Spy Blog was trying to be fair to the Home Office Minister of State for Policing, Crime and Security Vernon Coaker, who was quoted on the topic of Communications Traffic Data retention, access and snooping, in this article in the Daily Telegraph, last Thursday
Councils to be given power to snoop on calls and emails
Councils and public bodies are to be able to access all email, telephone and internet records, sparking new fears over the surveillance state.
By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 8:37PM GMT 11 Feb 2009
Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said: "It is the Government's priority to protect public safety and national security. That is why we are completing the implementation of this directive, which will bring the UK in line with our European counter parts.
"Communications data is the what, where and when of the communication and plays a vital part in a wide range of criminal investigations, and prevention of terrorists attacks as well as contributing to public safety more generally. Without communications data resolving crimes such as the Rhys Jones murder would be very difficult if not impossible.
"Access to communications data is governed by Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) which ensures that effective safeguards are in place and that the data can only be accessed when it is necessary and proportionate to do so".
This article relate to the Statutory Instrument bringing into force the second phase of the European Union Directive mandatory Communications Data Retention scheme (which this Labour Government was one of the prime "policy launderers" behind the scenes at the EU level)
Our reaction to this is the same as that of UK Liberty, who points out
OK, he either does not know what he is talking about or he is deliberately conflating intrusive surveillance (e.g. bugs) - which aided the convictions in the Rhys Jones case - with mass surveillance (e.g. recording everyone’s telecoms), i.e. lying.
If it ever takes the Police 12 months (the new Data Retention period) to start to use Communications Traffic Data to investigate the the murder of a child in public, then heads should roll, starting with the Home Office Ministers.
Keeping millions of innocent people's Communications Traffic Data for 12 months would have done nothing to speed up or assist the investigation and prosecution of the Rhys Jones murder case, as this relied on targeted Communications Traffic Data requests and narrowly targeted i.e. electronic bugging devices placed secretly in one of the suspect's homes..
Naturally, we wanted to check if The Telegraph was somehow misquoting Vernon Coaker, so we wanted to see the Press Release or speech etc. on the Home Office Press website http://press.homeoffice.gov.uk
However, even today, Monday 16th February 2008, this official Home Office dedicated press release website is still only displaying a measly 5 press releases published last week, with no mention of Vernon Coaker's remarks.
- Residents help crackdown on crime in Brixton Thu, 12 Feb 2009 13:54:57 South London residents work with police and council to tackle neighbourhood problems.
- Review into the harms and classification of ecstasy
Wed, 11 Feb 2009 12:33:21
Recommendations made in a report published by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
- Working together to tackle crime in Newport
Tue, 10 Feb 2009 13:06:18
Justice done with community payback projects in Wales.
- New support for victims of domestic violence
Tue, 10 Feb 2009 10:34:06
Purse-sized guide to help domestic violence victims launched today.
- Five new countries face tough visa rules
Mon, 09 Feb 2009 16:43:52
Government announces new visa requirements for visitors from five countries.
Taxpayers and voters are entitled to ask why this is so, when the Home Office employs so many dedicated spin doctors and communications professionals in their Press office, and general Communications Directorate. There are even 16 people working full time on "e-communications".
Written answers Monday, 19 January 2009
Dominic Grieve (Shadow Attorney General, Law Officers; Beaconsfield, Conservative) |
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many members of her Department are employed in the (a) Corporate Communications unit, (b) E-communications unit, (c) Marketing and Strategic Communications unit and (d) Press Office of the Communications Directorate; and how many are employed in the Directorate in total.
Click on the platypus!
Phil Woolas (Minister of State (also in the Home Office), Home Office; Oldham East & Saddleworth, Labour)
The following table provides the total number of staff employed by the Communications Directorate and the specific units requested in the question.
Headcount as at 31 December 2008( 1)
Total staff headcount in the Communications Directorate 177
(a) Corporate Communications 28
(b) E-communications unit 16
(c) Marketing and Strategic Communications unit 23
(d) Press Office 42
(1) Headcount includes permanent and non-permanent staff (contractors, non-paid contractors, agency) and non-active staff.
This is not a technical website failure, it is a failure of transparency and open government and the culture of unnecessary secrecy which seems to infect even the people who are supposed to be communicating with the public.
Perhaps we should try a Freedom of Information Act request for all of the output of leaks, briefings, "lines to take", faxes, emails, letters, meeting agenda, notes, minutes etc. that these 177 Civil Servants produced last week, none of which should surely be secret ?
Will such an FOIA request actually reveal that the official Civil Service Press Office machinery is being sidelined and ignored by Home Office Ministers and their NuLabour Special Political Advisors ?
See our FOIA request: Home Office: Press Office output for week of Mon 9th Feb 2009 ?