Thursday

30th Mar 2017

UK spy scheme said to be larger than Prism

  • Fibre-optic cable: Each day of the electronic dragnet is worth 20 petabytes of data (Photo: roshan1286)

A British intelligence agency, GCHQ, has tapped into undersea fibre-optic cables to hoover up telephone conversations and Internet traffic, according to documents seen by The Guardian newspaper.

Codenamed "Tempora," the secret surveillance programme is said to be on an even larger scale than the US-led Prism scheme revealed by US whistleblower Edward Snowden earlier this month.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“They [GCHQ] are worse than the US,” Snowden, a former analyst at the US' National Security Agency (NSA), told The Guardian on Friday (21 June).

Tempora is said to scoop up as much traffic as possible and to store it for analysis over 30-day periods.

Each day of the electronic dragnet is the equivalent of some 20 petabytes of data. One petabyte of high definition films would take 13 years to watch nonstop.

The Guardian says that GCHQ scoured through 600 million “telephone events” each day and tapped into more than 200 fibre-optic cables.

It was able to harvest data from 46 of the transatlantic cables.

The Tempora programme has been in operation for the past 18 months.

The latest revelation has sparked anger in Germany.

On Saturday, Germany’s justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger described Tempora as a “catastrophe” if true, Reuters reports.

“The accusations against Great Britain sound like a Hollywood nightmare. The European institutions should seek straight away to clarify the situation,” she said.

Germany’s opposition Social Democrat Thomas Oppermann described the scenario as "Orwellian" in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, referring to George Orwell, the British writer of dystopian novel 1984.

For his part, William Hague, the UK’s foreign minister, earlier this month defended GCHQ surveillance programmes in the House of Commons.

He said every request to intercept the content of an individual’s communication “requires a warrant signed personally by me” or another secretary of state."

“This is no casual process,” he said.

But The Guardian on Friday portrayed Britain’s oversight regime as “light” when compared to the American equivalent.

It said UK officials boasted about their unprecedented access and ability to collect more data than the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Snowden has requested asylum in Ecuador after the US officially charged him with espionage, theft of government property, and unauthorised communication of national defence information.

The former NSA analyst was in Hong Kong when The Guardian and Washington Post started to issue a series of articles based on his leaked documents.

Snowden is reportedly now in Moscow.

EU trying to salvage US deal on data privacy

Privacy safeguards for EU citizens' personal data that is sent to the United States remains exposed to abuse, due to the lack of oversight and the shift towards increased surveillance under president Trump.

Thirteen states join EU prosecutor's office

Justice ministers from 13 EU member states have confirmed they will take part in the European Public Prosecutor's Office with another three set to join in the next few days.

News in Brief

  1. UK publishes 'Great Repeal Bill' plan to replace EU laws
  2. Scots share May's vision for Brexit deal, survey says
  3. Coalition talks leader expects Dutch government by summer
  4. EU commission allows ex-member Hill to join law firm
  5. Reuters: Greece and lenders move closer to deal
  6. Italy: Le Pen win would mean 'permanent political risk'
  7. Danish parliament misinformed on Nord Stream 1
  8. UK delivered its Article 50 letter to the EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  2. The Idealist QuarterlyCan Progressive Stories Survive Our Post-Truth Era? After-Work Discussion on 6 April
  3. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  4. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  5. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  6. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  7. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  9. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  10. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  11. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy

Latest News

  1. Hungary attempts to stifle Soros-founded university in Budapest
  2. European right shows divisions on EU values after Brexit
  3. Transparency is key EU tactic in Brexit talks
  4. Russia building 'arc of iron' around Europe
  5. Französische und deutsche Wahlen 'entscheidend' für Putin
  6. EU trying to salvage US deal on data privacy
  7. MEPs draw 'red lines' on Brexit deal
  8. MEPs call for reset in relations with Belarus