Monday 20 November 2017

Agents monitor luxury hotels to spy on diplomats

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden

Bruno Waterfield

Britain's spies have a top secret programme code-named 'royal concierge' that monitors luxury hotel bookings made by foreign diplomats or other targets for espionage.

Leaked documents from Edward Snowden, pictured, the former US intelligence contractor, disclose the programme and its logo, which depicts a penguin wearing a crown, a purple cape and holding a magic wand.

The documents state that "royal concierge identifies potential diplomatic reservations" at 350 hotels globally, automatically informing Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

"When diplomats travel. . . on behalf of governments, they generally tend to spend the night at high-end hotels," German magazine 'Der Spiegel' reported.

But it said they sometimes get a "form of room service that they did not order: a thorough monitoring by GCHQ".

Whenever a reservation confirmation is emailed from a targeted hotel to a government email address, a daily alert or "tip-off" is sent to GCHQ analysts, allowing the "technical operations community" to make preparations.

The documents seen by the magazine do not include the hotel names but give anonymised examples of hotels in Zurich and Singapore. The monitoring can include wiretapping the room's telephone and fax machine and accessing computers joined to the hotel's network.

Diplomats on confidential missions of high interest are singled out for "technical attack" by "active approach teams" of GCHQ hackers.

The hackers are equipped with "specialist technologies designed to bridge the gaps to communications that our conventional accesses cannot reach", allowing them to meet "often unique requirements".

For "governmental hard targets", GCHQ will organise "human intelligence" operations. These involve spies trying to get physically close to diplomats, by eavesdropping in the hotel bar or striking up an acquaintance, to plant bugs or gather information directly.

LEAKS

The documents do not disclose how often or what level of operations were carried out by GCHQ following "royal concierge" tracking alerts, while GCHQ "neither confirmed nor denied the allegation".

Earlier this month, the heads of MI6, MI5 and GCHQ warned that Britain's enemies were using leaks by Mr Snowden to change the way they operate.

Two weeks ago, Germany's foreign ministry summoned Britain's ambassador after leaked documents suggested GCHQ was operating a secret listening post from the British embassy in Berlin. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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