Better late than never

GCHQ, the signals intelligence agency, are now in a position to monitor terrorist operations like Omagh. according to a Guardian story which includes the byline of their highly regarded security correspondent Richard Norton- Taylor. But can they listen into networks across the border?

In an effort to clear the UK’s secret listening post of failing to prevent the 1998 bomb attack that caused the biggest massacre during the Troubles, sources close to the security services revealed that they now have the capability to track mobile phones in cars being driven in rural as well as urban areas – technology they insist GCHQ did not possess a decade ago.

  • I find this article just a big bunch of baloney.

    Anyone who reads Mark Urban’s UK Eyes Alpha, and James Bamford’s Body of Secrets should know that GCHQ had the same capability to monitor cellphone calls as America’s National Security Agency(NSA).

    The only difference was that Britain just used the satellites, didn’t own them.

    This was the result of Britain scrapping the Zircon Project, and contributing this money towards American projects, and, in return, it was given use of the second generation Magnum satellites.

    The first was launched in 1994, and the second the following year – Urban suggesting that it might have been the British ‘bird’ – well before the Omagh tragedy.

    “The decision was a sensible one in several ways,” Urban wrote. “It ensured that British money was going on the best possible technology; there was no duplication of what NSA was doing; and the UK was insulated from the possibility that the satellite might be blown up during launch or fail in orbit.” (p. 64)

    The listening dish was 160 feet in diameter, and could pick up easily microwave messages in space.

    In short, GCHQ, MI5 et al. are using Magnum’s ownership to explain away a massive cock-up in its use.

  • Gregory

    I can’t see the difference in urban and rural,

    as a hobby at Cambridge, I was interested in hard to register, radiation from cables,

    MI5 didn’t do anything at that time, which I wasn’t thinking about.

    It was not that super dooper.

    the Germans for example, in the 1940s, were developing masking techniques, and the brits were feeding them dummy stories about FuMB-9 Wanze the radar detector

    If the detector was ‘leaking’ the Germans would not suspect a 10cm H2S radar, they’d assume the RAF were homing in on leaks,

    the same way they were trying to do with the bomber command Friend or Foe transponders, the latter obviously was supposed to do that, there is that little difference

    Caveat, my experience is related to phonographic cutting rooms, and interference between equipment.

    The rural ( hard) urban (easy) thing I don’t see.

    (the Brits are lying sausages by the way as a general rule)

  • For more on Commissioner Gibson’s ridiculous report about what GCHQ knew and did about its intercepts regarding the Omagh bombers, one where he relied up the claims of an unnamed mobile communications service provider while refusing to meet with relatives of the victims, see the article on today’s Newshound which has been blacklisted from appearing on this site.

    In reading more of Urban’s book, I see no complaints about what NSA was providing GCHQ at the time about keeping track of the PIRA and the dissidents – only grumbles about not being able to provide intercepts further afield, and possibly further down the line. (pp. 330-1)

    Also, for what NSA was providing CIA with intercepts in 1999 when it stopped Al-Qaeda during the Millennium celebrations, see Bob Woodward, State of Denial, p. 50ff.

  • Was it Hugh Orde’s backing of Commissioner Gibson’s ridiculous report about GCHQ’s lack of ability to track the Omagh bombers which cost him the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s job?

    Was it better to appoint Sir Paul Stephenson – whose errors over the arrest of MP Damian Green are already well-known – than Orde whose PSNI failures in the bombing and in its prosecution of the culprits are still to be determined?