US and UK spies intercepting calls and data transfers from aircraft

American and British spy agencies have been intercepting phone calls and data communication from aircraft.

France’s Le Monde newspaper reported that the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) have been working on the project for a decade.

Le Monde said the GCHQ “disclosed a programme called Southwinds, which was used to gather all the cellular activity, voice communication, data, metadata, and content of calls on board commercial aircraft”.

“The document said the programme was still restricted to the regions covered by satellites from British telecommunications provider Inmarsat: Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.”

The newspaper said the GCHQ and the NSA “used bird names to refer to programmes involving the surveillance of in-flight telephone calls”, like “Thieving Magpie” and “Homing Pigeon”.

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US and UK spies intercepting calls and data transfers from aircraft