A brand new leak by the Guardian reveals that the top British GCHQ is tapping directly into global telecommunication networks for secret access to the majority of the world’s Internet communication, way more potent than what the NSA’s PRISM program is capable of as well. The revelation came at the same time the U.S. government filed charges of espionage against Edward Snowden.
On Friday, June 21st, the U.S. filed formal charges of espionage and divulging state secrets on former NSA contract employee, Ed Snowden. The charge of espionage against Snowden came at the same time the Guardian published new information revealing that the GCHQ has been secretly monitoring and storing vast amounts of data on Internet traffic. This data is supposedly being shared with their American counterpart, the NSA.
According to the Guardian the GCHQ gained access to the network of Internet fiber optic cables that carry the majority of the world’s Internet traffic. These obscene amounts of data are being recorded in volume and on a far larger scale than PRISM.
There are two official programs working together called “Mastering the Internet” and “Global Telecoms Exploitation”, with both being generally referred to as “Tempora”.
Tempora has been running for approximately 18 months and has been indiscriminately recording vast amounts of communications by Internet users, criminal or otherwise.
The revelations of such an extensive network of government eavesdropping came by way of the whistle blower, Edward Snowden, who first released the purported facts on the PRISM program.
Snowden calls the British program the largest gathering of “suspicionless surveillance in human history….It’s not just a U.S. problem,” Snowden told the Guardian, “The U.K. has a huge dog in this fight. They are worse than the U.S.”
If this newly leaked information is fact, that would make the GCHQ the most powerful intelligence gathering entity on the planet working in unison with the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
By the end of 2012 the GCHQ was supposedly handling over 600 million “telephone events” each day. The leaks also suggest that they had a direct line into over 200 fiber optic telecommunication cables and had the ability to gather data from 45 main fiber optic lines at any given time.
To put that amount data into perspective, each of those fiber optic cables carry about 10 gigabits of data every second. That means they would be processing at least 21 petabytes of data every day. According to Snowden, the goal is for the GCHQ to process thousands of gigabits of data at any given moment.
The GCHQ accomplished this undertaking by making secret agreements with numerous private companies, which were referred to as “intercept partners”. Much like the NSA the GCHQ bound those companies legally from revealing any part of the program. The leak also reveals that about 850,000 NSA employees have access to this information obtained by the GCHQ.
Charges against Snowden were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and includes unauthorized communications on national defense information, theft of government property, and “willful communications of classified information to an unauthorized person”.
The Washington Post reports that the U.S. has also officially asked Hong Kong to detain Snowden on a provisional warrant for extradition. Snowden has vowed to fight extradition and may possibly relocate to Iceland where he has been invited to reside without fear of extradition.