GCHQ worker held after leak
Release of memo reflects deep unease in Whitehall
Jeevan Vasagar and Richard Norton-Taylor
Monday March 10, 2003
An employee at GCHQ, the government's electronic eavesdropping centre, has been
arrested under the Official Secrets Act after the Observer published an article
based on a leaked US intelligence memo.
The Observer reported last week that the US is intercepting telephone calls and
emails of foreign delegates to the UN security council.
The front-page article was based on a memo written by a senior official at the
National Security Agency (NSA), the US equivalent of GCHQ, which advised that
the US wanted information on "policies", "negotiating positions" and
"alliances" of security council members.
The Observer said yesterday that the memo had been leaked to it "by British
security sources who objected to being asked to aid the American operation".
A 28-year-old woman employee at GCHQ was arrested last week by Gloucestershire
police and released on bail.
A GCHQ spokesman declined to give further details and would not confirm the
arrest was linked to the Observer article.
The leak of the memo reflects deep unease throughout Whitehall, including the
security and intelligence services, about the Bush administration's conduct in
the growing Iraq crisis.
It is severely embarrassing to GCHQ and to Tony Blair at a time of widespread
doubts about the morality of an invasion of Iraq.
If GCHQ acted on the memo - by eavesdropping on targets simply to strengthen
the US and British governments' negotiating position in the UN, on an issue
itself disputed on legal grounds - it could be found in breach of the 1994
Intelligence Services Act.
Grave doubts about the morality of their instructions were expressed privately
by GCHQ officials during the 1956 Suez crisis, when they were asked to provide
intelligence for an invasion of Egypt, whose highly questionable morality was
compounded by secret collusion with Israel.
The memo has reignited suspicions among countries (notably France) which have
accused London and Washington of abusing their close intelligence relationship.
It says that surveillance operations should be stepped up on UN security
council members "minus US and GBR [Britain] of course".
It is believed the memo was sent out via Echelon, an international surveillance
system set up by the NSA.
France and other European countries have long claimed that the system, which
links the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, is a privileged
Anglo-Saxon club which has been put to improper use.
The British government has always vigorously denied this, insisting it is only
used to monitor genuine threats to national security, hostile powers, and to
help fight terrorism.
The memo, sent in January by Frank Koza, chief of staff in the "regional
targets" section of the NSA, says the agency is "mounting a surge" aimed at how
delegations on the security council will vote. It is investigating the whole
"gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining
results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises".
It makes it clear that home telephones of UN delegates should be tapped.