17 Jun 2013

Ed Snowden to G8: turn on the taps when talking

Ed Snowden’s computers have delivered another extraordinary story to the Guardian – but one that you can safely predict kills Mr Snowden’s hopes of asylum.   He reveals that GCHQ boasted of tapping into Blackberries, emails and phone traffic of delegates and officials when the UK hosted the G20 summit in London’s docklands in 2009.

The revelation of emails boasting of “real-time” intelligence being passed on to Gordon Brown’s team as the talks were happening, is timed to create maximum embarrassment to the UK government as it hosts the G8 in Northern Ireland this week.

Quite what intelligence was gained from listening in on Turkey’s finance minister and the South African delegation as China, the Saudis and the US tried to agree how to give the world’s markets confidence, isn’t clear. You get the feeling that intelligence services were talking up their own work (maybe, in part, to boast to US partners as well as UK paymasters?).

World gatherings have long been known to be festivals of spying. Margaret Macmillan’s “The Peacemakers” on the Versailles talks has wonderful colour on this.  The UN General Assembly each year is known as a mass gathering of agents looking to turn officials in other delegations.  Clare Short went some way to blowing the gaffe on that in 2004.  Now there is a new chapter to our understanding of eavesdropping at international summits.  You can decide for yourself whether it looks like a hugely helpful contribution.

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3 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:


    Answer me this:

    If the “intelligence” services are secret, how can they be democratically accountable? It is both an oxymoron and a tautology.

    While you’re on this subject, can you ask MI5 and MI6 which of their employees were part of the plot to commit treason and overthrow a democratically elected government led by Harold Wilson? What connections did this have with US “intelligence” services? You may remember the plot was exposed decades ago by former MI6 employee Peter Wright in his book “Spycatcher.”

    I wouldn’t hold your breath, though……

    Meanwhile, it doesn’t require intelligence to eavesdrop. All it needs is for grown men and women to act like gossiping fishwives.

  2. ohmygod says:

    Ed Snowden is a saint, who is only doing what Jesus or John Lennon would be doing right now in his shoes. The point, clearly drawn, is that anyone who is opposed to peace and a truly global community where people care about each other instead of exploit each other for financial and political gain, is against Ed Snowden. No more and no less.

    PS. No doubt I´m not gonna get a visit or at least a wiretap.

  3. Jon Wood says:

    There are only two things I find confusing in all of this:
    1) How does William Hague have the chutzpah to bleat about the Chinese trying to spy via the internet etc when I’d be pretty disappointed in our security services if they weren’t doing exactly the same (and like they have previously) ?
    2) Why haven’t any journalists confronted him with the bleedin’ obvious?

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