May 2008 Archives

The Times reports, with the somewhat misleading headline:

Blackouts hit thousands as generators fail

From The Times
May 28, 2008

Murad Ahmed and Steve Hawkes

Hundreds of thousands of people were hit by electricity blackouts yesterday when six power stations shut down. The unscheduled stoppages were seen as an unprecedented sign of the fragility of Britain's power infrastructure.

Operations were cancelled, people were stuck in lifts, traffic lights failed and fire engines sent out on false alarms. Householders were unable to use any appliances or make phone-calls as the blackouts hit areas including Cleveland, Cheshire, Lincolnshire and London. The cause was not revealed.

As the power cuts escalated, the National Grid was forced to issue the most serious possible warning - "demand control imminent" - and urged suppliers to provide lower voltage electricity to meet demand.

Energy suppliers affected by the shutdown, including British Energy and EON, said that they could not reveal the reasons for the cuts, nor would they say when some disrupted stations might resume service because disclosure could affect the wholesale price of electricity.

How is such secrecy in the public interest ?

Why are the temporary excess profits of electricity market speculators deemed to be more important than the rights of hundreds of thousands of public customers ?

Once power was actually being cut to hospitals, etc. why could the artificial electricity trading market not be suspended temporarily ?

A National Grid spokesman admitted that the the number of shutdowns was highly unusual. One power company insider said that such an incident had not happened in the past ten years. After two power stations suddenly shut down within minutes of one another at midday, nine "generating units" also shut, and at least four other power stations suffered failures throughout the day. Wholesale electricity prices soared 35 per cent to £95 per megawatt hour, a new record, immediately after the cuts.

[...]

That is a National Grid electricity distribution cascade failure, not a failure of the generating stations per se.

The two power stations which did shut down suddenly at about the same time, were, according to the BBC the Sizewell B nuclear power station in Suffolk (something non-nuclear was affected) and the large coal-fired Longannet power station in Fife in Scotland.

Was this just a symptom of the underinvestment in the National Grid, exacerbated by NuLabour's greedy Enron style electricity trading market, or was there some sort of deliberate physical or electronic attack on our Critical National Infrastructure ?


One of the forthcoming Bills, which, for some short term political expediency and headlines, Gordon brown has decided to pre-announce, ahead of the Queen's Speech in November, is a Transport Security Bill

The main part of this Bill appears to be intent on

requiring the majority of airports in England, Wales & Scotland to agree a local airport security plan with their key stakeholders, based upon an agreed threat and risk analysis;

Are we actually meant to believe that none of these airports and none of the local Police forces have any Security Plans at the moment ? If not, then why not ?

The crucial part of this Bill appears to be

allowing the policing element of this plan to be charged to the airport operator.

How much will this extra bloated bureaucracy and "security theatre" cost, and how much will be inflicted on the traveling public ?

What budget accountability will there be through local Police Authorities for this extra money ?

See the excellent Eco Postman Patel blog for more details about the cost implications, especially for "low cost airlines".

The rest of the Bill seems to be utterly pointless:

Ratifying in UK law the 2005 Protocols to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, by creating a number of new offences relating to committing acts of terrorism at sea, for example:

  • using a ship to transport weapons of mass destruction or in any other manner that causes death or serious injury or damage;

  • using a ship or fixed platform to discharge any explosive, radioactive material or Biological, Chemical or Nuclear weapon or any other hazardous substance to cause death or injury; or using any of those substances against a ship or fixed platform;

Is the Government seriously going to pretend that in cases where "discharge any explosive, radioactive material or Biological, Chemical or Nuclear weapon or any other
hazardous substance to cause death or injury"" applies, that there are not already plenty of other laws which completely cover any conceivable offences of murder, terrorism, or those involving specific nuclear , biological or chemical weapons etc. which are already in force ?

Terrorism legislation already applies anywhere and everywhere throughout the entire universe, including at sea.

The section on

Permitting enforcement officers (e.g. members of the Royal Navy):

  • to board and detain ships where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the ship or a person on board the ship is involved in an offence under the Protocols;

  • to search for and seize evidence and arrest persons suspected of
    relevant offences;

  • to board ships that are suspected of being involved in acts of piracy

and

"giving the Royal Navy explicit powers to tackle piracy."

is also utter nonsense.

Is the Home Office Department for Transport trying to pretend that all previous Royal Navy anti-piracy operations back through the centuries, are somehow illegal ?

If so, is the Home Office Department for Transport going to financially compensate all the pirates, slavers , drug and contraband smugglers who have been boarded or killed by the Royal Navy in the past ?

The United Nations International Maritime Organisation 2005 Protocols to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation came into force in 2005, and, for no good reason whatsoever, were not ratified by the UK until January 2007, according to the Department for Transport's security bureaucrats: TRANSEC Annual Report 2007-2008

Who agreed to this United Nations amendment to previous protocols, on behalf of the United Kingdom ? Why did the UK not veto this bureaucratic nonsense ?

All that is required under the Protocols is a Statement saying that we already comply with them, and have done so for centuries.

Why is any new legislation required at all, especially since every possible offence under these protocols is already covered by existing UK laws ?

Gordon Brown's dire speech to the Labour Party Conference last September promised, amongst other things,"10,000 hand held computers" for the Police.

Incredibly, it seems that according to this National Policing Improvement Agency press release, and subsequent reports in The Register and by the BBC, each of these hand held computers is going to cost £5,000 each.

Almost none of our worries about the security implications of this scheme have been answered, but it does seem that an incredible amount of central government allocated tax money is going to be spent - £50 million for only 10,000 units i.e. £5,000 each - you could literally get gold plated hand held computers for this amount of money !

How can issuing 10,000 hand held computers, in other words, to only 7 percent of the Police force, actually reduce bureaucracy ?

Surely these inherently physically insecure hand held computers are going to make it easier for ruthless attackers to illegally access sensitive National Security or Confidential Human Intelligence Source intelligence databases ?

Which politician will resign from office, when, not if, someone's life is put in danger, as a result of the loss or theft of these hand held computers, and the inevitable loss of the passwords, either because they are written down, or because a Police Officer or someone else is being held hostage and is threatened with violence, by criminals or terrorists who have access to such a mobile device ?

See: Gordon Brown's speech to the Labour Party Conference - no good news for freedom. liberty or security, but plans to confiscate £670 million from bank accounts

We wrote:

The Daily Telegraph reports some welcome political promises, which we will which hold them to in the future, from the Conservative Shadow Home Secretary David Davis regarding CCTV surveillance cameras.

Tories pledge to curb use of CCTV cameras

By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 12:49AM BST 21/05/2008

A Conservative government would put strict new limits on the use of surveillance cameras, David Davis, the shadow home secretary, pledged on Tuesday night.

Mr Davis told the Society of Conservative Lawyers that the widespread use of closed circuit television (CCTV) risks infringing civil liberties.

He proposed new rules on the use of CCTV and penalties for people and bodies that use the cameras to invade the privacy of the public. He also promised measures to improve the quality of CCTV footage to aid prosecutions.

Mr Davis said: "There is no argument for having CCTV which both infringes on our civil liberty but is of such poor quality it does nothing to protect us or provide evidence to bring perpetrators of crime to justice - as happens now.

"Conservatives would ensure any CCTV has to be maintained at sufficiently high standard to provide evidence admissible in court.

"We would also strictly limit access to these images to the police and other relevant agencies until they get to court, and set a mandatory punishment for breaches of these rules that infringe the privacy of the individual."

Britain is one of the heaviest users of CCTV in the world, with more than 4.2 million CCTV cameras across the country, one for every 14 people.

This figure is only an out of date guesstimate, made over 5 years ago, but the Labour government Surveillance State has never bothered, or perhaps never dared, to research a more accurate or up to date figure.

See "monitored on CCTV 300 times a day" etc. soundbites

There needs to be a level playing field, with CCTV regulations legally enforced , fairly and equally throughout the United Kingdom. This does not happen at the moment.

  • We would support the use of far fewer, but properly run and properly maintained CCTV systems, which are all registered with the Local Council planning authorities..

  • Providing that they are physically small, as most CCTV cameras are nowadays, it should be made easier to mount them closer to the ground. Under the current "no need for planning permission" building regulations, they are at least 2.5 metres off the ground, like advertising signs etc, to prevent people colliding with them by accident. This would give better pictures of people who currently succeed in obscuring their faces with hoodies or baseball caps etc.

  • Residents should be able to legally object, for free, to the siting CCTV cameras which snoop on them or their children, or which are used as a form of intimidation in disputes between neighbours.

  • This would aid the Police in serious crime investigations, especially where time is of the essence e.g. a missing child as they would not have to waste time and resources literally knocking on doors and trying to find out who, if anyone has some relevant CCTV footage.

  • The Government and the insurance industry should mandate open standards for CCTV image data transfers formats and connector cables. There are far too many incompatible proprietary data compression formats and cable end connectors in use.

  • There should be a legally enforceable CCTV image Data Retention period which is equal to or greater than the Data Protection Act Subject Access Request time limit to reply of 41 days, by which time most "CCTV evidence" is usually destroyed. Alternatively, the Data Protection Act should be amended to reflect the fact that most CCTV camera systems are on daily, weekly or monthly data re-formatting or overwriting cycles.

  • Where CCTV evidence is "seized" by the Police or the security agencies etc, it must not be kept and stored indefinitely. All copies must be proven to have been destroyed after a suitable Data Retention period. Extensions to such Data Retention periods must be independently reviewed.and not simply be rubber stamped automatically.

  • The regulations and legislation should a increase the number of CCTV Warning Signs, with up to date contact details of the Camera Operators - what is the point of a "deterrent" which nobody knows about ?

  • "CCTV" should also include all the "see through your clothes or your children's clothes" scanner and imaging technologies such as Passive or Active Millimetre Wave, TeraHerz or Back Scatter X-Ray etc.

  • There must be criminal penalties for the abuse of CCTV and other such systems

Toby Oliver from Path Intelligence has, via email, answered a few of our Questions and Concerns but raised a few new ones - see below.

As a general point we don't use the phones IMEI's we use the TMSI and occasionally part of the IMSI

See our previous article "Path Intelligence - Phorm for shopping centres ?"

More coverage and comment at The Register

Various Home Office websites seem to be still suffering from serious problems which have effectively taken them offline. since late this afternoon.

Websites affected range from the main Home Office website

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk

and the awful Press website (which never seems to have current Home Office Press releases available)

http://press.homeoffice.gov.uk

through to more obscure ones such as the Independent Monitoring Boards for Prisons website (even though this should really be under the Ministry of Justice)

http://www.imb.gov.uk

Surely their Disaster Recovery Plan should have kicked in by now ?

They do actually have a Disaster Recovery Plan...don't they ?

Either you get a 502 Proxy Error


Proxy Error


The proxy server received an invalid
response from an upstream server.

The proxy server could not handle the request GET /.


Reason: Error reading from remote server


or you get a Java Apache Tomcat error which mentions the Mediasurface webserver software:

Home_Office_website_error_19_May_2008_300.jpg

javax.servlet.ServletException: Failed to connect to Mediasurface uk.gov.homeoffice.MediasurfaceXControllerServlet.loadDynamicProps(MediasurfaceXControllerServlet.java:199) uk.gov.homeoffice.MediasurfaceXControllerServlet.init(MediasurfaceXControllerServlet.java:70) javax.servlet.GenericServlet.init(GenericServlet.java:211) org.apache.catalina.authenticator.AuthenticatorBase.invoke(AuthenticatorBase.java:462) org.apache.catalina.valves.ErrorReportValve.invoke(ErrorReportValve.java:118) org.apache.catalina.valves.AccessLogValve.invoke(AccessLogValve.java:535) org.apache.coyote.tomcat5.CoyoteAdapter.service(CoyoteAdapter.java:160) org.apache.coyote.http11.Http11Processor.process(Http11Processor.java:799) org.apache.coyote.http11.Http11Protocol$Http11ConnectionHandler.processConnection(Http11Protocol.java:705) org.apache.tomcat.util.net.TcpWorkerThread.runIt(PoolTcpEndpoint.java:577) org.apache.tomcat.util.threads.ThreadPool$ControlRunnable.run(ThreadPool.java:683) java.lang.Thread.run(Thread.java:534)

Has anybody else missed these vital bits of our "Critical National Infrastructure" yet ?

[UPDATE: the websites appear to be working again this Tuesday morning, without. of course, any explanation or apology or even an acknowledgment that anything could possibly have gone wrong - a bit of humility and humanity from the Home Office would would be appreciated by the public].

Just in case you thought that Phorm was the only threat to your privacy, here is an example of similar "no opt out" snooping technology being installed in the infrastructure of a public space, a shopping centre, which secretly snoops on individuals, without their informed prior consent, in the hope that advertising and sales revenues can be maximised.

There is no way, short of switching off your mobile phone, of opting out or avoiding this snooping scheme.

The Times has a story:

From Times Online May 16, 2008

Shops secretly track customers via mobile phone

Signals given off by phones allow shopping centres to monitor how long people stay and which stores they visit

Jonathan Richards, San Francisco

Customers in shopping centres are having their every move tracked by a new type of surveillance that listens in on the whisperings of their mobile phones.

The technology can tell when people enter a shopping centre, what stores they visit, how long they remain there, and what route they take as they walked around.

All the same issues about the lack of informed, prior consent of members of the public who have been, or are now being snooped on in secret, for the commercial benefit of others, apply to Path Intelligence Ltd. (technology provider), the shopping centres (public infrastructure providers), and retailers (profit makers), just as they do to Phorm (technology provider), the Internet Service Providers (public infrastructure providers) and web advertisers (profit makers).

If you look at the demonstration (needs Flash) of the interactive mapping and reporting software which Path Intelligence seem to have developed for this snooping technology, you will see that it could also be easily applied to display and analyse inputs from other "spy on the public without their knowledge or consent" technologies which exploit things which large numbers of people might be carrying on their persons, like BlueTooth or unkilled consumer product RFID tags, or "Biometric" Passports or ID Cards.

It should be relatively simple to link such a system to the existing CCTV surveillance camera networks which modern shopping centres all employ.

Sharon Biggar, the company's chief operating officer, said that one of the stores which had already deployed the receivers did not want its name revealed for fear of alarming its customers.

Who is this snooping retailer ? Why should we not boycott them ?

When Spy Blog looked at the "Preparing Britain for the future" - Government's Draft Legislative Programme 2008/09 (.pdf) document yesterday, there was not the time, nor the energy to comment on the Policing and Crime Reduction Bill announcement.

Yesterday we wrote:

Gordon Brown has, either for genuine transparency in Government reasons, or, more likely, for cynical short term "Must be Seen To Be Doing Something" reasons just before the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, pre-announced a list of forthcoming Bills, which would traditionally have been first revealed in the Queen's Speech in November.

The inept Harriet Harman, presumably with the blessing of Gordon Brown, has now sneakily published an Amendment to Preparing Britain for the Future - The Government's Draft Legislative Programme 2008-09 Cm 7372 (.pdf)

Do not be tempted to believe the claims on page 76of the original Draft Legislative Programme 2008-09 which claims:

The language of legislation

18. The Government is committed wherever possible to using plain
language in the legislative process to ensure that non-lawyers can
better understand what is being proposed.
[...]

You can see that this promise has already been broken with the deliberately obscure wording used in the Amendment document:

Due to an administrative error some detail in the Draft Legislative Programme Green Paper Cm 7372 published on 14 May 2008 was incorrect and is being amended as follows:

p 39: delete 'maing' and insert 'making' in 2nd line of 1st bullet under 'The main elements of the Bill are:'
p 47: delete 2nd main bullet under 'The main elements of the Bill are:'
p 48: delete 2nd bullet at top of page starting 'A new...'
p 48: delete 2nd sentence in para under Consultation and amend 3rd sentence to read 'Details will be available at www.homeoffice.gov.uk'
p 56: last sentence of last bullet point to end '...to read out any family impact statements in court.'

There was once a time, when a spelling error such as that on page 39, in the Government announcement regarding the "Education and skills bill" would have led to mainstream media articles criticising falling educational standards.

Why are the titles of the Bills not fully capitalised in this document ?
Why is the word "future" not capitalised in the original document title (which employs fake handwriting graphics), but it is capitalised ("Future") in the amendment document title ?

Presumably this typographical error on page 39 is due to the erroneous addition of a spelling mistake into a departmental or personal spell check dictionary, probably in Microsoft Word software.

Similarly the page 56 error substituted the word "and" for the correct word "any".

Note that, given the quoted fragments of text, it is fairly obvious that the page 39 and page 56 corrections refer to spelling errors, something which can be gleaned without actually having to refer to the original document. Surely both of these errors should have been picked up by proper, independent proof reading by people other than the original document author ?

However the amendment on page 47 and the three amendments on page 48 are much sneakier. You do need to refer to the original document, to decipher the major changes to the content of original description of the Policing and Crime Reduction Bill

p 47: delete 2nd main bullet under 'The main elements of the Bill are:' deletes

  • Implement recommendations from Sir Clive Booth's report, Determining Pay in the Police Service;

p 48: delete 2nd bullet at top of page starting 'A new...' deletes:

  • A new arrangement for agreeing police pay, with the opportunity for all parties to give evidence before recommendations are made to Ministers, considering morale and motivation, recruitment and retention, as well as affordability and the wider economic context;

p 48: delete 2nd sentence in para under Consultation deletes:

The Government will also consult on implementing the recommendations of Sir Clive Booth's review.

See Sir Clive Booth's report Determining Pay in the Police Service (.pdf) (October 2007).

Has Sir Clive Booth's review been scuppered at the last minute, i.e. since Wednesday 14th May 2008, or was it torpedoed back when the Home Office reneged on Police Pay promises, which led to the large protest march in London in January ? (see The Times: Thousands of police officers march over pay)

These major changes to the description of the content of the Police and Crime Reduction Bill, and the lack of proof reading before publication imply that either there has been last minute changes in policy at the Home Office regarding this Bill, or that the entire Draft Legislative Program was not originally due to be published this week, and it has been rushed through without even proper clerical checks.

Can any Spy Blog reader confirm that these spelling errors and the inclusion of the references to the Police pay review are also present in the printed copies of this document (priced at an astonishingly poor value for money £18.55) ?

The two of details announced in this Yet Another Police Bill which caught our attention were regarding Police Bureaucracy and Extradition

Communications Data Bill announced

| | Comments (6)

Gordon Brown has, either for genuine transparency in Government reasons, or, more likely, for cynical short term "Must be Seen To Be Doing Something" reasons just before the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, pre-announced a list of forthcoming Bills, which would traditionally have been first revealed in the Queen's Speech in November.

See the document with the meaningless slogan title "Preparing Britain for the Future" - Government's Draft Legislative Programme 2008/09 (.pdf)

These include Yet Another Police Bill, and a Transport Security Bill - more on those in later blog postings.

The one which caught our attention most is the Communications Data Bill which will increase the Government and Police snooping capabilities, regarding Internet usage logfiles etc. Telephones and mobile phones are already subject to the mandatory Data Retention scheme, brought into force last October, as a result of the "policy laundered" European Union Directive on Data Retention ("we have to do this because the EU told us to" - even though it was the UK Government which was on of the prime movers who helped to inflict this wasteful and intrusive policy on all 450 million European Union citizens in the first place).

Even though UK Goverment was one of the proponents of this scheme, they, along with several other EU states cried off impementing the Directive for internet email, web traffic and peer to peer filesharing etc. for 18 months after doing so for mobile and landline telephony.

See the Data Retention Is No Solution wiki

Will there be strict limits and adequate safeguards regarding exactly who has access to such retained log files ?

Will there be a cheap, easy, rapid, fair and decent error correction and complaints procedure for individuals and businesses ?

Will there be criminal penalties for data abusers, generous financial compensation and prompt public apologies from senior officials and politicians when, not if, things go horribly wrong ?

Can pigs fly ?

There is a promise of "pre-legislative scrutiny"of this Bill, but, given the fiasco of the Public Consultation conducted by the Home Office on the topic of RIPA Part 1 Communications Traffic Data statutory Code of Practice, back in 2006, we are extremely wary and cynical, and fear that it will be another sham.

The Labour Government actually went ahead regardless and introduced and then rubber stamped into law, a Statutory Instrument Order which went ahead and implemented one of the Questions on which it was allegedly "consulting" the public about, right in the middle of the 12 week Consultation process, without even pretending to "listen" to the views of the public or analysing their responses.

See The Consultation Process paras 17 to 20

Details of the Bill:

11. Communications data bill

The Hazel Blears the NuLabour former Home Office Minister who introduced so much counter productive bureaucratic red tape and form filling when she used to be in charge of Policing, Crime Reduction and Counter-terrorism, is at it again, now that she is inflicting a new Community Snooping policy onto Local Government.

She has just published a poisonous document entitled: Guidance for local authorities on community cohesion contingency planning and tension monitoring (.pdf)

This seems to envisage the gathering of political intelligence on local communities, and on "individual troublemakers", not just by the Local Authorities and the Police, but by a whole host of public sector employees turned into Government spies:

37. The most effective way to do this is through establishing a multi-agency tension monitoring group, led by an officer/s from the local authority and/or the local police force. This should include key partners from the statutory sector (e.g. housing, community safety, education, fire service, health, probation/youth offending team, community workers, neighbourhood wardens and police community support officers, National Asylum Support Service), and relevant representatives from the voluntary, community and faith sectors.

The sort of data which Hazel Blears wants to collect and share :

Relevant pieces of intelligence might include:
  • quantitative data (e.g. police crime statistics and intelligence reports)
  • qualitative community intelligence from neighbourhood wardens, community workers, casework by local councillors and feedback from local community meetings and organisations
  • racially or religiously motivated offences or incidents
  • details of new arrivals, refugees and asylum seekers, and Gypsy and Traveller communities in the local area
  • gang and turf conflicts
  • neighbour disputes

Why does a dispute between two neighbours suddenly constitute "community tension", requiring reporting back to a Central Government Department ?

  • complaints of noise nuisance

What about the noise nuisance from Airport Expansion plans ?

  • examples of poor community/local authority relations, poor community/police relations/low levels of trust in local politicians

How exactly are low levels of trust in the police and in local politicians, going to be improved by such spying and snooping on local communities by those very same politicians ?

  • surveys of community views on reassurance, cohesion and safety matters
  • state of local economic activity (decline or improvement)
  • financial and social investment in the area
  • demand for housing and condition of the local housing stock
  • plans for renewal and the sustainability of planned or actual improvements
  • political extremism

What is the definition of "political extremism" ?

Anybody who disagrees with the Labour government ?

It would be a disaster, of Northern Irish "Troubles" proportions, if the local police force were to be seen to be involved in party political or religious monitoring or discrimination, but that is exactly what they are being drawn into with this scheme.

  • media reports.

So is every Local Authority now going to waste money setting up its own "media monitoring unit" ?

This whole scheme appears to give the impression that the Labour government only appear to be willing to listen, and then to apply propaganda resources and other "community" investment, once there have been demonstrations, protests and violent incidents - peaceful lobbying and dialogue is ignored.

If you look at the sample "Tension Monitoring Form" reproduced below, it is obvious that such forms, or the central database of such forms, will not have enough detailed information to give a full, true picture of each "incident", but there will be sufficient details to create "guilt by association" and to stereotype a particular area unfairly, and to blacklist any individuals who might be directly or indirectly identifiable.

Note that there is no mechanism for error correction or appeal, and no sanctions against abuse of power by officials, who will be trying to use the exemptions under the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act to keep this all secret from the public.

The Joint Select Committee on the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill (.pdf) has issued a public call for evidence:

Joint Committee on the Constitutional Renewal Bill call for evidence (.pdf)

According to their Press Release:

"The Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill has been heralded by the Government as a chance for Parliament to hold them to account more effectively and we will seek to find out how this can be achieved.

"We will look at the Bill in its entirety and are interested in receiving evidence from any interested parties who can give us their insights into how the proposals in the Draft Bill will affect Parliament's ability to scrutinise the Government."

Below are some comments on:

  • Protests
  • Part 6 - power of Ministers to amend the Act by Order
  • Treaties
  • Civil Service
  • Abuse of the Bill of Rights to suppress Freedom of Information etc

and details of how to send in your evidence to the Joint Committee by the June 12th deadline i.e. in less than a month

The Mail on Sunday has put a strange spin on its "whistleblower spies" report, which must stem from the first evidence session of the Joint Committee on the Draft Constitutional Renewal Bill (not yet available online), which was, presumably held on Tuesday 6th May 2008.

Without bothering to mention this Joint Committee directly, they report:

Mail on Sunday

Whistleblower spies are left out in the cold by new Government rules

By JASON LEWIS
Last updated at 01:31am on 11th May 2008

Britain's spies will not be covered by new rules that protect Government whistleblowers.

Officers from MI5, MI6 and the GCHQ listening station who raise the alarm over their roles must instead have the issue dealt with internally.

However, other Government departments will be covered by the new code of practice designed to ensure public service honesty, integrity and independence.

The Civil Service Code (revised in 2006) provides even less protection for whistleblowers than the old version did - see the the previous Spy Blog article - Minor changes to the Civil Service Code might affect whistleblowers

The rules - in the proposed Constitutional Renewal Bill - will ensure grievances are investigated by independent officials from other departments.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw's decision to exclude spies comes despite the huge growth in size and activities of the main agencies - plus continuing questions over their role in the Iraq war run-up.

Jack Straw has an appalling record regarding whistleblowing civil servants in his own Departments. Remember the persecution and smear campaigns against the former British Consul to Romania and Bulagaria, James Cameron and the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray ? All of these whistleblowers allegations proved to be true, and in the public interest, but both of them were smeared and persecuted by the Foreign Office bureaucracy, under Jack Straw, in spite of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998

The head of Whitehall's watchdog last week demanded that the spooks be given the protection of an independent investigation.

First Civil Service Commissioner Janet Paraskeva, who reports directly to the Queen, asked a committee of MPs considering the Bill: "Where is the regulatory apparatus for our security services?

"We are asking questions about why all these organisations are excluded from some kind of regulation.

"Why should those civil servants not have the same right of access as other civil servants to an outside body if, in fact, they are concerned about what they have been asked to do?"

Previously, GCHQ officers have been able to go to the Commissioner with grievances, but the new Bill will remove that right and bring them in line with the other security services.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell said MI5 and MI6 had their own codes of practice and complaints procedures.

He added: "There is an independent person that they can go to and that person can then refer those complaints directly to the Prime Minister."

Note how the quote from Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell does not actually mention GCHQ !

The actual section of the Draft Governance of Britain - Constitutional Renewal Bill (.pdf 98 pages) which excludes organisations from the purview of the Civil Service Commissioner is clause 25 (2):

25 Application of Part

(2) The parts excluded are --

(a) the Secret Intelligence service
(b) the Security Service
(c) the Government Communications Headquarters
(d) the Northern Ireland Civil Service
(e) the Northern Ireland Court Service

What possible reason is there for excluding "the Northern Ireland Civil Service" and "the Northern Ireland Court Service" ?

Why should different rules apply to them, as apply to civil servants in England, Wales and Scotland ?

We cannot be bothered to try to make any of these points on the "article comments" section on the Daily Mail / Mail on Sunday website - they always seem to ignore anything which even gently points out factual errors or omissions in their articles, let alone anything which disagrees with their political slant, which is a pity, as it rather devalues their website.

Perhaps our regular Associated Newspapers Ltd. visitors could feed this comment back to their management.

Just in case any Labour party supporters or others, disillusioned with Gordon Brown (as we have always been) are thinking that David Miliband, the current Foreign Secreatry, would somehow be any less of a totalitarian control freak, regardless of his "good intentions", the Guardian reminds us of his Flagship Policy Idea when David Miliband (not to be confused with his equally reprehensible brother Ed Mliband, who is also a Labour Government Minister) was in charge of the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

This scheme would have been pure evil - an unnecessary alternative currency of "carbon credits", which would have created new classes of organised criminals i.e. "blackmarket spivs") and would have required intensely detailed, very intrusive centralised database snooping into every citizen's use of energy at home, or work or their use of private or public transport.

Such a system of rationing did not work fairly, even under the desperate temporary dictatorship command economy conditions of World War 2. Why should it be tolerated now ?

Government scraps carbon card scheme for fear of ridicule

David Adam
guardian.co.uk,
Thursday May 8 2008

Ministers have scrapped radical plans to test a carbon rationing scheme that would have forced citizens to carry a carbon card to swipe every time they bought petrol or paid an electricity bill.

The plan was announced by David Miliband, former environment secretary, in 2006 as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and tackle global warming. But officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said today that the idea was too expensive and would be unpopular.

Why has it taken them 2 years to decide this ? It was obvious a few seconds after Miliband uttered his ideas about the scheme.

Defra said a feasibility study found that carbon rationing was "an idea ahead of its time in terms of its public acceptability and the technology to bring down costs." While there were "no insurmountable technical obstacles", the study found such a scheme would cost £1-2bn each year and would be perceived as unfair.

Defra said it was abandoning plans for a pilot scheme to test the idea, because it would be "unrepresentative" and "could lead to failure and subsequent public distrust and ridicule."

We would have been looking for ways to prosecute the miscreants who inflicted such an evil scheme on the public.

How could it ever hope to work more efficiently than the normal price mechanism of supply and demand ?

In a statement, the department said: "The government remains interested in the concept of personal carbon trading and, although it will not be continuing its research programme at this stage, it will monitor the wealth of research focusing on this area and may introduce personal carbon trading if the value of carbon savings and cost implications change."

No you will not !

Under the scheme, all UK citizens from the Queen down would have been allocated an identical annual carbon allowance, stored as points on an electronic card similar to Air Miles or supermarket loyalty cards. Points would then be deducted at point of sale for every purchase of non-renewable energy. People who did not use their full allocation, such as families who do not own a car, would be able to sell their surplus carbon points into a central bank.

High energy users could then buy them - motorists who had used their allocation would still be able to buy petrol, with the carbon points drawn from the bank and the cost added to their fuel bills. To reduce total UK emissions, the overall number of points would shrink each year.

[...]

Not even the Soviet Union's Communist Central Planners at GOSPLAN would have thought that such a scheme could ever be either practical or popular,

The fact that David Miliband thought that this was a good idea to inflict on the British public, speaks volumes about his wasted, twisted intelligence, and about the corrosive effect of his impractical Marxist intellectual upbringing.

Every time that any group of independent experts with any real academic knowledge or practical business experience take a look at the Labour Government's disastrous ID Cards and centralised biometric database National Identity Register scheme, their conclusion is the same - yes, safeguarding people's individual identities from abuse by criminals etc. is important, but the Government's scheme will not do what they are claiming, and there is a significant risk that it will make things worse, at vast public expense.

The latest such group, who are Government appointed and funded, have had their report published, grudgingly and without any Government publicity:

Independent Scheme Assurance Panel Annual Report for 2007 (.pdf)

The Panel consists of:

John ClarkeJohn F Clarke is currently CIO for Nokia, having previously been Director of Group Technology & Architecture for Tesco.
Brian CollinsChief Scientific Adviser, Department for Transport. Chair of the Biometrics Assurance Group. Professor of Information Systems at Cranfield University.
Alan HughesAlan Hughes is a non-Executive director of IPS. He was Chief Executive of First Direct Bank and in charge of Marketing for HSBC in the UK and Europe. He is currently a member of the Advisory Board of Leeds University Business School and a visiting lecturer at Warwick University.
Malcolm MitchellMalcolm Mitchell has served as IT Director and Director of IT Technology Strategy for Vodafone and IT Director for Research and Development at Glaxo. He currently is IT Investment and Service Management Director at BAA.
Peter SimpsonPeter Simpson is an independent marketing consultant, a member of the Institute of Direct Marketing Education Council and served as Commercial Director for First Direct Bank.
Fergie WilliamsFergie Williams has been CIO of Travelex, HSBC Europe, and Merrill Lynch HSBC.

These are people with real experience of technically sophisticated and large scale public facing IT projects. They are of an entirely different, much higher calibre, than the inexperienced civil servants, the hand waving management consultants and unproven technology salesmen and the political apparatchiki who seem to be the proponents of the current National Identity Scheme.

This Panel does appear to have read the Top Secret Business Case for the scheme, and have also been briefed on the latest Ultra Secret Office of Government Commerce Gateway Stage 0 Review report of the Identity Cards programme, which the Home Office and the Treasury have been wasting so much public money on legal fees to delay the publication of, thereby making a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act promise of "open government".


  • 13 February: The meeting focussed on the usage and benefits of the Scheme and the Panel discussed the Business Case and the potential infrastructure of the Scheme.

  • 5 March: The Panel reviewed the second version of the Business Case in detail, received an overview of the Gateway 0 process and discussed the issues they were likely to raise with reviewers.

The IASP's most striking recommendation, is one which implies that despite the years of footling about and the tens of millions of pounds spent on Consultants and Civil Servants working on the scheme, fundamental issues have still not been adequately planned for.

Why would the IASP have to bother making any recommendations about Integrity and citizen protection, at this late stage, unless the current plan is totally evil or entirely absent, in this regard ?

The Home Office tentacle, the Identity and Passport Service, has published the latest 10 Year Cost guesstimate Report for their increasingly hated Identity Cards and centralised biometric database National Identity Register scheme.

Identity Cards Scheme Cost Report May 2008 (.pdf)

This is not a fair and accurate summary of the progress of the controversial scheme.

Illegal delay in publishing the Report - yet again

They have to go through the motions, by law, and publish this report, introduced as a weak compromise by the former Labour Minister Frank Dobson, to sabotage any proper detailed Cost / Benefit analysis of the entire scheme.

Publishing this Report is a Statutory Duty of the Secretary of State to be produced every six months,

The Identity Cards Act 2006 Section 37 clearly states, with no room for misinterpretation:

37 Report to Parliament about likely costs of ID cards scheme

(1) Before the end of the six months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must prepare and lay before Parliament a report setting out his estimate of the public expenditure likely to be incurred on the ID cards scheme during the ten years beginning with the laying of the report.

(2) Before the end of every six months beginning with the laying of a report under this section, the Secretary of State must prepare and lay before Parliament a further report setting out his estimate of the public expenditure likely to be incurred on the ID cards scheme during the ten years beginning with the end of those six months.

This latest report, is again, 2 months late, since the Act came into force in early March 2006. There is no excuse whatsoever for the previously delayed reports, and it is scandalous that the Home Office have not even bothered to give a feeble excuse as to why this latest "back of a fag packet" report is so late. Their next report should be a an interim report covering the next three and a bit months, and should be published on time, every 6 months thereafter.

Somehow we do not believe that the Government would waive any fines imposed on the public, if they chose to register under the NIS two months late.

This really does show the contempt for transparency and for Parliament and the general public, which the Labour Ministers and their apparatchiki display. If the Labour Government so blatantly ignores Section 37 of their own Identity Cards Act, for their own bureaucratic and political advantage, then how can they be trusted not to ignore the "safeguards" regarding your very personal data, built into the rest of the Act ?

It is hard to resist shouting "Told You So !":

CCTV boom has failed to slash crime, say police

Owen Bowcott
The Guardian,
Tuesday May 6 2008

Massive investment in CCTV cameras to prevent crime in the UK has failed to have a significant impact, despite billions of pounds spent on the new technology, a senior police officer piloting a new database has warned. Only 3% of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV images, despite the fact that Britain has more security cameras than any other country in Europe.

The warning comes from the head of the Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office (Viido) at New Scotland Yard as the force launches a series of initiatives to try to boost conviction rates using CCTV evidence. They include:

  • A new database of images which is expected to use technology developed by the sports advertising industry to track and identify offenders.

  • Putting images of suspects in muggings, rape and robbery cases out on the internet from next month.

  • Building a national CCTV database, incorporating pictures of convicted offenders as well as unidentified suspects. The plans for this have been drawn up, but are on hold while the technology required to carry out automated searches is refined.

Use of CCTV images for court evidence has so far been very poor, according to Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville, the officer in charge of the Metropolitan police unit. "CCTV was originally seen as a preventative measure," Neville told the Security Document World Conference in London. "Billions of pounds has been spent on kit, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court. It's been an utter fiasco: only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. There's no fear of CCTV. Why don't people fear it? [They think] the cameras are not working."

For a supposed crime prevention deterrent, the number of warning signs that an area is actually under CCTV surveillance is usually totally inadequate.

There should be far more warning signs than actual cameras, but almost invariably, this is the other way around, with perhaps only one sign for every dozen or so cameras deployed.

More training was needed for officers, he said. Often they do not want to find CCTV images "because it's hard work". Sometimes the police did not bother inquiring beyond local councils to find out whether CCTV cameras monitored a particular street incident.

Which rather supports our demands for compulsory Registration and Licensing of CCTV camera systems, ideally at a local level, - the Police would be able to find relevant footage far more quickly than having to make door to door enquiries every time.

"CCTV operators need feedback. If you call them back, they feel valued and are more helpful. We want to develop a career path for CCTV [police] inquirers."

The Viido unit is beginning to establish a London-wide database of images of suspects that are cross-referenced by written descriptions. Interest in the technology has been enhanced by recent police work, in which officers back-tracked through video tapes to pick out terrorist suspects. In districts where the Viido scheme is working, CCTV is now helping police in 15-20% of street robberies.

"We are [beginning] to collate images from across London," Neville said. "This has got to be balanced against any Big Brother concerns, with safeguards. The images are from thefts, robberies and more serious crimes. Possibly the [database] could be national in future."

The unit is now investigating whether it can use software - developed to track advertising during televised football games - to follow distinctive brand logos on the clothing of unidentified suspects. "Sometimes you are looking for a picture, for example, of someone with a red top and a green dragon on it," he explained. "That technology could be used to track logos." By back-tracking, officers have often found earlier pictures, for example, of suspects with their hoods down, in which they can be identified.

This approach may sometimes be of use, but it can also lead to a lot of false positive misidentification of innocent people, given how popular some brands are.

"We are also going to start putting out [pictures] on the internet, on the Met police website, asking 'who is this guy?'. If criminals see that CCTV works they are less likely to commit crimes."

Cheshire deputy chief constable Graham Gerrard, who chairs the CCTV working group of the Association of Chief Police Officers, told the Guardian, that it made no sense to have a national DNA and fingerprint database, but to have to approach 43 separate forces for images of suspects and offenders. A scheme called the Facial Identification National Database (Find), which began collecting offenders' images from their prison pictures and elsewhere, has been put on hold.

He said that there were discussions with biometric companies "on a regular basis" about developing the technology to search digitised databases and match suspects' images with known offenders. "Sometimes when they put their [equipment] in operational practice, it's not as wonderful as they said it would be, " he said. "I suspect [Find] has been put on hold until the technology matures. Before you can digitise every offender's image you have to make sure the lighting is right and it's a good picture. It's a major project. We are still some way from a national database. There are still ethical and technical issues to consider."

[...]

Biometrics being oversold by eager salesdroids hoping to cash in on lucrative public sector procurement incompetence, and (mostly Labour) politicians grasping at technological magic wands, in the vain hope that they might cover up their lack of other solutions to social problems ? Who would have guessed ?

Any proposed National Database of CCTV images must not be sneaked in without full public and Parliamentary debate , like the DNA database has been.

There must be a much better, friendlier, more responsive system for correcting the inevitable mistakes, and for the prompt destruction of any data collected inadvertently by the system on innocent people.

There should be generous financial compensation and public apologies by those responsible for such errors and mistakes.

There should be criminal penalties for any insiders who abuse the data collected or analysed, with no exceptions for "national security" or "the prevention or detection of crime" etc.

This report echoes some of the concerns raised by the ACPO report published last October - see National CCTV Strategy - worryingly incomplete

Photography does NOT equal Terrorism

| | Comments (11)

Photography_equals_Terrorism_poster_Met_Police_HQ_London_min.jpg

This example of the Suspiciously timed Climate of Fear propaganda campaign by the Police in the run up to the Counter-Terrorism Bill debates is actually being displayed in a window of the Metropolitan Police Service headquarters complex at New Scotland Yard, which backs onto Victoria Street. The angle of the photo catches a reflection of the Labour Party headquarters, casting its malign influence, on this stupid political Climate of Fear propaganda against innocent photographers,and mobile phone users.

Met_Police_HQ_opposite_Labour_Party_HQ_min.jpg

39 Victoria Street, London, houses the Labour Party headquarters offices, but the building also houses offices of one of Aegis Defence Services Ltd, one of the largest UK Private Military Contractor companies supplying mercenaries (mostly intelligence analysts rather than bodyguards) to the Coalition Forces in Iraq.

Close nearby at 25 Victoria Street, above the Starbucks cafe (hidden behind the white coach in this photo), on the corner of Victoria Street and Abbey Orchard Street, towards Parliament Square, are the offices of the Conservative Party. [UPDATE - thanks to Sepoy Agent in the comments below - this is the former location, it has now moved to the 3rd floor of 30 Millbank, and part of the 5th floor of the neighbouring Millbank Tower (20 - 24 Millbank). The Labour Party used to occupy a couple of floors on the south side of the complex, and used the ground floor lecture theatre for election campaign press conferences, but did not occupy the 33 story tower itself, which has excellent panoramic views over London. Walking from there to the Houses of Parliament involves passing the Security Service MI5 headquarters at Thames House at 11 - 12 Millbank, and 4 Millbank, where the BBC and other TV news and political reports are produced]

Pedestrians and vehicles passing through this area, are monitored by countless inhuman CCTV camera systems, or by faceless operators in CCTV control rooms.

Keen photographer and back bench Labour MP Austin Mitchell has attracted the signatures of 190 other Members of Parliament for his Early Day Motion, regarding the illegal threats and harassment by officious police officers, police community support officers, council wardens and private sector security guards etc., who are abusing the freedoms and rights of ordinary innocent members of the public who take photographs in public places:

The Sunday Times has an opinion article by Matthew Parris about the Labour party's disastrous results in the Local Elections and in London last Thursday: "My advice to Labour MPs - give up"

One comment on this article chimed with our reaction to the "we must listen to the electorate" media spin uttered by Gordon Brown and the other NuLabour politicians, in a vain attempt to try to blame anybody and anything but themselves for their defeats:

My first thought on hearing that New Labour intended listening to the electorate was to wonder whether said goal might be achieved in their minds through increased snooping on emails and bugging of telephone calls.

rob smith, london,

One of Labour's favourite political manipulation tricks has been their fake public consultations - remember Tony Blair's "Big Conversation" back in 2003 ?

What is the point of pretending to "listen", when you have already decided to carry on with your stupid policy regardless ?

Gordon Brown has also used the same technique at the Treasury and as Prime Minister (he has launched over a hundred of "consultations" since last Summer), as has Ken Livingstone over the London Congestion Charge and Low Emission Zone mass surveillance schemes, and the Home Office over the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, and ID Cards.

The Home Office's latest "Consultation on the Delivery of the National Identity Scheme" asks some astonishing questions of the general public, and of private sector companies.

Are we really meant to believe that they have spent 6 years, and £60 million on Consultants and Media Spin, without any idea at all about fundamentals like:

2.2 (i) what sort of advice and support should be provided to the public and other users of the Scheme (ii) how to involve non-government organisations in the provision of advice and support about the Scheme to the public and other users

2.3 (i) how to involve the public in independent scrutiny and oversight of the Scheme (ii) how potential and established users of the Scheme might be involved to bring independent scrutiny and oversight

[...]

3.4 Views are invited on how to deliver benefits from the Scheme to those who hold a separate identity card, passport or both when the Scheme is enrolling large volumes on the National Identity Register

3.5 Views are sought on:
(i) the ways to create an effective market to deliver fingerprint enrolment capability for the Scheme
(ii) what needs to be done to make participation by the private sector in delivering this capability an attractive proposition

All this without actually detailing any quantifiable "benefits" of the scheme to individuals or to companies at all. The public is apparently meant to make out the detailed business case for a rod for their own backs, and then submit it to the Government.

About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog attempts to draw public attention to, and comments on, some of the current trends in ever cheaper and more widespread surveillance technology being deployed to satisfy the rapacious demand by state and corporate bureaucracies and criminals for your private details, and the technological ignorance of our politicians and civil servants who frame our legal systems.

The hope is that you the readers, will help to insist that strong safeguards for the privacy of the individual are implemented, especially in these times of increased alert over possible terrorist or criminal activity. If the systems which should help to protect us can be easily abused to supress our freedoms, then the terrorists will have won.

We know that there are decent, honest, trustworthy individual politicians, civil servants, law enforcement, intelligence agency personnel and broadcast, print and internet journalists etc., who often feel powerless or trapped in the system. They need the assistance of external, detailed, informed, public scrutiny to help them to resist deliberate or unthinking policies, which erode our freedoms and liberties.

Email & PGP Contact

Please feel free to email your views about this blog, or news about the issues it tries to comment on.

blog@spy[dot]org[dot]uk

Our PGP public encryption key is available for those correspondents who wish to send us news or information in confidence, and also for those of you who value your privacy, even if you have got nothing to hide.

Current PGP Key ID: 0x80CFAA4C which will expire on 6th September 2014.

pgp-now.gif
You can download a free copy of the PGP encryption software from www.pgpi.org
(available for most of the common computer operating systems, and also in various Open Source versions like GPG)

We look forward to the day when UK Government Legislation, Press Releases and Emails etc. are Digitally Signed so that we can be assured that they are not fakes. Trusting that the digitally signed content makes any sense, is another matter entirely.

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Dissidents

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g. see Spy Blog's Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - or use this easier to remember link: http://ht4w.co.uk

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

Digital Security & Privacy for Human Rights Defenders manual, by Irish NGO Frontline Defenders.

Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

Links

Watching Them, Watching Us

London 2600

Our UK Freedom of Information Act request tracking blog

WikiLeak.org - ethical and technical discussion about the WikiLeaks.org project for anonymous mass leaking of documents etc.

Privacy and Security

Privacy International
United Kingdom Privacy Profile (2011)

Cryptome - censored or leaked government documents etc.

Identity Project report by the London School of Economics
Surveillance & Society the fully peer-reviewed transdisciplinary online surveillance studies journal

Statewatch - monitoring the state and civil liberties in the European Union

The Policy Laundering Project - attempts by Governments to pretend their repressive surveillance systems, have to be introduced to comply with international agreements, which they themselves have pushed for in the first place

International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance

ARCH Action Rights for Children in Education - worried about the planned Children's Bill Database, Connexions Card, fingerprinting of children, CCTV spy cameras in schools etc.

Foundation for Information Policy Research
UK Crypto - UK Cryptography Policy Discussion Group email list

Technical Advisory Board on internet and telecomms interception under RIPA

European Digital Rights

Open Rights Group - a UK version of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a clearinghouse to raise digital rights and civil liberties issues with the media and to influence Governments.

Digital Rights Ireland - legal case against mandatory EU Comms Data Retention etc.

Blindside - "What’s going to go wrong in our e-enabled world? " blog and wiki and Quarterly Report will supposedly be read by the Cabinet Office Central Sponsor for Information Assurance. Whether the rest of the Government bureaucracy and the Politicians actually listen to the CSIA, is another matter.

Biometrics in schools - 'A concerned parent who doesn't want her children to live in "1984" type society.'

Human Rights

Liberty Human Rights campaigners

British Institute of Human Rights
Amnesty International
Justice

Prevent Genocide International

asboconcern - campaign for reform of Anti-Social Behavior Orders

Front Line Defenders - Irish charity - Defenders of Human Rights Defenders

Internet Censorship

OpenNet Initiative - researches and measures the extent of actual state level censorship of the internet. Features a blocked web URL checker and censorship map.

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."

Reporters without Borders internet section - news of internet related censorship and repression of journalists, bloggers and dissidents etc.

Judicial Links

British and Irish Legal Information Institute - publishes the full text of major case Judgments

Her Majesty's Courts Service - publishes forthcoming High Court etc. cases (but only in the next few days !)

House of Lords - The Law Lords are currently the supreme court in the UK - will be moved to the new Supreme Court in October 2009.

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals under FOIA, DPA both for and against the Information Commissioner

Investigatory Powers Tribunal - deals with complaints about interception and snooping under RIPA - has almost never ruled in favour of a complainant.

Parliamentary Opposition

The incompetent yet authoritarian Labour party have not apologised for their time in Government. They are still not providing any proper Opposition to the current Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition government, on any freedom or civil liberties or privacy or surveillance issues.

UK Government

Home Office - "Not fit for purpose. It is inadequate in terms of its scope, it is inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management systems and processes" - Home Secretary John Reid. 23rd May 2006. Not quite the fount of all evil legislation in the UK, but close.

No. 10 Downing Street Prime Minister's Official Spindoctors

Public Bills before Parliament

United Kingdom Parliament
Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.

House of Commons "Question Book"

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

FaxYourMP - identify and then fax your Member of Parliament
WriteToThem - identify and then contact your Local Councillors, members of devolved assemblies, Member of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament etc.
They Work For You - House of Commons Hansard made more accessible ? UK Members of the European Parliament

Read The Bills Act - USA proposal to force politicians to actually read the legislation that they are voting for, something which is badly needed in the UK Parliament.

Bichard Inquiry delving into criminal records and "soft intelligence" policies highlighted by the Soham murders. (taken offline by the Home Office)

ACPO - Association of Chief Police Officers - England, Wales and Northern Ireland
ACPOS Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland

Online Media

Boing Boing

Need To Know [now defunct]

The Register

NewsNow Encryption and Security aggregate news feed
KableNet - UK Government IT project news
PublicTechnology.net - UK eGovernment and public sector IT news
eGov Monitor

Ideal Government - debate about UK eGovernment

NIR and ID cards

Stand - email and fax campaign on ID Cards etc. [Now defunct]. The people who supported stand.org.uk have gone on to set up other online tools like WriteToThem.com. The Government's contemptuous dismissal of over 5,000 individual responses via the stand.org website to the Home Office public consultation on Entitlement Cards is one of the factors which later led directly to the formation of the the NO2ID Campaign who have been marshalling cross party opposition to Labour's dreadful National Identity Register compulsory centralised national biometric database and ID Card plans, at the expense of simpler, cheaper, less repressive, more effective, nore secure and more privacy friendly alternative identity schemes.

NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID bulletin board discussion forum

Home Office Identity Cards website
No compulsory national Identity Cards (ID Cards) BBC iCan campaign site
UK ID Cards blog
NO2ID press clippings blog
CASNIC - Campaign to STOP the National Identity Card.
Defy-ID active meetings and protests in Glasgow
www.idcards-uk.info - New Alliance's ID Cards page
irefuse.org - total rejection of any UK ID Card

International Civil Aviation Organisation - Machine Readable Travel Documents standards for Biometric Passports etc.
Anti National ID Japan - controversial and insecure Jukinet National ID registry in Japan
UK Biometrics Working Group run by CESG/GCHQ experts etc. the UK Government on Biometrics issues feasability
Citizen Information Project feasability study population register plans by the Treasury and Office of National Statistics

CommentOnThis.com - comments and links to each paragraph of the Home Office's "Strategic Action Plan for the National Identity Scheme".

De-Materialised ID - "The voluntary alternative to material ID cards, A Proposal by David Moss of Business Consultancy Services Ltd (BCSL)" - well researched analysis of the current Home Office scheme, and a potentially viable alternative.

Surveillance Infrastructures

National Roads Telecommunications Services project - infrastruture for various mass surveillance systems, CCTV, ANPR, PMMR imaging etc.

CameraWatch - independent UK CCTV industry lobby group - like us, they also want more regulation of CCTV surveillance systems.

Every Step You Take a documentary about CCTV surveillance in the Uk by Austrian film maker Nino Leitner.

Transport for London an attempt at a technological panopticon - London Congestion Charge, London Low-Emission Zone, Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras, tens of thousands of CCTV cameras on buses, thousands of CCTV cameras on London Underground, realtime road traffic CCTV, Iyster smart cards - all handed over to the Metropolitan Police for "national security" purposes, in real time, in bulk, without any public accountibility, for secret data mining, exempt from even the usual weak protections of the Data Protection Act 1998.

RFID Links

RFID tag privacy concerns - our own original article updated with photos

NoTags - campaign against individual item RFID tags
Position Statement on the Use of RFID on Consumer Products has been endorsed by a large number of privacy and human rights organisations.
RFID Privacy Happenings at MIT
Surpriv: RFID Surveillance and Privacy
RFID Scanner blog
RFID Gazette
The Sorting Door Project

RFIDBuzz.com blog - where we sometimes crosspost RFID articles

Genetic Links

DNA Profiles - analysis by Paul Nutteing
GeneWatch UK monitors genetic privacy and other issues
Postnote February 2006 Number 258 - National DNA Database (.pdf) - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

The National DNA Database Annual Report 2004/5 (.pdf) - published by the NDNAD Board and ACPO.

Eeclaim Your DNA from Britain's National DNA Database - model letters and advice on how to have your DNA samples and profiles removed from the National DNA Database,in spite of all of the nureacratic obstacles which try to prevent this, even if you are innocent.

Miscellanous Links

Michael Field - Pacific Island news - no longer a paradise
freetotravel.org - John Gilmore versus USA internal flight passports and passenger profiling etc.

The BUPA Seven - whistleblowers badly let down by the system.

Tax Credit Overpayment - the near suicidal despair inflicted on poor, vulnerable people by the then Chancellor Gordon Brown's disasterous Inland Revenue IT system.

Fassit UK - resources and help for those abused by the Social Services Childrens Care bureaucracy

Former Spies

MI6 v Tomlinson - Richard Tomlinson - still being harassed by his former employer MI6

Martin Ingram, Welcome To The Dark Side - former British Army Intelligence operative in Northern Ireland.

Operation Billiards - Mitrokhin or Oshchenko ? Michael John Smith - seeking to overturn his Official Secrets Act conviction in the GEC case.

The Dirty Secrets of MI5 & MI6 - Tony Holland, Michael John Smith and John Symond - stories and chronologies.

Naked Spygirl - Olivia Frank

Blog Links

e-nsecure.net blog - Comments on IT security and Privacy or the lack thereof.
Rat's Blog -The Reverend Rat writes about London street life and technology
Duncan Drury - wired adventures in Tanzania & London
Dr. K's blog - Hacker, Author, Musician, Philosopher

David Mery - falsely arrested on the London Tube - you could be next.

James Hammerton
White Rose - a thorn in the side of Big Brother
Big Blunkett
Into The Machine - formerly "David Blunkett is an Arse" by Charlie Williams and Scribe
infinite ideas machine - Phil Booth
Louise Ferguson - City of Bits
Chris Lightfoot
Oblomovka - Danny O'Brien

Liberty Central

dropsafe - Alec Muffett
The Identity Corner - Stefan Brands
Kim Cameron - Microsoft's Identity Architect
Schneier on Security - Bruce Schneier
Politics of Privacy Blog - Andreas Busch
solarider blog

Richard Allan - former Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam
Boris Johnson Conservative MP for Henley
Craig Murray - former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, "outsourced torture" whistleblower

Howard Rheingold - SmartMobs
Global Guerrillas - John Robb
Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends

Vmyths - debunking computer security hype

Nick Leaton - Random Ramblings
The Periscope - Companion weblog to Euro-correspondent.com journalist network.
The Practical Nomad Blog Edward Hasbrouck on Privacy and Travel
Policeman's Blog
World Weary Detective

Martin Stabe
Longrider
B2fxxx - Ray Corrigan
Matt Sellers
Grits for Breakfast - Scott Henson in Texas
The Green Ribbon - Tom Griffin
Guido Fawkes blog - Parliamentary plots, rumours and conspiracy.
The Last Ditch - Tom Paine
Murky.org
The (e)State of Tim - Tim Hicks
Ilkley Against CCTV
Tim Worstall
Bill's Comment Page - Bill Cameron
The Society of Qualified Archivists
The Streeb-Greebling Diaries - Bob Mottram

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke - Freedom off Information campaigning journalist

Ministry of Truth _ Unity's V for Vendetta styled blog.

Bloggerheads - Tim Ireland

W. David Stephenson blogs on homeland security et al.
EUrophobia - Nosemonkey

Blogzilla - Ian Brown

BlairWatch - Chronicling the demise of the New Labour Project

dreamfish - Robert Longstaff

Informaticopia - Rod Ward

War-on-Freedom

The Musings of Harry

Chicken Yoghurt - Justin McKeating

The Red Tape Chronicles - Bob Sullivan MSNBC

Campaign Against the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Stop the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Rob Wilton's esoterica

panGloss - Innovation, Technology and the Law

Arch Rights - Action on Rights for Children blog

Database Masterclass - frequently asked questions and answers about the several centralised national databases of children in the UK.

Shaphan

Moving On

Steve Moxon blog - former Home Office whistleblower and author.

Al-Muhajabah's Sundries - anglophile blog

Architectures of Control in Design - Dan Lockton

rabenhorst - Kai Billen (mostly in German)

Nearly Perfect Privacy - Tiffany and Morpheus

Iain Dale's Diary - a popular Conservative political blog

Brit Watch - Public Surveillance in the UK - Web - Email - Databases - CCTV - Telephony - RFID - Banking - DNA

BLOGDIAL

MySecured.com - smart mobile phone forensics, information security, computer security and digital forensics by a couple of Australian researchers

Ralph Bendrath

Financial Cryptography - Ian Grigg et al.

UK Liberty - A blog on issues relating to liberty in the UK

Big Brother State - "a small act of resistance" to the "sustained and systematic attack on our personal freedom, privacy and legal system"

HosReport - "Crisis. Conspiraciones. Enigmas. Conflictos. Espionaje." - Carlos Eduardo Hos (in Spanish)

"Give 'em hell Pike!" - Frank Fisher

Corruption-free Anguilla - Good Governance and Corruption in Public Office Issues in the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla in the West Indies - Don Mitchell CBE QC

geeklawyer - intellectual property, civil liberties and the legal system

PJC Journal - I am not a number, I am a free Man - The Prisoner

Charlie's Diary - Charlie Stross

The Caucus House - blog of the Chicago International Model United Nations

Famous for 15 Megapixels

Postman Patel

The 4th Bomb: Tavistock Sq Daniel's 7:7 Revelations - Daniel Obachike

OurKingdom - part of OpenDemocracy - " will discuss Britain’s nations, institutions, constitution, administration, liberties, justice, peoples and media and their principles, identity and character"

Beau Bo D'Or blog by an increasingly famous digital political cartoonist.

Between Both Worlds - "Thoughts & Ideas that Reflect the Concerns of Our Conscious Evolution" - Kingsley Dennis

Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair - the rich Uzbek businessman and his shyster lawyers Schillings really made a huge counterproductive error in trying to censor the blogs of Tim Ireland, of all people.

Matt Wardman political blog analysis

Henry Porter on Liberty - a leading mainstream media commentator and opinion former who is doing more than most to help preserve our freedom and liberty.

HMRC is shite - "dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of the HMRC, who have to endure the monumental shambles that is Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)."

Head of Legal - Carl Gardner a former legal advisor to the Government

The Landed Underclass - Voice of the Banana Republic of Great Britain

Henrik Alexandersson - Swedish blogger threatened with censorship by the Försvarets Radioanstalt (FRA), the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishement, their equivalent of the UK GCHQ or the US NSA.

World's First Fascist Democracy - blog with link to a Google map - "This map is an attempt to take a UK wide, geographical view, of both the public and the personal effect of State sponsored fear and distrust as seen through the twisted technological lens of petty officials and would be bureaucrats nationwide."

Blogoir - Charles Crawford - former UK Ambassodor to Poland etc.

No CCTV - The Campaign against CCTV

Barcode Nation - keeping two eyes on the database state.

Lords of the Blog - group blog by half a dozen or so Peers sitting in the House of Lords.

notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society - blog by Dr. David Murakami Wood, editor of the online academic journal Surveillance and Society

Justin Wylie's political blog

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.

Armed and Dangerous - Sex, software, politics, and firearms. Life’s simple pleasures… - by Open Source Software advocate Eric S. Raymond.

Georgetown Security Law Brief - group blog by the Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law , at Georgtown University, Washington D.C, USA.

Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia

NuLabour

Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at http://nuclear-weapons.info

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence and Security Committee - the supposedly independent Parliamentary watchdog which issues an annual, heavily censored Report every year or so. Currently chaired by the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Why should either the intelligence agencies or the public trust this committee, when the untrustworthy ex-Labour Minister Hazel Blears is a member ?

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

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Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

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Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

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Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

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Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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Serious Organised Crime Agency - have cut themselves off from direct contact with the public and businesses - no phone - no email

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Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

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."

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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

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WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers