Cabinet Office - Freedom of Information Requests


  • BT conducted covert trials of Phorm systems in 2006 and 2007, despite a period of critical/severe national security alert, during a period of foreign conflict in Iraq and Afganistan, and during terrorist bomb attacks in London and Glasgow.
  • According to Lord West of Spithead;
  • "The Prime Minister and other relevant Ministers receive advice from the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and CESG, the protective security arm of GCHQ, on risks to the critical national infrastructure, including risks to telecommunications and data communications."

  • He also commented,
  • "The Central Sponsor for Information Assurance lies within the Cabinet Office."

  • Assuming the Cabinet Office were unaware of the trials in 2006 and 2007, you might expect the Prime Minister and Cabinet Office to be alerted by CESG/GCHQ/CPNI when it was discovered that covert surveillance was being conducted.
  • In the alternative, if the Prime Minister & Cabinet were aware yet took no action, or even authorised the trials... that would be a serious political scandal.
  • Yet suppose they were neither aware, nor sanctioned the trials of Phorm's technology... how was it possible for equipment supplied by a company with alleged links to malicious software to be installed and operated in the UK's telecommunication network without GCHQ or CPNI knowing?
  • The Government is presently facing 'formal action' by the European Commissioner for failing to prosecute BT.

Personal Conclusions

  • Cabinet Office have not made any written enquiries to other deparments concerning Phorm, which seems surprising if they were required to respond to the European Commissioners letter concerning the failure to prosecute BT and Phorm.
  • Cabinet Office seem to make a semantic distinction between themselves and Downing Street.
  • There was confusion in July 2008 about the deadline for a response, and an administrative problem with a pilot case management system
  • The EC case reference is 64/08/INSO. It has been accepted by the UK (where it might otherwise have been rejected on the grounds that it was the wrong member state, no public sector activity, or a cross border issue).

FoI Releases (Reverse Chronological Order)

First Internal Review (November 2008)

First internal review claims no information is held, and declines to answer several of the questions. I plan to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner.

First FoI Internal Review letter (482Kb)

Second Formal Disclosure (November 2008)

The second formal disclosure includes details of Cabinet Office correspondence with the European Commission, but claims there is no correspondence concerning the trials of Phorm/121Media systems in 2006/7.

FoI Response and Covering letter (1.7Mb)

An internal review is likely to be requested.

First Formal Disclosure (August 2008)

The first formal disclosure from the Cabinet Office was returned for internal review. They claim that none of the information requested is held.

FoI Response and Covering letter (500Kb)