It almost comes as no surprise when new levels of spying are uncovered in the ‘post Snowden era.’ Government agencies are one thing, but surprise is the least valid emotion when information gives light to the involvement of big business. The information we have now may only be showing the tip of the iceberg, however Cable and Wireless involvements seems to be the level of sinking the Titanic on its own.
In a Joint investigation with German broadcaster WDR, Channel 4 News released information directly from Snowden on the level of GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) spying on not just the UK but the world. A level at which Snowden was outspoken over, describing as “the most intrusive.” Unable to deal with the level of information now flowing under the beaches of Cornwall, they had huge help from the very people responsible for the cable. In an operation they called ‘Mastering the internet’ GCHQ was provided information directly by Cable and Wireless.
Power To You
Cable and Wireless have been responsible for thousands of miles of cable leaving the beaches of Cornwall for over a century. It would appear that they have been providing a backdoor to GCHQ into the communications for several years. Is it purely coincidence that since 2012 the firm is now in the hands of UK based Vodafone, a company that has previously been highlighted by Snowden as tapping the phones of millions of people worldwide.
In documents seen by Channel 4, in a period between 2008 and 2013, the company went by the code name ‘Gerontic.’ GCHQ had direct access to Cable and Wireless cables entering the UK in Cornwall, code named Nigella, intercepting the private communications of millions of users from all over the UK. GCHQ certainly planned, if not succeeded, to intercept trillions of gigabytes of data per second.
So cozy was the partnership they had a full time GCHQ working inside the company, and carried out testing on the behalf of GCHQ on equipment. Holding regular meetings between 2008 and 2010, and receiving millions of pounds in payment for its troubles. They also provided feedback and suggestion of the best way to gain information. Even useful hints and tips about how GCHQ ‘could’ tap into its network if required.
Worldwide Wire Tap
Safe in the knowledge that its own customers could be spied upon at any time, Genotic also went after other providers’ information by tapping into the cables of partner communications firms supplying the rest of the world. Renting space from India based Reliance Communications that has cables running from Asia, through the Middle East and landed in Sennen Cove. A mere few miles down the coast form its own landing in Porthcurno in Cornwall. Close still to GCHQ’s base in Bude.
“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 authorized, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight.” – GCHQ spokesman
As they have done with all previous accusations both GCHQ and Vodafone have denied all involvement other than those that it is legally obliged to upkeep. Insisting direct access to its network was impossible without Vodafone knowledge and a warrant to do so. Adding “there are processes for us to do that which we’re not allowed to talk about because the law constrains us from revealing these things. We don’t go beyond what the law requires”
This is all despite the fact that documents exist detailing the involvement, still being referred to as Gerontic, as late as April 2013: long after the takeover by Vodafone. So denials of involvement are either plausibly denied, or simply incorrect. What is sure is that these accusations of involvement are already affecting large business and government contracts.
None more so in Germany, where it has 30 million customers, that it will struggle to keep. Although they vehemently deny the accusations Vodafone have been linked with heavy involvement with spying on German government officials, including the Prime Minster Angela Merkel. Despite using encrypted devices and communications, many experts have called for cancelation of all contracts with Vodafone.
Many providers have now moved communications away from the beaches of Cornwall, but the reduction of interception is unknown. The level of ‘partnerships’ that were built by GCHQ is still yet to be known, and many still exist to this day. A practice that recoups millions in payments each month maybe hard for business to turn down.
GCHQ and the FBI have been publicly outspoken about the use of encryption and the security of populations. Giving outlandish accusations that people will die because of its use. Using encrypted devices and communications maybe of little use if the company providing them is also providing a backdoor to agencies. Many companies swear to be fighting the good fight, and looking after their customers but how many actually are. Maybe we will never know for sure.