How The West Spies On The Middle East: The Location Of The GCHQ's Top Secret Internet Spy Base Revealed

Tyler Durden's picture

It has been a year since the first of many Edward Snowden's groundbreaking revelations (which promptly relegated yet another conspiracy theory into the compost heap of conspiracy facts) exposing not only the ubiquitous tentacles of the NSA, and its UK-equivalent, the GCHQ, but the incestuous relationships between the government's spy agencies, its pervasive snooping reaching as far as Angela Merkel's cell phone (which is finally the subject of a formal inquiry), and its (well-paid) contractors in the private sector: the bulk of the world's largest telecom and internet companies, not to mention the makers of your favorite handheld spy smartgizmo.

And yet until yesterday, a piece of the puzzle was missing: not because it did not exist, but because certain of Snowden's preferred outlets had refused to reveal it. That piece, as Duncan Campbell of The Register (incidentally Campbell has been breaking exclusives for more than three decades: he was the first journalist to reveal the existence of GCHQ in 1976) revealed yesterday, is the GCHQ's (and thus indirectly the NSA's) top secret middle eastern Internet spy base located in Seeb, Oman (officially known as Oman Comms Link Site 1), smack in the middle of the middle east, located southwest of the Straits of Hormuz, and in close proximity to America's closest petroleum-exporting "friends": Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

According to the Register, "the secret British spy base is part of a programme codenamed “CIRCUIT” and also referred to as Overseas Processing Centre 1 (OPC-1). It is located at Seeb, on the northern coast of Oman, where it taps in to various undersea cables passing through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian/Arabian Gulf. Seeb is one of a three site GCHQ network in Oman, at locations codenamed “TIMPANI”, “GUITAR” and “CLARINET”. TIMPANI, near the Strait of Hormuz, can monitor Iraqi communications. CLARINET, in the south of Oman, is strategically close to Yemen."

Wired further adds that the whole operation was referred to as Circuit and the Overseas Processing Centre 1 (OPC-1), and Seeb is just one of three bases extracting communications data from the cables going from the Strait of Hormuz (between the United Arab Emirates and Iran) into the Persian/Arabian Gulf in the heart of the Middle East. These access points, he says, are classified three levels above Top Secret and referred to as Strap 3. Campbell alleges the Timpani base is well-placed to monitor Iraqi communications, while Clarinet in the south is well positioned for Yemen. The location of the third base Guitar, was not given.

What was unsaid is that in addition to Iraq and Yemen, the bases most certainly are able to closely supervise America's petroleum exporting allies.

An aerial photo of the base is shown below:


And here is an interactive map via Google:


The reason why we learn about this base only now is that according to Campbell, as summarized by Wired, attempts to publish this type of material before, is something he says were met with "a wave of threats and intimidation; threats of injunctions", culminating -- in the case of the Guardian -- with the destruction of the Snowden hard drives, "when it was well understood it existed in at least three major cities around the world". After the Guardian withheld the additional details about the base, the pressure was off and there was no impending punishment for publishing "Strap 1" level security data.

Here is what Campbell had to reveal about Seeb?

The secret overseas internet monitoring centre, codenamed CIRCUIT, is at Seeb in the state of Oman. It is the latest of a series of secret collaborations with the autocratic Middle Eastern state, which has been ruled for 44 years by Sultan Qaboos bin Said, installed as head of state in a British-led and SAS-supported coup against his father. The Seeb centre was originally built in collaboration with the Omani government to monitor civil communications satellites orbiting above the Middle East. It has six large satellite dishes, forming part of the well-known and long running “ECHELON” intercept system run by the “Five Eyes” English-speaking (US/UK/Australia/Canada/New Zealand) intelligence agencies.



When GCHQ obtained government approval in 2009 to go ahead with its “Mastering the Internet” project, the Seeb base became the first of its global network of Internet tapping locations. Another centre, OPC-2, has been planned, according to documents leaked by Snowden.


The CIRCUIT installation at Seeb is regarded as particularly valuable by the British and Americans because it has direct access to nine submarine cables passing through the Gulf and entering the Red Sea. All of the messages and data passed back and forth on the cables is copied into giant computer storage “buffers”, and then sifted for data of special interest.

The reason we are learning about this just now:

Information about Project TEMPORA and the Seeb facility was contained in 58,000 GCHQ documents which Snowden downloaded during 2012. Many of them came from an internal Wikipedia style information site called GC-Wiki. GCHQ feared the political consequences of revelations about its spying partners other than the United States and English speaking nations, according to knowledgeable sources.


It was this which lay behind the British government’s successful-until-today efforts to silence the Guardian and the rest of the media on the ultra-classified, beyond Top Secret specifics of Project TEMPORA - the places and names behind the codewords CIRCUIT, TIMPANI, CLARINET, REMEDY and GERONTIC.

Well now we know. And now the Saudis and the Emirs know that we know. Will this change anything in the US relations with the friendly and not so friendly nations in the region. No.

But a bigger question is just how did Campbell get these files: if only Snowden had access to them originally, and he only provided his data dump to selected outlets, of which the Guardian was the primary when it came to UK-related matters (and which was subsequently and quite violently silenced), and then the data trove followed Glenn Greenwald who Snowden picked as his mouthpiece, at the new outlet, the Intercept, then why didn't someone post these previously? Or is there a new, even more secretive, leak within the NSA? Or, a third option: the usual suspects are no longer in control over when sensitive data gets to be disclosed and using what channels (such as the Register).

The last option is best: because these is nothing like a little competition between media outlets to get the NSA trove of data out into the public domain faster. As to whether the public will decide to do anything with said data is a different matter entirely.

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nmewn's picture

"According to the Register, "the secret British spy base is part of a programme codenamed “CIRCUIT” and also referred to as Overseas Processing Centre 1 (OPC-1)."

Hashtag: Omang!

SafelyGraze's picture

if it's been revealed, that means the actual base has been moved somewhere else

probably moved to the opposite end of GB

harry seldon 

ZerOhead's picture

"But a bigger question is just how did Campbell get these files?"


Good fucking question.

Is Snowden actually for real and finally beginning to suspect that his Greenwald/Omidyar/Obama connections are not entirely kosher?

Anyway.... as a result of this centers major strategic importance combined with it's exceptionally handy geographic location...

We are also about to shortly find out if Al Qaeda is for real.

James_Cole's picture

"But a bigger question is just how did Campbell get these files?"

Good fucking question.

Well... the author, wired, guardian & glenn greenwald (not to mention zh quoting above) have all stated this information comes from the snowden files. Campbell also stated he had access to the files through the guardian, in the end doesn't seem all that mysterious.

But more fun to imagine it as another big conspiracy! Another leaker? Snowden still CIA?? Greenwald psyop?? Obama (just 'cause)???

Comte de Saint Germain's picture

Disinformation campaign at its best

knukles's picture

Checking out the site reference, it was last modified (as in known since then) in Sept 28, 2010.......

Thx, Joker!
Love your many footprints.
You're the best!!!

new game's picture

cut the cable! scramble the waves and _____ the building...

DaddyO's picture

Simply shutting off the water is very effective in terminating a computer/server station.

They require gobs of water to cool the places down and keep them running.

Just shut off the water...


ZerOhead's picture

The Guardian is not exactly a bastion of the free press so if anything was given to anyone it had to be cleared first.

Remember the stuff it intentionally edited out of the Wikileaks releases?...

“Oil industry middleman James H. Giffen, once accused of funneling $84 million in bribes to the president of Kazakhstan and other officials” walked away a free and rich man. Perhaps our man Rawlings knew a little more about Giffen’s CIA connections than did the Ambassador and Mr. Idenov.

James_Cole's picture

Why does The Guardian wish to conceal evidence of corruption in Kazakhstan? Are there Blairites ensconced in The Guardian’s editing room? It does seem like someone at The Guardian wants to save us from becoming disillusioned about free markets.

Lol God forbid guardian readers discover Kazakhstan is not a bastion of free markets and democracy. 

You’re right - this is a major cover up. I’m e-mailing rusbridger right now. 

ZerOhead's picture

Kazakhstan being plagued by corruption is not an issue.

However British Gas and ENI utilising CIA assets/bribery to get the contracts most definitely is.

Atticus Finch's picture

It's a real CIA client. See Robin Cook's (British Home Secretary) press conference the week before Christmas 2008.

Nassim's picture

You mean before he got done in.

Not only did he know what happened to Princess Diana, but he was opposed to Blair's Iraq adventure. Had to be shut up. National interest.

FrustratedLogician's picture


Cmon people, are you still in Snowden is a hero and sacrificed his life camp? Listen to John Kerry talking about Snowden, also recent mainstream media setup where they shown how social media shown an increase of Americans who support Snowden. There is a scene being set up for Snowden to be brought back people! It's a matter of time. He might be thrown into some obscure prison where no one will be able to check whether he is in there for  months and then due to public approval of him authorities will release him. If he will be put into prison at all. Listen, Snowden worked for CIA and in his remarks all he mentions is how NSA is bad but no word about CIA. He even slipped during the interview 'I'm still working for the government' which I understand as being on a payroll of the government. 

Also, I heard this from a couple of people. Why did Snowden say he is not learning Russian? Would you not start learning the native language of the country if you're banished from US and will stay in Russia indefinitely? I certainly would if I will have to live there. Not learning language means he's going back to US people. He knows it and his mentions about CIA(at the start of the interview) is a message to his handlers 'Where is my extraction dudes?!!!' This whole thing is CIA job on NSA. No questions about it. All pressure and blame came on NSA just what CIA wanted. Stop relying on emotions and just think about it. All the mainstream media publicity raised so many red flags to me from the beginning that I seriously questioned everything.

Also, take a look at Snowden's leaks. What did he reveal we have no clue about already? Nothing! USA = spies on whole world. We knew it already. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if this NSA thing originated from government too because these guys hate NSA too. They are being spied on etc and I'd loathe that too.

Snowden will be brought to US as soon as a lot of people will approve his patriotism.

nmewn's picture

Yeah, that wacky Sultan Qaboos bin Sa‘id probably parks one of his yachts up there to avoid the taxes ;-)

ZerOhead's picture

Hey... enough has bin said about Qaboos Bin Sa'id's caboose... errr... yacht.

Jumbotron's picture



NoDebt's picture

What gave it away?  The 5 HUGE satellite antennas in the back yard or the Comcast Cable sign on the front of the building?


nmewn's picture

I think it was the over powering stench of fish & chips ;-)

BlindMonkey's picture

The smell of British fish fry carries a long way in the Arabian deserts...

NidStyles's picture

It's enough to make you sick if it's mixed with the smell of a camel... Gah, those things stink so bad.

max2205's picture

Exactly where would they get all the water to cool those big fucking computers?   By truck?

JackT's picture

Maybe that explains gas prices these days?

NoDebt's picture

My guess?  Same place they put the taps on the undersea data cables.

Or a closed-loop geothermal cooling system going deep into the ground directly beneath the data center.  Couple hundred feet down, the ground is always cold, even if it's a 100* desert above.

Solarman's picture

Beyond a couple of feet deep the earth begins to warm again.

Ignatius's picture

My thought is to load all this hi-tech equipment onto a ship -- we'll call it the USS Liberty to disguise its intention -- and slowly troll in international waters... oh, wait.

BlindMonkey's picture

Just as long as they stay far away from N Korea and Israel they should be fine.

giggler321's picture

best way forward is to step back and b in a position like NK - the don't have the internet.  just think no waste hours on ZH!

JackT's picture

Everyone likes to watch a scramble

Dr. Engali's picture

I don't believe for a minute that any complicit major media outlet is in a hurry to break this news. A more likely reason that this info made it's way into publication was because TPTB wanted it to be known. The best way to keep people in line is for them to believe the "all powerful" state is watching them at all times.

Many times I wonder if Snowden is the real life equivalent of Emmanuel Goldstein. In order for a mass surveillance system to work in keeping people in line is for it to be made known.

ZerOhead's picture

We will find out shortly.

Mostly by carefully observing the names that Greenwald releases... and then paying very careful attention to those WHO WEREN'T ON THE LIST...

BlindMonkey's picture

I just hoe greenwald doesn't drive a Mercedes.

NoDebt's picture

Having the base or revealing it's existance?  Having it, no.  Revealing it's location, yes.

nmewn's picture

The Sultan of Oman said its completely legal.

Oh, you meant the British taxpayers who fund it knowing that its there and its a Crown state secret that they not know its there?

Got it ;-)

DaddyO's picture

<-The Sultan of Oman said its completely legal.->

It's amazing how much legality you can buy nowadays...


Robot Traders Mom's picture

There is a lot of important info coming out without the help of Snowden. Not one ranking US or Israeli official has been fired or forced to resign. Now Greenwald is holding back the list of US citizens being spied on? None of this adds up. The media loves giving these guys publicity. Connect the dots...

Colonel Klink's picture

Governments don't make the world safer, they make it more dangerous for all.

NoDebt's picture

Yes, but they only do it out of an overabundance of care for their citizens.  Please judge them only on their (stated) intentions, not on their actual results.

smacker's picture

"...they only do it out of an overabundance of care for their citizens."

That is what they would have us believe. It's not supported by evidence.

In truth, it's to give themselves more power, more control and to guide and manipulate society in the direction they want, which is the creation of a global society of overlords with them at the helm.

JamesBond's picture

with friends like us…


A Lunatic's picture

I see more than a few nail gun deaths on the horizon........

JR's picture

the backlash begins...

‘Don’t ask for privacy, Take it back’: Anti-NSA #ResetTheNet campaign kicks off | RT

June 05, 2014  

Internet activists and rights groups have launched a massive online campaign against mass government surveillance, urging users and websites to use encryption. The campaign’s inspiration – NSA whistleblower Snowden – has called to join ResetTheNet.

A year to the day since the first revelations of the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless and huge-scale web surveillance were published in the media, the international June-5 campaign for data encryption kicked off.

Hundreds of websites and organizations, including Reddit, Imgur, Mozilla, Greenpeace and Amnesty International are promoting the campaign with a splash screen, which everyone can install on their pages by adding a script.

Meanwhile, thousands of social network users are readying to bombard Twitter, Facebook and Tumbrl with a giant ‘Thunderclap.’ More than 9 million of people are within the reach of the action, and it is hoped some will spread the word further.

Initiated by Fight for the Future, the campaign does not simply aim to raise awareness of the encryption means necessary for secure communication online – it actually provides a detailed list of tips and software for both mobile and desktop operating systems. The listed tools and services do not promise 100 percent immunity against NSA snooping – but they are said to be able to make mass state surveillance difficult and economically not viable.

US internet giant Google, which initially refrained from joining the campaign, has been added to the list of participants, with a note saying that the company will be “releasing email encryption tools and data, and supporting real surveillance reform.”

The former NSA contractor and CIA employee Edward Snowden, who in June 2013 blew the whistle on the relentless US government surveillance at home and abroad, on Wednesday issued a statement in support of the campaign.

“One year ago, we learned that the internet is under surveillance, and our activities are being monitored to create permanent records of our private lives – no matter how innocent or ordinary those lives might be,” Snowden’s statement said.

“Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same. That’s why I’m asking you to join me on June 5th for Reset the Net, when people and companies all over the world will come together to implement the technological solutions that can put an end to the mass surveillance programs of any government. This is the beginning of a moment where we the people begin to protect our universal human rights with the laws of nature rather than the laws of nations,” Snowden added.

axel_hose's picture

Another option = the Russians gave the info to Campbell through a go between that couldn't be traced back to them.

Yen Cross's picture

 If you have nothing to hide ll anal probe crossingll ...  /--=* (Eric Schmidt)

   The Huff and Puffers are out tonight.