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Anglo-US Spying on Phone Conversations Revealed

Saturday, June 19, 1999

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One of the little-known features of the 1943 Britain-USA (Brusa) agreement to merge the Communications Intelligence (COMINT) agencies of both governments was that President Roosevelt agreed that the two governments could spy on each others' citizens, without search warrants, by establishing "listening posts" on each others' territory.


"The Secret War Against the Jews"
Authors: John Loftus and Mark Aarons,
ISBN 0-312-11057-X, 1994


According to several of the "old spies" who worked in Communications Intelligence, the NSA headquarters is also the chief British espionage base in the United States. The presence of British wiretappers at the keyboards of American eavesdropping computers is a closely guarded secret, one that very few people in the intelligence community have been aware of, but it is true.

An American historian, David Kahn, first stumbled onto a corner of the British connection in 1966, while writing his book The Codebreakers.

One indication of just how sensitive this information is considered on both sides of the Atlantic is the fact that Kahn's publishers in New York and London were put under enormous pressure to censor a great deal of the book.

In the main, Kahn simply revealed the existence of the liaison relationship, but when he wrote that the NSA and its British equivalent, the Government Communications Headquarters, "exchange personnel on a temporary basis", he had come too close to revealing the truth.

The U.S. government told Kahn to hide the existence of British electronic spies from the American public. Kahn eventually agreed to delete a few of the most sensitive paragraphs describing the exchange of codes, techniques, and personnel with the British government His innocuous few sentences threatened to disclose a larger truth.

By the 1960s the "temporary" British personnel at Fort Meade had become a permanent fixture. The British enjoyed continued access to the greatest listening post in the world.

The NSA is a giant vacuum cleaner. It sucks in every form of electronic communication. from telephone calls to telegrams, across the United States.

The presence of British personnel is essential for the American wiretappers to claim plausible deniability.

Here is how the game is played. The British liaison officer at Fort Meade types the target list of "suspects" into the American computer. The NSA sorts through its wiretaps and gives the British officer the recording of any American citizen he wants.

Since it is technically a British target of surveillance, no American search warrant is necessary. The British officer then simply hands the results over to his American liaison officer.

Of course, the Americans provide the same service to the British in return.

All international and domestic telephone calls in Great Britain are run through the NSA's station in the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) at Menwith Hill, which allows the American liaison officer to spy on any British citizen without a warrant.

According to our sources, this duplicitous, reciprocal arrangement disguises the most massive, and illegal, domestic espionage apparatus in the world.

Not even the Soviets could touch the U.K.-U.S. intercept technology.

Through this charade, the intelligence services of each country can claim they are not targeting their own citizens. This targeting is done by an authorized foreign agent, the intelligence liaison resident in Britain or the United States.

Thus, in 1977, during an investigation by the House Government Operations Committee, Admiral Inman could claim, with a straight face, that "there are no U.S. Citizens now targeted by the NSA in the United States or abroad, none." Since the targeting was done not by NSA but by employees of British GCHQ, he was literally telling the truth.

According to a former special agent of the FBI, the you-spy-on-mine, I'll-spy-on-yours deal has been extended to other Western partners, particularly Canada and Australia. The British, with the help of sophisticated NSA computers, can bug just about anyone anywhere. The electronic search for subversives continues, particularly in the U.S.

The NSA conceded precisely that point when the U.S. Justice Department investigated its wiretapping of American protesters during the Vietnam War.

The NSA assured the Justice Department that the information was acquired only incidentally as part of a British GCHQ collection program.

The "incidental" British exception has become the rule.

To this day Congress does not realize that the British liaison officers at the NSA are still free to use American equipment to spy on American citizens. And, in fact, they are doing just that. Congress has been kept in the dark deliberately.

This is a fact, not a matter of conjecture or a conclusion based on anonymous sources.

In the early 1980s, during the Reagan administration, one of the authors of this book submitted to the intelligence community a draft of a manuscript that briefly described the wiretap shell game and mentioned the secrecy provisions concerning British liaison relationships with the NSA have escaped congressional knowledge. The result was an uproar. The intelligence community insisted that all passages explaining the British wiretap program had to be censored and provided a list of specific deletions.

© Focal Point 1999 e-mail:  write to David Irving