GCHQ spies eavesdropped on Irish
Friday 16 July 1999
From the late 1980s onwards, Britain's secret eavesdropping agency GCHQ intercepted Irish international communications as they passed through England.
This would have given Britain access to secret conversations involving members of the Irish government in the years leading up to the Good Friday Agreement.
To listen in, GCHQ built a 150-ft tower at a quiet location in Cheshire at a cost of pounds 20m.
Intercepted calls were processed in the tower and sent for transcript and analysis at GCHQ's headquarters in Cheltenham.
The Ministry of Defence is now selling the strange windowless tower. Bids are open to midday today.
Details of the tower's powerful and sophisticated electronic facilities were revealed last night in a Channel 4 News report.
Programme makers were shown round the tower by officials from the Ministry of Defence's Defence Estate Disposal organisation.
According to senior intelligence sources, although the primary justification of the interception network was to obtain information about terrorism, the station also obtained political and economic intelligence from the Irish government and the business community.
It, and others like it, targeted commercial and diplomatic communications from the Irish Republic.
And it also homed in on the personal communications of prominent Irish citizens using voiceprint recognition systems and lists of target telephone numbers.
The tower was closed early in 1998 after a new Irish communications systems replaced the radio links it was built to intercept.
Intelligence sources say it has been superseded by an even more powerful network of Ministry of Defence owned optical fibre cables running in a ring around England.
Another GCHQ system is said by intelligence sources to intercept most of Britain's Internet and e-mail communications as they pass through a key Internet site in London's Docklands.
Listening in, page 4
- 1 Chelsea victory parade mocked on Twitter as 'tens of fans' pack the streets of London
- 2 Preston fan who appeared to snatch Jermaine Beckford's shirt from eight-year-old boy identified and says: 'the truth will come out'
- 3 Johnny Depp facing 10 years in jail for illegally bringing dogs to Australia
- 4 US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
- 5 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
Johnny Depp facing 10 years in jail for illegally bringing dogs to Australia
US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission, Benefits, OTE £100k: SThree: ...
£32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...
£27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Are you a recent graduate loo...