Details of Britain’s “above top secret” covert surveillance programme – including the location of a clandestine British base tapping undersea cables in the Middle East – have been disclosed by veteran British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell writing in the Register.
Until now the programme has remained secret, despite being leaked by fugitive NSA systems administrator Edward Snowden, because news organisations who had the story declined to publish it after pressure from the Government, Campbell claims.
The secret British spy base is located at Seeb, on the northern coast of Oman, where it taps in to various undersea cables passing through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian/Arabian Gulf, according to Campbell.
“The intelligence agency annually pays selected companies tens of millions of pounds to run secret teams which install hidden connections which copy customers’ data and messages to the spooks’ processing centres.”
He alleges that “British national telco BT, referred to within GCHQ and the American NSA under the ultra-classified codename ‘REMEDY.’ and Vodafone Cable (which owns the former Cable & Wireless company, aka ‘GERONTIC’) are the two top earners of secret GCHQ payments running into tens of millions of pounds annually.”
“The GCHQ-contracted companies also install optical fibre taps or ‘probes’ into equipment belonging to other companies without their knowledge or consent. Within GCHQ, each company has a special section called a ‘Sensitive Relationship Team’ or SRT.”
Although Campbell says his information comes from “documents revealed by Edward Snowden to journalists including Glenn Greenwald [the journalist who published the first stories based on Snowden’s documents in the Guardian] among others,” he does not make it clear how he got hold of the documents.
Business Insider reported on Tuesday that it had been in touch with Greenwald, who told replied in an email that: “Snowden has no source relationship with Duncan (who is a great journalist), and never provided documents to him directly or indirectly, as Snowden has made clear.”
Campbell himself refused to discuss his source.
This raises the question whether the Government itself may have leaked the documents to Campbell, in order to make the case that Snowden’s leaks were harmful.
In August, Greenwald wrote in the Guardian that “The US government itself has constantly used this tactic: aggressively targeting those who disclose embarrassing or incriminating information about the government in the name of protecting the sanctity of classified information, while simultaneously leaking classified information prolifically when doing so advances their political interests.”