Betrayed: how the Guardian muled the names of GCHQ personnel to American bloggers and papers

This article originally appeared in Louise Mensch’s blog Unfashionista on Nov. 4 and is republished here with permission

The Guardian has lied to the British people. They HAVE passed to foreign papers and blogs the names and identities of GCHQ agents, having lied and stated they did not to avoid prosecution, and to dupe other papers, police and some MPs into thinking that all they did was report on data collection, never giving up the names of British intelligence officers.


NYT, Nov. 3

From the start of this affair, and the ‘David Miranda is only a journalist’s spouse’ lie, the Guardian has sought to deceive its fellow papers and the public. But I confess that even I did not believe they would just dump out the identities of our intelligence personnel, copying those files and smuggling them to foreigners.

We already know Alan Rusbridger and Janine Gibson have duplicated and muled abroad the Snowden files, handing them to the New York Times and some bloggers at ProPublica.

For some months, I have been asking the Guardian to admit if they betrayed the names, or identifying details, of anybody working at GCHQ to foreign papers in order to boost their online readership while their paper sales are crumbling to insignificance.

It was not surprising that they refused to answer me, because communicating material identifying any person that works at GCHQ, and which could be of use to terrorists, is itself a terrorist offence under British law. Not just publishing the names, mark you – communicating them. To anybody.

I’ve blogged before about how the editors of the Guardian boasted they were above the law, so I won’t reiterate it here. They are also very fond of giving self-congratulatory online interviews and talking to lapdogs at the BBC, as well as giving unwittingly revealing profile access to friendly magazines. Nobody at the Guardian is willing to give even a single interview to a challenging paper.

In a nutshell then in the past month or so we have had:

Alan Rusbridger saying he is above the law: that he decided to ship the files to foreigners because of a “threat” to go to law: that he would not let British judges rule on the files: that he knows better than judges and security experts; and that Sen. Feinstein of the US Senate Security Committee knows less than him about it because she is, and I quote, “an eighty year old woman.”

US editor Janine Gibson boasting of the trafficking they did “By far the hardest challenge has been the secure movement of materials. We’ve had to do a great deal of flying of people around the world.”

And a New Yorker profile that stated that James Ball, formerly of Wikileaks and an Assange devotee, 27, was chosen to be the physical mule that carried the data to New York. Ball was threatened with exposure of emails between himself and the Wikileaks hacker Jacob Appelbaum, by Appelbaum, if he did not publish a story on Tor. Days later his byline appeared on the story that blew up GCHQ’s efforts to decrypt the Tor network on which child pornography, illegal arms and drugs like crack are traded.

 Ball has recently been moved by the Guardian from London to New York in the wake of that New Yorker story, presumably to avoid  arrest if the New Yorker was correct on his role.

Throughout, in between breaks from pouring scorn on the British judiciary and laws, the Guardian have been busily lying to the British public. Saying that what they are doing is only journalism they have squirmed when asked (by me on Twitter, directly to @Arusbridger) and by the MP Julian Smith in Parliament, if they have passed over and sold out the names of British intelligence personnel working at GCHQ.

When the idea that they had revealed not just data collection news but actually given up the names of our intelligence agents surfaced, the paper started to panic. They denied it to the Daily Mail on October 9:

“The newspaper also said that the files it FedExed to America did not contain any names of British spies.”

This was a lie. It didn’t matter if the names of our spies were in the 100 documents the Guardian FedExed to America. Ball had already taken them to New York, and Brazil, at least according to the story the New Yorker:

The idea that the Guardian handed over only 100 documents was yet another lie. There may have been ‘only’ 100 top-secret documents in that FedExed memory stick (Dear God).  But there were over 50,000 GCHQ documents muled abroad by Rusbridger and Gibson.

Think about that for a minute. Fifty. Thousand. Fifty thousand top-secret GCHQ documents, and they are lying to the Daily Mail that none of these contain the names of any of our spies.

Yesterday in New York that lie was exposed, and the breathtaking extent of the Guardian’s disregard for our agents’ lives was laid bare.

 In their front-page story, the New York Times laid it all out. It’s a pretty long story, but I’ve read it so you don’t have to.

“documents taken by Mr. Snowden and shared with The Times, numbering in the thousands and mostly dating from 2007 to 2012, are part of a collection of about 50,000 items that focus mainly on its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters or G.C.H.Q”

“Even with terrorists, N.S.A. units can form a strangely personal relationship. The N.S.A.-G.C.H.Q. wiki, a top secret group blog that Mr. Snowden downloaded, lists 14 specialists scattered in various stations assigned to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani terrorist group that carried out the bloody attack on Mumbai in 2008, with titles including “Pakistan Access Pursuit Team” and “Techniques Discovery Branch.” Under the code name Treaclebeta, N.S.A.’s hackers at Tailored Access Operations also played a role.

In the wiki’s casual atmosphere, American and British eavesdroppers exchange the peculiar shop talk of the secret world. “I don’t normally use Heretic to scan the fax traffic, I use Nucleon,” one user writes, describing technical tools for searching intercepted documents.

But most striking are the one-on-one pairings of spies and militants; Bryan is assigned to listen in on a man named Haroon, and Paul keeps an ear on Fazl.”

Did you get that? The Guardian – Alan Rusbridger, and Janine Gibson, editors, and James Ball, of Wikileaks, gave the New York Times and Pro-Publica the names and identities of GCHQ intelligence personnel in the NSA-GCHQ wiki. A bunch of staff at the New York Times can read their conversations and names, and the names of their targets.

To see how wide and deep the danger to GCHQ personnel really is, we can turn to the Guardian’s first, grossly irresponsible story on just how much of GCHQ personnel’s names and identities they had access to: they printed it on August 1st:

a glimpse into the world of the 6,100 people crammed into the open-plan and underground offices at GCHQ; the fact that there is a sports day at all reveals something about the agency which most people outside their bubble could not appreciate.

Last year, GCHQ organised trips to Disneyland in Paris, and its sailing club took part in an offshore regatta at Cowes. It has a chess club, cake sales, regular pub quiz nights and an internal puzzle newsletter called Kryptos. A member of Stonewall since last year, GCHQ has its own Pride group for staff who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

There is also a paranormal organisation. Describing itself as “GCHQ’s ghost-hunting group”, it is open to staff and their partners “whether they are sceptics or believers” for visits to “reputedly haunted properties”.

Staff date themselves on the internal directory, “GCWiki”, by their “internet age”, a measure of how many years they have been adept on the web.

They make friends during annual family open days, or via messages on the agency’s internal version of MySpace, which they have called SpySpace.

Colleagues are likely to find others cut from the same cloth. The agency’s 2010/11 recruitment guide says GCHQ needs high-calibre technologists and mathematicians familiar with the complex algorithms that power the internet. It has room for a sprinkling of accountants and librarians. Classicists need not apply. Nobody at Cheltenham is particularly well paid, compared with the private sector at least – a junior analyst might earn £25,000. “We can offer a fantastic mission but we can’t compete with [private sector] salaries,” one briefing note lamented.”

The story goes on and on, talking about the wiki, quoting internal comms, describing the fears of one of GCHQ’s “most senior officers”.

All these documents have been muled to the Americans, because Alan Rusbridger doesn’t like British judges. He was paying David Miranda specifically to spread and mule these files on GCHQ – 53,000 of them, the same number cited by the NYT – and now we know just how bad the paper’s betrayal of our GCHQ personnel has been. Worse than even I could ever have imagined.

In his article for the Daily Mail recently, David Davis MP defended the Guardian’s selling of British intelligence secrets. How bloody terrifying to think that but for a public meltdown he could have been Home Secretary. And when Julian Smith challenged the Guardian in a Westminster Hall debate, the Tory MP Dominic Raab said that he was scare-mongering. I wonder what those two of my former colleagues would say now. Would they defend the liars at the Guardian who swore they didn’t give out any GCHQ names? Or do they think it’s OK to mule and traffic to Brazil and American bloggers the NSA-GCHQ wiki? Every pair of eyes that sees those names can pass them on to anybody they like.

They gave out our intelligence agents’ names, Dominic, David. Is that OK with you?

I pray to God it isn’t OK with the Prime Minister, with Theresa May, and with anti-terror police.

Back when Miranda was stopped as he muled, Oliver Robbins, the National Security Adviser, said:

“ ‘A particular concern for HMG is the possibility that the identity of a UK intelligence officer might be revealed.’

But I’m afraid it was a bit more than just one.

Of course, £25,000 isn’t a lot of money to risk your life keeping Britain safe. Alan Rusbridger makes a hell of a lot more money than that. But it wasn’t enough for him, Janine Gibson, or James Ball, or any of the other Guardian staff to show some compassion and keep secret the identities of our agents Snowden, Poitras and Greenwald had endangered. Instead, the millionaire Mr. Rusbridger preened for the cameras, lied to other journalists, and threw GCHQ personnel to the wolves.

Mr. Rusbridger says he is above the law. I hope to God the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary – and our anti-terror police, and our judges – have the guts to prove him wrong.

The Terrorism Act 2000 lists various Terrorist Offences. Here is the last of them:

Eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of armed forces etc

(1) A person commits an offence who—

(a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been—

(i) a member of Her Majesty’s forces,

(ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or

(iii) a constable,

which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or

(b )publishes or communicates any such information.

(2) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for their action.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to a fine, or to both;

(b) on summary conviction—

(i) in England and Wales or Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both;

(ii) in Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both.

(4) In this section “the intelligence services” means the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ (within the meaning of section 3 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 (c. 13)).

Emphasis mine. 

21 replies »

  1. There is an important sentence in Mrs Mensch’s article that many choose to ignore, and it is this. “Days later his byline appeared on the story that blew up GCHQ’s efforts to decrypt the Tor network on which child pornography, illegal arms and drugs like crack are traded.”

    These leaks of information have damaged the fight against serious crime, including the fight against child pornography. On these grounds alone you would hope that the likes of Snowden, Greenwald and “The Guardian” would have examined their consciences, if anyone of them ever had a conscience.

    All this sick, venal, narcissistic bunch are interested in is self-promotion and money-grubbing and to hell with the damage caused.

    Many may not be aware that under the Intelligence Services Act 1994 authorised GCHQ to support UK law enforcement in preventing and detecting serious crime.

    So tell me by their antics and the damage it has caused, Cui Bono?

    • Gerald:

      “These leaks of information have damaged the fight against serious crime, including the fight against child pornography. On these grounds alone you would hope that the likes of Snowden, Greenwald and “The Guardian” would have examined their consciences, if anyone of them ever had a conscience.”

      That is if some of the people involved were not taking active part in Child pornography or drug dealing.

  2. On what authority/from what perspective does CiFWatch use the word “betrayed”?

    It’s the same question re. this website calling Bradley Manning a “traitor”.

    Isn’t CiFWatch’s mission to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israel coverage?

    • Yes, even if the “betrayed” article is not original material.
      The message remains the same, i.e. let’s smear the Guardian.

      • the record is pretty clear concerning the Guardian’s disregard for it’s own country’s national security

        Why “disregard”? It’s simply another approach.
        An alternative and likewise valid opinion would be that the Guardian is doing the country a service.

        But my main point is: what business does CifWatch have making such judgements?
        The same applies to Manning.

        • For starers, the lead Guardian journalist behind the ‘revelations’ was an Israel hater who engages in antisemitism named Glenn Greenwald.

        • Pretz. Whenever anyone says anything on this site making a general point about the Guardian’s morality or its trustworthiness, you are usually there to respond with comments suggesting that such points are overblown, exaggerated, ridiculous.

          This news story is, to many, clear and damning evidence that the Guardian has totally lost sight of its liberal roots, and will publish anything, no matter how vicious, careless, inaccurate or damaging even to the UK’s national secutity if it bnelieves it is in the Guardian’s best interests to do so.

          I remind you that the Newsw of the World was forced to close completely as a result of outrageous acts it carried out in the name of “journalism”. It would not shock me if the same were to happen to the Guardian as a result of continuing revelations about the Miranda affair and growing public revulsion.

          • So you’re OK with the US and UK security services spying on us all? I hardly believe that.

            And where is the evidence that the revelations are an active and “vicious” attempt to damage Uk security?

            Plus: what does all this have to do with anti-Semitism and “assaulting Israel’s legitimacy”?

            • 1. In general, I am not exactly surprised that the UK and US security services have extensive listening/monitoring operations and that these encompass many everyday communications methods. In fact, if they didn’t I would be very concerned. How else could they possibly detect, disrupt, prevent and/or punish terrorists? I am confident, however, that they have better things to do than to spend any time or effort in keeping track of my communications in any depth other than to monitor it for the use of key words which may trigger further investigation. So, on the whole, I have no problem with that.

              2. I didn’t say that this story was necessarily “vicious”. I used that term to characterise the nature of some articles the Guardian has chosen to publish which I suggest they might have thought better oif, had they a better-developed sense of propriety. You seem to be obsessed recently with the subtle meaning of every word used by each commenter on this site. Sometimes, we just use the word that seems appropriate to us at the time withouit carefully analysing the subtle meanings and inferences. Get over it.

              3. I tried to explain the relevance in my earlier post. My view of this is that this is clear and unambiguous evidence of the “publish and be damned” approach taken by the Guardian (and Greenwald in particular) which supports CifWatch’s position that the paper is at best careless with the truth of the situation in the Middle East, and at worst deliberately supportive of fascistic, intolerant, illiberal regimes and organisations (such as the terrorists they have assisted by publishing the Miranda/Greenwald docs, and of course Hamas and the PA etc) at the expense of those whose characteristics it’s professed liberal values should lead it to support (such as the UK, US and, of course) Israel).

            • Actually, pretz, contrary to what GG argues, the US and UK are most certainly NOT spying on us all. That’s one of the main points. The Guardian manufactured a hysterical story line which wasn’t at all backed up by the documents they obtained.

              • the US and UK are most certainly NOT spying on us all.

                They have spied on millions of phone calls – all of them terrorists or suspects?
                They have spied on the German chancellor – are you OK with that??

                “Hysterical”? I think not.

                • Germany continues to hold on its economical ties with Iran, the core terrorists of 9/11 met and planned in Germany, and the German rejection of the Iraq Invasion or of the bombing of the Khadaffy-regime didn`t further trustful relations whatever the mass medias imagine about “friends”.
                  Now the USA begin to spill the beans about French and German spying on the USA, after listening to the European politicians and journalists posing as moral beacons with some patience

        • “Why “disregard”? It’s simply another approach.”
          They’re free to editorialize all they wish.

          The rest of your comment is just plain silly: You grant the Guardian extraordinary powers while denying CiF Watch the right even to have an opinion.

          • Saying that I “grant the Guardian extraordinary powers” is plain silly.

            As for CiF Watch: what does this have to do with anti-Semitism and Israel?

            Of course CiF Watch can have its opinion. But it might in this case care to alter its stated mission.

  3. I wonder if the Guardian will be able to remain above the accusations, if they are proven, using some version of a “freedom of expression/the press” plea, or whether there needs to be some more explicit law that deals with counter-espionage and treason by members of the press in the digital age?

  4. How ungrateful

    “SPIEGEL: Mr. Rusbridger, are you a danger to the United Kingdom?

    Rusbridger: Am I a danger? No. I think the United Kingdom ought to be rather relieved to have the Guardian because this is obviously a very worrying loss for spy agencies in Great Britain and the United States. I think they are worried that they seem to keep these large bits and pieces secure. So they’ve lost control of a large amount of material. Luckily for them, for the last four and a half months, the Guardian has been filtering these documents in an incredibly responsible way. This is what they ought to be thankful for. “

  5. OD naturally chooses to promote the new outlet of Greenwald.

    I was barred from answering this:
    “If I correctly understand the author Great Britain is at the same level as Turkey, Marocco and Burundi according to him.
    And now the appeal goes to the country whose international policy and politics are severely damaged by the revelations?
    “Editor’s Note: Both Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras are founding board members of Freedom of the Press Foundation”

    If you think cynism is the right attitude to handle difficult issues of public concern and political interference in international affairs of countries is your right , go on.
    But don`t start complaining.”