Julia MacGregor: representing her members, or representing GCHQ?

Dear GCHQ,

In a recent Echo article, journalist Joe Lane revealed that:

As a direct result of [Edward Snowden’s] claims, an internal electronic message board entitled Proud to Work for GCHQ has been launched, where staff can leave comments to reflect their pride in their efforts to protect national security.”

Some questions about this, if I may…

1. Are you able to confirm how Joe Lane came by this information?

2. Am I correct in assuming that the release of this information, relating as it does to an internal message board, would have required prior approval from GCHQ? If so, I’d be grateful if you could confirm the grounds on which approval was granted?

3. Given the clear public interest element, I’d like to request – under all relevant FOI statutes – the disclosure of all comments that have been left by staff (suitably anonymised, of course) on this message board.

Yours sincerely,

Joe Sucksmith

Classification:UNCLASSIFIED

Joe,

Thank you for your email.

In answer to your questions:

1. Julia is the Chair of the GCG and is at liberty to engage with the Press as and when she feels it is appropriate to benefit her members.

2. As a matter of courtesy GCHQ were informed beforehand of Julia’s intention to engage with the Press and we fully support her efforts in this area. Julia doesn’t need authorisation from GCHQ to represent her membership and we have no issues with anything she said or did.

3. Your Freedom of Information request will be forwarded to the appropriate area and someone will be back in touch with you soon.

Regards,

GCHQ Press Office

[This message has been sent by a mobile device]

Many thanks. Are you saying that it’s ok for staff to disclose to the press details of internal message boards (that would otherwise never make it into the public domain) without seeking prior approval from GCHQ?

This sounds an awful lot like “leaking” to me.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Joe

Classification:UNCLASSIFIED

Joe,

I refer you to my earlier answer.

Regards,

GCHQ Press Office

[This message has been sent by a mobile device]

Many thanks. Your “earlier answer”, to my specific question about whether Julia was required to obtain approval before disclosing to the public details of the internal “Proud to Work at GCHQ” message board, was that “Julia doesn’t need authorisation from GCHQ to represent her membership”. Do I infer from this that the answer to my original question is “no” (as in, authorisation not required to disclose details of internal message board)? I’d be grateful if you could clarify.

Joe

Protective Marking: UNCLASSIFIED

Joe,

Regarding your latest question, we are not prepared to reveal the nature or content of discussions held between GCHQ and the Chair of the GCG.

Regards,

GCHQ Press Office

Thanks. So there were “discussions” then? Are you able to clarify why “discussions” were required given Julia “doesn’t need authorisation from GCHQ” and “is at liberty to engage with the Press as and when she feels it is appropriate”?
Joe

Classification:UNCLASSIFIED

Joe,

I feel we have adequately explained our position over the course of your many emails.

We won’t be looking to respond to any further enquiries from you on this particular topic as we are of the opinion that we have said all that needs to be said to answer your questions.

Regards,

Press Office

[This message has been sent by a mobile device]

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