Independence movement faced threat of GCHQ state surveillance, claims Julian Assange


Secret services may consider Scottish campaigners as a threat to the UK state

UK SECRET service surveillance operations could have targeted the Scottish independence campaign, according to claims by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in Glasgow yesterday [Wednesday 15 April].

The “full capacity” of GCHQ – the UK’s surveillance service – could have targeted campaigners as independence presented a “national security threat” to London political leaders.

Speaking to the commonwealth law conference by video link from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange claimed that evidence of communications interception, lobbying by the UK foreign and commonwealth office and the perceived “threat” to state interests all suggested surveillance could be used against the independence movement.

“The attitude of the UK Government is that this is a national security issue, that Scottish independence is, in effect, a threat to the state. This means that the full capacities of the GCHQ, for example, could be deployed,” Assange said in comments reported by The National. (Click here to read more).

The claims follow over a year of revelations of GCHQ bulk data collection, including the internet and phone records of millions of people. Documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden identified the GCHQ system ‘Tempora’ was used to extract data from UK telephone calls, email message content, Facebook entries and internet histories.

Lawyers acting for GCHQ have said it would be impossible to list the total number of people targeted by Tempora because “this would be an infinite list which we couldn’t manage”.

In February a tribunal judged that GCHQ acted unlawfully when accessing the private communications of millions of people. (Click here to read more).

GCHQ was also found to have used surveillance for political purposes, including targeting politicians during the G-20 summit in London, 2009.

In comments reported by The Times, Assange told the conference: “Essentially, every communication that occurs to US servers is being intercepted, every communication that passes through Britain is being intercepted …These forms of communication are very easily indexed…they can be stored forever now.” (Click here to read more).

At the beginning of 2014 it emerged that the foreign and commonwealth office had contacted countries across the world regarding the independence referendum. (Click here to read more).

UK Treasury civil servant Nicholas McPherson claimed that the referendum did not require the standard government impartiality.

In June 2014 former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars claimed that MI5 was attempting to undermine the pro-independence campaign.

Addressing fellow campaigners Sillars said: “Are you so naive that you never think that perhaps MI5 and special branch are taking a role in this campaign? As their function is protection of the British state, they would not be doing their jobs if they were not.”

Assange remains stuck in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has gained the right to political asylum. Sweden has an extradition warrant against him for sex offences, charges Assange denies.

Picture courtesy of Jose Mesa