The Guardian newspaper has a story about The Email Address Most Likely To Be Snooped On over the next few days, which has some points of interest for political whistleblowers, political conspirators and investigative journalists and bloggers.
Over past month 'rebellion of all the talents' has never met but plotted by email, borrowing tactics from Trotsky
* Allegra Stratton, Patrick Wintour and David Hencke
* The Guardian, Thursday 4 June 2009
They decided there would be a "tree" - a stalking herd - which would fan out across the parliamentary Labour party. Unlike previous rebellions which relied on huddles in corridors or face-to-face tearoom meetings, this would be better done virtually.
Recess came, recess went and at 10am on Monday morning a very respected select committee chairman came up to one rebel and asked for a meeting. "Because I think we're going to go aren't we".
And so it was. The next day a Hotmail account was set up. The address gave nothing away: email@example.com. The idea was that sympathetic Labour MPs would be encouraged to send an email endorsing a single sentence. This sentence would then be printed off and added to parliamentary notepaper, with a list of all those who responded to the email address listed with the two-word battlecry: "I agree".
Wouldn't a mobile phone SMS text message "friendship tree" be more likely to be effective ?
Presumably backbench Labour MPs do actually have the mobile phone numbers of some or all of their colleagues ?
One "branch" of the tree joined the team two days ago to become an eighth member. The Guardian met this MP in the corner of a Pugin-decorated dining room and discussed the plot as glasses were arranged and crockery assembled for an event.
This MP has been involved in the plot for only two days and said he had been moved to get involved by Brown's behaviour over expenses and the way in which five MPs had been disciplined by the NEC's star chamber over expenses claims revealed in the media. "A lot of us feel that Gordon Brown is taking Labour MPs outside one by one and shooting them. His already lamentable performance has just got worse in the last few days. Gordon Brown is a liability."
Within the tree, there are concerns about the method chosen to assemble the signatories. One member said: "One of the problems with what has come out already is that an email sounds very esoteric. We are asking MPs to send an email into the ether which says they believe that Gordon Brown should not be the leader of the Labour party. That is very high risk. As it is, the Labour party has never sent out a group email and if it did I bet you'd get back 150 emails saying 'account not recognised' or 'mailbox too full'. Labour MPs are not very electronic and I have to say I am worried about this method."
Presumably The Guardian newspaper has chosen to publish this email address in order to tip off those "not very electronic" Labour MPs and their, perhaps more computer literate, staff assistants.
This all seems a bit amateur - perhaps the Labour party MPs and the Guardian journalists should read a few of our free Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Activists etc. - http://ht4w.co.uk
Some obvious questions pertaining to the anonymity of the identities of the "plotters" :
- Will there now be illegal Denial of Service email spam attacks on this firstname.lastname@example.org email address, now that The Guardian has chosen to publish it ?
- Will there be effectively a Denial of Service attack on this email address, from thousands of members of the public who send a message of support for the Get Rid of Brown faction ? Given the antics of some of the people in UK political blogosphere, most of any "messages of support" for Gordon Brown, will be from people who hope or calculate that keeping him in office as Prime Minister will be even more damaging to the Labour party's re-election prospects.
- Will there be attempts to forge email header information, apparently from real Labour MPs ? Are the Labour MPs who have set up this account capable of detecting such forgeries ?
- Will there be attempts to illegally "Reset the Forgotten Password" on the Hotmail / Windows Live ID, thereby gaining access to the inbox of the account, in the same way that US Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's Yahoo email account was compromised last year ?
- Can Microsoft Hotmail systems administrators (either in the UK or in the USA), be trusted not to snoop on this email account, either from personal curiosity, or on orders from the US Government ?
- Will other systems administrators at UK ISPs, Blackberry email / mobile phone services, the Parliamentary email system and the Labour party email system, also snoop through their log files for this email address ?
- Can the UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies be trusted not to snoop on this email account, under the catch all excuse of "national security" ? They are supposedly not meant to get involved in politics, but how can anyone tell, given the secrecy ? Remember that the Police search of Conservative MPs Damian Green and Daniel Kawczynski's Parliamentary Offices, were conducted as part of investigations into vague "conspiracies" and "threats" against someone. Michael Martin MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons did nothing to prevent this, and since he is now a "lame duck", who never stood up against the Government on the "Wilson Doctrine", he is unlikely to investigate any snooping on MPs or journalists within the Palace of Westminster.
- Will Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Kennedy, the Interception of Communications Commissioner and Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Gibson, the Intelligence Services Commissioner, really be able to check that this particular email account has not been intercepted by the intelligence agencies or police forces ?
- Remember that Jacqui Smith is still Home Secretary, and she could sign a Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) Interception Warrant, to snoop on this email account. The very existence of such a warrant will remain secret (under penalty of up to 2 years in prison). If she is ever subsequently found out, what is she going to do, resign as Home Secretary, again ?
- The actual two word content of "I agree" in any of Emails sent by Labour MPs, is pretty irrelevant to this Hotmail plot, so "email interception is not needed to betray the identities of the "Plotters". It is the Communications Traffic Data, which is important i.e. exactly who, when and where and from which IP address / computer / phone is revealed in the "I agree" email header information.
- Is the Mobile Phone Location Data of the mobile phones of The Guardian journalists, and the Labour MPs being tracked by the UK Police and UK (or Foreign) Intelligence Agencies, or by Mobile Phone network staff ? This sort of Communications Traffic Data, like that of Email Header Communications Traffic Data, does not require a RIPA Intercept Warrant, only a self authorised Request, by someone with a middle level rank of Police Superintendent, or even the lower level rank of Inspector. Automatic software exists which can correlate such Location Data, and might reveal the identities of the current 8 members of this "Hotmail plot".
Will this "Hotmail plot" succeed, because of, or in spite of, this article in The Guardian ?