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Group.png GCHQ   History Commons Powerbase Twitter WebsiteRdf-icon.png
Government Communications Headquarters logo.svg
Predecessor • MI1b
• NID25
Formation 1919
Type “intelligence agency”
Headquarters Benhall, Cheltenham
Leaders • Foreign Secretary
• Director of GCHQ
Subgroups • Composite Signals Organisation
• Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group
• Joint Technical Language Service
Staff 6,132
Interest of Richard M. Bennett, Home Office/Investigatory Powers Tribunal, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament
Exposed by John Ashley Berry, Duncan Campbell
The UK equivalent of the NSA, which carries out mass surveillance on a lot of the world's internet traffic

GCHQ is an intelligence agency based in UK, where, according to their Twitter site, "our brightest people bring together intelligence and technology to keep Britain safe."[1]


GCHQ was originally established after World War 1 as the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) and was known under that name until 1946. During World War 2 it was located at Bletchley Park.


"GCHQ’s 360 degree full spectrum bulk collection data system was constructed in brazen and arrogant defiance of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Britain’s parliament never debated or approved this massive construction programme as it would for any national infrastructure project. Every phone call, no matter the device is recorded, every image, website visited, personal details such as medical and financial records, contacts, everything private to you is no longer private."[2]

Illegal Hacking

In May 2014, Privacy International and seven communications providers filed a complaint with the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal, asserting that GCHQ's hacking activities were proscribed under the UK Computer Misuse Act. Rather than face this legal challenge. In apparent response, on June 6 2014, the UK government introduced the new legislation via the Serious Crime Bill to allow GCHQ, intelligence officers, and the police to hack without criminal liability. It consulted the Ministry of Justice, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Scotland Office, the Northern Ireland Office, GCHQ, the UK police and National Crime Agency, but did not inform Privacy International until after May 3, 2015 when the new law entered into force.[3]

A 2017 legal verdict by Justice Floyd, Justice Sales and Justice Flaux for GCHQ against privacy international decreed the Investigatory Powers Tribunal cannot be held subject to a judicial review under active laws unless the Secretary of State personally intervenes.[4]

Mass Surveillance

Full article: Rated 3/5 Mass Surveillance

In 2014, the Guardian reported that documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden about project Optic Nerve showed that GCHQ recorded millions of images from Yahoo webchats. To avoid overloading their computers while recording streams of so many users simultaneously, they recorded one image every five minutes from the users' feeds.[5]

Tapping Submarine Cables

In 2014, revelations from Edward Snowden revealed how GCHQ acquired taps on internet lines. Whenever GCHQ wanted to tap a new fiber optic cable, they called engineers from BT (codename:REMEDY) to plan where to physically connect to the taps to the cable, and agree how much BT should be paid. GCHQ has Internet data feeds from "more than 18 submarine cables coming into different parts of Britain either direct to GCHQ in Cheltenham or to its remote processing station at Bude in Cornwall"[6].

Information Sharing

Full articles: UKUSA, Echelon

GCHQ routinely shares information with other signatories of the UKUSA agreement, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA. This agreement assists all member countries in circumventing laws about spying on their own citizens.

Commercial espionage

GCHQ intervened to prevent the sixth installment of the Harry Potter book series being leaked on the internet.[7]


Jock Kane, a GCHQ employee for over 25 years with experience in many areas of the organisation[8] uncovered a range of corruption and bad practice, including poor security, and blew the whistle. A senior civil servant from the Home Office, James Waddell compiled a government report about his claims. Although finished in April 1979, this was never published. Margaret Thatcher alleged to Parliament that Kane's allegations were "unfounded"; as a consequence Waddell hinted to a journalist that his report had not concluded that Kane's allegations were without foundation.[8]

A June 1980 episode of the investigative television show, World In Action, titled Mr Kane's Campaign, was dedicated to Kane's revelations and campaign for stricter security at GCHQ in Hong Kong.[9] The programme was modified after having been restricted from being broadcast by the Independent Broadcasting Authority.[9]

Kane wrote a memoir in 1984, GCHQ: The Negative Asset, which was confiscated by Special Branch, and remains unpublished.[10] Undaunted, he wrote a second memoir, The Hidden Depths of Treachery, which was also subsequently halted by an injunction served on the publishers, Transworld Publications, Ltd.[8][11]

GCHQ internal material leaked by Edward Snowden lists investigative journalists as a threat, alongside "terrorists" and hackers, for reasons that have not been explained.[12]


Robin Ramsey, editor of Lobster Magazine opined in an editorial: "GCHQ works for the Americans. They must do because the British state no longer has the power to use the information GCHQ gathers."[13]


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
GCHQ and Me: My Life Unmasking British EavesdroppersArticle3 August 2015Duncan CampbellNo one at the May 2015 conference on intelligence, security and privacy argued against greater openness. Thanks to Edward Snowden and those who courageously came before, the need for public accountability and review has become unassailable.
Getting it Rightarticle2011Lobster MagazineA realistic appraisal of the functioning and lack of EFFECTIVE political oversight of the UK Secret Intelligence Services
File:Osp8.pdfreportNovember 2005The selection criteria and process for deciding on the selection of Intelligence records for declassification and inclusion in the National Archive
File:Security Services Act 1989.pdflegal documentThe Security Services Act 1989
The Massive PSYOP Employed against Ukraine by GCHQ and NSAarticle28 February 2014Wayne MadsenThe rapidly developing internet and electroic communications-based PSYOPS capabilities of US-UK intelligence agencies and their targeted use against the government of the Ukraine
The Woman who nearly Stopped the Wararticle19 March 2008Martin BrightIn January 2003 Katharine Gun, a translator at GCHQ, learned something so outrageous that she sacrificed her career to tell the truth. Martin Bright on a brave deed that should not be forgotten
UK Intelligence And Security Report, 2003reportJune 2003Richard M. Bennett
Katie Bennett
A compendious summary of the UK Intelligence And Security agencies, including people, events and places.
File:Ukintell0809.pdfreport2008UK Intelligence and Security Committee Annual Report 2007-2008

Related Quotation

Philip Cross“My view is that Philip Cross probably is a real person, but that he fronts for a group acting under his name. It is undeniably true, in fact the government has boasted, that both the MOD and GCHQ have “cyber-war” ops aiming to defend the “official” narrative against alternative news media, and that is precisely the purpose of the “Philip Cross” operation on Wikipedia. The extreme regularity of output argues against “Philip Cross” being either a one man or volunteer operation. I do not rule out however the possibility he genuinely is just a single extremely obsessed right wing fanatic.”Philip Cross
Craig Murray
21 May 2018


External Links