Perhaps because of the media interest in the Convention on Modern Liberty, both The Guardian and the Press Association via the The Independent newspapers, have quoted from a discussion paper published over 2 weeks ago by the NuLabour "think tank" lobbyists at the Institute for Public Policy Research, through which several Labour party surveillance nanny police state policies have been "market tested", to see if they can be slipped through past the public and Parliament, without too much vocal opposition.
IPPR seem to have funded and have now published, "A discussion paper for the ippr Commission on National Security for the 21st Century" by Sir David Omand. an eminent retired Whitehall security and intelligence insider, on whose watch under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, many of the most repressive Labour laws and policies were trotted out.
The Commission brings together leading experts from the fields of security, defence, intelligence and development.
Commission panel members are:
* Lord Paddy Ashdown, Co-Chair, former leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and former High Representative for Bosnia.
* Lord George Robertson, Co-Chair, former Secretary of State for Defence and former Secretary General of NATO.
* Dr Ian Kearns, Deputy Chair, ippr.
* Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Director of the Ditchley Foundation and former British Ambassador to the United Nations.
* Sir David Omand, former security and intelligence coordinator in the Cabinet Office and former Permanent Secretary in the Home Office.
* Lord Charles Guthrie, former Chief of the Defence Staff.
* Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.
* Sir Chris Fox, former Chief Constable of Northamptonshire and former President of the Association of Chief Police Officers.
* Professor Michael Clarke, Director, Royal United Services Institute, and Professor of Defence Studies at King's College London.
* Professor Tariq Modood, Director of the Leverhulme Programme on Migration and Citizenship, Bristol University.
* Constanze Stelzenmüller, Director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund.
* Professor Jim Norton, former chief executive of the Radio Communications Agency and now at the Institute of Directors.
* Ian Taylor MP, Chair of the Conservative Party Policy Task-force on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Conservative MP for Esher and Walton and former minister for Science and Technology at the Department of Trade and Industry.
Who pays for this, apart from the UK taxpayer ?
ippr would like to thank EDS, Raytheon Systems Ltd, De La Rue and Booz Allen Hamilton for their generous support of the Commission's activities. For more information on the work of the Commission please go to www.ippr.org/security
i.e. what are known in the USA as "Beltway Bandits": military / security / intelligence sub-contractors and consultants, who have a vested financial interest in selling expensive , complicated systems, to technologically inept politicians and and Whitehall mandarins, in search of technological magic fixes to social and political problems.
The views in this paper are those of the author alone and are being published here in the hope of advancing public debate. They do not represent the views of the Commission panel or the views of any sponsoring organisation.
We welcome this new found idea of "advancing public debate".
It is a pity that Sir David Omand and his Whitehall securocrat colleagues are not speaking at the Convention on Modern Liberty - they should be invited to future events.
Author: Sir David Omand GCB, Visiting Professor, Department of War Studies, King's College, London
Publication Date: 09 February 2009
Sir David introduces us to a new acronym 'protected information', or Protint, which seems to be the very essence of the Database / Surveillance / Nanny / Police State dystopian nightmare which this Labour Government has created the foundations for:
To the huge changes happening in the world of Osint must be added the growth of a third category of information from which intelligence for national security may be derived, one that might be labelled 'protected information', or Protint. This is personal information about individual that resides in databases, such as advance passenger information, airline bookings and other travel data, passport and biometric data, immigration, identity and border records, criminal records, and other governmental and private sector data, including financial and telephone and other communications records. Such information may be held in national records, covered by Data Protection legislation, but it might also be held offshore by other nations or by global companies, and may or may not be subject to international agreements. Access to such information, and in some cases the ability to apply data mining and pattern recognition software to databases, might well be the key to effective pre-emption in future terrorist cases.
All the existing evidence so far, is that data mining of massive amounts of personal data simply does not work at all, or does not work cost effectively, in identifying real criminals, let alone real terrorists.
The laughably tiny amount of money seized or frozen as either "terrorist" or "serious organised crime" financial assets, in spite of the huge overhead of Know Your Customer" and "Anti-Money Laundering" or "Anti-Terrorist Finance" suspicious transaction reporting, snooping and number crunching, is testament to the failure of this approach, even in an area where almost all of the raw data is already rapidly available electronically.
The "false positive" and "false negative" rates are far too high, and the idea of "searching for a needle in haystack", through the cunning strategy of "throwing several more haystacks" into the pile of data to be trawled through, is fundamentally wrong.
Even MI5 seem to have admitted that there are no simple flags or indicators which will predict who exactly becomes a terrorist.
Such sources have always been accessible to traditional law enforcement seeking evidence against a named suspect already justified by reasonable suspicion of having committed a crime. However, application of modern data mining and processing techniques does involve examination of the innocent as well as the suspect to identify patterns of interest for further investigation. Obtaining international agreement on the sharing of such data will become increasingly important in order to ensure access to these vital sources. Privacy issues also arise over other sources of information on the
movements and activities of individuals, revealed by technology such as CCTV or automatic number plate readers, again with future potential for smart recognition software to be applied to mine such data for intelligence and law enforcement purposes.
The realm of intelligence operations is of course a zone to which the ethical rules that we might hope to govern private conduct as individuals in society cannot fully apply. Finding out other people's secrets is going to involve breaking everyday moral rules. So public trust in the essential reasonableness of UK police, security and intelligence agency activity will continue to be essential.
Such trust is essential, but, unfortunately, it has now broken down.
Every Terrorism Act 2000 section 44 stop and search which does not find weapons or explosives, i.e. all of them so far, destroys this trust.
Every harassment of innocent photographer or plane or train spotters, converts potential witnesses and and people who are in a position to detect and report suspicious activity, into people who will no longer cooperate willingly with the authorities.
Every disproportionate or arbitrary data snooping incident, every Whitehall data security and privacy breach, and every new mass surveillance system brought in without any informed public debate, also destroys this trust.
Every legalistic trick sneaked into excessive and complicated legislation, to further expand the surveillance and snooping powers of the state, at the expense of individual privacy and freedom, destroys this trust, and aids and abets the aims of our terrorist and other ideological enemies.
Sir David and his colleagues have a massive amount of work to do, simply to justify the existing status quo, let alone any further expansion of snooping and spying on innocent members of the public.
A significant challenge supporting the National Security Strategy will be how the intelligence community can access the full range of data relating to individuals, their movements, activities and associations in a timely, accurate, proportionate and legal way, and one acceptable in a democratic and free society, including appropriate oversight and means of independent investigation and redress in cases of alleged abuse of power.
What is this mythical "appropriate oversight and means of independent investigation and redress in cases of alleged abuse of power.". which Sir David alludes to ?
Surely he does not think that the existing system of RIPA Commissioners, with no remit, no power and no budget to investigate individual complaints from the public, or, in the case of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, an unblemished record of never having found in favour of a member of the public, who had, somehow, managed even to find out that this secretive body exists, are in any way adequate ?
The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament does not provide adequate scrutiny of polices and budgets, let alone any in depth investigations into individual cases or complaints - they do not have the equivalent research staff and budget of , say, US congressional intelligence oversight committees and the ISC's mostly annual reports are censored by the Prime Minister.
The Information Commissioner's Office is hamstrung by its existing overloaded complaints system, and the statutory exemptions for anything to do with "national security", no matter how peripheral, or "for the prevention, detection or prosecution of crime" , no matter how trivial.
The Courts provide no adequate safeguards against intelligence agency and anti-terrorism abuses, especially if they involve foreign governments as well as our own.
We would remind readers of the Farid Hilali case, where the House of Lords overturned an application for a writ of habeus corpus, involving the first European Arrest Warrant served on anyone in the UK, for extradition to Spain. This case involved dodgy mobile phone intercept and communications traffic evidence, which had already been thrown out on appeal by the Spanish Supreme Court, even though the only alleged link to Hilali with this evidence was an alleged "voicematch". The Spanish authorities then insulted British sovereignty and totally ignored the UK House of Lords ruling, regarding which criminal charges Hilali was being extradited to face.
The intelligence community will continue to have to grapple with issues of proportionality and necessity over its methods, and over the use made of its intelligence. As already noted, the advanced technology now available to the intelligence community is particularly valuable in providing early clues to the existence of covert networks, but the very effectiveness of these techniques is already rubbing up against feelings of invasion of individual privacy, and worries over the wider uses to which such information might be put.
There are plenty of historical cases in the UK, as well as abroad, where "national security" or "anti-terrorism" infrastructure and technology have been abused to snoop and spy on political rivals and opponents, on media celebrities and to stalk or harass estranged former wives, partners or girlfriends etc. by jealous insiders.
In the worst cases names and addresses and other sensitive personal data, supposedly securely in the care of British Government ot Police computer or paperwork systems, has been handed over to foreign intelligence agencies, terrorist organisations, extremist groups, and criminal gangs, which has led to violent attacks and murders.
How do Sir David Omand and his colleagues propose to ensure that the risk of this happening is somehow going to be decreased, when they are trying to get they public to tolerate even more Protint snooping ?