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They snoop on anyone anywhere: there’s nothing & nobody they won’t target

The latest revelations from Edward Snowden are really chilling. Not only do GCHQ/MI5 have a private portal into the US National Security Agency’s data mining against UK and other European citizens which, because it is offered rather than specifically sought, circumvents ministerial controls, but we now know also that the spooks have secured a laxity of legislative provision which enables them to go far beyond the bounds of acceptable surveillance with total impunity.

The latest example of that is Snowden’s revelation that GCHQ/MI5 spied on and bugged ministers and senior officials from South Africa, Turkey and Russia during the G20 summit in London in 2009. The usual rationale trotted out for such spying is that it is protect the UK from terrorists and criminals. That can hardly apply here.

The legal justification is provided by the 1994 Intelligence Services Act which allows GCHQ to undertake surveillance “in the interests of the economic well-being of the UK”. That in itself is a pretty much catch-all net for spying on anything. Just how far that can be perverted is illustrated by the G20 incident in 2009. Turkey was spied on to find out its position on the reform of the global financial infrastructure after the financial crash in 2008-9!

In the case of South Africa, British hacking of their foreign ministry computer networks was apparently targeted at discovering briefings given to ministers for G20 meetings. That has nothing to do with the economic well-being of the UK. The motive is obviously to give UK negotiators an edge denied to their counterparts. Similar techniques were used in much more unsavoury surroundings to try to turn swing States in the UN Security Council deliberating Resolution 1441 before the Iraq war in 2002-3.

What emerges from these incidents is that State surveillance by US and UK, as well as by Russia and China, is totally out of control. The spooks are a law unto themselves. The reason that they were so desperate to get the late ill-lamented Communications Bill on to the statute book was that it would have have given them retrospective cover for aggressive surveillance directed against UK citizens which has been in full swing for some considerable time.

When this was blocked, they even resorted to an arcane EU edict which they hoped could be manipulated to provide the legitimacy for them to operate free from interference. They are supposed to be monitored by the parliamentary Intelligence Services Committee (ISC), but of course they are only told what MI5, etc. are willing to tell them.

There is a perfect storm brewing. After the disgracing of the banks, MPs, media, and police, the so-called security services are also now revealed to be self-serving and unaccountable.

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