The UK based online IT industry publication, The Register reports on a story which shows that not only has this Labour government taken George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four as surveillance state policy plan, rather than as a dystopian warning, but they have also allowed a Kafkaesque securocacy and (in)justice system to use the full panoply of "anti-terrorism" national security powers against vulnerable members of society, without making us all any safer.
Terror squad arrest over model rocket
By Chris Williams
Posted in Law, 24th November 2009 11:36 GMT
Exclusive The first person jailed under draconian UK police powers that Ministers said were vital to battle terrorism and serious crime has been identified by The Register as a schizophrenic science hobbyist with no previous criminal record.
His crime was a persistent refusal to give counter-terrorism police the keys to decrypt his computer files.
The 33-year-old man, originally from London, is currently held at a secure mental health unit after being sectioned while serving his sentence at Winchester Prison.
In June the man, JFL, who spoke on condition we do not publish his full name, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment under Part III of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). The powers came into force at the beginning of October 2007.
JFL told The Register he had scrambled the data on several devices as part of security measures for his business, a small software company
His disappearance led to a raid on 7 March this year. Officers bearing sub-machine guns broke down the door of JFL's flat. He rang local police before realising CTC had come for him.
At the local Fareham police station he was served with the section 49 notice. Signed by CTC's Superintendent Bell, it said: "I hereby require you to disclose a key or any supporting evidence to make the information intelligible."
JFL maintained his silence throughout the one hour time limit imposed by the notice. He was charged with ten offences under section 53 of RIPA Part III, reflecting the multiple passphrases needed to decrypt his various implementations of PGP Whole Disk Encryption and PGP containers.
After three months on remand JFL faced trial on 2 June. He pleaded guilty to all the charges, wrongly believing he would be released that day with an electronic tag thanks to time served. Instead, taking into account the passport offences and missed bail, he received a total of 13 months.
Before finishing what would have been a six-and-a-half-month prison term during September, JFL was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He now does not know when he will be released from hospital.
During sentencing, the judge seemingly confirmed that NTAC staff had been unsuccessful in their attempts to crack the encrypted files - or had not bothered trying. "To this day no one really has any idea as to what is contained in that equipment," he said. One file encrypted using software from the German firm Steganos was cracked, but investigators found only another PGP container.
The suspicion of terrorism was dropped long before trial and JFL was sentenced under RIPA Part III as a general criminal rather than a threat to national security. Although he admitted guilt, JFL argues he did nobody any harm and the offences were all related to not cooperating fully with police.
Despite referencing his solitary existence, Judge Hetherington appeared not to know about JFL's mental health problems and criticised him for not speaking to authorities.
Abandoning normal court procedures, he said: "It was because I was satisfied you would not tell the Probation Service anything significant further that I saw no purpose in obtaining a pre-sentence report which is normally a prerequisite for someone of no previous convictions who has not previously received a prison sentence," he said.
Sticking to normal procedure might have helped explain much of JFL's behaviour in interviews and while on bail. Pre-sentence reports include mental health records and JFL himself sought psychiatric treatment once before, while a computer science student.
Regular readers of Spy Blog (and all of our PGP encrypted communications correspondents) should read the full article carefully.
We read it with a mixture of pity for plight of the the mentally afflicted "JFL", and an increasing sense of fury at this Labour government's Soviet style system of nameless accusations and the presumption of guilt for potential thought crimes, none of which were actually backed up by any physical evidence or other witnesses etc.
Why should we tolerate such Kafkaesque injustice here in the UK ?
How has it made us any safer from real terrorists ?
It does not appear that "JFL" was given any proper legal advice when he was arrested.
Is he legally represented now ? If so, then by whom ?
Is there any way that good people who are worried by this story can send "JFL" some things whilst he is in the Prison / Secure Hospital Ward ?
- money for toiletries, cigarettes etc. (regardless of whether he smokes or not)
- or postage stamps (convicted prisoners only get the postage paid for one letter a week, but they can send many more at their own expense) and
- Prison PIN Phone credits (which have now replaced the former Prison Phone Card system) etc.
Prisoner [number ?]
c/o Her Majesty's Prison Winchester
This case should come as no surprise to the Labour politicians and senior civil servants who inflicted the Regulation of investigatory Powers Act 2000 Part III Investigation of electronic data protected by encryption etc.. on us all.
They were warned at the time this legislation was first proposed, by very many people that this is what would happen, for example by the eminent Ross Anderson who is Professor of Security Engineering at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory.
The tragic consequences of anti-crypto law
By Professor Ross Anderson
Posted in Law, 25th November 2009 11:19 GMT