Students at Oxford will learn to spy from the NSA’s best friends

“Don’t worry, we’re grad students.”
“Don’t worry, we’re grad students.”
Image: Reuters/Eddie Keogh
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Students in the UK can now get graduate degrees in cyber-spying approved by the masters of the craft at the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters, the British counterpart of the US National Security Agency. Students at the University of Oxford and five other universities can get masters in cyber-security signed off by the best eavesdroppers in the country, the BBC reported.

While the NSA gets most of the headlines, Edward Snowden has accused the Government Communications Headquarters of being far worse than their American cousins. “Their respect for the privacy right, their respect for individual citizens, their ability to communicate and associate without monitoring and interference is not strongly encoded in law or policy,” Snowden told The Guardian. “They enjoy authorities that they really shouldn’t be entitled to.” Among the tactics that GCHQ is accused of is using sex to entrap people via “honey traps” and smearing hackers online.

Yet the government has defended the agency to the hilt. The UK’s surveillance watchdog has cleared it over the use of data obtained via the NSA’s Prism scheme to search through the databases of telecoms companies. The government has gone so far as to pass new laws to allow sweeping surveillance of the country when current laws were struck down by European courts, even rushing the legislation through Parliament.

The UK has not seen the kind of outcry that has surfaced in the US, Brazil, and Germany over the spying. So it’s perhaps no surprise to see the establishment continue to support spying. British universities were invited to submit their master’s degree courses for certification to GCHQ—Oxford, Edinburgh Napier University, Lancaster University, and the University of London’s Royal Holloway, all did so and were approved. No word yet if any will offer any joint degrees with grads studying ethics in the philosophy departments.

On a mildly related note, the Banksy street art mural featured above, created near GCHQ’s headquarters northwest of London in the town of Cheltenham in April, was defaced with spray paint.