July 2008 Archives

What actual use to the public, are Select Committees of the House of Commons, and the Reports which they publish ?

The Labour Government invariably cherry picks a quotation from the summary of such a Report, especially if it was written by a Labour Chairman of the Committee e.g. Government Response to the Home Affairs Committee: A Surveillance Society? (.pdf) leaped on the phrase ,

We reject crude characterisations of our society as a surveillance society in which all collection and means of collecting information about citizens are networked and centralised in the service of the state.

This allowed the Government to claim:

The Government welcomes the committee's rejection of the characterisation that we live in a surveillance society where the state is engaged in a centralised network of collecting and analysing information on the individual.

Anyone actually reading though the detail of the Report, will see that it really supports the premise that the UK is already a Surveillance Society.

See Home Affairs Committee report - A Surveillance Society ? - unenforceable recommendations which the Government will simply ignore

Incredibly, it seems that such Select Committee Reports, published in public, cannot be quoted, even in passing, in a Court of Law or a Tribunal, because that somehow infringes on the freedom of speech of Members of Parliament , according to the 1689 Bill of Rights - see:

Increasingly, the contents of the Select Committee report are leaked or briefed to the mainstream media, before its official publication. Such favoured media outlets are then either fed a line, or manage to draw the wrong conclusions.

Yesterday, for example, The Daily Telegraph managed to claim that

New internet watchdog to police Facebook

Internet users will be protected from abusive bloggers and malicious Facebook postings under proposals to set up an independent internet watchdog, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

By Nicole Martin, Digital and Media Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:27AM BST 30 Jul 2008

The body, made up of industry representatives, would be responsible for drawing up guidelines that social networking sites, the blogosphere, website owners and search engines would be expected to follow

[...]

Naturally, any suggestion of Yet Another Government Quango to attempt to suppress the free speech of bloggers, has understandably provoked a reaction against this stupid idea.
e.g.

However, when you actually read the Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Report into Harmful content on the Internet and in video games, it only mentions "blogs" once, in passing, concentrating on various worthy Child Protection chat forum monitoring schemes etc.

Politics.co.uk are reporting that

Unions approve ID cards

Monday, 28 Jul 2008 13:42

Britain's trade unions have accepted the government's proposals for ID cards, opening the way for the plans to feature in Labour's next election manifesto.

The decision came towards the end of the party's National Policy Forum meeting in Warwick. Negotiations continued into the night, with delegates finally heading to bed around 05:00 BST.

[...]

It seems that the Trades Unions have come to some sneaky political deal with the Labour Government, over the National Identity Register and ID Cards scheme.

We wonder if any of the Trades Union leaders realise that by accepting " the government's proposals for ID cards", they have effectively agreed to a "no strike" and "no work to rule" arrangement, for any of their members who happen to work with, or to simply use, the forthcoming National Identity Register systems ?

Have they bothered to read and understand the briefings which they have had on the Identity Cards Act 2006 section 29 Tampering with the Register etc. ?

The 3 day strike which closed Passport Offices this July 2008, called by the Public and Commercial Services Union, the main Trades Union in the Civil Service, would have been illegal, once the National Identity Scheme makes Passports into Designated Documents under the Identity Cards Act 2006.

Why should anyone remain a member of a Trades Union which colludes with the Labour Government to suppress their right to withdraw their labour, under penalty of up to 10 years in prison ?

The relationship between the mainstream media and anonymous briefings by intelligence agency and police sources is a strange one.

The Guardian has, mysteriously, published a couple of figures, which do not appear in the Annual Reports of the Interception of Communications Commissioner or of the Intelligence Services Commissioner, which do not seem to add up.

MI5 targets dissidents as Irish terror threat grows

* Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
* The Guardian,
* Monday July 28 2008

The security services are picking up more suspicious activity from Northern Ireland's dissident republicans than from any other radical group in the UK, the Guardian has learned.

Up to 60% of all the security services' electronic intercepts - phonetaps and other covert technical operations - have come from dissidents, despite the threat posed by hundreds of suspected Islamist extremists on the mainland.

MI5 is directing its attention to a hardcore of republicans, fearing they are determined to destabilise the peace process.

"Up to 60% of all the security services' electronic intercepts - phonetaps and other covert technical operations" - that is quite a startling claim, and if true, a very worrying one.

Sir Hugh Orde, chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, has separately confirmed that the dissident threat is the highest since he took office.

With fears escalating over the intent of republicans opposed to powersharing in the province, security sources have told the Guardian that:

· 80 hardcore dissidents may be plotting terrorist attacks.

· The Real IRA and Continuity IRA's short- term goal is to kill a Catholic police officer in the hope of deterring young Catholics and nationalists from joining the PSNI.

· Dissidents' targets have also recently extended to prison officers.

· Police numbers are so stretched that officers with anti-terrorist experience are being transferred from Greater Belfast - once the crucible of the Troubles - to rural areas.

[...]

The Director General of the Security Service MI5 , Jonathan Evans' speech in November 2007 in which he claimed that:

I mentioned earlier that the number of people we are seeing involved in terrorist-related activity in the UK has increased to at least 2000. And we suspect that there are as many again that we don't yet know of.

Something does not add up here.

Can it be true that 60% of MI5's surveillance activities are directed at only 80 hardcore dissidents supporting the Real IRA / Continuity IRA, and only 40% is being directed at the remaining 2000 - 80 = 1920 suspects ? These are presumably mostly Islamic suspects, but surely there are still some Protestant terrorist group supporters ? Is the surveillance of Russian and Chinese intelligence agents etc. who are also being monitored by MI5, counted separately ?

The tenor of the article strongly implies that this figure does not just apply to Northern Ireland, but to the whole of the United Kingdom.

Assuming that is actually possible to equate each "phonetap" with each "other covert technical operation" as a measure of MI5's Surveillance Activity:

80 x Real IRA = 60% of Surveillance Activity
1920 x Al-Quaeda = 40% of Surveillance Activity

(80 x Real IRA) / 60 = 1% of Surveillance Activity
(1920 x Al-Quaeda ) / 40 = 1% of Surveillance Activity

(80 x Real IRA) / 60 = (1920 x Al-Quaeda) / 40
80 x Real IRA x 40 = 1920 x Al-Quaeda x 60

3200 x Real IRA = 115200 x Al-Quaeda
Real IRA = (115200 / 3200) x Al-Quaeda

Real IRA = 36 x Al-Quaeda

Is each Real IRA or Continuity IRA supporter suspect in Northern Ireland really generating 36 times as much MI5 electronic surveillance activity, as each, mostly but not entirely mainland UK, Al Quaeda supporter suspect ?

Are Real IRA and Continuity IRA supporters likely to be more or less adept than Al-Quaeda linked plotters, at protecting their electronic communications, and in countering directed or
intrusive surveillance ?

The Omagh bomb trial must have made it clear to these "hardcore dissidents" that their mobile phone calls had been analysed and intercepted, both in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic.

Are they playing disinformation games with the Security Service, and creating artificial "chatter", to soak up and waste their surveillance resources ?

Even allowing for the fact that MI5, targether than the Police Service of Northern Ireland now has the lead role in Northern Irish anti-terrorist operations, and that on the mainland UK, many Al-Quaeda supporter suspects might be being watched by the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command or other Police Forces, the numbers in this article still seem to be wrong.

We will probably watch tonight's Channel 4 TV documentary entitled Car Bomb by former CIA agent Robert Baer, set to be broadcast at 7pm.

However the publicity piece in the Sunday Times does make us wonder about the quality of the research:

From The Sunday Times
July 27, 2008
The humble car bomb changed the world

The US is spending £2.1bn a year to fight the terrorist's most lethal weapon, reports a former CIA agent

Robert Baer

[...]

The Lebanese added gas canisters to boost the blast wave - a technique used in the attempted attack in July 2007 at Glasgow airport.

There was no explosive charge , nor even any oxidising agent in the amateur incendiary attack on Glasgow Airport ! That was not a car bomb which the Lebanese or even Northern Irish terrorists would have bothered with.

The Lebanese did not invent the car bomb; that honour goes to the Americans. The world's first car bomb, a horse-and-car bomb, exploded on Wall Street on September 16, 1920, killing 38 people.

Really ?

How about the major assassination attempt against Napoleon Bonaparte on Christmas Eve 1800?

See the Wikipedia entry on the Plot of the Rue Saint-Nicaise

On the late afternoon of 3 Nivôse Year IX of the French Republic (Christmas Eve, December 24, 1800) the plotter Carbon, who had made the machine infernale, harnessed the mare to the cart with the big wine cask and with Limoëlan drove it to the Porte Saint-Denis, on the northern outskirts of Paris. In a deserted building, they loaded the cask with gunpowder.

[...]
The machine infernale exploded, killing the teenage girl Pensol and killing and injuring many other innocent bystanders.

Such vehicle borne bombs, using gunpowder, date from the sixteenth century.

The name of the plot was in reference to the sixteenth-century revolt against Spanish rule in Flanders. In 1585, during the siege of Antwerp by the Spaniards, an Italian engineer in Spanish service had made an explosive device from a barrel bound with iron hoops, filled with gunpowder, flammable materials and bullets, and set off by a sawed-off shotgun triggered from a distance by a string. The Italian engineer called it la macchina infernale.

Is there nobody on the Sunday Times or Channel 4 editorial staff who knows about Napoleonic history ?

Have all of the Sunday Times Times staff who used to report, first hand, on IRA and INLA car bombs, lorry bombs, hijacked petrol tanker bombs (where the driver's family was being held hostage) etc., now been fired ?

Annual Report of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner to the Prime Minister and to Scottish Ministers for 2007-2008 (.pdf 32 pages) by the Rt. Hon. Sir Christopher Rose, published on 22nd July 2008.

Unlike the other two RIPA Commissioners, there is a website for this one: Office of Surveillance Commissioners, which implies a bit more openness and transparency, but not much.

There is no mention this year of Automatic Number Plate Recognition, despite the mention of it in the previous two Annual Reports, and despite the scandalous slurping of the London Congestion Charge scheme CCTV, ANPR and other data into a secret Metropolitan Police system, which we wrote to Sir Christopher about, to no avail.

Sir Christopher gives no details about the use of the new RIPA Part III section 49 notice powers to demand Encryption Keys or plaintext decrypted electronic data, which came into force on 1st October 2007.

There are no more details about the Sadiq Khan MP / Babar Ahmad bugging in Woodhill Prison scandal, which Sir Christopher produced a separate report on.

The reports by the Chief Surveillance Commissioner manage to give a breakdown into various broad categories e.g. illegal drugs, kidnapping, terrorism etc. of the statistics which they publish, without compromising any national security or serious organised crime investigations, so why can't the other RIPA Commissioners do likewise ?

Local Authorities, by virtue of dealing with far fewer requests for Directed Surveillance or for the use of Covert Human Intelligence Sources than the Police, spend less on training, make more mistakes and do not seem to understand the concept of "proportionality". We feel that they should be stripped of these RIPA powers entirely.

Sir Christopher makes some peculiar comments on the Freedom of Information Act, to which his Office is not actually subject.

See our more detailed comments on this latest report below:

Interception of Communications Commissioner

Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2007 (.pdf 16 pages) by the Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Kennedy, submitted to the Prime Minister on 27th June 2008, published on 22nd July 2008.

See our reasonably lengthy comments on this report below:

Intelligence Services Commissioner

Report of the Intelligence Services Commissioner for 2007 (.pdf 9 pages) by Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Gibson, submitted to the Prime Minister on 27th June 2008, published on 22nd July 2008.

This is always the least informative of the three RIPA Commissioners' Annual reports, with the bulk of the short report being taken up by a re-statement of the duties of the Commissioner under the legislation.

There are no statistics published in the public section of the report whatsoever, not even aggregated statistics, which the other two RIPA Commissioners publish without compromising either technical methods, or covert sources or alluding to any ongoing investigations whatsoever.

Statistics 35. Consistent with the practice followed since annual reporting by the respective statutory Commissioners began, I do not propose to disclose publicly the numbers of warrants or authorisations issued to the security and intelligence agencies. That is because it would, I believe, assist those unfriendly to the UK were they able to know the extent of the work of the Security Service, SIS and GCHQ in fulfilling their functions. The figures are, however, of interest and I have included them in the confidential annex to this report.

This practice has never been acceptable.

There is no evidence from either the other RIPA Commissioners, who do publish some aggregate statistics about warrants, or from other countries intelligence agency oversight bodies, which shows that such figures would assist "those unfriendly to the UK".

There is just one small nugget of information, which has, somehow slipped through, regarding the seizure of De-cryption Keys or of plaintext versions of encrypted electronic data:

Part III of RIPA

34. As I have noted above, Part III of RIPA came into force on 1 October 2007. However, no notification of any directions to require disclosure in respect of protected electronic information has been given to me in 2007 and there has been no exercise or performance of powers and duties under Part III for me to review.

Presumably this only covers the period from 1st October to the end of December 2007.

Does this show that the RIPA Part III powers are actually unnecessary for the three intelligence agencies, and that, given their horror of having to deal with the public directly, they are leaving RIPA section 49 notices to the Police ?

Errors
41. Thirteen errors in respect of RIPA authorisations and ISA warrants and one breach in the handling arrangements of one of the agencies were reported to me during the period of this report. In addition one intelligence agency reported to me a breach of the Terrorism Act 2000. It is not possible for me to say much about these errors without revealing information of a sensitive nature, but I have referred to them in more detail in the Confidential Annex. However, I can report that the majority of the thirteen errors occurred in respect of surveillance and interference with property for which there was for a comparatively short time no valid authorisation or warrant in force. Although any such breach is to be regretted, I think it right to say that all the breaches can properly be categorised as minor. None of the cases involved bad faith or any deliberate departure from established practices. In all cases, following the discovery of the errors, the agencies' internal procedures have been reviewed and strengthened with a view to preventing a future recurrence

The other RIPA Commissioners break down the admitted errors by each of the intelligence agencies, something which does not compromise national security in any way.

The Chief Surveillance Commissioner's report alludes to electronic bugging devices which have not been retrieved before the intrusive property interference warrant has expired, are the majority of these 13 cases of that nature ?

By not naming the individual agencies, even to vaguely list, without any operational details, the most minor of errors, the Intelligence Services Commissioner the Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Gibson, is giving the impression of having "gone native" and is not seen to be doing a proper job of public scrutiny, even if, presumably, he is actually doing his job conscientiously.

The only positive thing that can be said about the publication of the Annual Reports of the the 3 RIPA Commissioners, is, that for the very first time, they have all been published at the same time.

Thee Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 Part IV, legally requires that

58 (4)
As soon as practicable after the end of each calendar year, the Intereception of Communications Commissioner shall make a report to the Prime Minister with respect to the carrying out of that Commissioner's functions.

and similarly that

60 (2)
As soon as practicable after the end of each calendar year, the Intelligence Services Commissioner shall make a report to the Prime Minister with respect to the carrying out of that Commissioner's functions.

The Chief Surveillance Commissioner, whose office predates RIPA, which imposes extra duties and powers on him, has a similar legal duty under the Police Act 1997 Part III

"The Chief Commissioner shall make an annual report on the discharge of functions under this Part to the Prime Minister"

The wording of both of these Acts also sets a legal duty for publication:

"The Prime Minister shall lay before each House of Parliament a copy of every annual report made"

The Chief Surveillance Commissioner's Report, has consistently over the years been available and online in the July following the calendar year to which it refers. This is hardly a stellar performance, for such a short, vague report, which but this is better than the other two RIPA Commissioners, whose reports used to be published in October, and, scandalously recently over a year after the Calendar Year to which they refer.

It is welcome that all three Reports are available at the same time in July.

However, given the lack of detail in any of them, they should really be published before the end of January following the calendar year to which they refer.

The following is not meant to be a criticism of the integrity or professionalism of any of the individual RIPA Commissioners, who are all former senior Judges, but rather of their timid interpretation of their admittedly restricted roles under the legislation. and the deliberate budget constraints imposed on them by the Government.

See the next three blog articles:

This mechanism of a RIPA Commissioner's Annual Report, with no resources or willingness to investigate complaints from the public, does not provide the proper level of transparency and scrutiny of secret snooping and surveillance, which the public has a right to demand in a democratic society.

There is little doubt that the Government is trying to avoid detailed scrutiny of its policies and mistakes by the mainstream media and by bloggers.

They have published 30 Ministerial Statements, on the last day before Parliament breaks up for the 11 week Summer Recess, something which contravenes the specific promise in the Ministerial Code not to do so

They have also published:

We will comment on these when we have read them.

Another Wilson Doctrine Parliamentary Question and an evasive Answer:by the Ministry of Justice:

21 July 2008 : Column 910W

Prisons: Electronic Surveillance

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the answer of 9 June 2008, Official Report, column 104W, on prisons: electronic surveillance, how many covert surveillance operations relating to hon. Members were authorised by the Home Secretary in 1999; what the Government's policy was in 1999 on the surveillance of hon. Members meeting their constituents in prison; and if he will make a statement. [220619]

Mr. Straw: It is our policy to neither confirm nor deny covert surveillance operations in prisons. I refer the hon. Member to the then Prime Minister Tony Blair's written answer to the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) on 4 December 1997, Official Report, column 321W, which made it clear that the Wilson doctrine applied to telephone interception and to the use of electronic surveillance by any of the three security and intelligence agencies. Visits by MPs to prisoners in prisons were not excluded from this policy.

Remember that the scandal involving the electronic surveillance in Woodhill prison of Sadiq Khan MP when visiting his constituent Babar Ahmad, reported on by the Chief Surveillance Commissioner Sir Christopher Rose, did not involve

"the three security and intelligence agencies"

nor even the Prisons Service, but rather the Thames Valley Police and the Metropolitan Police Service.This makes a mockery of the Wilson Doctrine.

See: "Report on two visits by Sadiq Khan MP to Babar Ahmad (who does not face any criminal charges in the United Kingdom, but is facing extradition to the USA, for activities allegedly conducted in London) at HM Prison Woodhill" - Rt. Hon. Sir Christopher Rose finds no illegality

Where are the amended Statutory Codes of Practice, promised by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith on 24th February 2008 ?

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's statement on the Wilson Doctrine

Without extending the Wilson Doctrine, she did make a promise to amend the existing Statutory Codes of Practice regarding Covert Surveillance, extending these to cover Members of the European Parliament and the Welsh Assembly (not Northern Ireland or Scotland where these are Devolved Matters). The policy regarding unelected Members of the House of Lords is now unclear.

The Sunday Times reports another peculiar "Chinese spying" story.

From The Sunday Times
July 20, 2008
Gordon Brown aide a victim of honeytrap operation by Chinese agents

David Leppard and Claire Newell

A top aide to Gordon Brown has been a suspected victim of a "honeytrap" operation by Chinese intelligence agents.

The aide, a senior Downing Street adviser who was with the prime minister on a trip to China earlier this year, had his BlackBerry phone stolen after being picked up by a Chinese woman who had approached him in a Shanghai hotel disco.

The aide agreed to return to his hotel with the woman. He reported the BlackBerry missing the next morning.

The aide, whose identity is known to The Sunday Times, immediately reported the theft to the prime minister's Special Branch protection team and was informally reprimanded.

Why have details of this incident, which must have been know to only a very few people, been leaked to the Sunday Times right now ?

Who is spinning the media for power and influence in the Downing Street and Whitehall kremlins ?

A senior official said yesterday that the incident had all the hallmarks of a suspected honeytrap by Chinese intelligence. The incident will raise fresh questions about the security of sensitive official information. It follows a spate of high-profile cases where data from government departments have been lost.

Are we meant to believe that an intelligence agency operation against a Downing Street insider resulted in the tipping off of the British officials , through an actual reported loss of a BlackBerry portable email device ?

Do Chinese, or other countries intelligence agencies, or even serious criminals, all of whom also operate in London, as well as in Shanghai, no longer use "honeypot" agents for sexual blackmail purposes any more?

Since British Labour party politicians and their apparatchiki seem to be able to weather News of the World revelations, Cash for Honours investigations, and endless Computer Data insecurity scandals etc., without ever resigning or being criminally prosecuted, then are such tactics less useful than in the past ?

If a foreign intelligence agency did get their hands on a Downing Street BlackBerry, why did they not simply clone all the data from it, or modify the software and or hardware to snoop on the user and his communications thereafter, and then replace it, before the hapless Downing Street insider ever noticed that it was missing ?

Since this loss of the device was supposedly reported within a few hours, there should have been little risk to the centralised email system, provided that the appropriate access codes and , if necessary, the cryptographic keys had been changed promptly.

BlackBerrys are used as mobile telephones and also store data and send and receive e-mails. Downing Street BlackBerrys are password-protected but security officials said most are not encrypted.

Whatever unencrypted data was on the BlackBerry device itself, would, of course be at risk, but is this should not, in theory, have included any Secret or Top Secret material.

Experts say that even if the aide's device did not contain anything top secret, it might enable a hostile intelligence service to hack into the Downing Street server, potentially gaining access to No 10's e-mail traffic and text messages.

Which experts would those be then ?

There were security alerts back in 2006, when it was discovered that BlackBerry servers (not the handheld mobile devices) were potentially vulnerable, not because of weaknesses in their strong encryption, but because they were stupidly storing user login data, unencrypted, in a Microsoft SQL server data base, which could be exploited through SQL injection via buffer overruns in attached .png and .tiff graphics file handling routines. e.g. see this discussion thread [2006-01-03] Security Hole Claimed for BlackBerrys. Within the last week, a similar sort of potential vulnerability was announced, affecting the BlackBerry Attachment Service PDF distiller.

BlackBerry servers can either be run by as a public internet service, or they can be dedicated to corporate or Government department use.

In theory any private corporate BlackBerry server connected to the Government Secure Intranet or GSi (Restricted) or the xGSi (Confidential) email networks, should never have been vulnerable to this sort of remote manipulation, because of the Security Accreditation procedure required, but how can we be sure ?

It is worth remembering that during the height of the Downing Street Cash for Honours investigations in January 2007, involving Downing Street email systems, they claimed that there were no BlackBerry devices being used by Downing Street staff, or that if there were, they were only being used for Labour party business, rather than official Government communications.

See More PMOS "denials" about the 10 Downing Street email systems - what about the Pipex router then ?

The incident highlights the growing threat of Chinese intelligence to Britain and the West. Last December Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, warned that China was carrying out state-sponsored espionage against vital parts of Britain's economy, including the computer systems of big banks and financial services firms.

Sources said that the incident had occurred during Brown's two-day trip to China in January.

Downing Street sources ? Whitehall sources ? Chinese sources ?

The prime minister had been accompanied by about 20 Downing Street staff, including senior advisers on foreign policy, the environment and trade. There were also 25 business leaders on the trip, among them Sir Adrian Montague, the chairman of British Energy, Arun Sarin, then chief executive of Vodafone, and Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin boss.

The incident occurred in Shanghai on the second day of the tour. That evening, about a dozen members of the Downing Street staff went to a hotel disco where a lively party with several hundred young people was in full swing.

"It was apparently a lot of fun, there was quite a bit of dancing with lots of people ona big crowded dance floor," said one security official.

The group stayed at the disco for at least two hours. One senior aide was approached by an attractive Chinese woman. The couple danced and later disappeared together.

The security official said: "In these circumstances it was not wise. Nobody knows exactly what happened after they left. But the next morning he came forward and said: "My BlackBerry is missing." The prime minister's Special Branch protection team were alerted.

A British "security official" or a Chinese one ?

Downing Street yesterday confirmed that a member of the prime minister's office had lost a BlackBerry during an evening event on the January visit to China. However, it played down the affair, stating that an investigation had established that there was "no compromise to security

Given the institutional incompetence displayed by the Government, with even the most basic security procedures for the handling of classified material having been ignored by senior staff, and by Ministers, who should all have been setting a good example to their subordinates, it is entirely legitimate to ask for actual independent proof that such elementary post security incident measures have actually been done properly.

Lack of detailed practical travel advice from the FCO

Where is the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice about the risks to their electronic data systems, i.e. what to take, what to leave at home, what particular precautions are necessary to take in China ?

How many hundreds of lost or stolen laptop computers or USB memory sticks etc. will it take before anyone is prosecuted at the Ministry of Defence ?

The Government's initial figures about the scale of the data security incompetence at the Ministry of Defence, following the theft of the MoD laptop computer with the personal details of over a million people (potential and actual military recruits and their families etc.) have been revised upwards, yet again, according to this Parliamentary Written Answer

17 July 2008 : Column 663W--continued

Departmental Computers

Mark Pritchard: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the statement of 21 January 2008, Official Report, column 1225, on MOD (data loss), how many of the 347 laptops stolen or lost from the Ministry of Defence since 2004 have been recovered. [182359]

Des Browne: As a result of the theft of the Royal Navy laptop, the Ministry of Defence has initiated an investigation into the details of all computers lost or stolen since 2003. This investigation is under way and I will write to the hon. Member when the information is available and arrange for a copy of my letter to be placed in the Library of the House.

Substantive answer from Des Browne to Mark Pritchard:

I undertook to write to you in answer to your Parliamentary Question on 29 January 2008, (Official Report, column 184W) about the number of laptops stolen or lost from the Ministry of Defence since 2004 that had subsequently been recovered.

The figure of 347 laptops that you quote can be derived from information provided in answer to the hon Member for Rayleigh (Mr Francois) on 19 January 2007, (Official Report, column 1363-4W) and the hon Member for South West Hertfordshire (Mr Gauke) on 10 December 2007, (Official Report, column 58W) and relates only to stolen laptops.

Revised figures have been taken from the data collated in the course of the investigation into details of computers and other electronic media lost/stolen since 2003 and provided to Sir Edmund Burton as part of his review. For all years they show an increase in the number of stolen laptops from the numbers previously reported is because the Burton Review investigation revealed anomalies in the reporting process. Instructions have been issued to remedy these shortcomings.

Revised figures as at today are set out below.

17 July 2008 : Column 664W

  Previously reported stolen laptops Updated stolen laptops Updated lost laptops Updated total stolen and lost laptops Updated laptops recovered (stolen/lost)

2004

 173

 272

 22

 294

 6

2005

 40

 130

 18

 148

 11

2006

 66

 155

 27

 182

 6

2007

 68

 101

 22

 (1)123

 9

Total

 347

 658

 89

 747

 32

(1) A corresponding figure of 230 was given in Burton Report (Summary, Paragraph 38c, Page 9.) Subsequent reclassification and clarification of incidents has reduced the figure to 123.

As pointed out by The Register,MoD: We lost 87 classified USB sticks since 2003 there have also been losses of unencrypted USB memory devices, Personal Digital Assistants etc. including at least 5 involving Secret classified data.

See Commons Hansard - July 2008 : Column 446W

Where are the military Courts Martial or criminal prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act 1989 section 8 Safeguarding of information for those individual officials responsible for such entirely avoidable losses of unencrypted classified data and documents ?

When will any Minister resign as a result of this ongoing scandal ? This is not an isolated incident, but is being repeated year after year.

Yesterday saw some of the worries and concerns about the sneaky Deep Packet Inspection technology from the controversial online advertising snooping company Phorm, which has been been illegally tested out on unsuspecting British Telecom Retail broadband internet users, being raised at both the British Telecom plc Annual General Meeting of shareholders, and in a Parliamentary Written Answer.

There is an excellent first hand account of the BT AGM, and the obvious embarrassment of the BT directors and corporate spin doctors at the pertinent questions asked by Pete from www.dephormation.org.uk: - BT AGM 2008 From the Inside

[...]

The next question I managed to put was resolution 7.

Resolution 7 - elect Gavin Patterson as a director

Did Gavin Patterson, as Managing Director of Consumer Division BT Retail, authorize covert 'stealth' (in BT's own words) trials of Phorm/121Media advertising systems in 2006 and 2007, technology that caused Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University and FIPR to observe "if you care about your privacy, do not use BT"?

I made a point of projecting my voice when quoting Ross Anderson. That seemed to leave the board, and shareholders reeling. Again, momentarily, stunned silence. Michael Rake started waffling again, so I interrupted him to point out the question was not to him, it was to Gavin Patterson...

Cue more Phorm nonsense from Mr. Patterson so I interrupted him to say "its a simple yes or no question Mister Patterson, yes or no?". Of course I didn't get my answer.

On to resolution 9, appointment of Ms Hewitt.

Resolution 9 - elect Patricia Hewitt MP as a director

When was Ms Hewitt first informed by BT that it had conducted covert 'stealth' trials (BT's own words) of Phorm/121Media advertising systems? Does BT believe Ms Hewitt, or any other MP, would welcome interception of their unencrypted communications for advertising?

Michael Rake tried to shield her with more waffle. Ms Hewitt is obviously well used to handling difficult questions... She rescued him from deep embarrassment. She didn't specify a date, but mentioned a board meeting. Amazingly, she left herself hostage to fortune by saying she would opt in to Phorm because she trusted their assurances.

[...]

What is the former Labour Minister Patricia Hewitt MP doing on the BT board of directors ?

Can it be a coincidence that she spent four years as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and then a couple of years as Secretary of State for Health, until Gordon Brown eased himself into power as Prime Minister ?

The Department for Trade and Industry, through some strange process of Orwellian NuLabour Media Management Consultancy New Speak, has now mutated into the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (what exactly have they ever done for you ?), and they have mentioned Phorm in a two Parliamentary Written Answers yesterday:

We would have liked to have been able to comment on the latest Intelligence and Security Committee's Annual report, which appears to have been leaked, at least in in part to The Guardian newspaper, but it does not yet appear to be online on the Cabinet Office website.

The Guardian is running a story on the cancellation of phase 2 of the delayed SCOPE intelligence sharing computer system: Multimillion pound security project shelved by ministers

Perhaps the Intelligence Agencies do not trust the rest of Whitehall with their intelligence sources, and do not want SCOPE to be rolled out to thousands of people.

The House of Commons is due to debate the (usually heavily censored) Intelligence and Security Committee's Annual Report tomorrow, Thursday 17th July 2008, but obviously the General Public are not to be allowed to participate , or to lobby their Members of Parliament ahead of the debate.

Thursday 17 July 2008

[...]

Motion: to approve resolutions relating to the Intelligence and Security Committee

Debate: on the Intelligence and Security Committee Annual Report 2007-08

[...]

How does leaking details from this (censored) Annual report, only to favoured mainstream media journalists, ahead of the supposedly informed debate in the House of Commons, but not making it available to the public via the world wide web, give the impression of anything other than media spin and a deliberate attempt to hide bad news ?

This is not acceptable behavior for a Parliamentary Committee which is supposed to perform some sort of independent scrutiny on behalf of the public, but who seem instead to collude with the Executive branch of Government and the bureaucracy, in keeping as much information as possible from the general public, and even from other Members of Parliament.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, the Cabinet Office website does have a copy of the Intelligence and Security Committee Annual Report for 2006 - 2007, and the Government's Response to that report.

In both of these documents, phase 2 of the SCOPE project was only, apparently, delayed, rather than cancelled, as the Guardian reports.

The House of Commons is only now, in mid July, "debating" this heavily censored and anodyne report, some 6 months after it was published on the 29th January 2008, and which had actually been submitted on 4th December 2007, and only actually covers the period up to October 2007.

The Parliament website therefore gave the wrong impression, that the House of Commons would be debating the 2007 - 2008 report.

We commented on this report back on 29th January 2008, along with the appointment of Margaret Beckett to the chair of the Committee.

c.f. Margaret Beckett appointed as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee - 2006 - 2007 Annual Report published

This is not proper, transparent, democratic scrutiny of the working of the secret agencies or the Government policies, which are supposed to protect our national security. and defend our freedoms.


The Information Commissioner has commented on the Home Office's wretched plan to scrap the current system of obtaining Communications Traffic Data from the Communications Service Providers i.e. the telecomms and internet companies, and instead slurping all those log files into a massive centralised, and secret, Government database

15 Jul 08 - A communications database would be 'a step too far' (.pdf)

Speaking at the launch of his annual report,

Information Commissioner Annual Report 2007 - 2008 (.pdf)

Richard Thomas will say: "I am absolutely clear that the targeted, and duly authorised, interception of the communications of suspects can be invaluable in the fight against terrorism and other serious crime. But there needs to be the fullest public debate about the justification for, and implications of, a specially-created database - potentially accessible to a wide range of law enforcement authorities - holding details of everyone's telephone and internet communications. Do we really want the police, security services and other organs of the state to have access to more and more aspects of our private lives?

"Speculation that the Home Office is considering collecting this information from phone companies and internet service providers has been reinforced by the government's Draft Legislative Programme which, referring to a proposed Communications Data Bill, talks about 'modifying procedures for acquiring communications data'."

See our previous blog article Communications Data Bill announced:

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 ?

Richard Thomas believes that there has not been sufficient parliamentary or public debate on proposals to collect more and more personal information without proper justification, citing the expansion of the DNA database and the centralised collection and retention of data from Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras as two recent examples.

The Information Commissioner is not being tough enough - he should be threatening to prosecute the Home Office for planning to breach the fundamental principles of Data Protection, with this disproportionate scheme.

This Home Office scheme would circumvent even the weak auditing and alleged safeguards provided by the single, censored and increasingly deliberately delayed annual reports to the Prime Minister, of the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Intelligence Services Commissioner.

It would make it easier for secret disproportionate speculative "data trawling" through innocent people's data, instead of narrowly targeted, proportionate searches of actual terrorist or serious criminal suspects.

It would also allow secret exports of the data to foreign governments, without any oversight from the UK RIPA Commissioners, or any private individuals or companies in the UK.

This plan would circumvent even the weak auditing and alleged safeguard provided by the single, censored and increasingly deliberately delayed annual reports to the Prime Minister, of the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Intelligence Services Commissioners, and would presumably make it easier to do speculative "data trawling" through innocent people's data, instead of narrowly targeted, proportionate searches of actual terrorist or serious criminal suspects.

These RIPA Commissioners are even weaker than the Information Commissioner, as they have no legal powers to prosecute any abuses, and no budget to investigate any complaints from the public.

The Earl of Northesk has asked four Questions in the Lords about the Home Office's Interception Modernisation Plan. The Home Office's former Admiral Lord West of Spithead fails to convince us that the Home Office has any clue about the technical feasibility or costs involved in this project, even to the nearest billion pounds - i.e. a replay of the wretched ID Cards scheme all over again.

Part of this Interception Modernisation Plan presumably, includes the secret centralised Communications Traffic Data snooping database.

The Earl of Northesk's Questions:

Another Parliamentary Question and deliberately evasive and non-transparent non-Answer regarding the Wilson Doctrine:

14 July 2008 : Column 20W

Members: Electronic Surveillance

Mr. Maude: To ask the Prime Minister whether communications traffic data on telephone calls made (a) by and (b) to hon. Members is covered by the Wilson Doctrine. [217354]

The Prime Minister: I set out the position on the Wilson Doctrine on 12 September 2007, Official Report, column 2103W.

This "Answer", presumably means that Communications Traffic Data on telephone calls by Members of Parliament (and the Lords) can be snooped on, including what should be legally privileged telephone communications to and from MP's constituents.

The Question does not ask about Communications Traffic Data regrading the log files generated by internet web browsing, email or instant messenger communications, or facsimile transmissions or postal mail communications.

The electricity power cut, apparently involving an underground cable fire, which is currently affecting the financial district of Vancouver, in Canada, seems to have taken our usual encrypted / digitally signed email service Hushmail offline.

See their local co-hosting / upstream internet service provider peer1.net Vancouver network news for the latest details.

In the meantime, if you need to contact us securely, please use our PGP public encryption key for the email address blog@spy[dot]org[dot]uk

We do wonder how the London firm of libel lawyers, Schillings , used by minor media celebrities, have managed to convince another rich client, to pay their fees, in order to try to censor former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, when their previous attempts to do so, via, legal threats, backfired so spectacularly in the Alisher Usmanov scandal.

Their bungling lead to "collateral damage", involving various political web blogs, including that of Boris Johnson, who is now Mayor of London, and lead to many people in the UK political blogosphere, from all parts of the political spectrum, condemning Schillings and their client Usmanov as shysters, and lead to their client resorting to flying sports journalists to Moscow to explain about his murky past, and why this should not disqualify him as "a fit and proper person" to take over the ownership of Arsenal football club in London.

Schillings may be experienced libel lawyers, used to dealing with tabloid newspapers, but they should not be advertising themselves as "internet reputation experts" - they are clearly out of their depth.

It is extraordinary that they are now trying to censor Craig Murray's new book, even before it is written !

Apparently, it may mention details of the career of Tim Spicer, a former British Army officer who now runs a successful firm of mercenaries working in Iraq, and allied private security and risk management consultants called Aegis Defence Services.

Aegis Defence Services seem to have several retired British Army Generals on their board, and it cannot simply be a coincidence that their offices are in the same building as that of the Labour Party, at 39 Victoria Street, just across the road from the Metropolitan Police HQ at New Scotland Yard.

Met_Police_HQ_opposite_Labour_Party_HQ_300.jpg

They also seem to have inherited some of the utter ineptitude displayed by the British Military when it comes to computers and military recruitment. - see the stolen laptop MoD recruitment database scandal

What sort of people would fill in their personal details , and upload a CV, through this unencrypted online web recruitment form, which has drop down boxes for security clearance, special forces units, close protection courses etc. as well as the usual name. address and other personal details ? Either it is an initiative test, and anyone who fills in the form is automatically rejected, or they simply have no clue about the risks they are subjecting their applicants and staff to.

This is another example of something which would fall foul of the Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 clause 83 modification of the Terrorism Act 2000 section 58 Collection of information which specifically criminalise (with a penalty up to 10 years in prison) the collection of information about former "members of Her Majesty's Forces".

See Craig Murray's blog posts:

Gordon Brown's foreign trip to the G8 summit embarrassed the international reputation of the United Kingdom.

Firstly there was the hypocrisy of his "nanny state" remarks urging the British public to stop wasting food, whilst proceeding to the G8 summit, with its 8 course banquets, in the rented "Hooters" airliner.

There was a general failure of all of the G8 leaders to sort out anything practical about long term global warming, or short term energy prices.

Gordon Brown's meeting with the new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev failed defuse the diplomatic cold war over the Polonium-210 murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London, or the harassment of British Petroleum oil industry investment projects, or the closure of the British Council offices etc.

The utter lack of respect in which Gordon Brown, and, by extension, the whole United Kingdom, seems to be held in by the Russian siloviki and other henchmen Vladimir Putin, who still seems to be the éminence gris behind Dmitry Medvedev, is demonstrated by the Russian state run Interfax News agency's naming of Christopher Bowers a UK Diplomat in Moscow as, "presumably, a senior British intelligence officer,"

The Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph are, somewhat belatedly, gleefully reporting the "outing" of a military fantasist by habituées of he British Army Rumour Service website, which happened a couple of months back back in April, - see their ARSSEpedia wiki page on Jim McAuley

See

There always have been such military fantasists, some who have never been in the military atl, and some who, like Jim McAuley exaggerate their military career. ARSSE even has a tongue in cheek wiki page "bluffers guide" which helps others to detect them or, which might help potential fantasists to spin a more convincing yarn - Walting With Confidence ("walt" as in Walter Mitty)

Jim McAuley has resigned from his current military job as a cadet force instructor, and made an apology.

A fantasist has been caught making a fool of himself in public, and has apologised. All well and good.

So why is this story rather troubling to Spy Blog ?

These two mainstream media publications have lifted text and pictures without attribution and without linking to the online URLs .of the sources for this story. What does that say about the standards and ethics of professional "investigative" journalists, compared with bloggers ?

The Daily Telegraph have also, to their utter discredit, published Jim McAuley's full home address.

Exactly what crime did Jim McAuley commit ? None.

What harm did he do, to anyone or anything but his own reputation ? None.

Where is the overwhelming public interest in publishing his home address ? None.

Being an Army Cadet Force instructor may be a minor, low level military job, but that still made him a current "member of Her Majesty's forces". Nobody disputes that he did actually serve as a member of the Army Catering Corp.

One of the Clauses of the Counter-Terrorism Bill currently going through Parliament, and which has been over shadowed by the "42 days" furore, is Clause 83:

83 Offences relating to information about members of armed forces etc

(1) After section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (c. 11) (collection of information)

insert--

"58A Eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of armed forces etc

(1) A person commits an offence who--

(a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been--

(i) a member of Her Majesty's forces,
(ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or
(iii) a constable,

which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or

(b) publishes or communicates any such information.

(2) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section
to prove that they had a reasonable excuse for their action.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable--

(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to a fine, or to both;

(b) on summary conviction--

(i) in England and Wales or Scotland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both;

(ii) in Northern Ireland, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both.

(4) In this section "the intelligence services" means the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ (within the meaning of section 3 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 (c. 13)).

[...]"

Remember that even if you are not charged or convicted under this section, but simply arrested, you will suffer the humiliation of being fingerprinted and DNA sampled and will be tagged as a "suspected terrorist" for the rest of your life, on "intelligence databases" which will be secretly shared with foreign governments, without the full context of the incident being recorded.

Even if you have a "reasonable excuse" defence under subsection (2), that is too late, it only applies once you are facing prosecution in court, it will not prevent you from being arrested in the first place.

There are some Obvious Questions about this Clause 83:

  1. What is the justification for a 10 year prison sentence, just for information about current or former military personnel, intelligence service personnel or police constables, when the existing Terrorism Section 58 already has a penalty of up to 7 years in prison for "any" information ?

  2. Is this proposed legislation a tacit admission by the Home Office, that the conviction of the mentally sub-normal mentally sub-normal Abu Baker Mansha , who was given 6years in prison for possession of the name and a partial (out of date) address of a serving war hero, scribbled on a copy of The Sun newspaper, was, perhaps, not legally sound ?

  3. How many thousands of years in prison, do those people who individually and collectively contributed to the loss of the unencrypted military recruitment database, on a stolen laptop computer, which put the names and addresses of over 1 million people, including hundreds of thousands of military recruits and their families, at risk ? - see the Spy Blog category archive - MoD security and privacy breach

  4. The Daily Telegraph was obviously wrong to publish Jim McAuley's home address in the story above, but should the newspaper staff really be facing 10 years in prison and / or an unlimited fine for doing so ?

  5. Should the British Army Rumour Service bloggers and discussion forum members etc. really also be facing facing 10 years in prison and / or an unlimited fine ?

  6. Clause 83 makes no legal distinction between a current member of the SAS or other Special Forces, or of members of the Royal Family (several of whom are former or current military officers) and a former member of the Army Catering Corps - why are they are all covered equally ?

  7. Will this clause be abused by jobsworths, who will then try to restrict photography in public places of any Police constables or military personnel ?

    N.B. Police Community Support Officers are not sworn Police Constables.

  8. Will this clause have an unintended effect on voluntary organisations and charities, which help to look after former military people e.g. the Royal British Legion etc. ? Will the act of compiling membership lists, or taking group photographs of "old comrades" commemorations now be chilled ?

  9. Will there be a chilling effect on the authorship and publication of military history and memoirs ?

  10. Will there be a chilling effect on specialist publications like, say, Eye Spy Magazine, or the mainstream media in general ?

  11. Could this clause be used, perhaps in the future, to help to suppress any criticism of the military, intelligence agencies or the Police, by bloggers ?

There is no need for this Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 Clause 83, and it should be dropped from the Bill.

Ideally the whole of the Terrorism Act 2000 Section 58 should be repealed, we should not be prosecuting people for "Thought Crimes" or for scientific or engineering knowledge, but only for actual possession of weapons, explosives, firearms or money etc. with a clear terrorist intent. At the very least, there should be a Statutory Code of Practice which clearly prevents Section 58t from being used to legally threaten or harass photographers, journalists, bloggers, historians, or biographers who write about military or intelligence or police matters, or anybody with relevant scientific or engineering training and knowledge.

We wondered if Baroness Mannigham-Buller would comment on the Counter-Terrorism Bill, and she has done so in her maiden speech to the House of Lords.

Sitting on the Cross Benches, she has come out against the Government's plans, as have former New Labour Chancellor Lord Falconer, former New Labour Attorney general Lord Goldsmith

Baroness Helen Kennedy, a Labour human rights barrister, and Lord Condon, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner have also spoken against the extension to 442 days of holding people without charge.

The Labour member of the intelligence and Security Committee, the Rt. Hon. Lord Foulkes of Cumnock managed to bring up Andy Burnham, praising his controversial comments against David Davis and even mentioning Shami Chakrabarti's threat to sue Burnham, in his blustering support of the Government.

We may be wrong, but it certainly looked as if someone bearing a resemblance to Shami Chakrabarti was actually sitting in the visitor's gallery in the Chamber of the Lords whilst he said this.


Baroness Mannigham-Buller's speech:

[hat tip to Johnny Void]

Photographic Surveillance in public can be, and is, used deliberately as a legal harassment technique, both by Police Forward Information Teams (who may sometimes be civilian photographers / videographers) and sometimes by their opponents e.g. Fit Watch.

According to the British Journal of Photography (NJP), back in May, the General Secretary of the the National Union of Journalists *NUJ), Jeremy Dear, wrote a letter to the Home Secretary, complaining about such harassment, even of Press Card accredited journalists and press photographers. He also staged a "one man protest" outside of New Scotland Yard, the Metropolitan Police HQ in London.

It seems that the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has replied, with even more evidence that Britain is a "surveillance society", where basic freedoms are being curtailed, not just through the law, but by administrative policies.

The BJP now reports that:

The British Journal of Photography
1 July 2008

Home Secretary green lights restrictions on photography

Local restrictions on photography in public places are legitimate the Home Secretary has stated in a letter to the National Union of Journalists.

While Jacqui Smith reaffirmed that there are no legal restrictions, she added that local Chief Constables were allowed to restrict or monitor photography in certain circumstances.

The letter dated 26 June, which BJP has seen a copy of, is in response to correspondence sent by the Union secretary general, Jeremy Dear, who expressed concern at police surveillance of journalists, in particular photographers.

'First of all, may I take this opportunity to state that the Government greatly values the importance of the freedom of the press, and as such there is no legal restriction on photography in public places,' Smith writes. 'Also, as you will be aware, there is no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place.'

However, the Home Secretary adds that local restrictions might be enforced. 'Decisions may be made locally to restrict or monitor photography in reasonable circumstances. That is an operational decision for the officers involved based on the individual circumstances of each situation.

Under what law is such an "operational decision" to be made ?

Are these decisions to be made in secret, so that the public does not know when and where and for how long such restrictions are in place ?

The evidence of the illegal secrecy surrounding the supposedly temporary, time and location limited Terrorism Act 2000 section 44 stop and search without reasonable cause powers, leads us to believe the worst of the Home Secretary.

See our Freedom of Information Act request sagas:
HO Terrorism Act 2000 s44 Authorisations and HO Prohibited Places - Official Secrets Act 1911 blog category archives.

'It is for the local Chief Constable, in the case of your letter the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Force, to decide how his or her Officers and employees should best balance the rights to freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the need for public protection.'

The Home Office does not produce any guidance on photography in public places, and has not produced any specific guidance to [Forward Intelligence Team] officers, the Home Secretary says. 'I recommend, therefore, that the questions in your letter are best put to the Commissioner.'

[...]

It is not illegal to take photographs of the Home Office at Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF - Latitude: N51:29:45 ( 51.495793 ) , Longitude: W0:07:47 ( -0.129713 )

Home_Office_4_300.jpg

This shows how reflexively authoritarian and bureaucratically secretive the NuLabour government is, even when there is no practical reason for them to be so.

Over a third of Members of Parliament have signed Austin Mitchell's Early Day Motion 1155:on Photography in Public Areas:

Rupert Murdoch's popular and influential, bur sensationalist tabloid newspaper The Sun claims an exclusive story about the sudden, critical illness of Alex Allan, the current Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.

The story is a scoop, but it is also full of speculative conspiracy theories, without any hard facts to back them up:

Being in charge of analysing and presenting summaries of secret and open intelligence to the Government, puts him at the head of the intelligence analysis, but does not make him a "spy".in any James Bond 007 operational sense. Even he did directly control such "spies", that would make him a "spymaster" rather than a "superspook" or "top spy".

We wish Alex Allan a speedy recovery to full health

UPDATE: Friday 11th July 2008 The mainstream media are reporting that he has now woken after 10 or 11 days in a coma, and seems to be recovering. e.g. The Daily Telegraph

Did Russians or al-Qaeda poison Britain's top spy?

By JOHN KAY
Chief Reporter

Published: 03 Jul 2008

BRITAIN'S top spy was last night fighting for life in a coma after being found unconscious at his home amid fears he may have been poisoned.

Alex Allan, 56, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, was secretly rushed to hospital on Monday.


NO2ID_logo-20060416.png

If, like us, you are shocked and incensed about the disgraceful arrest and charging of nine NO2ID Campaign supporters (see previous article Nine NO2ID arrests at Home Office Minister Meg Hillier's secretive ID Cards centralised State database propaganda meeting in Edinburgh), there is something practical you can do to show your support for them, for their right (and yours) of peaceful, lawful protest, and to help counter the privacy intrusions and security risks of the Database State.

Geraint Bevan, the NO2ID Campaign Glasgow local group organiser wrote:

"If anyone would like to contribute to legal costs, cheques made payable to "Glasgow NO2ID", along with an indication of the intended purpose, would be gratefully received at 3e Grovepark Gardens, Glasgow G20 7JB. Any surplus after the cases have all concluded would be sent to London to be added to the legal defence fund (or to start an activists defence fund, whatever)."
There are several other NO2ID Campaign local groups in Scotland:

[Hat tip to Lord Norton, writing at the new House of Lords group blog Lords of the Blog]:

Adding value

Published July 1, 2008 Lord Norton

What have the Rt Rev. John Charles, Bishop of Lincoln, and Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5, got in common?

Answer: They were both introduced into the House of Lords today. The Bishop joins the House by reason of seniority, replacing a retiring Bishop. Baroness Manningham-Buller is, as far as I am aware, the first former head of MI5 to be elevated to the peerage. She is not, though, the first member of the security service to become a peer.

[...]

Hansard says:

Introduction: Baroness Manningham-Buller

Baroness Manningham-Buller--Dame Elizabeth Lydia Manningham-Buller, DBE, having been created Baroness Manningham-Buller, of Northampton in the County of Northamptonshire, for life, was introduced between the Lord Inge and the Lord Luce.

Wikipedia entry for Baroness Manningham-Buller

It will be interesting to see if this former Director General of the Security Service MI5 speaks or votes in the forthcoming stages of the Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 which will debated in the House of Lords. - the Second Reading is due next week on Tuesday 8th July 2008.

Liberty Human Rights and their Irish equivalents, the British Irish Rights Watch and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties have actually won a case before the European Court of Human Rights against the United Kingdom Government, regarding domestic and international telephone and other electronic data communications interceptions.in the 1990s.

See CASE OF LIBERTY AND OTHERS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM (Application no. 58243/00), Strasbourg, 1 July 2008

This affair was brought to light through the discovery, back in 1999, of the Capenhurst Phone Tap Tower (now since demolished), which was built and operated in secret by GCHQ on part of the secure Capenhurst factory run by British Nuclear Fuels. This is conveniently located directly between two of the main microwave relays operated by British Telecom, which used to be the main telecommunications link between the Republic of Ireland and the UK and the rest of Europe (still in use, but there are fibre optic cables now as well).

Why that had to do this at all, rather than GCHQ installing their telephone tapping equipment with the cooperation of British Telecom within their infrastructure, is a mystery. Presumably, now that digital telephone exchanges are universal in the UK, such telephone tapping (supposedly under warrant) is technically easier, even though the technology has improved and data volumes have got bigger.

The ECHR has found that the claimants rights to privacy in communications under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, was breached, because the then currently applicable law the Interception of Communications Act 1985 was not sufficiently clear about the secret alleged safeguards regarding the capture, selection, keyword filtering, dissemination, data retention and eventual destruction of intercepted material, which are supposed to protect the public from excessive snooping by overzealous, jobsworth or corrupt officials.

41. The applicants complained about the interception of their communications, contrary to Article 8 of the Convention:

"1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

Essentially, because the telephone interception "safeguards" were (and still are) so secret, and because the Interception of Communications Commissioner (both under IPCA and under RIPA) never make things any clear to the public either, these mass surveillance telephone interceptions were ruled as not being "in accordance with law".

69. In conclusion, the Court does not consider that the domestic law at the relevant time indicated with sufficient clarity, so as to provide adequate protection against abuse of power, the scope or manner of exercise of the very wide discretion conferred on the State to intercept and examine external communications. In particular, it did not, as required by the Court's case-law, set out in a form accessible to the public any indication of the procedure to be followed for selecting for examination, sharing, storing and destroying intercepted material. The interference with the applicants' rights under Article 8 was not, therefore, "in accordance with the law".

70. It follows that there has been a violation of Article 8 in this case.

The case has taken so long to come through this ECHR process, that the IOCA 1985 law has been repealed by the newer Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

The ECHR has awarded modest costs of 7,500 Euros to Liberty etc., but there are no punitive damages against the United Kingdom Government.

The Court note that it was possible to make the secret safeguards a lot more public, without endangering "sources and methods" which might compromise National Security, as , for example, the German Government has done with its G10 Act, or as indeed, the UK Government has done to some extent, with the partial publication of RIPA Codes of Practice.

However, there does not appear to be anything in the ECHR judgment which orders the UK Government to be any less secretive, or any more transparent and accountable to the public. regarding such telephone interceptions.

The only crumb of comfort would seem to be that this ECHR judgment applies equally to both international and domestic telephone interceptions, which does not really amount to much comfort, given today's technology and the current, all encompassing RIPA legislation.

This looks like a moral victory for the human rights defenders, but a practical one for the surveillance state snooper bureaucrats.

The only glimmer of hope is that, perhaps, some of the saner and more decent people within the Whitehall bureaucracy, might just be able to use this ECHR judgment, to press for a full review of the over-broad, over-complicated and opaque Regulation of Invesigatory Powers Act, and its very weak public safeguards.

The poisoned chalice of trying to pretend to be seen to be "consulting" the public, about the labour government's wretched Identity cards and centralised biometric database, the National Identity Register, has currently been palmed off onto the most junior Minister at the Home Office. the hapless Meg Hillier MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Identity)..

She is currently touring the country, at a series of not exactly secret, but certainly deliberately unpublicised meetings, with invited audiences, with notifications to the local media and invitations only being sent out less than a week beforehand.

This "consultation" appears to be a vain hope that somebody, anybody, will think of a way to "sell" the alleged benefits of ID cards to "young people" or indeed, to any substantial groups of people at all.

Note that despite the tens of millions of pounds which the Home Office has spent on external consultants and the best efforts of their own civil service staff, and the fabulous political skills of their NuLabour political special advisors, they have had no success in doing this so far, and seem to be flapping about aimlessly.

The meetings are deliberately being publicised only a few days in advance to the local media, with invitations being sent out to the attendees, less than a week before.

The NO2ID Campaign or anybody else who might ask awkward questions, are deliberately refused admission to these meetings.

Yesterday, the Edinburgh "consultation" meeting was held at a local hotel, and, nine NO2ID supporters were arrested and charged, despite their protest being peaceful and lawful.

The Questions which some people did manage to ask at the meeting, were not answered, except with newspeak slogans.

Read Geraint Bevan's first hand description of the events - it would be a comical farce, if it was not actually so serious.

The fact that this peaceful demonstration, at a low attendance meeting behind closed doors, was filmed by the local STV television news crew, seems to have foiled the Home Office's attempt to suppress publicity and reporting. You can see a flash video clip of the STV report on their website, but the sound track is mangled.

Meg Hillier seemed to be repeating the Labour cult mantras and blatant lies, that somehow their particular scheme would be cost effective against terrorism, illegal immigration or, online fraud (unlike ID Cards in other countries, there are no Digital Certificates which could be used to authenticate online e-commerce or banking etc. transactions over the world wide web).

Incredibly, after all these years, the Government still has not dared to publish a detailed business case of what exactly their scheme will achieve, how it will work and how much it will cost every else (including other Government departments and the public) apart from vague cost figures just for the Home Office itself.

We urge the Borders and Lothian Police and the Procurator Fiscal to drop these charges against the nine NO2ID Campaign supporters., and to purge the centralised database records of the personal details which have been taken from them as a result of the political arrests.

UPDATE: see also blogger James Hammerton's The NO2ID Nine account of his arrest on a "ridiculous jumped up charge" and for links to the media coverage.


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