Title: PHANTOM PARROT
Release Date: 2017-09-23
Document Date: 2009-05-27
Description: This page from GCHQ’s internal GCWiki, dated 27 May 2009 describes a system for querying mobile phone information acquired during port stops: see the Intercept article Airport Police Demanded An Activist’s Passwords. He Refused. Now He Faces Prison In The UK, 23 September 2017.
Document: UK SECRET
The maximum classification allowed on GCWiki is TOP SECRET STRAP1 COMINT. Click to report
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PHANTOM PARROT is a GTAC tool that allows the querying of mobile phone data, acquired from
police forces under ITT Op WILDWAY, an AGAP Target Discovery project to acquire and analyse the
Enter these into Ariel TDS when reporting!
• 1 Background
• 2 Source
• 3 Legalities
• 4 Getting an account
• 5 Reporting
• 6 The port reports
• 7 The tool
• 8 Value to areas other than ITT
• 9 Reference
• 10 Great examples of where PP data has added value
This mobile phone data is downloaded from people stopped at UK ports (i.e. sea, air and rail). It includes
anything stored on a target's phone, although only phonebooks, sms and call events are currently
databased and queryable through PP. The data is received via CD on an ad hoc basis (about once a month
for London terminals, less for NPAC so far).
The data is largely comprised of people stopped by police forces at another service's request. Mainly BSS.
Police also stop people arbitrarily or based on profiling, however unless substantial traces are found
against that person, mobile phone downloads are deleted.
Approximately half of all the data (by numbers stopped) is obtained from Metropolitan Police Counter-
Terrorist Command (Met CTC / SO15) National Ports Office (NPO), who have responsibility for London
City Airport, St Pancras (Eurostar) and Heathrow, where they are based. The rest of the data is collated by
National Ports Analysis Centre (NPAC), based at Merseyside Police HQ. Not all ports collect the data
during ports stops at present, notably Stanstead and Gatwick, although work is being undertaken to
convince them of its value.
The data is legally volunteered under s.7 and s.8 of TACT (Terrorism Act 2000), although the person will
not be directly told their phone is downloaded. For this reason normal SIGINT rules about content do not
apply, however all queries/use of the data should be proportionate. Think RANNOCH MOOR (i.e. don't
include names and addresses in reportsjust because you can).
Getting an account
At present PHANTOM PARROT has a maximum of 30 users, however, a new version is due to be
released by mid-May, pending the new experiment enviornment, which will enable it to support over 100.
Currently the 30 are all taken, but if you have a legitimate requirement (currently limited to CT) then
please contact who will do his best to accomodate this, or at worst, place you on waiting list
for the new version.
PHANTOM PARROT data is one component of LUCKY STRIKE, a collateral 'weak identifier' trace
database, currently in development. PP is anticipated to be subsumed into LS at which time the standalone
tool will be decommisioned. It is hoped LS will be an early plug-in for LOOKING GLASS.
So, you've got an account, you've found something of interest, how do you EPR it?! First off, use the rule
of thumb (ITT Chief Reporter) gave us: If it was meant for transmission or had already
been transmitted, then treat it as though we intercepted it. If not, then quote it as collateral (in all cases
Phonebook entries - collateral (SECRET)
SMS or MMS drafts, sent items or received - as though you found it in DISHFIRE (although unlike
DISHFIRE you can report UK SMS)
Call logs - As though call records, but remember that all times are local and you may not easily be able to
tell what local time was (given most will just have arrived from abroad).
Media (you can't search on this presently but you can ask if you find a stop of significance)
- collateral (SECRET)
Example: (GCHQ Comment: According to collateral (SECRET), 447717171717 was stored as
"Davemob" in the phonebook of Op EXAMPLE target Jim.)
Important to remember:
1. If your analysis of the data has generated some completely new intelligence, be that a selector, content
or otherwise, then check with your BSS SFO whether it is already known. Remember, a high proportion
of the stops are likely to be BSS requested and thatjust because they never told you, it doesn't mean they
2. If itjust adds to an existing piece of work (i.e. adds some context to a number in your CRA report) then
do as you please, but if you are going to make a lot out of it see point 1.
3. Ensure you manually enter into Ariel TDS:
Getting more reliable updates to the data is dependent on proving its worth. If you have any great
examples, please enter them at the bottom of this page.
The port reports
If you find your target in the phonebook of someone who is not a target, or you identify a phonebook
which looks like it is of interest but again not a target, you may want to request the port report. The report
is the result of the police officers interview of the person and will note other important things like other
items of interest in their possession and the officer's read-out on the person. If this sounds like it will be of
benefit: 1. Check with your SFO, as BSS will receive a copy of the report for any stop they request. 2. If
they can't find a report then contact At present there is no better way than to request it than
from the police force who stopped them, therefore consider its potential value before requesting it.
PHANTOM PARROT phonebooks are stored by IMSI and IMEI, although we are encouraging ports to
record MSISDN this is not yet standard and therefore not uploaded as part of the process of databasing
done by Phonebook entries are not currently normalised, although this is part of next
update due by end-April. CORINTH and MOONRAKER fuzzy matching provides you scores which
should give you an idea of whether numbers in a phonebook have been seen in either. A score of around
0.75 and above should be a good match, but always check it.
Value to areas other than ITT
Since first checking the data against CORINTH, targets of MENA and APT ahve both been noted
amongst the stops. As such, the medium term plan is for analysts in all IPTs to have access, although not
Page owned and maintained by (OPIX-ITT-AGAP-Target Discovery) and
(OPD-GTAC). Most questions should be answerable by us, but we are full-time analysts, so please see if
this page can answer them first. In case of emergency (i.e. threat to life) or his Met GCO team
should be able to facilitate you getting a port report quickly.
Last updated 27 May 2009.
Great examples of where PP data has added value
a) EPR ref:
b) Type(s) of data used:
c) Brief comment:
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