News From the Doughnut

by wjw on July 25, 2014

GCHQ-aerialNew details from the Doughnut, which is to say the second-largest European public building project of all time, which is to say the Cheltenham headquarters of GCHQ, the British equivalent of the NSA.

(I should admit that these details are more than a week old, I just haven’t had a chance to comment till now.  And the details themselves are older than that, they’ve just been released recently.  Got that?  Right then, carry on.)

GCHQ has these listening stations in places like Ascension Island and Cyprus, and the information all gets sent to the Doughnut to be processed and shared with allies, such as the U.S.

In fact GCHQ, despite being an agency of a foreign government, has a long-standing intimate relationship with the NSA.  Why?  Because GCHQ can spy on Americans, and NSA isn’t supposed to, at least without a warrant.  (Collecting “metadata” isn’t spying, under the current understanding.)  So if the NSA needs information on Americans, they can ask for the information from their British colleagues, or from the Australians or Kiwis, with whom they have a similar collegial relationship.  (In fact it’s been claimed that the NSA really runs GCHQ, but we’ll leave for another time the issue of whether the Doughnut should really be called the Poodle.)

And of course if the Brits need some sigint on a citizen of the UK, they can ask the NSA to provide it.  Isn’t it wonderful to have chums exactly where you need them?

All of which should be kept in mind when you consider the documents Edward Snowden stole from the NSA, in which GCHQ brags about their information-storming toolkit.  After all, a publicly-announced goal of GCHQ is to master the Internet.   (Which you can do for £200 million, apparently.  I wonder if I should start a Kickstarter campaign?  Because I would totally love to have “Master of the Internet” added to my resumé.)

Here’s some of the Brits’ capabilities, complete with their macho code names.

• “Change outcome of online polls” (UNDERPASS)

• “Mass delivery of email messaging to support an Information Operations campaign” (BADGER) and “mass delivery of SMS messages to support an Information Operations campaign” (WARPARTH) (Apparently this is “Warpath” as spoken with a British accent.)

• “Disruption of video-based websites hosting extremist content through concerted target discovery and content removal.” (SILVERLORD)

• “Active skype capability. Provision of real time call records (SkypeOut and SkypetoSkype) and bidirectional instant messaging. Also contact lists.” (MINIATURE HERO)

• “Find private photographs of targets on Facebook” (SPRING BISHOP)

• “A tool that will permanently disable a target’s account on their computer” (ANGRY PIRATE)

• “Ability to artificially increase traffic to a website” (GATEWAY) and “ability to inflate page views on websites” (SLIPSTREAM)

• “Amplification of a given message, normally video, on popular multimedia websites (Youtube)” (GESTATOR)

• “Targeted Denial Of Service against Web Servers” (PREDATORS FACE) and “Distributed denial of service using P2P. Built by ICTR, deployed by JTRIG” (ROLLING THUNDER)

• “A suite of tools for monitoring target use of the UK auction site eBay (” (ELATE)

• “Ability to spoof any email address and send email under that identity” (CHANGELING)

• “For connecting two target phone together in a call” (IMPERIAL BARGE)

I’ll never trust an Internet poll again.  Not that I ever did.

And I’ve gotta say, the ability to monitor eBay has got to provide dividends for the crew down at Cheltenham, particularly  if they want to make sure they win the auction for one of those extremely rare Laser Light Skeletor action figures.

And of course if you cross these guys, you’re kinda fucked.  SILVERLORD gives them the capability to remove video content from your computer (and why only video, I wonder?), but what Cheltenham taketh, they can also giveth.  As in, upload some kiddie porn to your computer and then call the cops.  That should stop those civil rights campaigners from whining about their rights!

(And so far they haven’t admitted to SCORPION STARE.  Which is all to the good— that program needs to stay, umm, out of sight.  As it were.)

grs1961 July 25, 2014 at 8:35 am

Don’t mention SCORPION STARE, you don’t want to lead to a CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN scenario, someone could end up on the wrong side of the table at a disciplinary hearing!

TRX July 25, 2014 at 12:15 pm

With all the NSA/Snowden/GCHQ furor, people seem to forget the original government hacket/spies – the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which started off with keystroke-trapping malware back in the early 1990s. And after that, it was the FBI who lobbied hard for the “Clipper Chip” crypto hardware backdoor. (though that seems to be mostly attributed to NSA nowadays) And the FBI’s “cyber crime” toolkit has seen occasional mention in the press from time to time…

While the NSA is the media whipping boy, the FBI’s continuing operations seem not to be worthy of notice…

Anonymous July 25, 2014 at 9:23 pm

OT, but a big deep-down reference:

In “City On Fire”, you mention the denizens of a half-world listening to a radio program called “Folks Next Door”.

Was that an intentional reference, or just an accident?

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