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More PMOS "denials" about the 10 Downing Street email systems - what about the Pipex router then ?

More "denials" from the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) about the Number 10. Downing Street email systems this Monday morning: Morning press briefing from 29 January 2007

We have to agree with Guido Fawkes that the "denials" by the PMOS come across as incredibly defensive and evasive.

The PMOS claims that the Police have been given full access to, the presumably ".x.gsi.gov.uk" email system, as explained in our previous blog article

Have the Police really been given full access to the logfiles regarding hotmail or internal Labour Party email gateway etc. access via the Pipex internet router allocated to the Prime Minister's Office, which is separate from the Energis run Government Secure Intranet, the existence of which appears to contradict the PMOS' claims today ?

Police Inquiry/No10 computers

Asked by the BBC's Political Editor about the Sunday Telegraph story and the ITV denial from No10 and what was it Downing Street was denying, the PMOS said that the journalist had to put to him what it was that he wanted the PMOS to deny.

As if the PMOS and his team of media monitors had not read and watched those stories over and over again.

The journalist said that Downing Street had appeared to deny handwritten notes by the Prime Minister in relation to honours. The PMOS asked who had said that there were and what were they about.

The journalist said he had.

The PMOS seems rather evasive, has a raw nerve been touched ?

The PMOS said that what we had responded to were specific allegations put to us by ITN and the Sunday Telegraph. The PMOS went on to say that if people had a further specific allegation, then they had to tell him what it was and who had made it.

The journalist continued that the Sunday Telegraph had made an allegation that there were written notes by the Prime Minister in relation to honours. The PMOS said that it was for him to respond to the Sunday Telegraph, and if people had a specific allegation, they had to make it, and tell him who the source was.

Does the PMOS mean the newspaper or blog making the allegation, or is he asking for confidential sources or whistleblowers to be betrayed ?

Channel Four's Political Editor said that he had picked up from the PMOS an "angry" tone, and did we feel that the police were putting things into the public domain without reporting directly to Downing Street, the PMOS asked the journalist if he was really telling him that police involved in an ongoing investigation were leaking details to the press, because if he was, it was a very serious allegation.

Asked if that could be the only way in which some of the information could have got into the public domain, the PMOS said "you tell me". We believed that any conversations between the parties involved should be private.

The are numerous possible sources of leaks e.g.

  • Gordon Brown's rival apparatchiki at Number 11 Downing Street or at the Treasury/

  • Leaks not directly from the Police but from the Crown Prosecution Service, who will have been shown any evidence found by the Police.

  • Whistleblowers within the Cabinet Office

    Whistleblowers within the Number 10 Downing Street

  • Disgruntled Labour Party money lenders or donors

Put that we had "rubbished" any idea of alternative computer networks, but the Mail on Saturday and "Guido Fawkes" website had both claimed that they had evidence of alternative email networks in No10 that linked up to the Labour Party, the PMOS said that we stood by what we said to ITN. There was only one email system at No10.

Guido Fawkes seems to have achieved equal name recognition and status with the Government spin doctors as a major Sunday tabloid newspaper.

Note the change to the use of "we" in this official Number 10. Downing Street report of the Press Briefing.

Asked if it would be possible for someone to "hop on" using a No10 computer onto the Labour Party network, the PMOS said again that there was only one email system at No10.

We are sceptical of this claim - see details below about the Pipex internet router, which is separate from the Government Secure Intranet.

Asked further questions about the possibility of an external server, or the possibilities of sending Labour Party emails, and did only one system allow for more than one email address, the PMOS repeated that there was only one email system in No10. As the PMOS said on Friday, people in No10 could not access hotmail, gmail etc because of security reasons, and he was not aware of anyone who had more than one email address.

Nobody has ever claimed that any Labour Party email servers or Virtual Private Network or secure login server computers are physically located in the very cramped Number 10 Downing Street offices, and that is not what the question asked, is it ?

We agree that staff at Number 10 Downing Street or the Cabinet Office will not have been allocated more than one individiual "@pm.x.gsi.gov.uk" or "@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk" email address.

Asked if people could send political emails from the No10 account, the PMOS replied that he was not going to get into the details of the system. The claim that was put to us was that there was more than one system, and there is not. There is only one, and the police have had access to everything that went through the system.

Guido Fawkes implies that he, and probably other "Westminster Village" insiders, have received emails via Hotmail from Downing Street staff.

They should check these hotmail etc. email headers, to see if the webmail accounts were accessed via the Energis run and Message Labs filtered Government Secure Intranet gateways to the internet e.g

IP address:
Host name: gateway-202.energis.gsi.gov.uk

Suppose, however, that contrary to the denials given by the PMOS, some of the staff at Number 10 Downing Street actually made use of this block of Pipex IP addresses in order to use their hotmail or gmail or Labour Party web email accounts ?

inetnum: -
netname: PMO-NET2
descr: Prime Ministers Office
country: GB
admin-c: DRWH1-RIPE
tech-c: DRWH1-RIPE
mnt-by: AS1849-MNT
source: RIPE # Filtered

person: D R W Horsborough
address: Prime Ministers Office
address: 10 Downing Street
address: London
address: SW1A 2AA
address: England, UK
phone: +44 171 930 4433
fax-no: +44 171 925 0917
nic-hdl: DRWH1-RIPE
mnt-by: AS1849-MNT
source: RIPE # Filtered

descr: PIPEX-BLOCK4-7
origin: AS1849

This block of IP addresses which has appeared in webserver logfiles over the years, is familiar to Guido Fawkes' current blog flame war partner Manic from Bloggerheads and the ironical Backing Blair campaign.

There appears to be a Pipex internet gateway allocated to the Prime Minister's Office, which is not part of the Government Secure Intranet, Some of these IP addresses are currently being used for the Number 10 Downing Street website, but not all of them.

Back in 2005 there could easily have been ways for the people with press release and news publishing privileges, to use these addresses as a backdoor to gain access to their hotmail , gmail or Labour Party private email systems, without going through the GSI.

12 98 98 97 pos2-0.cr1.lnd10.gbb.uk.uu.net
13 102 102 104 gigabitethernet0-0-0.gw5.lnd10.alter.net
14 99 99 99 primmini02-gw.customer.uk.uu.net

Have the Metropolitan Police team investigating the possible Loans for Honours scandal and cover up also had access to the Communications Traffic Data logfiles for this Internet connection, which is not part of the Government Secure Intranet ?

Since no Lobby Journalists seem to have specifically asked about this network, there has not been a specific denial from the PMOS about it.

Unless the Number 10 Downing Street Press Office is much more pro-actively open and forthcoming about this affair, they will not quell the conspiracy theories and the impression of "no smoke without fire".


Another PMOS denial at the Press Briefing Tuesday 30th January 2007:

Police Inquiry

Put by ITN's Political Editor that last week they had reported that the police investigation for the honours inquiry had discovered in their investigation that there was a second computer system used by senior Downing Street officials, and we had issued a statement saying the story was untrue, but it now seemed clear that some senior Labour Party officials in No10 did use a separate system, and did we now want to amend our statement, and were we aware of that some people in No10 used that second system when we made our earlier statement, the PMOS asked the journalist what evidence did he have that some officials did use a second system. The journalist replied that he did not have evidence, but that it "seemed clear" that some people did. The PMOS said that it was wrong. The PMOS said that people had to start questioning who had supplied the information, and why, as it was wrong.

Asked again by ITN if any Downing Street official had ever used anything other than the official Government system, the PMOS said that those people on the party side had made clear the answer to that. There was only one system in Downing Street. The police had had complete access to all such transactions.

Asked why were people being fed the wrong information, the PMOS replied that it was not for him to speculate on.

Put that it sounded as if we were suggesting some kind of "dirty tricks smear", the PMOS said that he was not suggesting anything. Rather, he was simply pointing out that the information last week was wrong. It was wrong in the ITN report, it was wrong in the suggestions that The Sunday Telegraph had been put to us, and this was wrong again.

Any "deleted" emails circa 2004 / 2005 are probably of only secondary importance to the cash or loans for honours scandal and cover up investigation.

Will the "Westminster Village" keep "investigating" (or being fed leaks) or has their limited attention span been reached ?

Yet another evasive "denial" from the PMOs regarding the Number 10 Downing Street email and internet access system, at this Wednesday afternoon Press Briefing:



Asked to clarify the statement issued on Thursday night ruling out a second computer system, and did this preclude the possibility of people working in No10 communicating over a Labour network with Blackberries, the PMOS replied that it was not for him to discuss the party side, except to underline that there was only one system.

Evasively not denying that some Number 10 Downing Street people do have access to mobile phone linked PDA's like Blackberries or Ipaq's.

Alastair Campbell infamously sent a a rude email to the BBC from his Blackberry


This was in February 2005, in exactly the time period when the secret loans and donations were being solicited, in order to pay for the forthcoming General Election campaign.

The police had full access to that system and there had been no complaints from them.

Asked again to clarify whether it was possible for people to access another email system from their computer in Downing Street, the PMOS replied that his understanding was this was not possible because of security concerns.

Perhaps true for the official .x.gsi.gov.uk Microsoft Exchange email system.

Asked again if it was possible for people to access the Labour Party's network from a computer in Downing Street, the PMOS replied that the Labour Party themselves had made it clear that this was not the case.

Perhaps not the case today,but what about during the run up to the 2005 General Election ?

Why should Labour Party apparatchiki be trusted to tell the public the media the truth without spinning it to their advantage ?

Asked again to clarify that the police had been given full access to Downing Street hardware, the PMOS replied that we had been giving full cooperation and the police had been given full access to the system in its entirety.

Asked if the police had removed any pieces of hardware from Downing Street, the PMOS replied that to answer this would be getting into commentary territory.

Asked if it was the case that all Downing Street files were backed up to a hard storage facility, and was there a physical back up of the system somewhere in Downing Street or was it held outside, the PMOS replied that the journalist was stretching his IT knowledge to breaking point.

It would be criminally insane for Number 10 Downing Street's x.gsi.gov.uk systems not tohave several levels of redundancy and backup, including copies mirrored offsite, simply for disaster recovery purposes, bearing in mind the physical threats to the building

Asked to clarify an earlier comment that there had been no complaints from the police over the access they had been given, the PMOS replied that this was correct.

Asked if it was possible to access the internet from the Downing Street system, the PMOS replied that it was. But it was not possible to engage with other systems, for instance it was not possible to access personal internet bank accounts.

Is that simply because SSL https:// internet websites are prevented from being accessed, or because these internet banking websites are specifically blocked ?

Asked if it was possible to access the BBC website and post a comment on a story, the PMOS laughed and replied that there was only one response to that, "Get thee behind me Satan!"

Asked if any relevant emails had been deleted from the system since the investigation began, the PMOS replied that the police had been given full access to everything.

Except for the Blackeberries etc ?

A lot of security-minded organisations have multiple networks, or at least segregated access to a common network (for example, multiple ethernet VLANs), in order to provide both high-feature, highly secure service for their own activities and web access for visitors firewalled off from their systems. I have seen systems like this in, for example, a major IBM facility.

One explanation of the Pipex netblock would be that No.10 has a little WLAN (it's a /28) for non-gov.uk visitors. I mean, you couldn't invite Bill Gates round and not offer him any bandwidth.

@ Alex - what the PMOS says about the current email system at Number 10 Downing Street in place today, may well be true, but it may well be irrelevant.

These IP address blocks could have been used for different purposes two or three years ago, during the alleged cash / loans for honours plotting to pay for the 2005 General Election campaign.

The Pipex PMOS-2 network has been used in the past, to surf various political websites, and if that is the case, it is not unreasonable to guess that non UK Government web email systems like hotmail or the Labour party private web email gateway could also have been accessed.

Yes the Number 10 Downing Street website is currently hosted on a machine using an IP address in the Pipex PMO-NET2 block, but that website has, apparently, been vulnerable to external attacks several times in the past, so it is not inconceivable that internal staff could have had unblocked or unmonitored web access via this gateway, sidestepping the Energis / MessageLabs GSI gateways.

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