Friday, August 23, 2013

The Snowden story just keeps giving

It would not be possible to cover all the ramifications of the Snowden/Greenwald/Miranda story on this blog and, in any case, numerous hacks, some with very little knowledge or understanding, have been holding forth on the subject. Suffice it to say that the original "poor little David Miranda, being held merely because he is that courageous Greenwald's partner" story has been somewhat tarnished and opinion now is more divided than ever.

I do have a few observations to make. Firstly, I do hope Edward Snowden, wherever in Russia he happens to be, has no intention of following Bradley Manning's example and announcing that he will live the rest of his life as a woman. The Russian authorities will not take kindly to that.

Secondly, I note that the Council of Europe has made shocked statements and demanded answers.
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has asked UK Home Secretary Theresa May to explain the pressure that Downing Street had put on the Guardian newspaper over the Snowden case, warning of the potentially "chilling effect" on media freedom.

In the letter sent yesterday (21 August), Jagland, a Norwegian politician, laid out his concerns over two recent events in the United Kingdom – the detention by police at the Heathrow airport of David Miranda, the partner of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, and the destruction of hard drives at the Guardian’s headquarters, which he said was “apparently under instructions of government officials”.
Unless, of course, we are talking about media freedom against which the Grauniad with the bold Alan Rusbridger have been campaigning for some time. Readers will recall that the Grauniad was one of the leaders of the pack against various tabloid newspapers whose journos ... ahem ... acquired information in various nefarious ways. The Grauniad's own methods of investigation were somewhat dubious and involved inaccurate stories as well as nefariously acquired information. All that was deemed to be satisfactory as it was done in the name of honour and decency or, in other words, by left-wing journalists. A number of journalists and other employees of newspapers have been arrested, some already released with no charges preferred, some still awaiting trial. The Grauniad not only cheered all that on but was a stalwart supporter of the Leveson report, which proposed what would, in effect, be a form of state regulation of the media. Brendan O'Neill's piece on the subject is as cogent as his articles usually are.

One new item has come out as a result of the Snowden saga and, possibly, as a result of Greenwald's hissy fit at "England" because of his partner and courier's detention:
Britain has a secret base in the Middle East where it conducts massive internet and telephone surveillance operations as part of its larger Tempora programme, reports the Independent. The base sweeps up data traffic by tapping into underwater fibre optic cables. The data is shared with the US intelligence agency.
Well, I am delighted to hear that our security services are doing what they are paid to do. I doubt if all that many people will be shocked by this news item. But, let us not forget, by collecting and possibly releasing data of this kind the Snowden/Greenwald/Miranda story is no longer about governments spying on their own citizens but about revealing information about governments fighting terrorism through intelligence and endangering the lives of those who do the fighting.

ADDENDUM: Information I was given on another thread by someone whose knowledge of these matters is greater than mine. I am reproducing it with his permission:
Before leaving Palestine in May, 1948, the British in 1947 moved their Sigint operation to Cyprus, with their then 2 Wireless Regt at Ayios Nikolaos, West of Famagusta.

It became 9 Signals Regt from 1959 and from April, 1999, on amalgamating with 33 Signals, RAF, was JSSU. It has 3 Squadrons, is commanded by a LTC, and the site has both [a] HF [high frequency ] Antennae to intercept regional communications of security interest, and [b] a HF DF [ direction finder ] which locates traffic flow across a large region, as well as [c] satellite dishes to intercept traffic on geo-stationary comms satellites.

The latter role has been diminished by the growing use of fibre-optic cables in recent years, and interception of that traffic would be vital. The various Jihadi gangs now rampant from Syria to Sinai make such interception in that unstable region all the more vital.
Does not sound unreasonable.

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