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GCHQ chief's message shows fear and frustration

By UK Editor Rohit Kachroo

This is a new tone from the new head of GCHQ and language like this from someone like him indicates a new level of fear and frustration about these American internet giants.

In his FT article, Robert Hannigan challenges them after blaming them, saying they should work with the British security services to end the threat posed online by groups like Islamic State.

He says:

However much they may dislike it, they have become the command and control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as the rest of us.

– Robert Hannigan, GCHQ Director

Then he makes this direct plea, saying in effect that we cannot do this on our own:

GCHQ and its sister agencies, MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service, cannot tackle these challenges at scale without greater support from the private sector, including the largest US technology companies which dominate the web.

– Robert Hannigan

In other words, beating the threat online from the likes of Islamic State is as much about the likes of Google and YouTube as it is MI5 and MI6.

There has been no response so far from the companies, but rarely has a spy chief spoken to directly and so publicly in this fashion against the internet and against groups like Islamic State.

Islamic State militants have been disseminating their message across the internet.

But, a word of caution.

This isn't something that can be ended on someone's laptop in San Francisco.

British police are already overstretched, pulling down over 1,000 items a week.

The Islamic State are finding new ways of posting, of getting their message across the internet every single week as well, and our security services are really playing catch-up.

'Wrong' to say internet firms 'don't help investigations'

Civil liberties and privacy group, Big Brother Watch, have condemned the head of GCHQ Robert Hannigan for his criticism of internet firms being "in denial" about the role their products play in terrorism and other criminality.

Civil liberties group Big Brother Watch say it is wholly wrong to say that firms don't help intelligence agencies. Credit: Reuters

It is wholly wrong to state that internet companies are failing to assist in investigations. The Government and agencies have consistently failed to provide evidence that internet companies are being actively obstructive.

These companies have consistently proved through their own transparency reports that they help the intelligence agencies when it is appropriate for them to do so, which is in the vast majority of cases.

Public debate on this issue would make the country stronger and more unified, yet we have so far failed to achieve this in the UK. Perpetuating falsehoods about the nature of relations between internet companies and the intelligence agencies is certainly not going to help.

– Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch

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Online firms 'providing routes for facilitating terrorism'

The head of GCHQ has called on internet companies to be more open to working with the intelligence agencies against the threat posed by terror organisations such as Isis.

Read: Technology firms 'in denial about online terrorism'

In a blunt article for the Financial Times, Robert Hannigan said the internet has become the "command-and-control" network of choice for Islamist and other criminals providing "routes for the facilitation of crime and terrorism"

The extremists of Isis use messaging and social media services such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, and a language their peers understand. [...]

There is no need for today’s would-be jihadis to seek out restricted websites with secret passwords: they can follow other young people posting their adventures in Syria as they would anywhere else. [...]

Increasingly their services not only host the material of violent extremism or child exploitation, but are the routes for the facilitation of crime and terrorism. However much they may dislike it, they have become the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals, who find their services as transformational as the rest of us. If they are to meet this challenge, it means coming up with better arrangements for facilitating lawful investigation by security and law enforcement agencies than we have now.

– Robert Hannigan

Technology firms 'in denial about online terrorism'

The head of listening agency GCHQ has accused technology companies of being "in denial" about the role their networks and products play in terrorism and criminality.

Internet firms must open up to intelligence agencies, the head of GCHQ said. Credit: Reuters

In a forthright opinion piece for the Financial Times Robert Hannigan said companies must open themselves up to more intelligence services.

GCHQ and its sister agencies, MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service, cannot tackle these challenges at scale without greater support from the private sector, including the largest US technology companies which dominate the web. I understand why they have an uneasy relationship with governments. They aspire to be neutral conduits of data and to sit outside or above politics. But increasingly their services not only host the material of violent extremism or child exploitation, but are the routes for the facilitation of crime and terrorism.

– Robert Hannigan

Robert Hannigan: 'It is a privilege to lead GCHQ'

Foreign Secretary William Hague has today announced, that former counter terrorism adviser to the Prime Minister Robert Hannigan has been appointed as the new GCHQ Director.

Speaking in a statement Hague said:

I am delighted that Robert Hannigan has been appointed as the next Director of GCHQ. GCHQ’s world-class work is vital to the safety and security of the United Kingdom.

– Foreign Secretary William Hague

Robert Hannigan also told of his "privilege" to be asked to lead the GCHQ:

It is a privilege to be asked to lead GCHQ, an organisation which is so central to keeping the people of this country safe. I am excited about meeting the challenges of the coming years with them.

– Robert Hannigan, new GCHQ Director

Robert Hannigan appointed new GCHQ Director

Robert Hannigan has been appointed as the new GCHQ Director, Foreign Secretary William Hague announced today.

Robert Hannigan appointed new GCHQ Director Credit: Gov.UK

Robert Hannigan joined the FCO as Director General, Defence and Intelligence on 29 March 2010 and for a number of years he advised the Prime Minister on counter terrorism, intelligence and security policy.

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Clegg: Single watchdog for UK's intelligence services

Nick Clegg has said Britain's intelligence services should be overseen by a single watchdog in the wake of a series of privacy scandals.

He said the watchdog, dubbed the Inspector General for the UK intelligence services, would:

  • Have "reinforced powers, remit and resources"
  • Bring together the present Interception of Communications Commissioner and Intelligence Services Commissioner
  • Allow appeals against decisions of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal and publication of the reasons for rulings
  • Put a member of the opposition in charge of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee "to avoid accusations that the committee is too cosy with the Government of the day"

Clegg calls for changes to intelligence data-gathering

The Deputy Prime Minister has called for a rethink of the way intelligence services collect data en masse following the revelations of US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Writing in the Guardian, Nick Clegg set out a series of reforms he hopes his Conservative coalition partners will back.

Nick Clegg hopes to get the whole Government to agree on his proposed reforms. Credit: PA

These included annual reports on requests made to internet and telephone providers, changes to the intelligence and security commission and a website about the work of British security agencies.

The Liberal Democrat leader said a respected security think-tank had agreed to carry out an independent expert review of "big data" and privacy issues in a bid to secure consensus on other changes.

"It is in all our interests that the intelligence agencies are able to operate successfully. Their effectiveness, and ultimately our own safety, depends on their ability to command public trust," Mr Clegg wrote.

Yahoo! hits out at 'GCHQ violation'

A Yahoo logo is pictured in front of a building in Geneva. Credit: Reuters

Internet company Yahoo! has called claims that UK spy agency GCHQ intercepted and stored webcam images of millions of users as a "whole new level of violation".

In a furious reaction to the report, a Yahoo spokeswoman said: "We were not aware of, nor would we condone, this reported activity.

"This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy that is completely unacceptable and we strongly call on the world's governments to reform surveillance law consistent with the principles we outlined in December.

"We are committed to preserving our users' trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services."GCHQ declined to comment on the claims.

UK spy agency 'intercepted Yahoo webcam images'

UK intelligence agency GCHQ "intercepted and stored" the webcam images of internet users who were not suspected of any wrongdoing, the Guardian claimed, citing secret documents.

The newspaper claims GCHQ intercepted and stored images from Yahoo webcam chats Credit: Lewis Stickley/PA Archive

Files dated between 2008 and 2010 allegedly show a monitoring programme, known as "Optic Nerve", stored still images from Yahoo webcam chats and saved them to agency databases with the help of its US counterpart the National Security Agency.

GCHQ has consistently said its activities are necessary and "carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework”.

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