Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Britain's GCHQ intelligence service monitors diplomats' travels using a sophisticated automated system that tracks hotel bookings. Once a room has been identified, it opens the door to a variety of spying options.

When diplomats travel to international summits, consultations and negotiations on behalf of governments, they generally tend to spend the night at high-end hotels. When they check-in, in addition to a comfortable room, they sometimes get a very unique form of room service that they did not order: a thorough monitoring by the British Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ in short.

Intelligence service documents from the archive of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that, for more than three years, GCHQ has had a system to automatically monitor hotel bookings of at least 350 upscale hotels around the world in order to target, search and analyze reservations to detect diplomats and government officials.

The top secret program carries the codename "Royal Concierge," and has a logo showing a penguin wearing a crown, a purple cape and holding a wand. The penguin is apparently meant to symbolize the black and white uniform worn by staff at luxury hotels.

The aim of the program is to inform GCHQ, at the time of the booking, of the city and hotel a foreign diplomat intends to visit. This enables the "technical operations community" to make the necessary preparations in a timely manner, the secret documents state. The documents cast doubt on the truthfulness of claims made last week to a committee in parliament by the heads of the three British intelligence agencies: Namely that the exclusive reason and purpose behind their efforts is the battle against terrorism, and to make sure they can monitor the latest postings by al-Qaida and similar entities.

The documents show that the prototype of "Royal Concierge" was first tested in 2010. The much-touted program, referred to internally as an "innovation," was apparently so successful that further development continued.

Daily Alerts

The documents provide details on how the British program for tracking international diplomats functioned. Whenever a reservation confirmation is emailed to a conspicuous address inside a government domain (like gov.xx) from any of the 350 hotels around the world being monitored, a daily alert "tip-off" is sent to the appropriate GCHQ analysts. The documents seen by SPIEGEL do not include hotel names, but they do cite anonymized hotels in Zurich and Singapore as examples.

A further document states that this advance knowledge of which foreign diplomats will be staying in what hotels provides GCHQ with a whole palette of intelligence capabilities and options. The documents reveal an impressive listing of capabilities for monitoring a hotel room and its temporary resident that seem to exhaust the creative potential of modern spying. Among the possibilities, of course, are wiretapping the room telephone and fax machine as well as the monitoring of computers hooked up to the hotel network ("computer network exploitation").

It also states that a "Technical Attack" is deployed by the British "TECA" team for guests of high interest. The documents state that these elite units develop a range of "specialist technologies" that are "designed to bridge the gaps to communications that our conventional accesses cannot reach." These "Active Approach Teams" are small, but possess advanced technical skill that allow them to work within "often unique requirements."

The guests, of course, have no clue about these advanced technical preparations that are made for their visits. In cases of "governmental hard targets," the information obtained through "Royal Concierge" can also involve "Humint" operations. The abbreviation is short for "human intelligence" -- in other words, the deployment of human spies who might then be listening in on a diplomat's conversations at the hotel bar.

'Wild, Wild West'

The documents seen by SPIEGEL do not state how often the program has been used, but they do indicate that it continued to be developed and that it captured the imagination of the intelligence agency's workers, including the GCHQ unit responsible for "effects." Given the access they had to hotel bookings through "Royal Concierge," one document pondered: "Can we influence the hotel choice?" And: Did they have the ability to cancel visits entirely? Another slide lists "car hire" as one of the possible extensions to the program.

Contacted by SPIEGEL, GCHQ said that it "neither confirms nor denies the allegation."

Her Royal Majesty's agents appear to be very conscious of the fact that the automated monitoring of diplomats' travel by the British intelligence service crosses into controversial terrain. One of the presentations describing "Royal Concierge" is titled "Tales from the Wild, Wild West of GCHQ Operational Datamining."


Irish hat-makers have seen sales soar by more than 100%, following Martin McGuinness and his former Irish republican warlords attendance at the Buckingham Palace Royal dinner. Sales of hats for special occasions especially easter have defied the recession, to become the fastest growing section of the multi-billion euro Irish fashion industry.And it's greatly thanks to the profile given to the industry by designers such as milliner to Royalist Sinn Fein war lords by Philip Treacy. Far from commissioning hats only for weddings and special occasions, former Irish republicans from Royalist Sinn Fein are buying headwear for Easter Parades, race meetings, Royal garden parties, corporate launches and some more Royal visits.

Galway man Treacy conquered the millinery world thanks to commissioned designs at major UK celebrity events including the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, young Irish designers have benefited from the profile he has given the domestic industry. Exciting new designers include an award-winners from the Murphy family, Martha Lynn, Kathleen McAuliffe, Mark Burke, Catherine Cooke, Suzie Mahony, Jennifer Wrynne, Carol Kennelly and other leading lights in Royalist Sinn Fein. Murphy said she has been "totally taken aback" by the demand for hats from Royalist Sinn Fein at Easter. Last year, Murphy was commissioned to create a hat for Queen Elizabeth II's garden party, and this year had commissions for Cheltenham races, Mallow races and the Punchestown Festival for Royalist Sinn Fein"The British royal family are synonymous with amazing millinery, and the popularity of hats has grown as a result of the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Royalist Sinn fein" Murphy said. "I am always being asked for designs similar to those worn by the Duchess, but I never dreamt I would have the chance to design a hat to be worn at Buckingham Palace." Murphy said, while three years ago, Murphy won a commission to design a hat for a lady attending Royal Ascot.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


What need you, being come to sense
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer until
You have dried the marrow from the bone?
For man was born to pray and save;
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave
When the war of independence was over, and the Irish bourgeoisie had seized control over the popular mass movement, divided and suppressed it, and assured their own rule behind legal and religious walls, then in safety they indulged themselves, not noticing the incongruities Yeats pointed to so bitterly.
Fifty years or so it lasted. And then the North blew up. The official Catholic-Irish myth had it that “the North” was just a matter of British imperialism and “British-occupied” Ireland, nothing to do with the other Irish bourgeoisie, the one enmeshed in the collapsing myths of the British Empire, and the farmers and workers from the north who followed them. It had no grip on reality. Neither had the Irish bourgeoisie. Their interest in Northern Ireland collapsed, and so did their myths.
Perhaps the moment of sobering up came in 1970 when Prime Minister Jack Lynch put two of his Cabinet ministers, Charles J Haughey and an Army officer, Captain Kelly, on trial for “gun-running” to the beleaguered Northern Catholics! According to the Constitution Lynch was pledged to defend, the Six Counties was part of his government’s “national territory” But Lynch didn’t believe it. They Irish bourgeoisie didn’t either. Like the sobered adolescent whose day-dreaming has brought him close to disaster, they turned tail and extravagantly repudiated their former view of themselves. Now Romantic Ireland really was dead and gone. It has been succeeded by an age of the cold revision of history. Like pikes and guns, in the old song mocking British pretensions in Ireland, heroes such as Pearse and Connolly had been found to be dangerous things. They were cut down to size.
The Irish bourgeoisie has finally adapted to reality! From Pearse and Connolly to the grasping millionaire C Haughey, son of Catholic refugees driven south by pogromists in the early 20s and his rival, Fine Gael understudy blue-shirt John Bruton, that is the history of the Irish bourgeoisie in a nutshell! It is a long, long way down and the forthcoming McGuinness 2016 Easter’s commemoration service will sum it up nicely.Like the Irish bourgeoisie for so long, many Irish socialists have lived for decades in a world of inappropriate myth and misunderstood reality. That too has collapsed. In Ireland, those who know what Pearse and Connolly and the Fenians and their predecessors really stood for will disentangle it from the bourgeois collapse, as they disentangled it from the grotesque parodies of it the bourgeoisie used to brandish.
And in the world of international revolutionaries who will disentangle working class liberation from Stalinist and other myths, fantasies and alien ideological encrustations. We will continue to do now, when so much has collapsed, what we did in the days when all sorts of freaks and horrors paraded around the world eagerly proclaiming their own horrible deeds to be the saviour of the people of no property. In both cases the collapse of the debilitating and imprisoning myths and fantasies is good because the way is thereby cleared for the truth.