The US government has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQ over the last three years to secure access to and influence over Britain's intelligence gathering programs, according to leaked documents published by the British daily The Guardian.
The top secret payments indicated that GCHQ has to work hard to meet their demands.
"GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight," a GCHQ strategy briefing said.
Ministers denied that GCHQ does the NSA's "dirty work", but in the documents GCHQ described Britain's surveillance laws and regulatory regime as a "selling point" for the Americans.
The documents seen by the Guardian and leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden who is now living in Russia revealed:
• GCHQ is pouring money into efforts to gather personal information from mobile phones and apps, and has said it wants to be able to "exploit any phone, anywhere, anytime".
• Some GCHQ staff working on one sensitive program expressed concern about "the morality and ethics of their operational work, particularly given the level of deception involved".
Moreover, details of the NSA payments are organized in GCHQ's annual "investment portfolios".
The papers showed that the NSA gave GCHQ £22.9m in 2009. The following year the NSA's contribution increased to £39.9m, which included £4m to support GCHQ's work for Nato forces in Afghanistan, and £17.2m for the agency's Mastering the Internet project, which gathers and stores vast amounts of "raw" information ready for analysis.
Also, the leaked papers revealed that the UK's biggest fear is that "US perceptions of the ... partnership diminish, leading to loss of access, and/or reduction in investment ... to the UK".
Source: The Guardian, edited by website team