by Trowbridge H. Ford
In the so-called war against terror, the role of eavesdropping upon its participants has become increasingly important despite the opposition of humint agents on the ground, whether it be catching terrorists before they do something, or apprehending them after they have. While the hardware involved in doing so, whether it be tapping land or fiber optic cables or wireless communications, has been extensively discussed, too little has been said about the technicians who collect the messages, whether it be encrypted or not, and the analysts who determine what it all means. Of course, the biggest reasons that their role is not mentioned is because it would tip off potential terrorists about the risks involved, and would put the lives of those agents involved in greater danger.
Still, the increasing role of cryptologists and linguists in the process must be evident to all. If the open messages by the 9/11 suicide bombers had been focused on, and their import had been determined, there is little doubt that the bombings would have been prevented. As James Bamford has stated in The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America regarding Osama bin-Ladin’s calls to action: “But inexplicably, the fact that the calls from Mihdhar had a U. S. country code and a San Diego area code – something that should have been instantly obvious to the NSA’s signals intelligence exerts – was never passed on to the FBI, CIA or anyone else.” (1) To confound counter-terrorist experts about what they were up to, “…the group had worked out a series of code words, and using those terms…” (2) – ‘architecture’ meant the WTC, ‘arts’ the Pentagon, ‘law’ the Capitol, and ‘politics’ the White House – kept themselves informed about what was being planned, and what was required.
Of couse, when the bombings proved so successful, the National Security Agency (NSA), Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and others amounted a great effort to capture such messages, and determine what they meant so that there would be no recurrence of the tragedy. Unfortunately, they were repeated in Madrid in March 2004 (3), and in London in July 2005 (4) where messages were not received, were ignored, or were misunderstood. The basic problem, though James Bamford has nothing to say about its cause, was that GCHQ, MI6, and MI5 were convinced that Al-Qaeda was going to pull off a terrorist attack around London, thanks to the electronic chatter that it was picking up in Britain and Spain from jihadist mullahs. When this proved terribly wrong, they dismissed as a danger the Leeds group, led by Mohammad Sidique Khan – which they had already tried unsuccessfully to set up as terrorists during Operation Crevice – only for it to be totally ignored in surveillance operations, allowing it to pull off the 7/7 bombings with no interference.
“In an effort to attract new Web-savvy recruits,” Bamford explained after the tragedies had occurred, “GCHQ has turned to ad campaigns within online computer games such as Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Double Agent and Rainbow Six Vegas. And to find talented cipher-brains, the agency joined the British Computer Society to sponsor a code-breaking competition called the National Cipher Challenge.” (5) The challenge was carried out on the Internet, lasted three months, and obliged competitors to decipher coded messages exchanged between Lord Nelson and British naval intelligence during the wars against revolutionary France. They were required to keep on top of a Napoleonic plot to buy a mysterious Chinese weapon – what could only be fully understood by decrypting writings that Elizabethan spy Christopher Marlowe had written two centuries before. It was a good test for future cryptographers to meet the demands of qualitative literacy in this field for today’s covert world.
The problems, though, are more complicated than the test and what Bamford indicated. Today, the messages are in all kinds of languages, and what they mean is more difficult than understanding anything Christopher Marlowe may have written. Cryptographers have not only to break down messages in all kinds of esoteric codes but also linguists must be able to make sense of them, especially since the controlling language is often not English, and the real meaning of ones in another language will require a colloquial understanding of their use. Little wonder that Bamford immediately added GCHQ’s, like NSA’s, need for linguists in all kinds of languages without explaining why, particularly in all kinds of European languages like Polish, Albanian, Bulgarian, Chechen, Georgian, Basque, Greek, etc.(6) It is interesting to note, though, that Bamford made no mention of the most likely European languages – German, French, Spanish, Russian, and Italian – an oversight which does not seem accidental.
Of course, the Treasury allocated all kinds of money to GCHQ to recruit such experts, but the money failed to meet the demand, as they, especially the linguists, were reluctant to join the spy agency in sufficient numbers. “At $1.6 billion,” Bamford explained. “GCHQ was the most expensive part of the budget, yet it was still overstretched.” (7) The lack of proper staff was dramatically indicated in not only Operation Crevis but also in Operation Overt. It was a massive surveillance and intelligence collecting investigation where securocrats hoped to prove that two cells of wantabe militants were seriously involved in plots to blow up transatlantic airliners – thanks to MI5 prodding – when they seemed to be more interested in making films, showing the plight of Muslams in Islamic countries. The problem was really caused by the eavesdroppers not being able to understand what the suspects were really up to, given their most crude messages.
To remedy the problem, Sir David Pepper, GCHQ’s Director, started recruiting mathematicians and linguists through the backdoor from his base at St. John’s College, Oxford, where he had received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics thirty years before. During Pepper’s thirty years at ‘ the Q’, he was able to establish a most solid base at the college for training the proper analysts.
He and Principal Sir John Scholar became the closest of friends through their interests in music, walking and gardening. The Modern Language Department and its Associate Schools deeply trained graduates in just the languages Bamford made no mention of – German, Russian, Italian, French and Spanish.(8) The teaching and translations of its German experts – Taylor Professor Ritchie Robertson, now of the University of Oxford, and Lecturer in German Gudrun Loftus up until her mysterious death – have made its graduates the cream of the crop as many surveys have shown. Little wonder that some in German, and others in other European languages, have gone on to do secret work at Cheltenham, especially since continued professional work at university or in the private sector would give them excellent cover for what they are doing. It’s always easier to have a most acceptable peg to hang one’s covert work on when asked by the public.
Pepper has been the biggest opponent of disclosing anything about GCHQ, even himself, especially in court cases, claiming that it will only benefit terrorists who the agency is having trouble keeping up with. “…As the GCHQ packed more and more eavesdroppers and analysts into the doughnut,” Bamford explained, “the quality of the intelligence went down.” (9) Of course, allowing the introduction of intercepts into court cases would not only divert needed resources from more important assignments in preparing them but more importantly disclose intelligence collection techniques. While Sir David, the perfect technospy according to Bamford, went on about keeping up with coded messages on the Internet, he made no mention of the role of GCHQ linguists. Given the failure of Bamford to mention their role in deciphering German, Russian, Spanish, Italian and French messages, it seems that Cheltenham’s linguists are the hub of such activity in Europe – what London is desperate to keep secret. It would show that the Scope system – a secure one to connect GCHQ with other intelligence agencies and their overseas offices – is superfluous. The Intelligence and Security Committee has increased GCHQ’s ability to access, process, and store Internet data and telephone calls by twenty fold.
Scholar obtained all the proper academic credentials at Oxbridge’s other St. John’s College in Cambridge, and the administrative ones by serving at the Treasury, and becoming ultimately the Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Office, and then the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). His being a political insider was best illustrated when he became Prime Minister Thatcher’s Private Secretary (1981-3), just when she was cutting the unions, especially at GCHQ, down to size, and when reconnecting London to the Reagan administration in Washington became so important. NSA knew all about Thatcher’s problems because it “…always has a sizable number of its own personnel working at GCHQ…” (10) Scholar had his hands full while dealing with GCHQ Director Brian Tovey in getting rid of the unions there, and while getting essential intelligence from NSA during the risky war with Argentina over the Falklands Islands. Scholar is quite beholden to the Americans.
While at the Welsh Office, Scholar became so helpful in integrating its universities into meeting GCHQ’s needs that he was unprecedentedly honored by them. The University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and the University of Cardiff made him an Honorary Fellow. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Glamorgan in 1999. While at DTI, Scholar became responsible for handling the affairs of the Carroll Foundation Charitable Trust – what became the largest one in the world during the 1990’s, controlling 85 large corporations. (11)
In addition, in August 2007, Scholar became the shadow director of the UK Statistical Agency. It seems that he used this post to help recruit qualitatively relevant experts covertly for GCHQ by acting as a front for it for those who were nervously interested in joining it – what was apparently in violation of its steering clear of engaging in politics. He seemed most certainly inclined to dispel this by speaking out against anyone who used Britain’s statistics improperly, even Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Home Secretaries Jaci Smith and Alan Johnson, once the agency was officially established.
At the center of this whole network was St John’s College Senior Language Lecturer in German Gudrun Loftus. She was a refugee from East Germany who made her way West, and up the academic scale in an unprecedented way despite her only having an undergraduate degree from Tubingen University. She was able to do so because of her ability to plumb the depths of the language, and teach it most effectively to those just starting out but not in a misleadingly simplistic way or taking out of context the subtleties of modern German. At the same time, she was so proficient in English that she soon became an actress for Buckinghamshire’s theatrical group, The Old Gaolers.
She co-authored three books, one with her husband Gerry, about learning German basic grammar, practicing its use, and providing a learning resource for more advanced students about the colloquial use of the language – what she and Ms.I. Scheiblauer expanded upon by running the Oxford Language Centre. The Centre provides classes in the five key European languages, plus Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic, and its library has sources for 135 other languages for students to study independently. And being only 37 miles away from Cheltenham, it is ideally placed for any students who may want to go there, or any spooks who have any questions about the subtleties of any language they are dealing with.
The basic counter-terrorist aim that NSA/GCHQ has is to make sure that another 9/11 or worse terror act doesn’t occur. While the activities of its leader Khalid al-Mihdhar is most often discussed, what went on at its operational center, Hamburg, was most important in knowing if a recurrence was not to happen. Counter-terrorists needed to know where the terrorists live, where they went, what kind of mosque they attended, what kinds of communications did they carry on with one another, what kinds of covert words did they use, and what did they mean, etc.
Here the center of attention should have been on Mohamed Atta, the organizer of the 9/11 attacks. If the three German intelligence agencies had had an inkling of what Atta and his associates were planning, they might well have stopped it, but because of their lack of technical and analytical expertise, they didn’t have a clue. They didn’t know just how mad Atta and his friends had become after Israel’s April 1996 Grapes of Wrath massacres in South Lebanon – what resulted in his signing his last will and testament against Israel and its allies in Hamburg’s al-Quds mosque (12) – the code words they developed for their targets in Washington (13), and that the plot was completed on July 16, 2001.(14)
The expertise that Loftus’s network provided European securocrats is well documented, though, understandably, without any acknowledgement. Germany, while having twice as many Muslims as either Britain or Spain, has not experienced a counter-terrorist cockup like either Madrid’s 3/11 or London’s 7/7. Its best example of stopping a 9/11 attack was its dogged pursuit of Eric Breininger, a German national who hoped to become a home-grown Mohamed Atta. In September 2007, the Federal Crime Office and the Foreign Intelligence Service (BND) caught three members of his notorious Sauerland group – two native-born Germans who had converted to Islam, and a Turkish resident planning attacks on German cities and American bases.
They were not worse than anything Europe had ever experienced (15), thanks to technical equipment they had used to break into their communications, and analysis of its take by Loftus-trained analysts that GCHQ had supplied them. By the time Breininger was finally killed in April 2010, GCHQ/MI6 agent Gareth Willaims was playing a role in the ongoing process not only in Washington but also in Afghanistan. (16)
When Williams was found dead on August 23rd, it seems murdered, Loftus apparently began to have second thoughts about what she had been involved in, and when I wrote my article about the background to his murder, someone, apparently she, wrote an most approving endorsement of it which a poster, using the site name of Shader Writing, passed along: “This is obviously a great post. Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here. Keep it up!”
Of course, I was most pleased, especially since it showed much more clearly where I was headed than I imagine the vast majority of viewers possessed. The person had apparently been most taken by my mentioning the murder of former DCI William Colby, and the priority that NSA put on recruiting foreign experts, especially in Britain, for cryptological and linguistic posts in Appendix C of Bamford’s Body of Secrets. The quoted source had digested all I had said about the illegal, covert, and, if necessary, the murderous ways of the NSA/GCHQ organization, and where I was headed when it came to what happened to Williams.
When I supplied the follow-up about Willaims’ murder on October 4th, I was most distressed to learn that Loftus had been killed early the next morning when she visited the Senior Common Room around 6 AM, apparently to meet someone about a most unexpected development. It seems that she had decided to go public – what GCHQ could have easily learned by eavesdropping on her conversations – and the agency had sent a person to check out just how serious she was about her plans to blow the whistle on it too.
When the person she met learned of her determination, she was pushed backwards down the steep, spiral staircase from the landing outside the Senior Common Room, falling all the way down to the bottom, fatally injuring herself in the process. There were, it seems, no witnesses to the killing, and the person who discovered her body, possibly even her killer, has not been identified. And my plea to Shader Writing afterwards to confirm that her comments about my article regarding the background to the Williams one had nothing to do with Loftus has gone unanswered.
It was right after Williams’ body had been found, apparently a murder NSA arranged just before he left the States on August 10th, that President Obama joined law-enforcement officials on both sides of the Atlantic in getting the new Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, to stop stonewalling the prosecution of the Carroll Trust Case (17) – one which apparently is most threatening to Scholar while he was Permanent Secretary of the DTI. The idea that Grieve is protecting the head of the UK Statistical Agency is best illustrated when he went out of his way to agree with Scholar’s criticism of Labour Ministers using statistics about knife crime in Britain incorrectly. One can only wonder that Loftus’s killing is to deflect further pressure in the States against him by his seeing that a favor for all the eavesdroppers is achieved.
The former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher helped deflect any embarrassing moments or comments by deciding not to attend her 85th birthday party at No. 10 shortly afterwards. Her former Private Secretary and wife had been invited, and there would have been uncomfortable conversation about the killing of Mrs. Loftus at St. John’s, and the unprecedented scandal at the Carroll Trust, so the ‘Iron Lady’ turned yet again – what she had done before when it came to getting of the Soviets and the Provisionals by force – not ‘returning’ to Downing Street, claiming conveniently yet again her sickly condition.
She has not managed a makeup party at No. 10 for either last year or this.
Where the Loftus killing ends up is anyone’s guess, like the Williams one.
1. p. 27.
2. p. 70.
3. For more, see my article: http://codshit.blogspot.com/2004/04/why-spain-suffered-its-911-attacks.html
4. For more, see my article: http://codshit.blogspot.com/2005/07/perfect-conspiracy-london-bombings.html
5. Op. cit., p. 219.
7. Ibid., p.230.
8. For more, see: http://www.sjc.ox.uk//368-748/Modern-Languages-and-joint-schoools.html
9. Op. cit., pp. 220-1.
10. James Bamford, Body of Secrets: How America’s NSA and Britain’s GCHQ Eavesdrop on the World, p. 398.
11. For more, see this link:http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=fb6_1277386170
12. Bamford, The…, p. 42.
13. Ibid., p. 71.
14. Ibid., p. 62.
15. See this link: http://www.rusi.org/analysis/commentary/ref:C48EOFBFBOEC6C/
by Trowbridge H. Ford
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Tags: 9-11, 9/11, Carroll Foundation Charitable Trust, Dominic Grieve, Gareth Willaims, GCHQ, Government Communications Headquarters, Gudrun Loftus, James Bamford, London 7/7, London tube bombing, Madrid bombing, Margaret Thatcher, MI5, MI6, Mohamed Atta, Mohammed Atta, National Cipher Challenge, NSA, OBL, Osama bin-Ladin, Sauerland group, Sir John Scholar, Trowbridge Ford, Trowbridge H. Ford, UK Statistical Agency
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