• A report by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) in 2015 revealed that a small number of staff at UK intelligence agencies had been found to misuse their surveillance
    powers, in one case leading to the dismissal of a member of staff at GCHQ, although there were no laws in place at the time to make these abuses a criminal offence.

  • The principal of these is with the United States (National Security Agency), Canada (Communications Security Establishment), Australia (Australian Signals Directorate) and
    New Zealand (Government Communications Security Bureau), through the mechanism of the UK-US Security Agreement, a broad intelligence-sharing agreement encompassing a range of intelligence collection methods.

  • [37] Post Cold War[edit] 1990s: Post-Cold War restructuring[edit] The Intelligence Services Act 1994 formalised the activities of the intelligence agencies for the first time,
    defining their purpose, and the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee was given a remit to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the three intelligence agencies.

  • Since the 2013 global surveillance disclosures, large US technology companies have improved security and become less co-operative with foreign intelligence agencies, including
    those of the UK, generally requiring a US court order before disclosing data.

  • [39] During the introduction of the Intelligence Agency Act in late 1993, the former Prime Minister Jim Callaghan had described GCHQ as a “full-blown bureaucracy”, adding
    that future bodies created to provide oversight of the intelligence agencies should “investigate whether all the functions that GCHQ carries out today are still necessary.

  • [90] However, the Tribunal stated in February 2015 that one particular aspect, the data-sharing arrangement that allowed UK Intelligence services to request data from the
    US surveillance programmes Prism and Upstream, had been in contravention of human rights law prior to this until two paragraphs of additional information, providing details about the procedures and safeguards, were disclosed to the public
    in December 2014.

  • [64] Soon after becoming Director of GCHQ in 2014, Robert Hannigan wrote an article in the Financial Times on the topic of internet surveillance, stating that “however much
    [large US technology companies] may dislike it, they have become the command and control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals” and that GCHQ and its sister agencies “cannot tackle these challenges at scale without greater support
    from the private sector”, arguing that most internet users “would be comfortable with a better and more sustainable relationship between the [intelligence] agencies and the tech companies”.

  • The closed hearing found the government in breach of its internal surveillance policies in accessing and retaining the communications of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal
    Rights and the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa.

  • [88] Legal basis GCHQ’s legal basis is enshrined in the Intelligence Services Act 1994 Section 3 as follows: (1) There shall continue to be a Government Communications Headquarters
    under the authority of the Secretary of State; and, subject to subsection (2) below, its functions shall be— (a) to monitor or interfere with electromagnetic, acoustic and other emissions and any equipment producing such emissions and to obtain
    and provide information derived from or related to such emissions or equipment and from encrypted material; and (b) to provide advice and assistance about— (i) languages, including terminology used for technical matters, and (ii) cryptography
    and other matters relating to the protection of information and other material, to the armed forces of the Crown, to Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom or to a Northern Ireland Department or to any other organisation which is determined
    for the purposes of this section in such manner as may be specified by the Prime Minister.

  • (3) In this Act, the expression “GCHQ” refers to the Government Communications Headquarters and to any unit or part of a unit of the armed forces of the Crown which is for
    the time being required by the Secretary of State to assist the Government Communications Headquarters in carrying out its functions.

  • [58] GCHQ has also had access to the US internet monitoring programme PRISM from at least as far back as June 2010.

  • [79] Security mission As well as a mission to gather intelligence, GCHQ has for a long-time had a corresponding mission to assist in the protection of the British government’s
    own communications.

  • It absorbed and replaced CESG as well as activities that had previously existed outside GCHQ: the Centre for Cyber Assessment (CCA), Computer Emergency Response Team UK (CERT
    UK) and the cyber-related responsibilities of the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI).

  • In 2013, GCHQ received considerable media attention when the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the agency was in the process of collecting
    all online and telephone data in the UK via the Tempora programme.

  • [80] LCSA[edit] From 1952 to 1954, the intelligence mission of GCHQ relocated to Cheltenham; the Security section remained at Eastcote,[80] and in March 1954 became a separate,
    independent organisation: the London Communications Security Agency (LCSA),[80] which in 1958 was renamed to the London Communications-Electronic Security Agency (LCESA).

  • [28] Following the Second World War, US and British intelligence have shared information as part of the UKUSA Agreement.

  • [35] A no-strike agreement was eventually negotiated and the ban lifted by the incoming Labour government in 1997, with the Government Communications Group of the Public and
    Commercial Services Union (PCS) being formed to represent interested employees at all grades.

  • [10] History Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS)[edit] See also: Second World War activities of GC&CS referred to as ‘Ultra’ During the First World War, the British
    Army and Royal Navy had separate signals intelligence agencies, MI1b and NID25 (initially known as Room 40) respectively.

  • (2) The functions referred to in subsection (1)(a) above shall be exercisable only— (a) in the interests of national security, with particular reference to the defence and
    foreign policies of Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom; or (b) in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom in relation to the actions or intentions of persons outside the British Islands; or (c) in support
    of the prevention or detection of serious crime.

  • One of the major reasons for selecting Cheltenham was that the town had been the location of the headquarters of the United States Army Services of Supply for the European
    Theater during the War, which built up a telecommunications infrastructure in the region to carry out its logistics tasks.

  • “[40] In late 1993 civil servant Michael Quinlan advised a deep review of the work of GCHQ following the conclusion of his “Review of Intelligence Requirements and Resources”,
    which had imposed a 3% cut on the agency.

  • [90][98][99] This complements independent reports by the Interception of Communications Commissioner,[100] and a special report made by the Intelligence and Security Committee
    of Parliament; although several shortcomings and potential improvements to both oversight and the legislative framework were highlighted.

  • [65][66] However the head of the UK technology industry group techUK rejected these claims, stating that they understood the issues but that disclosure obligations “must be
    based upon a clear and transparent legal framework and effective oversight rather than, as suggested, a deal between the industry and government”.

  • [52] The public spotlight fell on GCHQ in late 2003 and early 2004 following the sacking of Katharine Gun after she leaked to The Observer a confidential email from agents
    at the United States’ National Security Agency addressed to GCHQ agents about the wiretapping of UN delegates in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war.

  • [72][73][74] However, surveillance of Russian agents did pick up contacts made by Trump’s campaign team in the run-up to his election, which were passed on to US agencies.

  • [62] In the same month NBC and The Intercept, based on documents released by Snowden, revealed the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group and the Computer Network Exploitation
    units within GCHQ.

  • [33] Trade union disputes[edit] NUCPS banner on march in Cheltenham 1992 Main articles: Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service and GCHQ trade union
    ban In 1984, GCHQ was the centre of a political row when, in the wake of strikes which affected Sigint collection, the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher prohibited its employees from belonging to a trade union.

  • By 1922, the main focus of GC&CS was on diplomatic traffic, with “no service traffic ever worth circulating”[18] and so, at the initiative of Lord Curzon, it was transferred
    from the Admiralty to the Foreign Office.

  • [89][90][91] Oversight[edit] See also: Mass surveillance in the United Kingdom The Prime Minister nominates cross-party Members of Parliament to an Intelligence and Security

  • The Joint Technical Language Service (JTLS) is a small department and cross-government resource responsible for mainly technical language support and translation and interpreting
    services across government departments.

  • [46] The tenure of Omand also saw the construction of a modern new headquarters, intended to consolidate the two old sites at Oakley and Benhall into a single, more open-plan
    work environment.

  • [101] Abuses[edit] Despite the inherent secrecy around much of GCHQ’s work, investigations carried out by the UK government after the Snowden disclosures have admitted various
    abuses by the security services.

  • [51] 2000s: Coping with the Internet[edit] See also: Global surveillance and Global surveillance disclosures (2013–present) At the end of 2003, GCHQ moved in to its new building.

  • [44] Hurn’s report recommended a cut of £100 million in GCHQ’s budget; such a large reduction had not been suffered by any British intelligence agency since the end of World
    War II.

  • However, in May 1927, during a row over clandestine Soviet support for the General Strike and the distribution of subversive propaganda, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin made
    details from the decrypts public.

  • The remit of the Committee includes oversight of intelligence and security activities and reports are made directly to Parliament.

  • [13] Its public function was “to advise as to the security of codes and cyphers used by all Government departments and to assist in their provision”, but also had a secret
    directive to “study the methods of cypher communications used by foreign powers”.

  • [86] The remit of the JTLS has expanded in the ensuing years to cover technical language support and interpreting and translation services across the UK Government and to
    local public sector services in Gloucestershire and surrounding counties.

  • During the early Cold War, the remnants of the British Empire provided a global network of ground stations which were a major contribution to the UKUSA Agreement; the US regarded
    RAF Little Sai Wan in Hong Kong as the most valuable of these.

  • GCHQ transformed itself accordingly, including greatly expanded Public Relations and Legal departments, and adopting public education in cyber security as an important part
    of its remit.

  • Government Communications Headquarters, commonly known as GCHQ, is an intelligence and security organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information
    assurance (IA) to the government and armed forces of the United Kingdom.

  • [55] In March 2010, GCHQ was criticised by the Intelligence and Security Committee for problems with its IT security practices and failing to meet its targets for work targeted
    against cyber attacks.

  • [80] CESG continued as the UK National Technical Authority for information assurance, including cryptography.

  • In 1965 a Foreign Office review found that 11,500 staff were involved in SIGINT collection (8,000 GCHQ staff and 3,500 military personnel), exceeding the size of the Diplomatic

  • [38] The objectives of GCHQ were defined as working as “in the interests of national security, with particular reference to the defence and foreign policies of His Majesty’s
    government; in the interests of the economic wellbeing of the United Kingdom; and in support of the prevention and the detection of serious crime”.

  • This was Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service [1985] AC 374 (often known simply as the “GCHQ case”).

  • The principal aspect of this is that GCHQ and its US equivalent, the National Security Agency (NSA), share technologies, infrastructure and information.

  • There are two main components of the GCHQ, the Composite Signals Organisation (CSO), which is responsible for gathering information, and the National Cyber Security Centre
    (NCSC), which is responsible for securing the UK’s own communications.

  • In this case, a prerogative Order in Council had been used by the prime minister (who is the Minister for the Civil Service) to ban trade union activities by civil servants
    working at GCHQ.

  • The monitoring stations were largely run by inexpensive National Service recruits, but when this ended in the early 1960s, the increased cost of civilian employees caused
    budgetary problems.

  • Reaction to the Suez War led to the eviction of GCHQ from several of its best foreign SIGINT collection sites, including the new Perkar, Ceylon site and RAF Habbaniya, Iraq.

  • [45] David Omand became the Director of GCHQ in 1996, and greatly restructured the agency in the face of new and changing targets and rapid technological change.

  • [67] In 2015, documents obtained by The Intercept from US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that GCHQ had carried out a mass-surveillance operation,
    codenamed KARMA POLICE, since about 2008.

  • When the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) was created in 1919, its overt task was providing security advice.

  • [10] A number of mass national one-day strikes were held to protest this decision, claimed by some as the first step to wider bans on trade unions.

  • [13] Sinclair merged staff from NID25 and MI1b into the new organisation, which initially consisted of around 25–30 officers and a similar number of clerical staff.

  • [31][32] GCHQ had a very low profile in the media until 1983 when the trial of Geoffrey Prime, a KGB mole within it, created considerable media interest.

  • [82] Public key encryption[edit] In late 1969 the concept for public-key encryption was developed and proven by James H. Ellis, who had worked for CESG (and before it, CESD)
    since 1965.

  • GCHQ was originally established after the First World War as the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS)[4] and was known under that name until 1946.

  • [49] Operations that used GCHQ’s intelligence-gathering capabilities in the 1990s included the monitoring of communications of Iraqi soldiers in the Gulf War, of dissident
    republican terrorists and the Real IRA, of the various factions involved in the Yugoslav Wars, and of the criminal Kenneth Noye.

  • The growing use of the Internet, together with its inherent insecurities, meant that the communications traffic of private citizens were becoming inextricably mixed with those
    of their targets and openness in the handling of this issue was becoming essential to their credibility as an organisation.

  • [93] The UK also has an independent Intelligence Services Commissioner and Interception of Communications Commissioner, both of whom are former senior judges.

  • [102] Later that year, a ruling by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal found that GCHQ acted unlawfully in conducting surveillance on two human rights organisations.

  • [25] Post Second World War[edit] GC&CS was renamed the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in June 1946.

  • [95][96][97] Furthermore, the IPT ruled that the legislative framework in the United Kingdom does not permit mass surveillance and that while GCHQ collects and analyses data
    in bulk, it does not practice mass surveillance.

  • Relationships are alleged to include shared collection methods, such as the system described in the popular media as ECHELON, as well as analysed product.

  • [103] At another IPT case in 2015, GCHQ conceded that “from January 2010, the regime for the interception/obtaining, analysis, use, disclosure and destruction of legally privileged
    material has not been in accordance with the law for the purposes of Article 8(2) of the European convention on human rights and was accordingly unlawful”.


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Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sweetonveg/6570546331/’]