? So if they store everything, they can just forward my comments for me.

Re:Web traffic must be significantly compressible (1)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#45062507)

There's an app [bbc.co.uk] for that.

Re:Web traffic must be significantly compressible (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45062643)

It's not like they're storing every byte sent and received by every Internet user at all.

My understanding is that the GCHQ stores has a cache with every byte of British internet data for the past three days. Which is pretty impressive.

Re:Web traffic must be significantly compressible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45063289)

Every byte? Is that a 7-bit byte or do they have Unicode support already?

Civil Servants are above the Government (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45062309)

and you can't replace them. If they don't want to what their ministers want, they simply don't and wait for the minister to be replaced.

What will he/they do about it? (5, Interesting)

s.petry (762400) | about a year ago | (#45062331)

This is the big question. Now that you know you were duped, spied on, and the citizens you are supposed to be serving have been taken advantage of, what will you do?

My guess is nothing, it'll be USA part 2. A few bands will file suit, everything will be classified secret, and nothing will happen. It's not just the US that needs to be considering a revolt, the UK is just as bad as we are in nearly everything.

Interesting to hear Russel Brand talk about his own country here in the US, since we really get little information that is not "party line".

Re:What will he/they do about it? (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | about a year ago | (#45062983)

Indeed, there is no information today, it seems, that isn't like it's on a party line (for those who remember what a "party line" used to be).

Re:What will he/they do about it? (2, Informative)

Edzor (744072) | about a year ago | (#45064243)

please don't listen to Russel Brand he is a tool.

Re:What will he/they do about it? (2)

s.petry (762400) | about a year ago | (#45064291)

He's a comedian. A comedian's job is to make you laugh, and the easiest way to do that is Satire. It's harder to control comedy and satire than printed media. I can give you a hefty list of US Comedians that use satire to show you how shitty the US was becoming and has become, starting with George Carlin, and including Lewis Black.

Re:What will he/they do about it? (1)

coastwalker (307620) | about a year ago | (#45068407)

Russel Brand is a jerk, do some research. He dumped Katy Perry with a text message because she wasn't ready to be his baby farm. With Jonathon Ross he phoned an Actor live on air and told the audience and the answerphone that he had fucked the Actors granddaughter. He is indeed a tool.

Re:What will he/they do about it? (1)

s.petry (762400) | about a year ago | (#45072525)

Wow! No I am not going to research his personal life! Quite frankly you should be alarmed that you know that much about his personal life.

So What ?! (1)

Latinhypercube (935707) | about a year ago | (#45062415)

So What ?!
The UK takes it's orders direct from the US, Israel and the banks.
Why should ministers need to know anything ?

Liar Liar Pants On Fire (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45062465)

This would be the same Chris Huhne who was jailed for eight months for perjury?

Yes, yes it would.

Connected? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45066477)

Nobody on the National Security Council has denied his claim that the NSC was never informed. Just to re-iterate that, THE PARLIAMENTARY BODY TO OVERSEE THE SECURITY AGENCIES WAS NEVER TOLD ABOUT THEIR MASS SURVEILLANCE OF BRITS BY THE SECURITY AGENCY.

Not least because the laws to make it legal were never passed.

Ahh, but the NSA and the President knew. Probably creeps like Feinstein knew, but not Parliament.

Now we have a situation where the NSA can spy on government, newspapers, any British comms and GCHQ assists them in that and very few people dare speak out in case they're targetted. Huhne has already been targetted so he feels freer to speak.

Huhne not respected by the oxbridge fraterniy (1)

sjwest (948274) | about a year ago | (#45062475)

Huhne is a businessman, and a 'johny come lately; to the iffy and corrupt politics route that is the ppe, or the fast track to m15 and m16. The French have a similar setup

Oxbridge talks to Oxbridge only on matters of its choosing and distrusts people such as the non member as he is.

Of course they didn't tell a Lib Dem. (1)

Nutria (679911) | about a year ago | (#45062521)

The first thing he'd have done was go blab it (anonymously, if necessary) to the newspapers.

(They didn't tell Labor and the Tories because they'd have blabbed at cocktail parties.)

A minister for 2 years? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45062569)

Please. Why would they tell every minister everything, or every Congressman everything, when far too many of them have their own agendas from an extreme third party, or can't keep it in their pants, or are in and out in 2 years. This guy didn't know because he's not a "need to know" as our most.

I'm not a fan of the spying programs, but Chris Huhne is overthinking his importance.

Re:A minister for 2 years? (5, Informative)

Shimbo (100005) | about a year ago | (#45062873)

Why would they tell every minister everything, or every Congressman everything, when far too many of them have their own agendas from an extreme third party, or can't keep it in their pants, or are in and out in 2 years.

He was a privy councillor and member of the National Security Council, so would have been security vetted. There's ten members of the latter at the moment, so it's a fairly exclusive club.

Re:A minister for 2 years? (1)

s.petry (762400) | about a year ago | (#45064115)

Let me try to open your eyes, under the assumption you want them opened.

How does knowing about the existence of a program equal in depth knowledge of the details in the program? There is no such magical connection, though there are many people that will tell you there is.

For example, knowing that the ATF is buying guns in the US and giving them to foreign people is something every congressman should be aware of. They should have all had a chance to critique the spending bill, and deny such a foolish act by the ATF. They didn't need to know the guns were being given to Mexican drug gangs, nor did they need to know what stores they were being purchase from.

There is no positive way to spin the basis for knowing what's happening and having our elected officials ask their constituents if the action should be supported. As John F. Kennedy stated, "The very idea of secrecy in a free and open society is repugnant.".

Now, if the spending bill is allowed the Congressmen, Minister, etc.. don't need the details. Approving the plan does not mean they need to know all of the details. If the CIA is spending money to bring foreign scientists out of Russia and to the US, our elected officials don't need to know the "who" because they have already approved of the plan. Then again, you have a "Secret" plan called Operation Paperclip which freed thousands of German's that should have been in jail. See how this secrecy thing works?

The easier path (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45062683)

It's always easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission.

Step 1) Run a secret, illegal surveillance program with no oversight
Step 2) When a terrorist attack is averted, locate actionable intelligence about it within the data previously gathered
Step 3) If and when the public face of the government (those little people who have to stand for elections) finds out about your secret, illegal surveillance program, show them the data from Step 2 and claim the attack would have succeeded without your secret, illegal surveillance program
Step 4) Accept some toothless, ineffective oversight measures and continue as you were

There's nothing complicated about any of this. Ignorant legislators behave like frightened masses of people when you frighten them. They'll do anything they're told to do by anyone who projects authority and control over a scary situation. Whether it's impending market collapse, terrorist attacks, or the next killer plague, frightened masses will let you do just about anything you want if you promise to keep them safe and convince them you can do it.

This is the ultimate flaw in every system of government.

Re:The easier path (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#45062795)

Step 5) ???
Step 6) Profit!

It's Called A Secret (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45062687)

Dear MP,

It's called a secret. You were never supposed to be told.

Now that you know, it is no longer a secret. No one NO ONE cares that you didn't know or how pseudo "outraged" you are now. We feel that it is entirely just that you are subject to the same abuses that you deem adequate for your citizenry.

TTFN with love and kisses,

The Public

Never believe anything! (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#45062775)

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied. Does that fit here? Maybe... in a way I think.

"The state is our servant" (2)

kruach aum (1934852) | about a year ago | (#45062805)

This quote combined with what the NSA/GCHQ have done reminds me a lot of "...or through inaction allow a human being to come to harm." The state should serve us, yes. The state should prevent us from harm, yes. But there is a point at which we are no longer served by harm prevention, and the NSA has clearly passed it. Even if they started off with good intentions initially (as implausible as that may be), by simply doing their jobs well they have come over to the dark side, and that's pretty interesting to me. There aren't that many good things you can do so well they start becoming bad.

Re:"The state is our servant" (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | about a year ago | (#45063741)

What I'd like to know is, if the British really do believe that "the state is our servant," why do they make such a big deal about being subjects of the Crown, and not citizens?

Re:"The state is our servant" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45064023)

In practical terms it doesn't really make any difference, although being a subject does bother me in principle.

This UK citiz^Wsubject finds the concept of monarchy offensive, even though he has no problem with the current monarch. The job of head of state should be theoretically open to anyone.

Re:"The state is our servant" (0)

dryeo (100693) | about a year ago | (#45064629)

Which UK citizens make a big deal out of being British subjects? The few Irish without Irish citizenship who are still considered British subjects?
Anyways the Queen is only part of the government with the major part being Parliament and the major part of Parliament being the House of Commons who are elected by UK citizens and responsible to them. And the Queen herself serves the people and if she screws up she can be removed. As recently as 1936 a King was encouraged to quit as he had fascist tendencies and it was considered that he wouldn't serve the people well.
At one time being a British subject was important if you were a Canadian, Australian, etc citizen as it allowed mobility around the Commonwealth.

Re:"The state is our servant" (2)

dkf (304284) | about a year ago | (#45067643)

Anyways the Queen is only part of the government with the major part being Parliament and the major part of Parliament being the House of Commons who are elected by UK citizens and responsible to them. And the Queen herself serves the people and if she screws up she can be removed. As recently as 1936 a King was encouraged to quit as he had fascist tendencies and it was considered that he wouldn't serve the people well.

Though for a full-on kicking out of a monarch — as opposed to a gentle "jump before you're pushed" — you've got to go back to 1688. That triggered a (mostly minor, except in Ireland) civil war.

Re:"The state is our servant" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45068053)

They don't make a big deal of it. It's just a constitutional fact. The main time they make a big deal about it is when they're talking about changing it. Hardly inconsistent then.

Re:"The state is our servant" (1)

spiralx (97066) | about a year ago | (#45070851)

We're not, we're British Citizens as of 1983, and were formally Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies since 1948. The term British Subject applies to a very small minority of people who weren't from places that were members of the Commonwealth before 1948. See this article [wikipedia.org] .

don't look at me... (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | about a year ago | (#45063059)

Cabinet ministers and members of the national security council were^H^H^H^H told^H^H^H^H^H^ asked nothing about the existence and scale of the vast data-gathering programs...

FTFY

Re:don't look at me... (2)

whoever57 (658626) | about a year ago | (#45063427)

Cabinet ministers and members of the national security council were^H^H^H^H told^H^H^H^H^H^ asked nothing about the existence and scale of the vast data-gathering programs...

There was a "Yes Minister" episode that went over this ground, let's see if I can find some quotes:
This isn't what I was looking for, but it is a start:

[Bernard pulls the Prime Minister away from Luke for a private conversation.]
Hacker: You just said that the Foreign Office was keeping something from me! How do you know if you don't know?
Bernard: I don't know specifically what, Prime Minister, but I do know that the Foreign Office always keep everything from everybody. It's normal practice.
Hacker: Who does know?
Bernard: May I just clarify the question? You are asking who would know what it is that I don't know and you don't know but the Foreign Office know that they know that they are keeping from you so that you don't know but they do know and all we know there is something we don't know and we want to know but we don't know what because we don't know! Is that it?
Hacker: May I clarify the question: Who knows Foreign Office secrets, apart from the Foreign Office?
Bernard: Oh, that's easy: only the Kremlin.

Or this one (still not the exact quote I want to find):

Bernard Woolley: Well, I wondered if there was anything he doesn't know?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, I hardly know where to begin, Bernard.

Perhaps my memory is failing me. Here's another one which is close, but not quite:

James Hacker: But it wasn't my fault. I didn't know he was being bugged.
Bernard Woolley: Prime Minister, you are deemed to have known. You are ultimately responsible.
James Hacker: Why wasn't I told?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: The Home Secretary might not have felt the need to infrom you.
James Hacker: Why?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Perhaps he didn't know either. Or perhaps he'd been advised that you did not need to know.
James Hacker: Well I did need to know.
Bernard Woolley: Apparently the fact that you needed to know was not known at the time that the now known need to know was known, and therefore those that needed to advise and inform the Home Secretary perhaps felt that the information that he needed as to whether to inform the highest authority of the known information was not yet known and therefore there was no authority for the authority to be informed because the need to know was not at this time known or needed.
James Hacker: What!
Sir Humphrey Appleby: We could not know that you would deny it in the House.
James Hacker: Well, obviously I would if I didn't know and I were asked.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: We did not know that you would be asked when you didn't know.
James Hacker: But I was bound to be asked when I didn't know if I didn't know.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: What?

Page 8 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45063177)

Page 8

Re:Page 8 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45063221)

Page 3

Documentaries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45063209)

I am not surprised at all. The show Yes, Minister has exposed a problem of civil servants keeping ministers in ignorance several decades ago. Keep in mind that Yes, Minister has been modelled after true events. You can actually learn politics from it.

Security services have become uncontrollable? (1)

swb (14022) | about a year ago | (#45063325)

Have we finally reached the stage where the security services are totally uncontrollable and have so much money and resources that they are no longer accountable or controllable?

Re:Security services have become uncontrollable? (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#45064345)

No - though I have my doubts about Google :-)

Re:Security services have become uncontrollable? (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#45064519)

The no longer accountable or controllable aspect is really where the GCHQ was generationally.
The UK could offer very little to the GCHQ but limits on budgets and endless 'new' ideas about crime fighting and using call transcripts/logs in court.
The GCHQ would then have to invent amazing ways to present its call transcripts/logs in court without exposing methods, brands, experts or the embarrassing totality of Soviet spying.
Generationally the GCHQ was closer to the NSA, US mil and their clean well funded digital/telco vision.
The ability to addict a select few UK political leaders with pure global data ensured a constant upgrade cycle and legal powers.
Snowden is really the new factor. The world now understands what the internet and telco system really was.
If the best networks go dark, what gossip do the UK political leaders get to enjoy and who will fill in the gaps? A good time for the CIA and MI6 to offer their insights - returning the NSA/GCHQ to a more supportive role?

Politics is circuses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45064107)

There to keep you shouting "Blue team!, no, Red team! no, Blue team!, no, Red team!!!"

Imagine how much money you could make if you could listen in on international trade negiotiations.
 

I don't want to make any allegations, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45064965)

Imagine for a moment that Chris Huhne was fully, completely, 100% informed of these surveillance programs. Perhaps he needed to inform the citizenry and did not do so. In order to protect himself from criticism, prosection, and/or reputational damage he decides to deny knowledge.

It's not terribly likely I would guess. There would likely be a paper trail and witnesses (although if it was top secret...), so it could be disproved. On the other hand you might find that the other participants were not willing to talk.

Ultimately this is the problem with pervasive secrecy. Who do you believe? A senior minister claiming no knowledge? A low level whistle blower? The tinfoil hat crowd, who suddenly look a bit more credible? Official looking documents that could be faked except that there are so many of them, and the government does not claim they are fakes?

This is why stamping everything security-related as "secret" breeds suspicion and mistrust. It's not the basis for any government we want. That's not a partisan position either.

um yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45065777)

So a parliament of one country (UK) wasn't briefed about the classified actions(NSA spying) of another country (USA)? Who'd have thought.
As far as GCHQ... do the parliamentarians have the right clearance level? No? Do they need to know? No? Why SHOULD they be told?

Of Course (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45066701)

Silly dog shit.

That is what they want you to think (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45068759)

The PM and perhaps some other high level people know

watch Page 8 http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/pageeight/

We don't believe you! (1)

dintech (998802) | about a year ago | (#45069957)

We don't believe you!

Huhne is not as important as he thinks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45083197)

The person/groups responsible for political oversight of a programme such as this, in order of hierarchy, would probably be the Prime Minister, followed by a Cabinet committee, then the full Cabinet, and finally a senior minister (possibly the Foreign Secretary).

The Cabinet is rather large - with 28 members in the photo below - and significant churn year-on-year. For obvious reasons they are not all told the details or even the existence of every secret programme. Some of them are incapable of keeping secrets; others, like Huhne, are common criminals (Huhne committed perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice). In practice the Prime Minister and a Cabinet committee will be in charge of the programme. The senior minister is fourth in the order of responsibility, but interestingly he is the fall guy if anything goes wrong. This is not as perverse as at first sight, because he will almost certainly be a member of the Cabinet committee that has oversight, as well as having day-to-day responsibility.

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01636/11-Cabinet_1636624a.jpg

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