May 2008 Archives

There are still lots of conspiracy theories and misinformation being bandied about regarding the extraordinary Polonium-210 radioactive poisoning murder of Alexander Litvinenko - just keep an eye on the moving east Revision History of the relevant Wikipedia page, and you will see for yourself.

The UK Government has done little to clarify the matter properly, and it has become part of the New Cold War with Russia.

Meanwhile, our little attempt to get a bit of information confirmed officially, which every other Government in the world, and many news agencies etc. already know, but which is being denied to the British public and media, is progressing very slowly.

The Information Commissioner's Office have now started to investigate the refusal of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to disclose the just the names and job titles of the four Russian Federation diplomats and the four United Kingdom diplomats who were expelled from London and, tit-for-tat, from Moscow last summer, following the failure of the UK authorities to extradite their prime murder suspect Andrei Lugovoi from Russia.

If any of these diplomats were actually intelligence agents working under diplomatic cover, that is not something which one would expect to be made public by their respective Governments. However, since there is no chance of any of them ever being posted to similar roles overseas, simply naming them cannot put their lives in any more danger than normal.

Just being a normal British, or indeed, Russian, diplomat in some parts of the world, can either enhance your personal safety, or it can make you into a target, regardless of whether you are an intelligence agent as well.

  • The original FOIA request was made in July 2007,
  • the FCO refused it and internally reviewed it and still refused it in August 2007,
  • the complaint to the ICO went in during August 2007.
  • the Information Commissioner's Office allocated a Case Number in October 2007,
  • and now the ICO have started to look at it in May 2008.

All these delays in the Freedom of Information system favour the secretive Central Government rather than the legal rights of members of the public.

Text of paper letter from the ICO:


The Information Commissioner's Office is still overloaded with a backlog of Freedom of Information Act complaints.

They still have not allocated a Case Officer to the complaint about the Home Office and their refusal to disclose the geographic or time / date details about where and when the supposedly temporary, strictly time and location limited Terrorism Act 2000 Section 44 stop and search Authorisations are, or are not, in effect.

Please accept my apologies for the delays you will experience prior to this case being allocated. I will write to you again every twelve weeks to inform you of the status of your complaint in relation to Team 2's queue and we will notify you when a case worker is assigned to it.

This means that they assume that there is now going to be a minimum 12 week delay before they even start looking into the details of the complaint.

This is not acceptable - it is over 3 years now since the Freedom of Information Act 2000 came fully into force, and the number of actual FOIA requests being made has gone down since then.

See also these Parliamentary Written Answers on the backlog of cases at the ICO

Commons Hansard - Written Answers - 14 May 2008 : Column 1571W


[...]

At 31 March 2008, the number of cases awaiting investigation by the Information Commissioner were 1,363 for freedom of information casework and 1,237 for data protection casework.

Additionally, due to the volume of cases referred to the Information Commissioner under data protection, there were 2,250 cases awaiting classification as at 31 March 2008. Of these cases, it is estimated that approximately 60 per cent. would be resolved within 30 calendar days and 85 per cent. within 90 calendar days.

[...]

Between April 2007 and March 2008 the average length of time from receipt to commencement of investigation was 69 days for the Freedom of Information Act cases and 30 days for Data Protection Act cases. The average length of time to close an investigation once commenced, was 182 days from for Freedom of Information Act cases and 45 days for Data Protection Act cases.

These disproportionate delays, both by Central Government Departments and by the Information Commissioner's Office etc. are make a mockery of any claims that the Freedom of Information Act has somehow lead to any effective change towards public transparency and openness in the British bureaucratic state

Email from the ICO:

The Information Commissioner's Office has now allocated a Case Reference Number for our complaint about the Home Office's refusal to disclose any information about the time, date and geographical extent of the Terrorism Act 2000 Section 44 and 35 Authorisations (see the rest of the HO Terrorism Act 2000 s44 Authorisations Category Archive), which are supposed to grant temporary, limited powers of Stop and Search without reasonable cause to the Police.

The ICO's standard email footer information and disclaimer is getting longer and longer !

From: FOI-Enquiries@ico.gsi.gov.uk
To: [email address]
Date: Tue, 06 May 2008 11:05:56 +0100


Party Name

6th May 2008
CASE REFERENCE NUMBER FS5019nnnn

Dear [name]

YOUR INFORMATION REQUEST TO THE HOME OFFICE
Thank you for your recent correspondence in which you make a complaint about the Home Office's decision not to release the information you requested.

Your case has been allocated to one of our case resolution teams who will contact you as soon as possible to explain how your case will be progressed. Due to the volume of complaints we are receiving at present it may be several months before you hear from us.

The Information Commissioners Office is an independent public body set up to promote public access to official information. We will rule on eligible complaints from people who are unhappy with the way public authorities have handled requests for information under The Freedom of Information Act 2000.

If you need to contact us about any aspect of your complaint please contact our Freedom of Information Helpline on 08456 306060, or 01625 545745 if you would prefer to call a 'national rate' number, being sure to quote the reference number at the top of this message.

Yours sincerely,
Sent on behalf of

Mr Paul Arnold

Head of Customer Service

FOI Case Reception Unit

THE INFORMATION COMMISSIONER'S OFFICE
SERVICE STANDARDS

MAY 2008

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is an independent body set up to make sure that organisations handling information follow the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000, together with their associated regulations, namely, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

We provide advice to organisations about how to handle certain information properly and can take action against those who refuse to take the law seriously. We can also advise you about your rights and in some cases, investigate complaints. For further information about how we investigate complaints please see our 'when and how to complain' leaflets. You can download these from our website (www.ico.gov.uk[1]) or you can ask our Helpline to send you copies on 08456 30 60 60 or 01625 545 745 if you
would prefer to call a national rate number.

OUR CURRENT RESPONSE TIMES

Some matters are more complex than others. Below is some information indicating how long it currently takes us to deal with the complaints, enquiries and telephone calls we receive. By 'deal with' we mean 'responding' to enquiries, 'providing the outcome' to a complaint and 'answering' telephone calls. All reference to 'days' means calendar days.

Complaints and Enquiries covered by the Data Protection Act or the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

58% of all casework in this area is dealt with within 30 days, 75% is dealt with within 90 days and 92% within 180 days of receipt.

Complaints and Enquiries covered by the Freedom of Information Act or Environmental Information Regulations.

52% of all casework in this area is dealt with within 30 days, 63% is dealt with within 90 days, 67% within 180 days and 81% within 365 days of receipt.

Calls to our Telephone Helpline

Callers currently wait, on average 58 seconds to speak to an advisor.

Some calls are more complex than others. Although most questions will be answered by the first person you speak to, we may sometimes need to transfer your call to someone better placed to deal with your enquiry. If for any reason we need to call you back we will try to do this the same day where possible or at a time more
convenient for you.

OUR NOTIFICATION DEPARTMENT

If you have submitted a new Notification, requested a change to an existing Notification or sent us a Notification renewal, our Notification Department will contact you as soon as your request has been processed. Our current response time is 14 calendar days for all Notification services.

HOW WE WILL TREAT YOU

However you choose to contact us, we will always aim to be helpful and to treat you with politeness and consideration. We ask that you treat us in the same way.

LETTERS, FAXES OR EMAILS COPIED TO OUR OFFICE

All our service standards and commitments only apply to correspondence sent directly to us. WE DO NOT ROUTINELY RESPOND TO CORRESPONDENCE THAT IS ONLY COPIED TO US.

COMPLAINTS ABOUT OUR SERVICE

If you are unhappy with any aspect of the service we have provided, please see our case review and service complaints policy. This is available from our website, or you can ask our Helpline to send you a copy on 08456 30 60 60 or 01625 545 745 if you prefer to call a national rate number.
____________________________________________________________________

If you are not the intended recipient of this e-mail (and any attachment), please inform the sender by return e-mail and destroy all copies. Unauthorised access, use, disclosure, storage or copying is not permitted.

Communication by Internet e-mail is not secure as messages can be intercepted and read by someone else. Therefore we strongly advise you not to e-mail any information which if disclosed to unrelated third parties would be likely to cause you distress If you have an enquiry of this nature please provide a postal address to allow us to communicate with you in a more secure way. If you want us to respond by e-mail you must realise that there can be no guarantee of privacy.

Any e-mail including its content may be monitored and used by the Information Commissioner's Office for reasons of security and for monitoring internal compliance with the office policy on staff use. This includes the content of e-mails. E-mail monitoring / blocking software may also be used. Please be aware that you have a responsibility to ensure that any e-mail you write or forward is within the bounds of the law.

The Information Commissioner's office cannot guarantee that this message or any attachment is virus free or has not been intercepted and amended and you should perform your own virus checks.

____________________________________________________________________

http://www.ico.gov.uk[2] or e-mail: mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk

Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

Tel: 01625 545 700 Fax: 01625 524 510

The original of this email was scanned for viruses by the Government Secure Intranet virus scanning service supplied by Cable&Wireless in partnership with MessageLabs. (CCTM Certificate Number 2007/11/0032.) On leaving the GSi this email was certified virus free.

Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for legal purposes.

Links:
------
[1] http://www.ico.gov.uk/
[2] http://www.ico.gov.uk/

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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Recent Comments

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