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GCHQ, NSA and Others Share Your Data Routinely, and for Years

Regarding Donald Trump’s claims, based on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s statements, that Obama bypassed U.S. wiretapping laws by getting the British GCHQ (the British version of NSA) to do the spying, Glenn Greenwald recently linked to this article from the U.K. Guardian from nearly 4 years ago that explains how the GCHQ gets the data:

GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world’s communications

Britain’s spy agency GCHQ has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world’s phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency (NSA).

The sheer scale of the agency’s ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate.

One key innovation has been GCHQ’s ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation, codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months.

GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects.

This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user’s access to websites – all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets.

The existence of the programme has been disclosed in documents shown to the Guardian by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as part of his attempt to expose what he has called “the largest programme of suspicionless surveillance in human history”.

The Guardian understands that a total of 850,000 NSA employees and US private contractors with top secret clearance had access to GCHQ databases. [emphasis added]

Here is a list of all the private contractors, as reported by the Washington Post. So, thousands of those people have “clearance” and can access all your data, everyone’s data, including Trump.

Another article on WaPo, discussing the case of a Navy yard shooting, begins:

Among the countless unanswered questions surrounding yesterday’s Navy Yard rampage, one gets repeated over and over: How did 34-year-old alleged shooter Aaron Alexis, a man with a history of arrests and gun infractions, get the security clearance needed to enter a military facility?

The exact answer to that question is still emerging as investigators piece together Alexis’s history. But simply put, security clearances are not quite so secure — nor quite as elusive — as some outside the Beltway might assume.

More than 4.9 million federal government workers and contractors held security clearances in 2012. That number includes not only employees of government agencies like the Department of Defense and the Department of State, but also thousands of people who work for contractors on everything from IT to packing crates.


The WaPo had done a series, titled “Top Secret America.” In Part 1, we learned that the national security apparatus is actually too big, and too vast. It really has been “like trying to find a needle in a haystack.” In Part 1 of the Post‘s series, we learned:

*Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

*An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

*In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.

*Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.

*Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

Read Part 2: “National Security, Inc.”, Part 3: “The Secrets Next Door”, and Part 4: Monitoring America.

And that was 7 years ago! I’ll bet that those numbers have grown even more since then. (“Security”? Doh!) So I don’t think that Obama even needed the British GCHQ if he wanted to get personal data from warrantless monitoring on Donald Trump. With XKeyscore, he could get information from databases, which are routinely accessed without a warrant.

That WaPo series, by the way, was an extensive series from 2010 on the national security state that I don’t think the Post would do now, given that nowadays they seem to be concentrating on their fake news propaganda campaign to smear those who criticize the regime.

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