Snowden Leak Exposes UK Government’s Citizen Spying, Links to GCHQ

In a classified document leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden five of the U.K.’s ‘intercepting law enforcement agencies’ have accessed millions of U.K. citizens phone records and Internet activity.

Dated March 9, 2011, the leaked document, published by The Intercept, identifies the MI5, the National Crime Agency previously known as the Serious Organized Crime Agency, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Scottish Recording Centre, and HMRC.

All five were part of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) secret government programme known as the MILKWHITE Enrichment Service (MES).

Interestingly, enough, it is the mention of the PSNI, which has been leaked for the first time and sheds a ray of light on how these organizations work together. According to the leaked document, the Internet Data Unit (iDU) appears to be a multi-agency that the law enforcement agencies, including the PSNI, can access peoples’ phone records, social media activity, and Internet records that have been gathered by the GCHQ.

It seems, though, that the MES programme was put into place to continue supporting the Home Office Communications Capabilities Directorate (CCD), which was tasked with modernizing the U.K.’s domestic interception capabilities.

However, in order to meet customer demands, by 2011 the classified document states that an additional million in funding was required so that service capacity could continue to grow to maintain pace with customer demand.

Last year, Edward Snowden announced that the GCHQ had total control of tracking smartphone users, while journalist David Gilmore, reported that the GCHQ was targeting mobile apps such as LinkedIn, MySpace, Facebook, and Whatsapp.

The fact that Northern Ireland is often in the news over heightened tensions throughout the country, could signify that it isn’t surprising that the PSNI would be part of a government program to track the phone records and Internet activity of its citizens.

Snowden’s Leaks

Interestingly, earlier this year, in a bid to stay ahead of any further Snowden-type leaks, GCHQ announced that it would pay students hackers a week to work alongside world-class experts who work at keeping U.K. citizens safe.

However, since Snowden’s revelations, it’s apparent that the public considers these leaks of the utmost importance.

As people continually use their phones to make calls or for social media they are more concerned about their privacy in a time when government programs are monitoring what they are doing particularly when the level of monitoring goes much deeper than we think.

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