The US government gave Britain’s spying centre at GCHQ £100million over three years and apparently expected to influence its work, it was claimed last night.
In return for the secret payments, the eavesdropping agency was expected to ‘pull its weight’, according to documents leaked last night by the fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden.One document states that weaker regulation for British spies than American agents is one of the intelligence services’ ‘selling points’ for the US.The leaked papers will raise more questions for the spy agency and ministers who oversee it, over the extent to which the US makes demands of Britain in its intelligence-gathering activities.
In a document from 2010, GCHQ said the US National Security Agency had ‘raised a number of issues with regards to meeting [its] minimum expectations’, and GCHQ ‘remains short of the full NSA ask’.A cache leaked to The Guardian reveals the UK’s biggest fear is that ‘US perceptions of the … partnership diminish, leading to loss of access, and/or reduction in investment … to the UK’.The information is the latest to be leaked by Mr Snowden, a former NSA contractor who was charged with espionage in the US.
He left Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport yesterday where he has been since late June after exposing Prism – a US intelligence project to snoop on Facebook accounts, emails and phone calls.GCHQ was criticised after he claimed British spies used the Prism system to bypass UK laws.Last week Parliament’s spy watchdog called for an investigation into the laws on intelligence eavesdropping, saying they may not be fit for purpose.The latest documents reveal the NSA gave GCHQ £22.9million in 2009, £39.9million in 2010, and another £34.7m in 2011-12.
The 2010 payment included £4million to support GCHQ’s work for Nato forces in Afghanistan, and £17.2million to fund the agency’s Mastering the Internet project, which gathers and stores vast amounts of ‘raw’ information ready for analysis.Also funded by the NSA was redevelopment of GCHQ’s sister site in Bude, Cornwall, to the tune of £15.5million. The site intercepts transatlantic cables that carry internet traffic.In return, the documents suggest GCHQ has to take the American view into account when deciding what to prioritise.
The money has been an important source of income for the British agency as it has been forced to cut costs and has shed more than 300 of its 6,000 staff.Documents seen by the newspaper show GCHQ is heavily investing in harvesting personal information from mobile phones and apps, and wants to be able to ‘exploit any phone, anywhere, anytime’.
But some GCHQ staff expressed concern about ‘the morality and ethics of their operational work, particularly given the level of deception involved’.A UK Government paper setting out GCHQ’s view after the 2010 strategic defence and security review says: ‘Our key partnership is with the US … GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight.’A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘In a 60-year alliance it is entirely unsurprising that there are joint projects … but the benefits flow in both directions.’ – DialyMail