Talk:Government Communications Headquarters

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Senior Staff, Bletchley vs. GC&CS[edit]

Either the senior staff at Bletchley is not identical with the senior staff at GC&CS, in which case Alan Turing does not belong onto that list, or it is, in which case at least Gordon Welchman is missing from the list. And maybe Hugh Alexander and Stuart Milner-Barry as well. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:57, 18 April 2016 (UTC)

Most successful etc[edit]

Removed: "It is the most successful and advanced listening station in the Western World." I don't see how this could ever be verified given that governments are generally less that enthusiastic in publicizing their intelligence capabilities. -- anon

Quite, and the NSA are almost certainly more successful and advanced. — Matt Crypto 16:59, 16 November 2005 (UTC)
I doubt it. I expect they are both as successful and advanced as they are required to be. As we are never allowed to see the output of GCHQ, despite been forced to fund it via taxes, we can never know whether it is successful or not.Markb 09:41, 5 May 2006 (UTC)


Amongst insiders, the organisation is gaining the nickname "The Jam" (since it can be found inside a doughnut).

An anonymous contributor removed this, and I can't verify it; I've moved it here in case anyone can cite a source. — Matt 23:07, 29 Sep 2004 (UTC)

It was in a BBC News article, IIRC.
James F. (talk) 15:25, 5 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Name change: GC&CS -> GCHQ[edit]

When did GC&CS change its name to GCHQ? I've come across different versions: some pinpoint it at around 1942, others say 1946. (I'll try and dig them up). — Matt Crypto 23:03, 16 November 2005 (UTC)

I found a document in the PRO from 1942 which suggests using the "GCHQ" as a cover name for Bletchley Park, but it could well be that this was a covername for the BP site, while the entire organisation was still offically known as GC&CS (work was done elsewhere apart from BP) until 1946. — Matt Crypto 15:21, 22 February 2006 (UTC)
Just found this reference, too in Michael Smith, Station X, Channel 4 Books, 1998, ISBN 0330419293: "In June 1946, GC&CS adopted its wartime covername Government Communications Headquarters" as its new title" (p. 176). — Matt Crypto 15:27, 22 February 2006 (UTC)


Why on earth is 'fired' more npov than 'sacked'? As far as I know, 'fired' is the American word for 'sacked': both mean 'summarily dismissed'. Since this is a UK article, it ought to be 'sacked'. Myopic Bookworm 15:00, 11 May 2006 (UTC)

That's what I thought, too. I agree that "sacked" is fine in a UK topic article. — Matt Crypto 17:02, 11 May 2006 (UTC)

Potential sources to use[edit]

  • Richard J. Aldrich, GCHQ and Siginit in the Early Cold War 1945-70, Intelligence & National Security, Volume 16, Number 1 / Spring 2001, 67 - 96
  • Nigel West, GCHQ: the Secret Wireless War, 1900-86, London : Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986.

— Matt Crypto 11:24, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

GC&CS and SIS[edit]

ISTR in reading Stewart Menzies biography C, that GC&CS was part of SIS after it was moved to the FCO from Admiralty. This remained the case until after WWII when it had got to a sufficient size that it could operate independently of SIS and split out. As a result of this Menzies had close control of the ULTRA intercept material generated from Bletchley. I haven't got access to the book at the moment but can anyone corroborate this from another source?ALR 16:44, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

I cannot corroborate, but rather contradict: it was not part of SIS, though it reported to the head of the Secret Service. GC&CS by 1922 transferred to the Foreign Office, under the Chief of the Secret Service, to which service however, it did not belong. John Johnson, "The Evolution of British Sigint 1653-1939" —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Myopic Bookworm (talkcontribs) 20:50, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

Regarding the first part:

  • "Menzies redesignated himself Director-General and promoted Travis to overall Director of GC&CS...these arrangements prevailed until the end of the Second World War. After the war, GCHQ managed to escape from the control of "C" and disengage itself from the even more fraught management problems of MI6." (Philip H. J. Davies, "From Amateurs to Professionals: GC&CS and Institution-building in SIGINT", pp. 386-402 in Action this Day edited by Ralph Erskine and Michael Smith, 2001)
  • Other than its head and a shared location for a time, GC&CS was separate to SIS: "GC&CS...formed initially in the Admiralty, but by 1922 transferred to the Foreign Office, under the Chief of the Secret Service, to which service, however, it did not belong...apart from the co-location and the common head there appears to have been no other connection, administratively or operationally, between the two organisations". (p. 43-44 in John Johnson, The Evolution of British Sigint: 1653–1939, 1997) (as noted by Myopic Bookworm above; we had an edit conflict).

I don't know how much influence and control this gave Menzies over ULTRA, or whether he used this influence to improve the standing of SIS in the government (as our Stewart Menzies article states, but doesn't cite specific sources for). — Matt Crypto 20:55, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

OK, so the two had the same head and they were co-located? GC&CS formed in the Admiralty and SIS originated as the Naval Section? Call me a bluff old traditionalist but that looks remarkably like they were the same organisation. although I note that both those sources are later than the Biog which as I recall is mid to late 80s.
In practical terms I can fully understand why the work of HUMINTers and SIGINTers wouldn't be integrated, they are different disciplines and whilst one does tend to cue the other the actual practice differs significantly.
According to the Biography Menzies controlled the access list for the ULTRA compartment and it's international release.
ALR 16:06, 8 December 2006 (UTC)
I've just found this very pertinent official SIS web page; it describes the relationship between GCCS & GCHQ with SIS. It says that:
"By 1926 SIS and GC&CS shared Broadway Buildings (54 Broadway, St James's), performing distinct activities and occupying different floors. In his GC&CS role, Sinclair took the title 'Director of GC&CS'. Denniston and his deputy Edward Travis reported to him. Although Sinclair was not involved in the day-to-day operations of code-breaking and construction, he or other senior SIS staff represented GC&CS over matters such as foreign relations and inter-departmental arrangements for radio and cable interception. Senior promotions, financial questions and internal organisation within GC&CS were approved by him. In July 1938 Sinclair purchased Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire as a wartime evacuation location for both his organisations. Both moved there in August 1939."
— Matt Crypto 17:41, 8 December 2006 (UTC)


The article says that the ECHELON section needs references. Would any of these be suitable for use as references?

The European Parliament had a sub-committee that reported on Echelon. I don't know if that counts as 'authoritative' or whatever. Here's a link to the European Parliament PDF report:

The cryptome website has some useful information.

And this page has some links to US news papers.

DanBeale 20:08, 18 January 2007 (UTC)

GCCS officially formed on 1 November 1919,[8] and produced its first decrypt on 19 October. - 19th of october? what year? Surely the first decrypt wasnt made before it was formed? Its capabilities are suspected to include the ability to monitor a large proportion of the world's transmitted civilian telephone, fax and data traffic, primarily by way of satellite intercepts. - isn't most data transferred via fibre these days?

-- The Anonymous Pedant —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:27, 13 March 2008 (UTC)

Organisation section[edit]

The organisation section references Bamford and an organisation as of 1983. Is this really all that meaningful, since Cheltenham has undergone several rounds of business change, including a significant downsizing to move into the new build and then an unplift requiring the retention of the Oakley site as well as a significant change of focus from the USSR to CT andassymetric threats? I'd suggest that it's more meaningful to just talk in general terms; management, technology, collection planning, collection, analysis and dissemination. those are likely to survive any business change as these are the SIGINT activities.

I'd just go ahead and do it, but since it excises quite a chunk of the article I thought it would be better to discuss it first, in case anyone gets worked up about the fact that it's sourced.

Any thoughts? ALR (talk) 13:18, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

I agree it looked very dated: I have updated it Dormskirk (talk) 14:26, 12 June 2010 (UTC)

Overview of British intelligence - new article[edit]

I have created a United Kingdom intelligence community page where we can address the broad issues, such as the relative scope of MI5 and MI6 (as mentioned here). Starting with the list of key agencies shown at the global List of intelligence agencies. It should provide an appropriate place to deal with some of the ambiguities that the present atomised articles fail to cover well.

To discuss, please use this Talk page. Earthlyreason (talk) 07:03, 3 November 2008 (UTC)

GCHQ and the constitution[edit]

1) The title of this section is overblown: the paragraph only relates a minor legal decision, not any constitutional position of GCHQ.The history of the sacking and reemployment of GCHQ staff for union activities is much more relevant to the article, under a different heading.

2) The rationale of the judgement seems at best of marginal relevance. Council of Civil Service Unions v Minister for the Civil Service reconfirmed the scope of judicial review of the exercise of prerogative powers (the Crown's residual powers under common law). It happened to concern GCHQ, but that seems no more relevant than the location of a road accident or any other litigated event. Would it be better omitted, or linked to an article on judicial review? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jezzabr (talkcontribs) 23:57, 6 January 2009 (UTC)

No, i think it is a suitable statment, as the case effectivley defines what bits of the state can be "sued" by a citizen, that is which decisions of branches of government a citizen can request for a judge to review. (although of course unlike many other states the judge doesn't have the authority to overturn decisions, jsut ask govt. to change the decisions so it complies with law)

also on another constitutional point the minister responsible should be the Primeminister who is the head of security services, rather than david milliband, the minister in charge of the funding department? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:22, 15 June 2009 (UTC)

GCHQ isn't funded by FCO, it's funded by the Single Intelligence Account, which is managed by Cabinet Office. It is accountable to the Foreign Secretary though. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:13, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

GCCS or GC&CS[edit]

Richard Aldrich's book "GCHQ: The Uncensored Story of Britain's Most Secret Intelligence Agency" is surely the definitive authority on the subject and uses GC&CS rather than GCCS throughout. I therefore suggest that it is appropriate to use the ampersand version of the abbreviation in this article.--TedColes (talk) 17:31, 19 September 2012 (UTC)

References to books are incorrect[edit]

A few of the references points to what seems like a surname, year and a page without any ISDN or further documentation where you can actually find these. For example, look at reference 1, 4, 5 and 6. Are they replaceable or traceable? I've been searching with no success. Steamruler (talk) 18:27, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

I just realized that these are infact references to books but is done incorrectly so they are unclickable. I have no idea how to fix it so can someone else do it? Steamruler (talk) 20:28, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

The Guardian articles about GCHQ spying, referring to documents leaked by Edward Snowden[edit]

Here are some articles from The Guardian about GCHQ spying, referring to documents leaked by Edward Snowden

CNN also posted this:

WhisperToMe (talk) 18:34, 21 June 2013 (UTC)

SCMP articles on GCHQ spying[edit]

WhisperToMe (talk) 17:09, 22 June 2013 (UTC)

GCHQ surveillance template[edit]

I've just started a new GCHQ surveillance template which is based on the NSAs equivalent surveillance template. It could do with some more info and eyes on it before possible inclusion in this article near the history section. To discuss the template, not it's inclusion here, please use the Talk page for it. Aluxosm (talk) 20:30, 6 August 2013 (UTC)

Invitation to help craft a proposal[edit]

Surveillance awareness day is a proposal for the English Wikipedia to take special steps to promote awareness of global surveillance on February 11, 2014. That date is chosen to coincide with similar actions being taken by organizations such as Mozilla, Reddit, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Feedback from editors of this article would be greatly appreciated. Please come join us as we brainstorm, polish, and present this proposal to the Wikipedia Community. --HectorMoffet (talk) 12:30, 18 January 2014 (UTC)

Blacklisted Links Found on the Main Page[edit]

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And were do you find the 'Black List' ? -- Narnia.Gate7 (talk) 22:02, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

I fixed the link in early April. It had 404'd. [1]. Contact User:Cyberpower678, I presume he has a vellum bound copy of the black list. Gareth E Kegg (talk) 22:16, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
Please see the blacklisted links template Gareth E Kegg (talk) 22:25, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

Global surveillance[edit]

This article is about the Government Communications Headquarters. The Global surveillance template (on the right) was added, which I replaced with a See also template (above) in the most relevant section.Whizz40 (talk) 13:32, 12 October 2014 (UTC)

Operation Socialist[edit]

user:Gareth_E_Kegg Can you elaborate what section of Undue weight you specifically refer to? ChristopheT (talk) 16:52, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

Why have you decided to present it in its own section? Not a single other alleged GCHQ operation has its own subsection, so the relatively minor Operation Socialist has undue prominence on the page. Even the vastly more significant Mastering the Internet and JTRIG are merely mentioned within the relevant history sections. Operation Socialist should be spun off to a new article and mentioned within the context of Snowden's revelations within the recent history section. Gareth E Kegg (talk) 19:29, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
I am not necessarily against moving the section - so you suggest to add a bullet point to the list for *MIT *GTE and link it to an standalone article ?--ChristopheT (talk) 20:00, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
This topic has has already been started and spun out from Global surveillance#By category, see Global surveillance by category#GCHQ operations. I would favour expanding the existing coverage or spinning out into a seaparte article. Whizz40 (talk) 20:21, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

user:Whizz40 can you have a look at the draft here - any comment ideas or suggestions are welcome - Thank you! ChristopheT (talk) 09:05, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

@ChristophThomas: I had a quick look only, looks fine in principle, I did not check the sources. One thing worth considering is has the topic received significant coverage in reliable sources. If it hasn't then making it a section of an existing article, eg a sub-section under Global surveillance by category#GCHQ operations might be the right approach; if it has then a new article might be the right way to go. The usual policies are good for guidance, for example neutral point of view (and sometimes useful to check WP:UNDUE, WP:FRINGE, WP:SYNTHESIS and WP:EXCEPTIONAL). Hope this is helpful. Whizz40 (talk) 05:31, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
@Whizz40: thank you for taking the time to have a look - as far as sources go they are as good as it gets for European sources: De Standaard (since 1911) Der Spiegel (since 1947) are both classical top tier newspapers with national coverage. The advantage I see in having a short independent article is that it can be linked to different topics (Belgacom, GCHQ, Mass Surveillance, Snowden revelation ect.)easily and it does increase visibility when searching ChristopheT (talk) 10:53, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
@Gareth E Kegg: I would simply add a link the topic the same way as for "Mastering the Internet" & "Global Telecoms Exploitation" (GTE) in the history section if that is ok with you ChristopheT (talk) 10:58, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

Suggestions for new content[edit]

Some things I think are missing and need adding

  • criticisms of ISC’s lack of independence
  • EU judgments saying the IPT offers no human rights remedy
  • Lack of appeals at IPT
  • The ISC’s admissions in their recent report of various missed oversight questions
  • The patchwork of codes emerging to cover gaps in the law (and therefore HR abuses)
  • The cases from Liberty, PI and others that are prompting these changes
  • And the assertion that there is no mass surveillance is reported without any counter view being mentioned in several places Jim Killock (talk) 14:12, 14 March 2015 (UTC)
Much of the above belongs in or is already covered in the articles Mass surveillance in the United Kingdom, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament and Investigatory Powers Tribunal. In addition, there has been mainstream criticism of aspects of the above viewpoints which also needs to be noted. As an aside, following this week's report from the ISC, the Guardian came out strongly critical of the status quo and in favour of privacy and civil liberties as it always does, the Times carried some articles on the other side, the BBC has to be balanced and the Telegraph didn't even seem to cover it as far as I saw. While Liberty etc play an important role for rights, they are not democratically elected representatives, and the aforementioned articles seem to slip off the website front pages more quickly than I expected. The papers also seemed to be expressing editorial viewpoints, there doesn't seem to be a strong voice from the public at large being reported. Whizz40 (talk) 21:36, 14 March 2015 (UTC)
I agree that some of these points could go into the ISC and IPT articles for instance but many seem to be absent there too. I see no mention of Burden v United Kingdom (2008) 47 EHRR 38. and Malik v United Kingdom (Application no.32968/11) [2013] ECHR 794 (28 May 2013) for instance, which say that the IPT does not offer any human rights remedy on surveillance questions. I see no mention of the lack of appeals at the IPT in that article. The ISC oversight omissions (unregulated databases for instance) are new information that I think needs adding here. Jim Killock (talk) 14:27, 15 March 2015 (UTC)
Also this is factually misleading: "The Parliament of the United Kingdom appoints an Intelligence and Security Committee"–the committee has been appointed by the Prime Minister up to now, and the legislation says that members are appointed by the HoC from persons that are "nominated for membership by the Prime Minister". That of course makes it questionable whether it is truly independent, as the members are Prime Ministerial nominees.Jim Killock (talk) 14:28, 15 March 2015 (UTC)
On your first points, agree, I would say go ahead and add to those articles while this discussion is fresh, with cites ideally. On your second point, after the Justice and Security Act 2013 I recall MPs have the power to review and veto the prime minister's nominations which I think needs to be reflected as well. And the committee members themselves are elected by their constituents as MPs so accountable to their electorate; any slip up in their role or otherwise could see them lose their seat, as we have seen recently. But I think this debate belongs on the ISC article. This article should just correctly state who has the power to nominate, appoint and veto. Separately, there has also been mention of establishing a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (United Kingdom), which the US already has: Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Whizz40 (talk) 15:06, 15 March 2015 (UTC)
Thanks, I don't wish to make these edits however. I'm happy to supply the information (including publicly) but I think it would be a step too far for me to write parts of the articles. See my user page, I think it would pose too many questions in some people's minds about NPOV Jim Killock (talk) 15:22, 15 March 2015 (UTC)
I thought I'd help on the role of Liberty, Privacy international and so on. The validation of their views is not in their pronouncements per se, which as ou say are of a self appointed group, albeit ones that can claim some expertise and experience. The validation or not is ultimately in what the courts say as a result. So for instance Liberty and PI's case in the IPT showed that bulk collection was effectively unlawful prior to publication of codes of practice; similar questions are emerging about equipment interference (hacking). At the point that all these groups reach the ECHR. their viewpoints on mass surveillance and bulk collection will be validated or rejected. But the ECHR process is ultimately far more important than IPT rulings, which as I mentioned have been found to lack the ability to make proper human rights remedies by the ECHR. Similarly, the ISC claims that bulk collection is not mass surveillance needs caveating by the fact that it will be appointed by nominees selected by the Prime Minister, and the current nominees are IIRC prime ministerial appointees.Jim Killock (talk) 15:18, 15 March 2015 (UTC)
I made edits to this article, Mass surveillance in the United Kingdom, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament and Investigatory Powers Tribunal to address these points. Whizz40 (talk) 06:29, 16 March 2015 (UTC)

Spreading Falkland propaganda[edit]

Hi, I think GCHQ's operation to manipulate Latin American opinion on the Falklands deserves a mention in the article, but not sure if there's an appropriate section. Maybe a new section in history on Snowden's leaks should be added? Currently history only deals with their reaction to the internet (and surveillance of it). Magedq (talk) 06:56, 5 April 2015 (UTC)

The Intercept story refers to JTRIG as the arbiters of Operation Quito, and so it should be included in their article. Snowden's leaks are well linked from this article. Gareth E Kegg (talk) 15:39, 6 April 2015 (UTC)

Leaked memos reveal GCHQ efforts to keep mass surveillance secret[edit]

This should be included. Ich901 (talk) 20:24, 5 October 2015 (UTC)[edit]

and another one Ich901 (talk) 21:05, 5 October 2015 (UTC)