June 25, 2019
Latest News
European Union

The secret headquarters of legendary UK spymasters revealed (Feature)

By Guillermo Ximenis

London, Apr. 6 (efe-epa).- Tucked away between a Starbucks cafe and a pub that specializes in fish and chips, an unassuming office building in downtown London has been the secret headquarters to one of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the United Kingdom.

Since 1953 the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has worked to protect the UK's national security by intercepting communications, employing expert codebreakers and more recently combating cybercrime and terrorism from its now-defunct building on a narrow street near St Jame's Park.

"As we depart our Palmer Street site after 66 years, we look back on a history full of amazing intelligence, world-leading innovation, and the ingenious people who passed through those secret doors," Jeremy Fleming, GCHQ Director said in a statement on Friday.

"Then, as now, it’s a history defined by the belief that with the right mix of minds, anything is possible," Fleming added.

The GCHQ and the experts that walked through the secret doors of its Palmer Street site played a key role during World War II and the Cold War.

The secret history of this red brick and stone building with old factory-style windows was only revealed by the GCHQ once the eavesdropping agency had abandoned the building for another venue.

The only thing that could have given away the building's true mission was several discreet security cameras on its facade.

The GCHQ has, in recent years, been the source of some controversy after Edward Snowden revealed the so-called Tempora operation: a government-sponsored worldwide mass surveillance exercise that collected data from the Internet of public and private citizens.

Snowden's investigation revealed that the GCHQ intercepted fiber-optic cables for Internet communications that connected throughout the UK and beyond to the European Union and the United States.

The ambitious project, which was capable of collecting 10 gigabits of data per second, was made up of two key projects with grandiose names: "Mastering the Internet" and "Global Telecoms Exploitation," according to Snowden.

Ever since the scandal broke, the intelligence agency - which works alongside the MI5 (the UK's domestic security agency) and MI6 (the foreign intelligence agency) - the GCHQ has launched a campaign to present itself as a more transparent institution.

This year will mark the organization's centenary and there has been a big drive to share the GCHQ's history with the British public.

A highlight the spymasters have been keen to celebrate was the end of World War II (1945) which came about after GCHQ codebreakers were able to decipher the coded messages of the German Nazis using the "Enigma" machine.

Mathematician, Alan Turing, one of the godfather's of modern day computing, was the brains behind the operation which saw thousands of intelligence officers working from Bletchley Park, the secret home of the espionage agency during the war.

After the war, at the beginning of the 1950s, the GCHQ transferred some of its codebreakers to a new venue in western England and reduced its London headquarters significantly although the office in the capital continued to handle the most sensitive data and was where the director of the agency worked from.

It was then that the Department for Work handed over an office block that had been erected just a few minutes on foot from Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Westminster, the political hub of the country.

The GCHQ has since sold the building to a private company and has not yet revealed what its future will hold.

The intelligence organization has also confirmed that its main headquarters will continue to be in the capital but has not revealed where this might be.

Even though the GCHQ still keeps many things under wraps, the drive for transparency meant it became the first spying agency in the UK to launch a Twitter account in 2016.

From that social media account, members of the public can delve into a world of codebreaking and puzzle-solving with the regular tweets that also serve to identify potential candidates to join their team of experts.

Hopefuls, however, do know one thing for certain: should they be chosen to join the legendary service, it won't be at its Palmer Street offices.EFE-epa


News history
Revote in Istanbul rebukes Erdogan

By David Gauthier-Villars

Mercedes dominant in practice ahead of French F1 GP, finishing 1-2 twice

Paul Ricard Circuit (France), Jun 21 (efe-epa).- Mercedes put on a dominant performance in both free practice sessions at the Circuit Paul Ricard race track...

Apple explores shift away from China

By Yoko Kubota and Tripp Mickle

Real Madrid reinforces its defense with new signing Mendy

Madrid, Jun 19 (efe-epa).- Real Madrid reinforced its defensive lineup with the inclusion of France left-back Ferland Mendy who was presented to fans at the...

What to know about Libra cryptocurrency

New York (USA), Jun 19 (efe-epa).-Facebook just disclosed the first details of its long-anticipated cryptocurrency, called Libra, according to a Dow Jones...

Former UEFA president Platini held over awarding 2022 FIFA World Cup to Qatar

Paris, Jun 18 (EFE).- Former UEFA president Michel Platini has been arrested on suspicion of corruption linked to a decision to award the 2022 World Cup to...

Real Madrid unveils new forward Rodrygo: I hope to make Madrid fans happy

Madrid, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- Real Madrid unveiled the latest component of its new squad for the upcoming season, Brazilian forward Rodrygo, at its Santiago...

US says Israel not invited to Bahrain Conference

Washington, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- The White House said it won't invite the Israeli government to the unveiling of the economic part of its Israeli-Palestinian...

North Korea lobs insults at US but shields Trump

Seoul, Jun 17 (efe-epa).- A year after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's historic first meeting with President Donald Trump, his government is once again...

China biotech companies poach US talent

Hong Kong (China) Jun 17 (efe-epa).- China-based biotechnology startups looking to go global are poaching talent from the biggest American pharmaceutical...

Toyota in pole at Le Mans with Kobayashi driving, Alonso, 2nd, dreams of win

Le Mans (France), Jun 14 (efe-epa).- The driver Kamui Kobayashi secured pole position in his Toyota TS050 ahead of 24 hours of Le Mans, leaving second-place...

HSBC boosts role as Saudi banker

By Rory Jones in Dubai and Margot Patrick in London

Nintendo shifts some production from China

By Takashi Mochizuki

Pepsi executive picked to lead UK's Reckitt

By Saabira Chaudhuri

Boris Johnson says UK must leave EU on Oct. 31 as he launches leadership bid

London, Jun 12 (efe-epa).- Boris Johnson said Wednesday the United Kingdom must leave the European Union on Oct. 31 as he launched his bid to replace Prime...

European Union blocks merger between steelmaking giants Tata, Thyssenkrupp

Brussels, Jun 11 (efe-epa).- The European Commission has decided to block a planned merger between two steelmaking giants that would have formed a landmark...

What's next in payments

By Stella Yifan Xie

The financial-risk secrets that may be hidden in our faces

Shanghai (China), Jun 11 (efe-epa).- What does your face reveal about how big of a financial risk you are, asked Dow Jones in a report made available to EFE...

UK economy shrank in April as Brexit hit car production

London, Jun 10 (efe-epa).- The United Kingdom's economy shrank in April as car makers took the precaution of shuttering their factories in the weeks...

Theresa May officially steps down as UK PM

London, June 7 (efe-epa).- The United Kingdom's Prime Minister Theresa May has on Friday signed a letter of resignation as leader of the Conservative Party.

Credit markets: Treasurys jump on stock fall, rate talk

New York (USA), Jun 4 (efe-epa).- United States government bond prices climbed again, benefiting from a decline in technology stocks and a Federal Reserve...

EU calls for deeper association with Central Asia, says Tusk

Nur-Sultan, May 31 (efe-epa).- The European Union is aiming to strengthen its partnership with Central Asian countries, European Council President Donald...

Behind big deals: No one wants to be Blockbuster Video

By John D. Stoll

EU leaders clash over top bloc roles

By Valentina Pop

I agree Welcome to news4europe.eu. We use cookies to improve your online experience. Find out more.