Edward Snowden is a matter of months younger than me, in his early thirties. Yet the impact he has made on our modern, or are we now in the post modern world is almost unfathomable. In fact it is so unfathomable that it is almost too large an idea to be appreciated by the normal human brain. So we just don’t process it. If we did then I feel that it would be being talked about by more people. Not just the Glen Greenwalds of this world.
Snowden’s documents confirmed that government agencies such as GCHQ and the NSA were and still are collecting information from everyone. Everyone. Not just the perceived “enemy” but everyone. Allied countries, their own citizens, foreign diplomats on diplomatic trips. The breadth and depth of the revelations are quite breath taking.
Now, let me refocus, what does this mean for GCHQ? I think in reality, probably very little. Due to the nature of “The War On Terror” and how communication technology works in the modern world. The only way they can do their job, is by collecting data the way we know they do. All of us normal citizens don’t deny that we like what the security services do. I don’t really want to be blown up and I’m sure you don’t either and they help stop that. That being said, I’m not sure I want the government of any country having free unbridled access to my communications without any legal backing, even if that is my own country and I have nothing to hide.
GCHQ was once an outward looking operation. Focusing purely on foreign actors. Now we live in a world where e-commerce and communication render physical borders largely pointless. As such it will have to spend time looking at those it is trying to protect to ensure that it catches everything.
Let’s not beat about the bush here. GCHQ is watching, that is an insoluble fact. We have seen the level of access they have in to the very backbone of the communication networks and organisations we all use. By watching films such as Citizen Four or reading The Intercept, or Salon, or the Guardian we can see the capabilities they have to fight those they perceive as against them. The biggest battle GCHQ and its companions will have as we rumble in to the twenty first century, will be how it defines its enemies and how the law defends those choices.