Recently in Climate of Fear Category

Is the Sunday Times helping to set up Charles Farr as the fall guy for the Coalition government's failure to undo the massive damage to our freedoms and liberties which was done by Labour, with the help of this former MI6 officer, who is now the Director General of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism at the Home Office ?

This article by David Leppard has several anonymous opinions from people who have worked with or against Charles Farr, almost none of which are complimentary.

Is he really the sole architect of Labour and the Coalition's counterproductive anti-terrorism and mass surveillance policies, or are there other guilty mandarins who should also be named and shamed ?

The Sunday Times
22nd April 2012

page 23

Profile Charles Farr

Chief snooper pops out of the shadows

The volatile former spy turned security mandarin is going public to defend his plan to monitor all our digital communication, writes David Leppard

When the embattled Theresa May appears before a committee of MPs on Tuesday to give evidence about her work as home secretary she will be accompanied by one of Whitehall's most powerful, controversial and secretive mandarins. Charles Farr, the Home Office's top "securocrat", is set to emerge from the shadows for the first time as he is asked to defend the coalition's plans to monitor the internet use and digital communications of everyone in Britain.

Do not pin too much hope in the Home Affairs Committee, they have been bamboozled by the Home Office and by the intelligence agencies many times before. Perhaps Dr. Julian Huppert (Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge) might get a few telling questions in, but he is unlikely to get any straight answers.

Farr is probably Whitehall's most important and influential spy, the man most closely associated with "Big Brother Britain". He was responsible for the so-called "snooping bill" that caused the government so many prob­lems earlier this month. He personally oversaw the introduction of the coalition's rebranded regime of control orders to detain terror suspects without charge and he drove its ambitious attempts to curb the radicalisation of young Muslim men.

A bright and driven bureaucrat, he has shaken up Whitehall's security machine, impressing successive ministerial bosses with his vision since he was plucked from MI6 in 2007 by John Reid, the former Labour home secretary, to head the Home Office's security and counterterrorism office. Farr won plaudits for overhauling the government's handling of the war on terror.

Impressing John "not fit for purpose" Reid, (now a lobbyist for the G4S private security company) the former hard line Communist and drinking partner of the Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadžić, should not be seen as a positive character reference.

"He has made a major contribution to the government's counterterrorism efforts, principally because of his leadership," said Patrick Mercer, former chairman of the Commons subcommittee on counterterrorism. Yet talk to current and former colleagues, and they will tell you there is a flip side to the 52-year-old Farr. They portray him as a bucca­neer whose intelligence past and explosive temper raise questions about his constitutional role as a civil servant -- and the robust style in which he does business.

Little is known of Farr's early life and career. He was educated at Monkton Combe, a private school near Bath, of which Slr Richard Dearlove, a former M6 chief and his future boss, is also an old boy. After leaving in 1977 Farr studied English at Magdalen College Oxford, alma mater of several spies including Sir John Scarlett, another former MI6 chief.

So he probably has little clue about the technology and business implications of his policies, which affect the internet, mobile phones, computer databases etc.

He joined MI6 some time in the 1980s, serving in South Africa and Jordan. Farr is understood to have come to prominence, as one contemporary recalled, "flying around Afghanistan in a helicopter with thousands of dollars in bundles, doing deals with farmers to not grow opium. Bad policy as it turned out, but he did it very well". So well, in fact, that he was appointed an OBE in 2003. He would go on to run MI6's counterterrorism department before Reid spotted him.

Farr's critics say he still carries the legacy of his MI6 heyday -- a mindset they claim is inappropriate for his job at the heart of Whitehall security policy. "When you are an MI6 officer out in the field, trying to stop people getting nuclear weapons in, say, Kazakhstan, you have to be very independ­ently minded and very confident in your own judgment. There's not a lot of ministerial con­trol or public accountability," says an admirer who knows him well. "Charles feels very uncomfortable in the world of domestic politics and doesn't read it very well."

That comment was from "an admirer" !

A former Home Office official went further: "When you're suddenly flung into a top position with management and policy respon­sibility in the Home Office, you can't go on behaving like you are in the Tora Bora caves doing deals with warlords. Your job is to advise ministers who decide policy. You can't go around thinking you are a player in your own right. It's a constitutional concern."

Farr's handling of the now infamous snooping bill seems to typify these contra­dictions. Ministers ran into a storm of criticism after The Sunday Times revealed they were planning to allow the intelligence agencies to monitor social media, Skype calls and email communications as well as logging every site visited by internet users in Britain. The plans were due to be announced in next month's Queen's speech, but were put on hold when they were leaked.

It is no secret in Whitehall that the grandiosely titled communications capabili­ties development programme was Farr's "policy baby". In fact, it was a rehash of an earlier attempt by Farr in 2009 to persuade the then Labour home secretary to build a giant database where the government could hold details of all emails and telephone calls. It obviously needed sensitive handling, but its delivery was bungled by Farr's office and it was dumped by Labour after an uproar. When a new government was elected he tried to resurrect the plan -- with similar results.

Why didn't the Coalition government sack this snoop happy Labour apparatchik when they took office ?

A similar lack of deftness befell Farr's efforts to develop "Prevent", a controversial plank of the government's counterterrorism policy that aimed to identify and thwart thousands of young Muslim men who might be vulnerable to violent extremism. A key strand of Prevent was the policy of dishing out tens of millions of pounds of public money to Muslim youth groups and charities. Basically Farr believed the government should engage with fundamentalist Muslim leaders because they were best placed to stop the radicalisation of the youths who were the most likely to become violent extremists. The problem with the policy was some of these groups were asked to "spot" potential extremists and report on teen­agers who might be vulnerable to grooming.

Critics inside and outside the government soon saw it as turning the Home Office into a giant spying machine. "They were offering money to youth groups and Muslim charities contingent on them spying for the Home Office," said a prominent lawyer, who saw draft documents outlining the conditions of the grant agreements.

The scheme became characterised as a huge bid for surveillance. "It was a blurring of the policy ol surveillance with a different policy of community engagement and building a civil society" said a former Home Office official.

"But if like Charles Fair, you are a career spook you just don't get that. You see everything as an opportunity for surveillance and you see everybody as potentially sinsister."

Perhaps the general public will see Charles Farr as "sinister" and a threat to our freedoms and liberties, who has wormed his way into the heart of Whitehall.

Whatever his intentions, the practical effect of his failed polices, is to have acted as a recruiting sergeant for the next generation of extremists here in the UK and to make the Home Office / MI5 / MI6 / GCHQ and the rest of the Whitehall and Westminster political elites, increasingly hated by the public who should be supporting them.

In the end the policy was binned after a speech in Munich in February last year by David Cameron on Islamic extremism. The prime minister argued that any kind of Islamic extremism, whether violent or not, was unacceptable. It was seen by insiders as an explicit attack on Farr. Reports that Farr "went ballistic" when he read the speech are over-blown. But one insider said: "He was unhappy with the Munich speech. But obviously not unhappy enough to resign."

So if the Prime Minister / Number 10 SpAds are unhappy with Charles Farr, why is he still in a position of power and influence ?

Who are his political allies within the Byzantine corridors of power in Whitehall ?

Does Charles Farr have access to secret material which could be used to blackmail politicians with, like the notorious J. Edgar Hoover did in the USA ?

Although his single-mindedness is widely admired, Farr's volcanic temper has won him few friends in Whitehall. Dealing with warlords on the front line in Afghanistan requires different skills from managing sensi­tive egos in the supposedly collegiate environ­ment of a government office.

Presumably the opium smuggling paedophile Afghan warlords are less duplicitous and more honourable than the civil service mandarins and politicians in Whitehall and Westminster.

In the often heated exchanges during the government's review of control orders in late 2010, a former official recalls one particularly fiery exchange between Farr and a civil liberties campaigner. "He was having one of his explosions, which seemed to last 45 minutes and was quite sinister. You just think: what on earth is going on? Is he all right? It was all very embarrassing and counterproductive."

Another former official, who had a show­down with Farr over policy, recalls: "He's almost messianic. He's like he's on a mission to protect the nation. When you disagree with him he gets very emotional. He's one of these guys who goes white and shakes when he loses his temper."

The cold fury that his policies have stirred up in many people who are at least as patriotic as he is, outside of Whitehall, more than match such alleged temper tantrums

Farr's relationship with MPs reflects the unique challenges of putting an MI6 hawk at the heart of the public policy machine. Farr feels uncomfortable when he is called to give evidence before Commons committees.

Tough.

That is part of what all Whitehall mandarins get their titles, honours and big salaries to do.

On the few occasions when he has testified he has always insisted he is heard in secret. He has told Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs committee, that as a serving spy he can't give evidence in public.

Rubbish.

Charles Farr is no longer a serving MI6 officer in the field, he is employed as a civil servant at the Home Office in Marsham Street.

"Charles likes being a secret squirrel," said another MP. "Keith asked him why he can't give evidence in public. Charles replied that there were no pictures of him any where on the internet. Nobody knew what he looked like, which is how he wanted it.

Why ? He is never going on an undercover mission again, is he ?

What makes him more special than the heads of the Intelligence Agencies who have been interviewed and photographed in public ? Nothing.

But Keith replied: 'Everybody knows what you look like: you look like an older version of Harry Potter'."

Unlike the star of JK Rowling's books no one inside Whitehall says Farr is Mr Popular. "He has on occasions adopted a style that could be considered inappropriate," said a former official. "He's a very uncivil servant."

That restrained euphemism sounds like an audition for the planned new series of Yes Minister

Additional reporting: Richard Kerbaj

Last weekend there were some suspiciously timed Distributed Denial of Service attack against the Home Office website (offline for about 12 hours until Sunday morning) and to a lesser extent the Ministry of Justice and the Prime Minister's Number 10 Downing Street (about an hour's disruption each, on and off) .

None of these websites are vital to the running of the country, especially not on a Saturday evening on a Bank Holiday weekend, when nobody is visiting them, but they are symbolic targets.

The organisers of this supposed "hactivism" were some self appointed faction under the hydra headed #Anonymous twitter hive mind.

See the Twitter hashtag #OpTrialAtHome

The "justification" they claimed was to somehow "support" the controversial Extradition cases of Gary McKinnon, Richard O'Dwyer and Chris Tappin, something which they have not achieved..

Nevertheless these people declared the event a success and then, on the Sunday, they threatened to do the same to the GCHQ website , starting at 8pm GMT on Saturday 14th April 2012.

This "news" has been reported by IT trade publications and picke dup by the national newspapers and broadcast media, especially following the arrests of a couple of teenagers in the West midlands, who may be the vaguely associated with the #teampoison attacks on the Metropolitan Police Anti-terrorism hotline.
(misreported by the "hackers" and far too many other online "news" sources as somehow being MI6 the Secret intelligence Service, who have nothing to do with any public hotlines whatsoever)

As with MI5 and the MI6/SIS websites, only http://www.gchq.gov.uk is valid, not http://gchq.gov.uk on its own

A few hours before the announced attack time, the default GCHQ web page started to be re-directed down a level to:

http://www.gchq.gov.uk/Pages/homepage.aspx

At about 19:40 BST i.e. 18:40 GMT British Telecom , on whose servers this public website appears to be running, put a temporary 302 redirect to e.g.

http://213.121.151.40/TPpRO/c3aba573/43de84c1/www.gchq.gov.uk/

instead of the previous IP address of http://195.171.165.115 which was advertised ahead of time on a Twitter Twitpic graphic:

gchq_ddos_graphic.jpg

http://twitpic.com/97d6yn

Note the ambiguous slogan: "Fight Online Privacy" - are the anonymous organisers / manipulators behind this DDoS attack actually on the same side as GCHQ - both of them appear to be fighting against your right to online privacy.

Note also the inevitable confusion - many of the "script kiddies" and gullible journalists will not have read the announcement properly and will assume that 8 PM British Summer Time is somehow the same as 8pm Greenwich Mean Time. (9pm BST)

Much more seriously, the published comment on this web page is actively encouraging the "hactivists" to download a scritpt kiddy "point and click" Denial of Service attack tool called "High Orbit Ion Cannon" - hence the "pew pew pew - fire your Laz0rs" instructions to the exploited cult followers.

There are no warnings whatsover about the fact that participating in this DDoS attack or even just downloading the HOIC tool is a criminal offence in the UK, with up to ten years and two year in prison respectively.

See the control freak Labour government's amendments to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 which came into force in October 2008 and which claims worldwide legal jurisdiction:

The timing of these DDoS attacks appears to have been deliberately (or utterly incompetently) chosen to minimise any political impact on the Government or civil servants i.e. on a Saturday evening when nobody in the Government department concerned is likely to have anyone ringing up to complain that their website is unavailable, and well past the print run deadlines for the Sunday newspapers.

If people want to protest by accessing a Government website, then they should be able to, but they must also be made aware of the risks of legal prosecution and potential punishments.

The fact that the organisers of these attacks have not done so, smells of Entrapment by Agents Provocateurs, perhaps like the notorious #Sabu, who are under the control of an intelligence or law enforcement agency and who are actually helping to jusify the repressive Communications Capabalities Development Programme being promoted by the securocrats in Whitehall to the bumbling Coalition politicians.
.

20:05 BST - the GCHQ website seems to be running smoothly


The anonymous media briefings ahead of next month's Queen's Speech are continuing today, lead by the Sunday Times and followed by the Press Association, with broadcasters like the BBC joining in, second hand.

The Sunday Times has published a rather meagre front page article on the Coalition government's revival of Labour's All Your Internet Are Belong To Us snooping plans:

Instead of just passively waiting for another NuLabour style fait accompli, please contact your local MP and / or join or support cross party groups like NO2ID Campaign or the Open Rights Group

Sunday Times
Sunday 1st April 2012

Government to snoop on all emails
David Cracknell

David Cracknell used to have several "anonymous" sources within Government and was briefed "off the record" by Whitehall spin doctors

Is the poor quality of this article the result of the anti-Murdoch press "cover your own backsides" attitude which now prevails in Whitehall , following the "phone hacking" / corruption scandals which closed the News of the World and which are tainting even the Sunday Times ?


The government is to expand hugely its powers to monitor email exchanges and website visits of every person in Britain.

Under plans expected to be announced in the Queen's speech next month, internet companies will be told to install thousands of pieces of hardware to allow GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping centre, to scrutinise "on demand" every phone call made, text message and email sent and website accessed in real time.

They already have this legal power which does not require any sort of judicial warrant, under the notorious Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. All that GCHQ needs is a "catch all" Warrant or Certificate signed by a Secretary of State i.e. normally, in their case, the Foreign Secretary William Hague.

This introduced the legal power to install "black box" snooping hardware at the major Telecommunications companies and Internet Service Providers, overseen by the Technical Advisory Board.

The amount of money the the Labour government was willing to pay for this snooping infrastructure was a paltry sum, which is why it took so long for any agreement with the ISPs. N.B. the interests and priorities of ISPs and Telecomms companies are not the same as those of their customers.

The volume of internet data flowing today is orders of magnitude more than that envisaged back in 2000, so If the new plan is to really going to install "thousands of pieces of hardware", then this plan will cost billions of pounds.

An effort by Labour to introduce a similar law was shelved in 2006 after fierce opposition from the Tories, Liberal Democrats and pri­vacy campaigners.

The useless Jacqui Smith threatened us with a Communications Data Bill, but that was in 2009, not 2006

While the new law would not allow GCHQ to monitor the content of communica­tions without obtaining a warrant, it would permit the intelligence agency to trace whom a person or group had contacted, when, for how long and how often.

That is no different from the existing RIPA law then

Members of the Internet Service Providers' Associa­tion, which represents more than 200 businesses including BT, Virgin Media and Google, were given some details of the proposals last month and were alarmed by what they were told.

So why does this Sunday Times article not mention the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP), which is what the ISPs were briefing other journalists on last month ?

See Spy Blog: Whitehall risks public and internet industry revolt against their secretive Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP) internet and phone snooping plans

A senior industry official said: "It's mass surveillance.
The idea is that the network operator should effectively intercept the
communications between, say, Google and some third party

"the network operators are going to be asked to put probes in the network and they are upset about the idea ... It's expensive, it's intru­sive to your own customers, it's very difficult to see it's going to work properly and it's going to be a nightmare to run legally."

The association said: "It is important that proposals to update government's capabili­ties to intercept and retain communications data... are proportionate, respect freedom of expression and the privacy of users."

Why doesn't the Sunday Times name the "senior industry official" or even the "Internet Service Providers' Associa­tion" spokesman ?

Under the current law, companies must keep records for some traditional types of phone and electronic commu­nication for a year.

Hold on, the European Union Data Retention regulations e.g.

The Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009

are about forcing ISPs and Landline and Mobile Phone companies to keep Communications Data unnecessarily, which they would otherwise have been obliged to delete under the Data Protection Act, since they themselves no longer have any legitimate use for it, especially if the internet or mobile phone bills have been pre-paid. Data Retention is not about access to such retained data.

The new legislation would extend this provision to cover a much wider field, including social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and online video games.

Perhaps the Sunday Times is actually writing about CCDP then.

N.B. CCDP is not not just a GCHQ project (which has its own "Mastering the Internet" investment programme) but is being "coordinated" by the technologically inept Home Office.

It is not physically possible to get Communications Traffic Data form foreign based social media websites like FaceBook or Twitter without actually using techniques such as Deep Packet Inspection and perhaps even Man-In-The-Middle Attack SSL / proxies i.e. it requires actual Interception of the Content of these websites to do this.

The only countries which attempt to do this at the moment are repressive regimes like Iran, China, Saudi Arabia etc.

Dominic Raab, a Tory MP who has campaigned for civil liberties, said: "If over-zealous officials are trying to resuscitate Labour's flawed paln for 'big brother' monitoring, ministers need to nip this in the bud."

MI5 and GCHQ have been lobbying hard for the wider powers which, they believe, are a crucial tool to combat terrorism and serious crime.

Serious Crime is not within the remit of either GCHQ or MI5

The Police cannot cope properly with the vast amount of data they already gather, so why will "searching for a needle in a haystack, by throwing in several more haystacks", be cost effective ?

There is no evidence that holding 6 month or 1 year old Communications Data of hundreds of millions of innocent people in the European Union, has been of any use in catching criminals or terrorists. Where it has been of use, e.g. in the recent Toulouse serial killer / extremist case, the Communications Data has been very recent and the searches have been narrowly targeted to a suspects known phones or email addresses or to a victim's web advert etc.

At present GCHQ can use probes to monitor the content of calls and emails sent by specific individuals who are the subject of police or security service investigation, provided it has ministerial approval.

For "ministerial approval" read "ministerial or senior official rubber stamp"

There should actually be independent Judicial warrants for such intrusive interception surveillance, not rubber stamping by politicians.

The Home Office said it would introduce new legislation "as soon as parliamentary time allow" but stressed that the data to be monitored would not include content.

Why does the Sunday Times not name this anonymous Home Office spokesman ?

Which part of the phrase "Deep Packet Inspection = Interception of Content" does the Home Office not understand ?

Have all the civil servants and SPADs who embarrassed themselves and the Home Office over the BT / Phorm scandal now been promoted to other jobs, leaving their inexperienced "generalist" replacements to magically formulate "policy" without any technical experience or knowledge ?

Incredibly this article does not really mention Mobile Phones and especially Mobile Phone Location Data.

This, like other forms of Communications Data is available via automated gateway computer systems to authorised Police and Intelligence Agency investigators, but it is meant to be narrowly targeted and proportionate, under a combination of the Regulation of Investgatory Powers Act 2000 (which permits such agencies to make such requests) and the Data Protection Act 1998 (which exempts the Telcos and Mobile Phone Networks and ISPs from prosecution for handing such data over to them)

Is this Sunday Times article, a high quality briefing / leak by Whitehall mandarins ?

Is it safe to interpret the omissions like Soviet era Kremlinologists, and read between the lines that some of the previously evil plans which have been touted, have been watered down ?

Our opinion is that no, this is a flawed article, which has either had many important details removed by the editors for front page space reasons, or which is being deliberately deceitful by omission.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case with today's "news" industry, this article has been re-published by , for example, the Press Association, with even fewer important technical and legal details:

The Independent
Sunday 01 April 2012

Expansion of GCHQ internet monitoring proposed

Gavin Cordon

[...]

The Home Office confirmed that ministers were intending to legislate "as soon as parliamentary time allows".

"It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public. We need to take action to maintain the continued availability of communications data as technology changes," a spokesman said.

Why does the Independent not name this anonymous "spokesman" ?

"Communications data includes time, duration and dialling numbers of a phone call, or an email address. It does not include the content of any phone call or email and it is not the intention of Government to make changes to the existing legal basis for the interception of communications."

[...]

Note the (deliberate ?) omission of Mobile Phone Location Data in this alleged definition of Communications Data. This does not include Tweets or Facebook "likes" , which do require interception of the content of a web browsing session (also deliberately not mentioned ?)

David Davis, one of the few Conservative MPs who stood up for civil liberties when in opposition to Labour, has rightly criticised this plan in this BBC video clip, in which he does mention some of the things omitted by the Sunday Times:

Email and web use 'to be monitored' under new laws

However, we are not sure where the "retention for 2 years" comes from and despite the mention of "magistrates and courts", none of that has applied since 2000 - the only "warrants" are those rubber stamped by politicians or officials for Interception, and "self authorised" requests by the Police and Intelligence Agencies. There is no involvement of independent Judges or Magistrates at all in the UK, with either electronic (or postal) communications Interception or with Communications Data or with Intrusive Surveillance (planting of bugging or tracking devices, use of Confidential Human Intelligence Source informants etc.)


Elizabeth Filkin, the former Parliamentary Standards Commissioner (who proved to be too competent for the sleazy MPs) has produced an interesting report into the cosy relationship between the top managment of the Metroplitan Police Service and the print media, specifically, but not exclusively News International.

The Ethical Issues Arising from the Relationship Between Police and Media (302 Kb .pdf)

When reading this report, you could and should mentally replace the words "MPS" or "Metroplitan Police Service", with "Downing Street" or "Whitehall Department" and especially with "Home Office", "Cabinet Office", "Ministry of Defence MoD", "Security Service MI5", "Secret Intelligence Service MI6" or "GCHQ".

Almost all of Elizabeth Filkin's conclusions and reccomendations for improving the Metropolitan Police's duties of transparency and accountability to the public, whilst protecting the operational security of ongoing investigations and also protecting the personal details of innocent members of the public and junior staff etc., could and should be applied to these other powerful, privilged, yet increasingly untrusted, supposedly public institutions.

The Metroplitan Police Service has been practicing the black arts of media spin and manipulation and their public reputation has suffered as a result.

Favoured access:

3.2.1 Inequality of access

It is felt both internally and externally that the MPS has not given equal access to all parts of the media for a number of years and that certain special relationships have developed selectively.

The kind of off the record nature of it all is actually counter-productive, and if we really want to hold public institutions to account we have to do it in an open, transparent and proper way. But the way they operate is they have the kind of closed press briefings, drinks at the pub - it's a club. Journalists get too close to senior police officers, because you get far more stories if you're nice to them than if you're not. And the result is I think we are quite generally in this industry, too reluctant to write critical pieces, than we were previously.

A Journalist

Trading information and even betraying details about innocent members of the public, in order to about to divert media attention away from embarrasing stories about the MPS themselves:

3.1.2 Trading

I have also been given examples where inappropriate information has been provided to the media, to dilute or prevent the publication of other information which could be damaging to the MPS or senior individuals within it. Of course there can be proper and ethical negotiations with the media to prevent the obstruction of an investigation, harm to
members of the public or the MPS, or to ensure accuracy in reporting. However some negotiations have included unethical placing of material, or offering exclusive stories to the media to bury other information.

"So that if you get the Press Officer who says, well, if I give Reporter 'A' a particular story exclusively, then next week Reporter 'A' will do me a favour. And you've got a direct conflict now between what the public needs and what the Press Officer wants."

Nick Davies, Freelance Journalist

Lack of Transparency, even when there is no justifiable operational need for it:

4.4 TRANSPARENCY

According to some, MPS contact with the media has in the past been characterised by back door briefings through informal and unofficial channels. This view was also reached when MPS communications were the subject of some informal advice from the private sector in 2010. I understand that this offer of help from an outside expert on improving communications with the public was undermined by the threat of negative press coverage.

Some contact will involve trusting the media with confidential information. There will also be occasions when negotiation between the MPS and the media will be necessary to ensure accurate reporting. I am concerned that some may use these proper practices to justify a general lack of transparency both in terms of who has contact with the media and what information they provide. Problems like the trading of information or the apparent closeness of some relationships with the media fuel the perception that the business of dealing with the press is by its nature secretive.

"I think if you spend your whole career working on secretive investigations, and concealing information, things like that, which is really, really important, it just goes to your head somehow, sometimes, and you think that you kind of own this information, and you forget that you're there to serve the public."

A Journalist

[...]

In most circumstances police officers and staff providing information to the media should expect to be named. In some instances it may be appropriate for only their role or position to be published. It should always be the case that the information is attributed to the MPS.

The culture of secrecy and the use of "Anonymous briefings" attributed to "police sources" are as stupid and counterproductive as those attributed to "Whitehall sources"

"I phoned up and said 'I've got some questions here', it was almost as though you were asking for them to release something which is privileged information somehow, it's absolutely not. So I just try back channels now, trying other contacts in the Met, going round the back within the slightly kind of shadowy stuff that you have to do to get data, because the front door doesn't work."

A Journalist

It is clear both from speaking to journalists and politicians, and from media reports even during the time of my review, that use of the word 'police source' can mislead. Every time this phrase is used it implies a leak. I have been told that it is also used in situations where the information comes from a different but related organisation such as the MPA, or as a generic term to try and protect the real provenance of a source. It is also sometimes used where the information has been legitimately and formally supplied by the MPS press office. This is a damaging practice with the potential to create a perception that leaks from the MPS are more widespread than they are.


BBC Radio 4: Secret Britain

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The BBC Radio 4 documentary series Secret Britain should be of interest to Spy Blog readers.

The first programme in the series was broadcast last Tuesday 16th August 2011, but it still available (for now) online via the BBC iPlayer

One Hundred Years of Secrecy

Presented by veteran investigative journalist Peter Hennessey, with sound bites from
retired heads of intelligence agencies, Whitehall mandarins, politicians and the occasional whistleblower.

The programme "celebrates" the 100th anniversary of the notorious Official Secrets Act 1911, which , amidst mainstream media inspired hysteria and collective Must Be Seen To Be Doing Something panic amongst the politicians, after a foreign security crisis.

The influence of this overbroad "catch all" Act and the way in which it was sneaked through Parliament in a rush, without proper debate or scrutiny set the tone for almost all subsequent "security" legislation to date.

The supposedly more narrowly targeted Official Secrets Act 1989 also commands little public confidence,has led to some dubious prosecutions yet it has not prevented "leaks" from the Whitehall and national security / counter-terrorism bureaucracy. It therefore needs urgent reform

The most interesting quotation in the broadcast was from Sir Stephen Lander, the retired Director General of MI5 the Security Service (who was also later in charge of the Serious Organised Crime Agency).

His comment on the Security Service Act 1989,

SSL: "I think, fundamentally, it was a wonderful thing to have done for the Service. It was the most important thing that happened in my time. MI5 getting legislation for the Service.

Apart from anything else, it made us so much more operationally aggressive, and more confident.

PH: Because you had "cover" ?

SSl: Yep, We were "proper".

And it was a beautiful piece of draughting, at something, you know, "there shall continue to be a Security Service" without having previously acknowledged that it had previously existed in law - hah hah - a beautiful piece of draughting.

Sir John Scarlett, the former Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service MI6 was also complimentary about the Intelligence Services Act 1994, which put MI6 and GCHQ on a statutory legal footing.

However he is utterly wrong to claim that

The 1994 Act, allowed, a very large amount of information, to be made available for public discussion and in the public domain, about, the work, of the Service, the role it plays in Government, the way it's structured, quite a bit, in effect, about its resources, about it's preoccupations, its targets, and that process of releasing information into the public domain, began in 1994.

And now there is a vast amount of information available through, Parliamentary reports, Commission reports, and now, in recent years, through the websites,o the Services, and so on.

[...]

For all the ups and downs over the years, it's worked as least as well as we could have expected, and I would say, broadly better.

Regular Spy Blog readers will have noticed just how uninformative and secretive the censored Intelligence and Security Committee and various Commissioners' Reports have been over the years. The websites of the intelligence services are not very informative either - probably the best is that of MI5

Obviously tactical, operational security details of particular ongoing operations and investigations should remain secret. This radio programme illustrates with a couple of examples, the corrosive effect of self authorised "national security" secrecy, with criminal penalties with which to threaten whistleblowers, but without any counterbalancing criminal penalties for use against officials and politicians who abuse the privilege of such secrecy, simply to hide or cover up their political embarrassment or their managerial or technological incompetence or the whiff of corruption or treason,

The next programme in the series is:

D for Discretion: Can the Modern Media Keep a Secret?

This forthcoming programme looks as if it will talk about the increasingly irrelevant DA-Notice System of voluntary self censorship by the mainstream media.

The "Defence Advisory Notice System" - as it is now called - is supposed to be entirely voluntary. In reality, though, it's very rare for any of the mainstream media organisations to ignore the committee's requests. But how does this work in the age of Wikileaks and citizen journalism? This programme looks at the challenges to the system posed by social media websites. What happens if members of the public try to reveal government secrets on Twitter - in a similar way to this year's row about super-injunctions? And how do newspapers like The Guardian square their Wikileaks collaborations with their own editorial guidelines on national security issues?

Broadcast times:

Tue 23 Aug 2011 09:00 BBC Radio 4

Tue 23 Aug 2011 21:30 BBC Radio 4

and then online via iPlayer for a while.

Is the mainstream media collaborating again in the "Climate of Fear" disinformation which the previous (increasingly hated ) Labour government deliberately allowed to fester, to bolster their repressive legislation ?

The Daily Telegraph has a story, which has been plagiarised and made even more misleading by the Daily Mail, regarding the alleged threat of Shoulder Launched Surface to Air Missiles (Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS)) which could supposedly be aimed at Heathrow Airport from villages in Surrey, which are not on or even close to the flight path.

Police brief villagers on how to spot terrorists armed with rocket launchers

They are more used to attending talks on spotting rare birds or butterflies. But the villagers of Surrey are now being given briefings on identifying altogether more sinister visitors: terrorists armed with rocket launchers.

By Emily Gosden

12:15AM BST 02 Jul 2011

Emily Gosden may not be a specialist defence or security journalist, but this story is tagged under the "Defence" category. - why didn't the Editors spot the obvious errors ?.

[...]

Officers from the Metropolitan Police's specialist aviation security team have been touring village halls with a surface-to-air rocket launcher and video footage of a missile hitting a plane in Iraq. Similar briefings have been held near other airports around the country.

Police have invested tens of thousands of pounds in software to identify potential missile launch sites in recent years and have shown residents maps with red and orange dots pinpointing the most likely location for terrorist attacks.

Since they are showing these maps to some of the general public, why not publish them on the Metropolitan Police website ?

Or are they planning to just leave them at a local petrol station, like their colleagues did back in 2004, when such plans and more were handed in to The Sun tabloid newspaper ?

Terrorist's handbook

STEVE KENNEDY

Published: 19 Jul 2004

[...]

The secret files handed to The Sun were drafted by security chiefs only last month to guard the airport from attack.

They were found by an astounded motorist lying abandoned on a roadside just a few hundred yards from Terminal 4.

The reports, compiled by Scotland Yard's SO18 anti-terrorist Aviation Security team, show detailed maps and photographs of 62 potential terror missile launch sites.

[...]

The Daily Telegraph story continues:

James Nicholls, an Effingham resident who was invited to a briefing at Ockham village hall last month, said: "It was extraordinary, I couldn't believe it.

"We were asked to look for people burying things in the ground, we were shown all the components of this heat-seeking shoulder-launched missile. They told us they had been as far as Windsor and Sunningdale surveying and looking at potential sites."

Windsor and Sunnigdale are a lot closer to Heathrow Airport than Effingham or Ockham or East Horsely.

Is the "Metropolitan Police's specialist aviation security team" visiting every community directly under the Heathrow flightpath in the densely populated London Boroughs of Housnlow and Richmond upon Thames ?

He said officers suggested that terrorists could try to smuggle a weapon from Afghanistan, where they are readily available for about £120, and bury its components in the countryside before reassembling them to launch an attack.

Surface to Air Missiles "readily available" for a measly £120 ! Utter nonsense !

Why did such an obvious mistake not get spotted by the professional journalist and the editors of the Daily Telegraph ?

There have been no reports of even the Taliban or Al Qaida combatants in Afghanistan currently having access to any Surface to Air Missiles whatsover..

Back in the1980's when Osama bin Laden used to work with the CIA against the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan, the US Government did supply Stinger heat seeking shoulder fired SAMs to the "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan which were used against Russian helicopter gunships etc.

  • Why would any terrorists with access to such a weapon bother to bury it in the ground ?

  • Why would it not be undetectably stored in whatever vehicle or shipping container used to smuggle it in to the country in the first place ?

  • Why would missiles be smuggled from Afghanistan, rather than directly from Russia or Eastern Europe ? The only people who might be able to do this from Afghanistan, would be corrupt British or US military personnel. Is that what the Metropolitan Police's specialist aviation security team are implying ?

The black market value of such a missile is probably in six figures, but all the recent plots to buy such missiles seem to be (illegal in the UK) entrapment sting operations e.g.

See Spy Blog: Where did Hemant Lakhani get an Igla missile from ?

SA-16_and_SA-18_missiles_and_launchers_450.jpg

Russian SA-16 and SA-18 missiles and launchers

Note how much longer the rocket obviously has to be for a MANPADS anti-aircraft missile, compared with the much shorter range Rocket Propelled Grenade anti-tank weapons.

During their briefing, officers showed residents footage of a DHL Airbus A300 cargo plane as it was hit over Iraq in 2003. The missile struck a wing and caused the complete loss of hydraulic power, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing.

[...]

Mr Nicholls added: "To watch this shoulder-launched weapon hit this aeroplane at 8,000ft and take half the wing off it - everybody in that room was stunned.

"They told us, there's no threat whatsoever, but please be on the lookout. This is an awful lot of work to be putting in if there is no threat."

Less than 10 seconds with a web search engine points to this Wikipedia article:

2003 Baghdad DHL attempted shootdown incident

At about 8,000 feet (2,450 metres), a 9K34 Strela-3 (SA-14 Gremlin) surface-to-air missile struck the left wing tip. The warhead damaged trailing edge surfaces and structure and caused a fire

Rather less than taking "half the wing off it ", which is presumably why the pilots were actually able to land ok.

The maximum range of such a missile is stated as 4200 metres - the horizontal range to an aircraft on a landing or take off flight path will obviously be much less.

The villages of Effingham, Ockham and East Horsley are about 15 kilometres South of Heathrow airport (where the landing and take off flight paths run East - West). They are about the same distance North West of Gatwick airport, where again, the runway is aligned nearly East - West.

Even if MANPADS were somehow available to terrorists in the UK, they would be out of range from there.

heathrow_east_horsley_gatwick_map_low.jpg

The Daily Telegraph chose to illustrate their story with this picture

rocket-launcher_1936004c.jpg

Did the Daily Telegraph picture editors not bother to read the meta data embedded in this image ? It clearly states that it is of a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) launcher:

A Shiite Muslim Iraqi fighter of the Meh...KUFA, IRAQ: A Shiite Muslim Iraqi fighter of the Mehdi Army militia walks with his rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launcher on his shoulder, close to the Abbasiyah Bridge, the scene of fighting in the town of Kufa, a few kilometers away from the holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, 29 May 2004. Nine Iraqis were wounded today in the second day of fighting between the Mehdi Army and US troops here, medics said. A now two-day-old statement from the firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose private Mehdi Army has waged an uprising against coalition troops for nearly two months, agreed to withdraw his militia from Najaf if US troops also left. AFP PHOTO/Ahmed AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

i.e. definitely not an illustration of a MANPADS anti-aircraft missile.

In their "Daily Mail Reporter" byeline copycat article

Police tell 'high risk' Surrey villages how to spot threat of terrorists firing rockets at planes at Heathrow

the Daily Mail used this photo of another obvious Rocket Propelled Grenade with a misleading caption:

article-2010566-0CD610B100000578-629_468x286.jpg

Threat: Rocket launchers are available in Afghanistan for around £120 and can be reassembled for attacks

The maximum range of an RPG7 rocket propelled grenade is less than 1000 metres and it is only accurate below 200 metres. Unless the terrorists were actually at Heathrow Airport itself, they would have little chance of hitting an airliner, unless firing directly along the axis of the runway:

Due to the configuration of the RPG-7 sustainer/warhead section, it responds counter-intuitively to crosswinds. A crosswind will tend to exert pressure on the stabilizing fins, causing the projectile to turn into the wind. While the rocket motor is still burning, this will cause the flight path to curve into the wind

Terrorists could never hit an airliner on a landing or takeoff, at Heathrow Airport from these villages over 15 kilomteres away in Surrey, neither with an RPG7, nor even with a much more expensive and sophisticated MANPADS.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "The MPS regularly holds community engagement events to build relations with the community and to encourage the public to be vigilant, and to report any suspicious activity to police. This is part of an ongoing process and is not in response to any specific intelligence."

Why did the Metropolitan Police Service press office not correct the factual errors in both the village hall briefings and in the mainstream media reports ?

Lying to the public and stoking up a "Climate of Fear" via the mainstream and tabloid media is a propaganda victory for our terrorist and other enemies.

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.

We wiil use this verifiable public key (the ID is available on several keyservers, twitter etc.) to establish initial contact with whistleblowers and other confidential sources, but will then try to establish other secure, anonymous communications channels, as appropriate.

Current PGP Key ID: 0x122B3C4FD0BD0FB3 which will expire on 1st October 2018.

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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  • wtwu: For now (just before Christmas 2013) it appears that the read more
  • wtwu: As expected, the ISC did not give the intelligence agency read more
  • wtwu: N.B. the Intelligence & Security Committee is now legally consituted read more

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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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National Crime Agency - the replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency

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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