David Leppard / The Sunday Times – 2008-10-06 22:03:55
There’s No Hiding Place as Spy HQ Plans to See All
LONDON (October 5, 2008) — Every call you make, every e-mail you send, every website you visit – I’ll be watching you.
That is the hope of Sir David Pepper who, as the director of GCHQ, the government’s secret eavesdropping agency in Cheltenham, is plotting the biggest surveillance system ever created in Britain.
From his office in the agency’s famous “doughnut” building, Pepper is masterminding an innocent-sounding project called the Interception Modernisation Programme.
The scope of the project — classified top secret — is said by officials to be so vast that it will dwarf the estimated £5 billion ministers have set aside for the identity cards programme. It is intended to fight terrorism and crime. Civil liberties groups, however, say it poses an unprecedented intrusion into ordinary citizens’ lives.
Aimed at placing a “live tap” on every electronic communication in Britain, it will dwarf other “big brother” surveillance projects such as the number plate recognition system and the spread of CCTV.
Pepper and his opposite number at MI6, Sir John Scarlett, are facing opposition from mandarins in the Treasury and Cabinet Office who fear both its cost and ethical implications.
The spy bosses say a central database is essential to “capture” the array of communications between terrorists planning to attack Britain. Draft e-mails, chatroom discussions and internet browsing on encrypted jihadist websites are the preferred forums for Al-Qaeda cells to plan their attacks, they say. However, other officials and many in the business and academic community are wary.
A spokesman for the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, said yesterday that this summer he had called for a public debate about government proposals for the state to retain people’s internet and phone records.
“The commissioner warned that it is likely that such a scheme would be a step too far for the British way of life. Proposals that threaten such intrusion into people’s lives must be properly debated,” the spokesman said.
Despite the lack of public debate, Pepper’s officials have been aggressively marketing his plans in a round of White-hall briefings over the past few weeks.
One of their charts depicts a steep upward line showing the amount of electronic communications data that are being “captured” in the databases of hundreds of private telephone companies and internet service providers. But future projections show a sharp fall in the amount of communications data firms can, or are willing to, retain.
If this information is not centrally stored, it will disappear, making it impossible for police and intelligence agents to reconstruct the history of so-called “friendship trees” between members of terrorist cells.
The sheer scale of electronic communications today is mind-boggling. Last year 57 billion text messages were sent in the UK, up from 1 billion in 1999. The number of broadband internet connections has grown from just 330,000 in 2001 to 18m in 2007. And each day 3 billion e-mails are sent – 35,000 every second. Somewhere in that mass of data, terrorists are communicating with each other about their next attack.
At the moment the data are spread across temporary storage sites held by hundreds of private firms. To agents and police trying to detect or reconstruct what MI5 calls terrorist “attack planning”, it’s like looking for a needle in a million haystacks.
But there are mounting concerns at the Treasury about the costs of Pepper’s project. According to Richard Clayton, a security expert at Cambridge University, the system will require the insertion of “thousands” of black box probes into the country’s computer and telephone networks.
Known as Deep Packet Inspection equipment, these probes will “steal” the data, analyse and decode the information and then route it direct to a government-run database.
No one yet knows exactly how to ensure police and intelligence agencies do not abuse their access to the database.
The Law on Surveillance
United Kingdom Telephone and internet companies must give details of calls or web use to law enforcement agencies if a senior officer certifies that it is needed for an investigation. Last year 520,000 such requests were made. Interception may be authorised for 653 public bodies. For the security services, a minister must give approval; for the police, a chief constable.
United States The government requires a special order approved by FBI officials to demand data on telephone calls and internet use. To intercept communications it needs a court order. If there is a threat to national security, emergency wiretaps can be used for a week.
Government Will Spy on Every Call and e-mail
David Leppard/ The Sunday Times
LONDON (October 5, 2008) — Ministers are considering spending up to £12 billion on a database to monitor and store the internet browsing habits, e-mail and telephone records of everyone in Britain.
GCHQ, the government’s eavesdropping centre, has already been given up to £1 billion to finance the first stage of the project.
Hundreds of clandestine probes will be installed to monitor customers live on two of the country’s biggest internet and mobile phone providers – thought to be BT and Vodafone. BT has nearly 5m internet customers.
Ministers are braced for a backlash similar to the one caused by their ID cards programme. Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: “Any suggestion of the government using existing powers to intercept communications data without public discussion is going to sound extremely sinister.”
MI5 currently conducts limited e-mail and website intercepts which are approved under specific warrants by the home secretary. Further details of the new plan will be unveiled next month in the Queen’s speech.
The Home Office stressed no formal decision had been taken but sources said officials had made clear that ministers had agreed “in principle” to the programme.
Officials claim live monitoring is necessary to fight terrorism and crime. However, critics question whether such a vast system can be kept secure. A total of 57 billion text messages were sent in the UK last year – 1,800 every second.
First ID Cards Are to be Issued within Weeks
Richard Ford, Home Correspondent / Times Online
LONDON (September 25, 2008) — The first UK identity card for more than 60 years will start to be issued in November, the Government announced today.
Jacqui Smith unveiled the card which is to be issued to people outside the European economic area renewing their permission to stay in the UK as students or on the basis of marriage.
Up to 60,000 cards will be handed out between November and March in the first large scale production of the 4.7bn identity card scheme.
The red and blue card bears the royal crest plus the shamrock, daffodil, thistle and rose as symbols representing the four countries making up the United Kingdom.
It bears the person’s picture, name, date of birth, their status in the UK and whether they have a right to work. On the back the card gives the person’s town and country of birth, gender and whether they have the right to UK state benefits.
The biometric details are the person’s two fingerprints.
Ms Smith, the Home Secretary, said the card, which will cost £30, will replace up to 50 paper documents. “ID cards for foreign nationals will replace old fashioned paper documents; make it easier for employers and sponsors to check entitlement to work and study and for the UK border agency to verify someone’s identity.”
The card, which is compulsory for foreign nationals, will start to be issued on November 25 at offices in Croydon, Glasgow, Sheffield, Liverpool, Birmingham and Cardiff. Over the next three years up to one million will be issued to foreign nationals in Britain.
Ms Smith added: “Foreign nationals living and working here and studying here legally will be able to prove that easily and we will be able to prevent those here illegally from benefiting.”
Ms Smith said that next year identity cards will start to be issued to UK citizens working in sensitive areas including those employed airside at airports.
It is understood the issuing of these cards will be trialled first at a handful of airports and they will only be issued to new applicants for jobs rather than existing staff.
Under current plans identity cards will start to be issued on a voluntary basis to UK citizens from 2010 with the Government initially targeting youngsters over 16 who may wish to have them to help prove their identity and age.
From 2011/12 ministers hope to start rolling out the scheme throughout the UK with people able to apply for an identity card, passport or both at a cost of just under £100.
The card issued to UK citizens will differ in the information displayed from that given to foreign nationals.
It will include a picture, name, gender, place and date of birth, issue an expiry date of the card, national identity register number, nationality and two fingerprints but does not have details of a person’s right to work or access to benefits.
Although identity cards issued to foreign nationals are compulsory, UK citizens will not have to apply, or carry one. It will require further legislation to make it compulsory for every UK citizen aged 16 or over to have an ID card and require them to produce it when seeking employment or accessing public services.
1952: Identity Cards Abolished
“In the House of Commons to-day…the Government… decided that it was no longer necessary for the public to possess and produce an identity card. [The statement] was greeted with loud ministerial cheers.”