Why does The Sunday Times keep on publishing "climate of fear" disinformation articles like this one ?
Is this an informed article by Michael Smith who broke the "Downing Street memos" story, or is it deliberate disinformation and distortion ?
"Michael Smith served for nine years in the British Army's Intelligence Corps as a latter-day codebreaker before going to work for the BBC Monitoring Service. He has written for a number of newspapers, including the Financial Times, the Sunday Times, and most recently the Daily Telegraph, where he is Defense Correspondent."
or is this a script for an episode of the popular fictional BBC MI5 spy drama series "Spooks" ?
"The Sunday Times July 10, 2005
Focus: Terror in London
The secret war on terror
The MI5 surveillance team picks up its suspect as he leaves his parents’ house in an Asian-dominated area of one of Britain’s major cities. The watchers keep their distance unobtrusively as the target — we will call him Jamal — stops to speak to another young Asian.
The body language makes it clear that Jamal is in charge. The conversation is not aggressive, but nor are they merely chatting. It is clearly not a chance encounter, and it is taking place on a well chosen patch of waste ground where they cannot be overheard. The MI5 team holds off.
Jamal has no record of extremism. He has never been seen publicly to side with the angry young men who after Friday prayers rage against Britain’s involvement in the war in Iraq.
Jamal's family has been here for several generations. He is regarded by those who know him as fully assimilated into British society. He has what his mother rightly regards as "a respectable job" working in computers.
On the face of it his frequent trips to Pakistan are innocent visits to see his aunts and uncles. But intelligence obtained by MI6 from a *liaison service*, in this case the CIA, shows that Jamal spends most of his "holidays" in Pakistan in guesthouses in the tribal homelands, talking to known members of Al-Qaeda.
Jamal does not exist, but his profile and the way the intelligence services deal with him exemplify the war on terror."
Is the allegedly fictional "Jamal" meant to be the very real Babar Ahmad a British citizen, who worked in IT support at Imperial College in London, whose father is a retired Foreign Office civil servant and who is facing extraditon to the USA, accused of "terrorist fundraising" by running Islamic fundamentalist websites (free speech ?) with discussion forums, according to the USA, but not according to UK law ?
"Britain’s security and intelligence services have had to revamp their operations completely in the four years since the September 11 attacks to keep track of home-grown terrorists like Jamal.
Surveillance is not confined simply to "watching". His mobile phone is bugged, his conversations are recorded and analysed, his movements are filmed and his contacts are subjected to the same deep surveillance.
MI5 knows that simply dragging Jamal off the streets is not a solution; someone else will take his place."
Precisley one of the most fundamental weaknesses of the Control Orders under the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 for house arrest or internet and phone and meeting restrictions.
"Jamal has been under surveillance ever since the MI6/CIA report arrived in the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), based in MI5’s Millbank offices.
Set up in May 2003, JTAC contains experts from every UK security and intelligence-gathering agency and is entirely focused on international terrorism.
Commanded by a member of the Defence Intelligence Staff and controlled by MI5’s director, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, it is a key part of Britain’s war against terror.
Changes designed to make the security service less hierarchal ensure that all the specialists, including the "visual surveillance" experts and the technical experts, are working together. Their work takes up around half the service’s annual budget, which has rocketed in recent years.
In Jamal’s case, the watchers have taking over a house close to his home, videoing everything. Conversations inside his home can be recorded by bouncing radio waves off the window panes."
Really ? Presumably Jamal's house must have metallised windows for the "radio waves" to bounce off from, modulated by the sound vibrations on the glass.
Perhaps they should revive the 1960's technique, currently used by hobbyists and wannabe spy gadget addicts of using a laser beam instead ?
"These intrusive intelligence methods have been justified legally on the suspicion that Jamal is building up what is effectively a franchise for Al-Qaeda.
All such surveillance teams have an MI5 lawyer attached to the operation, overseeing everything they do to ensure that any evidence they collect will be admissible in court should they arrest their target.
Nobody is yet sure what role Jamal has been groomed for by Al-Qaeda. During his time in the Pakistani guesthouse he may have been trained as a bomb-maker. Certainly he has been taught leadership and recruitment skills, how to persuade other young Muslims that it is their duty to force the "new crusaders" out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The MI5 team knows that, using a pseudonym, he has set up his own weblog with links to radical websites that accuse Israel of being behind the 9/11 attacks. Visitors to the site are encouraged to post their own views. Jamal picks out those that seem most susceptible to recruitment, pliable young men who want to know more.
These recruits are steered away from the weblog to private one-to-one e-mail conversations in which they are groomed for roles within a group that Jamal initially portrays as innocuous.
Slowly and carefully Jamal will ease them into joining his terrorist group, not a part of Al-Qaeda but nevertheless one that regards Osama Bin Laden as its guiding light.
The warrants the MI5 watchers have obtained permit them to intercept Jamal’s e-mail conversations with those he is grooming, and to carry out "portscans" on his computer. Using sophisticated software, they reach into it to search for incriminating files."
The United Kingdom does not have any laws permitting the security services to "hack" in to your personal computer via its internet connection, "to search for incriminating files", unlike, say the those in Australia. To do so would be a breach of the Surveillance Commissioner and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 they can break into you house and plant a bugging device or software on your computer, but that is not quite the same thing as what is being described in the article.
The UK National High Tech Crime Unit have recently arrested an Israeli programmer accused of writing and selling such a "trojan horse" remote access control tool capable of searching for files on your computer, which has been used by various private investigators to spy on commercial companies and, allegedly on defence secrets in Israel.
The risk of discovery and of "tipping off" the suspect is enormous, and it is likely to be foiled by standard personal firewall and anti-virus software, unless, of, course "Jamal" is a complete idiot.
How could this sort of thing ever stand up in court ? If you "hack" into a computer to "search for incriminating files", how can you prove in court, that you or someone else expoloiting the computer security vulnerabilities you used, did not maliciously plant any such "incriminating files" ? Does this not provide a "get out of jail" defence even if the authorities do actually find something incriminating ?
"His mobile telephone is being monitored by specialists from the British signals intelligence agency, GCHQ, whose experts carry out “traffic analysis” of all the calls to and from his phone, building up a picture of his contacts and, where appropriate, seeking fresh warrants to monitor their telephones."
GCHQ are not likely to be involved in something as technically simple as "communications data" traffic analyis. With an authorisation under the Regulation of Invesitigatory Powers Act 2000, the Mobile Phome Network operator will supply the detailed Call Detail Records itemised phone bill type information as well as the Cell ID Location Based Data. This can be fed into standard intelligence data visualisations software like Analysts Notebook or Pattern Tracer, which will map out the "telephone friendship tree" and timelines, and which is used by just about every Police force in Europe.
"GCHQ specialists don’t even need Jamal to be using his phone. As long as his mobile is switched on and he has it with him, it can be used to listen in to anything he is saying to anyone else.
Mobile telephone networks operate in a cellular structure with each cell of around 100 square miles controlled by a base station that keeps the phone linked to the central network. As its owner moves between the cells, the phone continuously links into the nearest base station, using a completely separate frequency to the one on which conversations take place, so that the network knows where to direct any incoming calls.
This “control frequency” can be used to take over the mobile phone and turn it into a bug. That’s the theory. But today Jamal’s telephone is in his pocket and its microphone cannot pick up what he is saying as he stands on the waste ground near his parents’ house."
This betrays such a fundamental misunderstanding of the way in which Mobile Phones work, that it must be a bit of deliberate disinformation. The bit about "control frequency" is utter rubbish. The "control channels" are used to establish and maintain the voice or data transmissions and reception, but there is no way that they can use a "completely separate frequency to the one on which conversations take place"
Unmodified mobile phones are not capable of being arbitrarily turned into bugging devices.
There are urban myths and rumours that years ago, in various former Soviet Union police states, the state monopoly mobile phone companies would only supply phones which were so modified, resulting in the charming habit of all "business meetings" taking place with the participants ostentatiously placing their mobile phones on the table in plain sight, and removing the batteries.
Nowadays you can buy little devices which detect if your apparently dormant mobile phone is actually transmitting , or if a mobile phone based bug or tracking device, which may ony transmit or be callled remotely at certain times, is really active, by picking up the periodic (usually every six to 10 minutes) handshake that the phone must make with the Cell base Station, especially if the phone is on the move.
It is possible to "take over" some but not all vulnerable models of mobile phones via their Bluetooth intferaces, an din some cases it might be possible to dial out somewhere therby "bugging" any conversations, however, this is a very unreliable way of doing things and also likely to be detected
"This does not concern the surveillance team unduly, because the young man Jamal is talking to — we will call him Naz — is an undercover operator who has infiltrated Jamal’s terror network.
Naz, who is on loan from MI6, turned up on Jamal’s weblog not long after that first report from the CIA came in. One of a small but increasing number of young Asians using their understanding of their own culture and communities, Naz is helping to ensure that the JTAC teams can keep a watch on people like Jamal and stop terror attacks."
Entrapment ? Agent Provocateur ? "Super grass" ?
How can we be sure that some or all the members of this alleged terrorist cell, are not actually working for different "intelligence agencies", like the "communist agitators" described by author Tom Sharpe in his book Riotous Assembly ?
"The lesson of last week’s outrages in London is grim, however. All the sophisticated surveillance of terror suspects had produced no hint of preparation for the bombings.MI5 knows that the likes of Jamal could never plant a bomb; it is the ones MI5 does not know about who are the real danger."
Is this article a true reflection of the Home Office / MI5 Security Service mindest that is calling for even more repressive legal powers such as "acts preparatory to terrorism", and compulsory centralised biometric ID databases etc, but which has failed to prevent last Thursday's bombs in London ?