June 2005 Archives

We put in a Freedom of Information Act Request to both the Office for Government Commerce and the Home Office for the two pre-Stage Zero and the actual Stage Zero Gateway Reviews of the Home Office Identity Cards Programme, obviously not knowing if either of them would disclose anything.

Up till now, they have both revealed the same anodyne fragments of information which was already in the public domain.

We requested an Internal Review of the disclosures to both the OGC and the Home Office. The OGC review is now subject to an appeal to the Office of the Information Commissioner.

The Home Office Internal Review has taken longer, and, again they have refused to disclose the full Gateway Reviews, even with, in the public interest of transparency, any personal details which would identify civil servants or consultants removed.

The Home Office Internal Review did decide that another small section entitled "Purpose and Conduct of the Review" could be released.

This again , only confirms in our minds that the full Gateway Reviews should be fully published, as these Reviews are out of date now, and even if they gave the thumbs down to the ID Cards Programme , the Government could legitimately claim, that the Programme has been modified and is now on track.

It is important, with such a multi-billion pound project which will fundamentally change the relationship between the individual Citizen and the State, that all the external project risks have been identified right at the start. The failure to do this, lies at the heart of some of the Home Office IT project disasters, like the Criminal Records Bureau, where the initial project assumption that most of the users of the systems would do so via individual requests via an online web page proved to be dramatically wrong - most iserd sent letters for multiple employee checks at a time, and made far more use of the telephone call centres than had originally been planned.

Why can't the expert public read the Gateway Reviews and , consructively point out anything that the Home office has forgotten to include or which they have assessed at the wrong priority ?

The Home Office Internal Review letter (not via email):

Our appeal to the Information Commissioner regarding the Office for Government Commerce Gateway Reviews of the Home Office Identity Cards Programme is slowly progressing.

Complaints Resolution Officer:

"In order to properly investigate this matter and reach a well informed decision I have requested they provide me with a copy of the withheld information. I have also raised a number of issues with them regarding their application of the exemptions and the public interest test."

So at least someone else will get to read these now out of date Gateway Reviews, and there might be some criticisism of the overalll "Sir Humphrey" policy with respect to Gateway Reviews in general.

Astonishing ! We have a next working day reply to a FOIA request from the Home Office ! Ok it is not a "substantive reply", and they are not going to reply fully within the statutory 20 working days, but it is still a pleasant surprise, given their past record.

As we guessed, they are invoking the Section 22 Future Publication exemption, but at least the Home Office are having to think about the questions raised in our FOIA request about the new guidance, rules and regulations which cover protests of demonstrations in and around Parliament Square.

The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 was passed into law back on April 7th 2005, so why the Home Office have not published an initial set of rules and the extent of the Designated Area is a mystery,

Since they are applying the "public interest test"

"we will not be able to offer a substantive reply within 20 working days of 2 June, the date of your email. We are however treating your request as a matter of urgency and now aim to respond by 22 July."

It really is a mystery as to why the extent of the Designated Area and the new rules have not already been published.

What possible reason for a delay could there be ?

Even if they only apply the Order initially to the Parliament Square pavement itself, in order to harass the controversial lone "peace camp" demonstrator Brian Haw, whose 4 year vigil seems to have been the cause of this legislation in the first place, they could always extend the Designated Area later.

The Home Office has so far been quite Sir Humphrey Appleby like in their reponses to our Freedom of Information Act requests. This is not in the spirit of open government which the Department for Constitutional Affairs has been claiming.

Nevertheless, we are giving the Home Office another chance to live up to its mission statement with a FOIA request which might just concentrate their minds on the dubious legislation slipped through as a portmanteau Bill setting up the Serious Organised Crime Agency, but which also places potentially massive restrictions on any peaceful democratic protest around the Houses of Parliament in London, and a sizeable area around it, up to "one kilometre from the nearest point in Parliament Square".

This could encompass Buckingham Palace to the West, Waterloo Station on the other side of the River Thames to the East, Whitehall, Downing Street, Trafalgar Square etc. to the North and the National Gallery and the headquarters of the main political parties to the South.

Although charged with enforcing the law, the Metropolitan Police Service is as much in the dark as the rest of us, as the Home Office has not published any guidance, or attempted to consult the public about these new powers.

The only possible reason for not disclosing the information set out below, would be that the Home Office are just about to publish the extent of the Designated Area, something which they must have had in mind when the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act was rubberstamped back on April 7th.

What have they been dithering about ?

About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog has been spawned from Spy Blog, and is meant to provide a place to track our Freedom of Information Act 2000 requests to United Kingdom Government and other Public Authorities.

If you have suggestions for other FOIA requests,  bearing in mind the large list of exemptions, then email them to us, or use the comments facility on this blog, and we will see  what we can do, without you yourself having to come under the direct scrutiny of  "Sir Humphrey Appleby" or his minions.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email us your views about this website or news about the issues it tries to comment on:

email: blog @spy[dot]org[dot]uk

Here is our PGP public encryption key or download it via a PGP Keyserver.

WhatDoTheyKnow.com

WhatDoTheyKnow.com - FOIA request submission and publication website from MySociety.org

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team." - does this apply to the Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition government as well ?

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

Yes, Minister

Yes, Minister Series 1, Episode 1, "Open Government" First airtime BBC: 25 February 1980

"Bernard Woolley: "Well, yes, Sir...I mean, it [open government] is the Minister's policy after all."
Sir Arnold: "My dear boy, it is a contradiction in terms: you can be open or you can have government."

FOIA Links

Campaign for the Freedom of Information

Office of the Information Commissioner,
who is meant to regulate the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scottish Information Commissioner,
who similarly regulates the Freedom of Information Act (Scotland) 2002

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals against decisions by the Information Commissioners.

Freedom of Information pages - Department for Constitutional Affairs

Friends of the Earth FOIA Request Generator and links to contact details for Central Government Departments and their Publication Schemes

UK Government Information Asset Register - in theory, this should point you to the correct Government documents, but in practice...well see for yourself.

Access all Information is also logging some FOIA requests

foi.mysociety.org - prototype FOIA request submission, tracking and publication website

Blog Links

Spy Blog

UK Freedom of Information Act Blog - started by Steve Wood, now handed over to Katherine Gundersen

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke

Informaticopia - Rod Ward

Open Secrets - a blog about freedom of information by BBC journalist Martin Rosenbaum

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

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