Text messages – ‘a goldmine’ - GCSB privy to ‘Dishfire’ text info


New questions arise about the GCSB’s access and use of data following new revelations about a programme sweeping up the world’s text messages.

The Guardian newspaper has today revealed another piece of the National Security Agency’s global surveillance matrix: Dishfire, a programme that collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details.

The powerpoint presentation’s first slide says: ‘SMS text messages: a goldmine to exploit,’ and on each of the slides it notes that the presentation is ‘Top Secret/Rel to the US, FVEY’ – this is the security level and the ‘FVEY’ indicates that the ‘Five Eyes’ – NZ, Australia, UK, and Canada - had access to this information.

The programme has been operational since at least 2012, and the Guardian has reported that it has been used by the UK’s GCHQ to gather ‘pretty much anything it can’ and collects details on people who are not targets or subject to a warrant.

It is reasonably to conclude that similar activities have been untaken by the GCSB here in New Zealand. New Zealanders are particularly prolific texters. In 2008 over half a billion texts per month were sent. For some New Zealanders, their mobile phone is primarily a texting device.

Meanwhile, a review of the NSA’s metadata collection programme has found that it has had negligible effect on ‘countering terrorism.’

The GCSB has thus far profited from its illegal activity in spying on Kim Dotcom by getting a new law with vast new spying powers. It has largely avoided scrutiny in the wake of the Snowden leaks. The glaringly obvious is staring us in the face: the GCSB is participating in all of these programmes alongside their UKUSA partners. Many of the GCSB staff are working in the offices of these other agencies to garner skills and build a sense of solidarity among the SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) community.


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