GCHQ captured emails of journalists from top international media

• Snowden files reveal emails of BBC, NY Times and more
• Agency includes investigative journalists on ‘threat’ list
• Editors call on Cameron to act against snooping on media
GCHQ

GCHQ’s bulk surveillance of electronic communications has scooped up emails to and from journalists working for some of the US and UK’s largest media organisations, analysis of documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Emails from the BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, the Sun, NBC and the Washington Post were saved by GCHQ and shared on the agency’s intranet as part of a test exercise by the signals intelligence agency.

The disclosure comes as the British government faces intense pressure to protect the confidential communications of reporters, MPs and lawyers from snooping.

The journalists’ communications were among 70,000 emails harvested in the space of less than 10 minutes on one day in November 2008 by one of GCHQ’s numerous taps on the fibre-optic cables that make up the backbone of the internet.

The communications, which were sometimes simple mass-PR emails sent to dozens of journalists but also included correspondence between reporters and editors discussing stories, were retained by GCHQ and were available to all cleared staff on the agency intranet. There is nothing to indicate whether or not the journalists were intentionally targeted.

The mails appeared to have been captured and stored as the output of a then-new tool being used to strip irrelevant data out of the agency’s tapping process.

New evidence from other UK intelligence documents revealed by Snowden also shows that a GCHQ information security assessment listed “investigative journalists” as a threat in a hierarchy alongside terrorists or hackers.

Senior editors and lawyers in the UK have called for the urgent introduction of a freedom of expression law amid growing concern over safeguards proposed by ministers to meet concerns over the police use of surveillance powers linked to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa).

More than 100 editors, including those from all the national newspapers, have signed a letter, coordinated by the Society of Editors and Press Gazette, to the UK prime minister, David Cameron, protesting at snooping on journalists’ communications.

In the wake of terror attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices and a Jewish grocer in Paris, Cameron has renewed calls for further bulk-surveillance powers, such as those which netted these journalistic communications.

Ripa has been used to access journalists’ communications without a warrrant, with recent cases including police accessing the phone records of Tom Newton-Dunn, the Sun’s political editor, over the Plebgate investigation. The call records of Mail on Sunday reporters involved in the paper’s coverage of Chris Huhne’s speeding row were also accessed in this fashion.

Under Ripa, neither the police nor the security services need to seek the permission of a judge to investigate any UK national’s phone records – instead, they must obtain permission from an appointed staff member from the same organisation, not involved in their investigation.

However, there are some suggestions in the documents that the collection of billing data by GCHQ under Ripa goes wider – and that it may not be confined to specific target individuals.

A top secret document discussing Ripa initially explains the fact that billing records captured under Ripa are available to any government agency is “unclassified” provided that there is “no mention of bulk”.

The GCHQ document goes on to warn that the fact that billing records “kept under Ripa are not limited to warranted targets” must be kept as one of the agency’s most tightly guarded secrets, at a classification known as “Top secret strap 2”.

That is two levels higher than a normal top secret classification – as it refers to “HMG [Her Majesty’s government] relationships with industry that have areas of extreme sensitivity”.

Internal security advice shared among the intelligence agencies was often as preoccupied with the activities of journalists as with more conventional threats such as foreign intelligence, hackers or criminals.

One restricted document intended for those in army intelligence warned that “journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security”.

It continued: “Of specific concern are ‘investigative journalists’ who specialise in defence-related exposés either for profit or what they deem to be of the public interest.

“All classes of journalists and reporters may try either a formal approach or an informal approach, possibly with off-duty personnel, in their attempts to gain official information to which they are not entitled.”

It goes on to caution “such approaches pose a real threat”, and tells staff they must be “immediately reported” to the chain-of-command.

GCHQ information security assessments, meanwhile, routinely list journalists between “terrorism” and “hackers” as “influencing threat sources”, with one matrix scoring journalists as having a “capability” score of two out of five, and a “priority” of three out of five, scoring an overall “low” information security risk.

Terrorists, listed immediately above investigative journalists on the document, were given a much higher “capability” score of four out of five, but a lower “priority” of two. The matrix concluded terrorists were therefore a “moderate” information security risk.

A spokesman for GCHQ said: “It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.

“All our operational processes rigorously support this position. In addition, the UK’s interception regime is entirely compatible with the European convention on human rights.”

James Ball
Monday 19 January 2015 15.04 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 20 January 2015 00.17 GMT

Find this story at 19 January 2015

© 2015 Guardian News

British spooks tapped emails from UK and US media… and rated journalists alongside TERRORISTS as potential security threats, leaked Snowden documents reveal

Journalists represent ‘a potential threat to security’, according to GCHQ
Revelation buried in secret documents leaked from the UK spy centre
Comes amid calls for security services to be given power to monitor emails
Journalists a ‘low’ security risk compared to terrorists who are ‘moderate’
GCHQ scooped up 70,000 emails in just 10 minutes, documents reveal
Among intercepted emails were some sent by BBC and New York Times

British spooks intercepted emails from US and UK media organisations and rated ‘investigative journalists’ alongside terrorists and hackers as potential security threats, secret documents reveal.
Internal advice circulated by intelligence chiefs at the Government spy centre GCHQ claims ‘journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security’.
Intelligence documents leaked by the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden also show that British security officers scooped up 70,000 emails in just 10 minutes during one interception exercise in 2008.
Among the private exchanges were emails between journalists at the BBC, New York Times and US network NBC.

The disclosure comes amid growing calls for the security services to be handed more power to monitor the internet following the Paris terror attacks.
Internal security advice, shared among British intelligence agencies, scored journalists in a table of potential threats.
One restricted document, which according to the Guardian was intended for those in army intelligence, warned that ‘journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security’.

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It continued: ‘Of specific concern are “investigative journalists” who specialise in defence-related exposés either for profit or what they deem to be of the public interest.’
The document adds: ‘All classes of journalists and reporters may try either a formal approach or an informal approach, possibly with off-duty personnel, in their attempts to gain official information to which they are not entitled.’
It warns staff that ‘such approaches pose a real threat’, adding it must be ‘immediately reported’.
One table scored journalists a ‘low’ information security risk – compared to terrorists who are seen as a ‘moderate’ threat.

A spokesman for GCHQ refused to confirm or deny if the leaked documents were accurate. The spokesman said: ‘It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters.
‘Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.
‘All our operational processes rigorously support this position. In addition, the UK’s interception regime is entirely compatible with the European convention on human rights.’
According to the Guardian, GCHQ scooped up emails to and from journalists during one 10-minute ‘tapping’ session in November 2008.
Emails from the BBC, the Sun and the Mail on Sunday were picked up and shared on the agency’s internal computer system – alongside memos from US media organisations.
The revelation comes as the British government faces growing pressure to ensure journalists’ texts and emails are protected from snooping.
Newspaper editors and lawyers have called for a new freedom of expression law.

By TOM MCTAGUE, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 16:32 GMT, 19 January 2015 | UPDATED: 18:06 GMT, 19 January 2015

Find this story at 19 January 2015

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

British journalists worked for MI6 during the Cold War: investigation

Numerous notable journalists working for some of Britain’s most prestigious publications routinely collaborated with British intelligence during the Cold War, according to a BBC investigation. In 1968, Soviet newspaper Izvestia published the contents of an alleged British government memorandum entitled “Liaison Between the BBC and SIS”. SIS, which stands for Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, is Britain’s foremost external intelligence agency. The paper, which was the official organ of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, claimed that the foreign correspondents of most leading British newspapers secretly collaborated with the British intelligence community. It also alleged that the BBC’s world radio service had agreed with MI6 to broadcast preselected sentences or songs at prearranged times. These signals were used by British intelligence officers to demonstrate to foreign recruits in the Eastern Bloc that they were operating on behalf of the UK. At the time, the BBC virulently rejected the Izvestia’s claims, calling them “black propaganda” aimed at distracting world opinion from the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops, which had taken place some months earlier. But an investigation aired this week by the BBC Radio 4’s investigative Document program suggests that the memo published by the Soviet newspaper was probably genuine. The program says it discovered a memorandum in the BBC’s archives, which laments the embarrassment caused to MI6 by the Soviet claims. The memorandum, dated April 24, 1969, describes MI6 as “our friends”. The BBC program, which is available to listen to here, discusses the Soviets’ claims that several notable British journalists were MI6 agents. They include Edward Crankshaw and David Astor of The Observer, Lord Hartwell and Roy Pawley of The Daily Telegraph, Lord Arran of The Daily Mail, Henry Brandon of The Sunday Times, and even Mark Arnold-Foster of the left-leaning Guardian newspaper. Leading veteran security and intelligence correspondent Phillip Knightley told Document that he would not be surprised if Izvestia’s claims turned out to be true.

March 5, 2013 by Joseph Fitsanakis 11 Comments

Find this story at 5 March 2013

MI6 and the Media

Jeremy Duns examines leaked documents which suggest close links between MI6 and the British press during the Cold War.

In December 1968, the British media was shaken by a series of secret documents leaked to Soviet state newspapers. The documents claimed a range of key Fleet Street correspondents and news chiefs were working for the intelligence services. Further papers alleged close links between the BBC and MI6.

Duration: 28 minutes
First broadcast: Monday 04 March 2013

Find this story at 4 March 2013

BBC © 2013