Here's the latest NSA story from The Guardian. Apparently we just pay other countries to do the spying that's illegal for us to do, and it's all good!
The US government has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQ over the last three years to secure access to and influence over Britain's intelligence gathering programmes.
The top secret payments are set out in documents which make clear that the Americans expect a return on the investment, and that GCHQ has to work hard to meet their demands. "GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight," a GCHQ strategy briefing said.
The funding underlines the closeness of the relationship between GCHQ and its US equivalent, the National Security Agency. But it will raise fears about the hold Washington has over the UK's biggest and most important intelligence agency, and whether Britain's dependency on the NSA has become too great.
In one revealing document from 2010, GCHQ acknowledged that the US had "raised a number of issues with regards to meeting NSA's minimum expectations". It said GCHQ "still remains short of the full NSA ask".
Ministers have denied that GCHQ does the NSA's "dirty work", but in the documents GCHQ describes Britain's surveillance laws and regulatory regime as a "selling point" for the Americans.
The papers are the latest to emerge from the cache leaked by the American whistleblower Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who has railed at the reach of the US and UK intelligence agencies.
Snowden warned about the relationship between the NSA and GCHQ, saying the organisations have been jointly responsible for developing techniques that allow the mass harvesting and analysis of internet traffic. "It's not just a US problem," he said. "They are worse than the US."
As well as the payments, the documents seen by the Guardian reveal:
• GCHQ is pouring money into efforts to gather personal information from mobile phones and apps, and has said it wants to be able to "exploit any phone, anywhere, any time".
• Some GCHQ staff working on one sensitive programme expressed concern about "the morality and ethics of their operational work, particularly given the level of deception involved".
• The amount of personal data available to GCHQ from internet and mobile traffic has increased by 7,000% in the past five years – but 60% of all Britain's refined intelligence still appears to come from the NSA.
• GCHQ blames China and Russia for the vast majority of cyber-attacks against the UK and is now working with the NSA to provide the British and US militaries with a cyberwarfare capability.
The details of the NSA payments, and the influence the US has over Britain, are set out in GCHQ's annual "investment portfolios". The papers show that the NSA gave GCHQ £22.9m in 2009. The following year the NSA's contribution increased to £39.9m, which included £4m to support GCHQ's work for Nato forces in Afghanistan, and £17.2m for the agency's Mastering the Internet project, which gathers and stores vast amounts of "raw" information ready for analysis.
The NSA also paid £15.5m towards redevelopments at GCHQ's sister site in Bude, north Cornwall, which intercepts communications from the transatlantic cables that carry internet traffic. "Securing external NSA funding for Bude has protected (GCHQ's core) budget," the paper said.