Notes From the Margins…

GCHQ Goes Stasi

  • June 17, 2013
  • by

We all know that the cradle of democracy would never behave like Russia or China, don’t we?   And there is absolutely no possibility that our intelligence services could act like the Stasi or the KGB, and like, spy on people – except for the evil ones that is, who unlike ‘law-abiding citizens’,   deserve to be spied on.

How do we know this?     Good God man, we’re British.     And, unlike those ghastly commie totalitarian societies that have been thrown onto the trash heap of history, we British live in a democracy with a transparent and fully accountable government that is subject to checks and balances and the rule of law and all the other things that make Britain a beacon to the world.

After all, as our trusty man-of-the-people foreign secretary told parliament when the Edward Snowden story broke last week,   the UK’s information-sharing relationship with the US is ‘essential to the security of the country’ and has ‘saved many lives.’

Hague also insisted that

‘Our intelligence-sharing work with the United States is subject to ministerial and independent oversight and to scrutiny by the Intelligence and Security Committee. Our agencies practise and uphold UK law at all times, even when dealing with information from outside the United Kingdom.’

And Lord Snooty also gave his seal of approval, when he declared ‘I’m satisfied that we have intelligence agencies that do a fantastic job to keep us safe and operate within the law.’

Well you know when Lord Snooty is satisfied with something, that he will have subjected it to the most rigorous and impartial analysis beforehand.     But what’s this?   Goodness gracious,   it now turns out, thanks to Snowden’s revelations, that the British government,   spied on foreign diplomats and politicians during the 2009 G8 Conference.

Not only did British intelligence services monitor their computers and telephones, but they also got the objects of their attention to use internet cafes set up by …British intelligence services, so that they could read their email traffic more easily.     And this surveillance doesn’t seem to have been aimed at the evil ones, nor was it intended to ‘keep us safe.’     On the contrary, according to a briefing document given by GCHQ officials to their director before the conference:

‘The GCHQ intent is to ensure that intelligence relevant to HMG’s desired outcomes for its presidency of the G20 reaches customers at the right time and in a form which allows them to make full use of it.’

To ensure that this information reached HMG and its ‘customers’, GCHQ did its work so well that afterwards its officials boasted that they ‘were able to extract key logging info, providing creds for delegates, meaning we have sustained intelligence options against them even after conference has finished.’       The diplomats placed under surveillance included the Russian foreign minister and the Turkish finance minister, who was bugged in order ‘to establish Turkey’s position on agreements from the April London summit.’

And all this was done, it seems,   with the knowledge and approval of our Presbyterian socialist prime minister Gordon Brown, the man who saved the world, and the Blairites would-be-contender and then foreign secretary David Miliband. Well I’m shocked.     Shocked I tell you.

After all, it wasn’t so long ago that governments across the world – including our own – were working themselves into a state of righteous indignation because Wikileaks had supposedly violated the ancient codes of secret diplomacy through which state business is conducted.

Now it seems that Her Majesty’s Government was itself in violation of these codes.   No wonder the British government has   ordered British airlines not to allow Edward Snowden into the UK.   Because we can’t have any Tom, Dick or Harry wandering around telling the public that governments are spying on diplomats.

If that happened, then the public might just conclude that its government was run by   liars and hypocrites.     It might start wondering whether ‘national security’ has become a smokescreen and a pretext for lawless and unaccountable surveillance that has nothing to do with ‘keeping us safe.’ It might even start demanding that its government becomes more transparent and accountable, and that real checks and balances are put in place to limit the powers that the ‘secret state’ has arrogated for itself over the last decade.

And that wouldn’t be good for anyone, would it?


You may also Like

The Lie Machine

The Lie Machine

January 23, 2021
Jelly on a (Tory) Plate

Jelly on a (Tory) Plate

January 12, 2021
2020: The Year that Wasn’t

2020: The Year that Wasn’t

December 31, 2020


  1. Nik H.

    17th Jun 2013 - 10:46 am

    I cannot begin to tell you how relieved I was when I read that the intelligence boys (HNaA) of our fabulous Austrian Armed Forces are also cooperating with the NSA. Seems like Fritz, Franz, Hans and Hugo Bond get a real thrill to serve the big boys in the global “intelligence” business. (

    • Matt

      17th Jun 2013 - 10:50 am

      Congratulations Nik. Good to hear that Austria is ‘punching above its weight’ too! You must be proud…

      • Nik H.

        17th Jun 2013 - 12:14 pm

        Of course I am!

        But not as proud as when I first learned about this amazing technique called “enhanced interrogation”. Grandpa would have chuckled if he had lived long enough to wittness the “Allies” applying the in Gestapo-circles much favoured and (of course) pioneered “Verschärfte Vernehmung”, which, by any means, is about as direct a translation as you will find.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


  • No events