It's not a terribly positive week for the National Security Agency. While earlier this week they were found to be pushing Verizon to send data to them to out terrorists, today the UK's GCHQ has been outed as gathering info from the NSA through their PRISM program as well. This bit of information comes from The Guardian who say they've obtained documents that show a covertly run operation between countries in plain english, as it were.
This operation is shown in these documents to have the had the CGHQ group gaining access to NSA documents since June of 2010. This information has the Cheltenham-based group appears to have been using the PRISM program (a US-run program, mind you) to "circumvent the formal legal process required", as the Guardian notes, to access personal material from the NSA not otherwise available to them - not available quite so easily, that is.
Materials accessed include emails, photos, and videos. In a statement sent to the source of this news, the CGHQ didn't directly address the idea that they had done as they've been accused to do, but that they acknowledge the seriousness of the situation.
"[CGHQ] takes its obligations under the law very seriously. Our work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the intelligence and security committee." - CGHQ
This week saw the NSA and FBI accused of using Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, and more to gain information about US citizens. These accusations were responded to by US Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper who slammed the reports for their "dangerous inaccuracies".
Though it may seem a bit too much of a happenstance that The Guardian would have just received this information - or just reported it - right here in the center of this PRISM chatter this week, the reports remain.
PRISM is indeed a real program, one introduced under US President George Q Bush back in 2007 and renewed by US President Barack Obama in 2012. This program is designed to bring in-depth surveillance supposedly aimed at breaking down terrorist or otherwise malicious intent-toting villains both inside and outside the USA.
As far as how the UK is joining in on the party, here the report suggests that the CGHQ generated a total of 197 reports from the PRISM program in just the span between June and May of 2012. It's not entirely clear why this span was reported specifically, but again, it's suggested that the agency had been accessing PRISM since June of 2010, as well.