According to Talk Politics and Bloggerheads it seems that various Labour Party members have been emailed on Friday with a letter signed by Home Secretary Charles Clarke, pointing them to an online opinion survey on the Labour Party website "Your views on fighting terrorism".
Hint: keep hold of Charles Clarke's purported signature, for "authentication" purposes, it may prove useful when you are subjected to a Control Order under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 or an Emergency Powers Regulation under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004.
Reading the biased poll on the Labour party website, one might think that this is some sort of Tony Blair apparatchik's attempt to"put pressure" on Charles Clarke not to concede anything in the ongoing negotiations with the Opposition parties before Wednesday's Report stage of the Bill.
Surely a rigged poll of just Labour party members cannot be held up as evidence of genuine public opinion, one way or another ? An online poll cannot even be a true reflection of the opinions of the majority of the Labour party membership. Who is this "opinion poll" meant to impress ?
Presumably Charles Clarke approves of this, since his letter contains the weasel words:
"These terrorists are part of complex international organisations that make ever greater use of new technology such as encrypted computers. Further attacks remain a real possibility, so action to protect our citizens is urgent.
The Government has introduced the Terrorism Bill, currently going through Parliament, to try and ensure that the police and intelligence services have the powers they need to stay ahead of the new breed of terrorist. Yet some are opposing the Government's proposals, which come on the advice of specialist anti-terrorist police."
There are perfectly good democratic and practical reasons to oppose the Terrorism Bill 2005 as we have been trying to point out in
"Action to protect our citizens" should not mean even more "catch all" legislation, when existing legal powers have not been used properly.
Nobody has cited any cases where encrypted computer evidence could be the major justification for a 90 day detention without charge period.
Most seized computers (as opposed to encrypted emails intercepted on the fly) are relatively easy to decrypt, because the passphrase is written down or is otherwise available. Similarly it could be that a PGP private keyring is also captured and subjected to a dictionary attack using phrases which the suspect is likely to have used e.g. quotations from the Koran etc. or an amateur form of encryption or even substitution code has been employed. In such cases, the normal criminal law period of 48 hours is sufficient, let alone the 14 days under the exisiting Terrorism Act 2000.
Alternatively, if the data is cryptographically secure, and either the suspect does not know, or has genuinely forgotten or is just keeping quiet about the passphrase, in which case 90 years would not be sufficient let alone 90 days.
If , as a NuLabour backbencher Dan Norris claimed during the Terrorism Bill 2005 Committee stage in the House of Commons, there are secret cryptographic backdoors available to the British authorities, which can compromise US military technology, then this would be a state secret of the magnitude of the Ultra decrypts of the Nazi Enigma machines during world war 2 i.e. something which should never be revealed to in a court. (yes we do know about Work Reduction Factors and Subliminal Channels ).
Why any terrorists would use such systems is a mystery.
Note how there is no mention of the existing law the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000: Part IIIInvestigation of Electronic Data Protected by Encryption etc. , which would already make it an offence to withold the encryption keys, and which could then be used to hold a suspect for longer than 90n days if necessary awaiting a charge before a court, during which time, other evednce gathering and investigation could continue.
Except, of course, that RIPA part 3 has been on the statute books for 5 years, and has still not been brought into force by any of the NuLabour Home Secretaries Jack Straw, David Blunkett or Charles Clarke - why ?
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