It has emerged that the UK’s GCHQ listening post may have connections to a sophisticated system used by the American security services to monitor the activity of millions of people on the internet. Public disquiet has risen sharply following the revelations by whistle-blower Edward Snowden centred on the methods of the US National Security Agency.
Sadly it is a fact of life that we all have to live with the threat of international terrorism. These people are determined to attack our way of life and one of the most important weapons in their armoury is the internet. Terrorist cells do not operate in isolation and they rely on modern communication technology to gather information, talk to one another and garner support.
Our law enforcement and counter terrorism agencies have done an incredible job to tackle the threat of global terrorism in recent years and we should support them in that fight. We have the technology and the tools to be able to monitor suspicious activity on the internet and to deal with terrorists at source so it makes no sense not to make full use of that technology.
In fact, if the counter-terrorism professionals chose not to make full use of the tools that are available to them and missed the opportunity to thwart a major incident then they would rightly come in for plenty of criticism. The vast majority of us will have no interest to the security services and have nothing to fear about when it comes to an increase in surveillance. If anything we should be congratulating our security experts for the great job that they are doing.
Of course, there needs to be checks and balances in place to protect people from overzealous government but surveillance is now a part and parcel of modern life. Thanks to the actions of the terrorists we all have to understand that sacrifices have to be made to protect us from the kind of horrific attacks that cost thousands of innocent lives.
We are happy to watch thrillers and espionage series such as Homeland and 24 but when it affects us personally people seem ready to start posing questions. This is part of the price we pay to keep our families and way of life safe from attack.
This year saw the largest leak of classified information in the history of the US National Security Agency (NSA). The leak confirmed the existence of a growing NSA stockpile of millions of phone records and revealed details of the Agency’s PRISM programme.
The programme, which has links to GCHQ, gives government agencies “direct access” to files from the servers of major companies such as Google and Facebook. The US Government has argued that the data mining operation is designed to spot and prevent terror plots.