Recently in Intelligence and Security Committee Category

Given the pre-announced constraints, what Questions can the Intelligence and Security Committee actually sensibly ask the heads of GCHQ, Security Service MI5 and Secret Intelligence Service SIS/MI6, during tomorrow's "historic" first televised Open Evidence session ?

The Committee will question the Agency Heads on the work of the Agencies, their current priorities and the threats to the UK. Among other things it will cover the terrorist threat, regional instability and weapons proliferation, cyber security and espionage. However, since this is a public session, it will not cover details of intelligence capabilities or techniques, ongoing operations or sub judice matters. The Committee questions the Agencies about these details in their closed sessions.


Sir Iain Lobban, Director, GCHQ;
Mr Andrew Parker, Director General, Security Service; and
Sir John Sawers, Chief, Secret Intelligence Service.

will have rehearsed and / or have received tax payer funded "media coaching", like other senior civil servants have done when appearing before televised Parliamentary Committee sessions. Sir John Sawers, a former diplomat, is likely to require the least "coaching".

Here is are some Spy Blog suggested Questions for the ISC to ask:

Some Witness protection but currently no Whistleblower protection

Given the new powers of the ISC under the Justice & Security Act 2013 Schedule 1 (7) Protection for Witnesses

Protection for witnesses

7(1) Evidence given by a person who is a witness before the ISC may not be used in any civil or disciplinary proceedings, unless the evidence was given in bad faith.

(2) Evidence given by a person who is a witness before the ISC may not be used against the person in any criminal proceedings, unless the evidence was given in bad faith.

However, many potential whistleblowers will be scared of even contacting the ISC to merely discuss possible future witness testimony, regarding issues or details about which the senior managers of the Intelligence Agencies may not themselves be aware of. This will happen before any ISC witness immunity can be invoked, since this can only apply to actual evidence, rather than to investigative tip offs etc. for the ISC to probe further.

N.B. even if the Intelligence & Security Committee became a proper Joint Select Committee of Parliament, the legal privileges under the Bill of Rights would still only be Witness rather than Whistleblower protection.

Questions for the Open Session

Will each of the heads of the Intelligence Agencies publicly assure the Committee, the public and potential whistleblowers within their agencies and within their private sector subcontractors, that:

  1. They will not seek to use any of their Interception, Communications Data, Confidential Human Intelligence Sources or other Surveillance powers to try to identify potential or actual whistleblowers, who try to contact the Intelligence and Security Committee with tip offs, stories, testimony or hard evidence, regarding issues which the senior management of the agencies might not actually be aware of e.g. regarding knowledge or suspicion of the use of torture etc.
  2. They will not try to get the Police to conduct such "ISC whistleblower hunts" on their behalf and will forbid Foreign Intelligence Agency partners from doing so either.
  3. Contacting or actually giving evidence to the ISC will not affect an individual's Security Vetting / Clearance.
  4. Contacting or actually giving evidence to the ISC will not affect existing or future commercial contracts let by the intelligence agencies
Unless a current or future UK whistleblower can make use of the Intelligence and Security Committee, to get real or imagined wrongdoing properly investigated, without the risk of pre-emptive or post facto retaliation by the Intelligence Agencies, then it is more likely that they will simply dump their evidence anonymously to the internet at large, instead of using newspapers to (in most cases) responsibly publish them and raise legitimate democratic issues, like the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has done.

Promises about Whistleblower Protection are not enough on their own

Even if the ISC does extract such Whistleblower Protection promises from the current heads of the Intelligence Agencies, these need to be codfied into law, backed up by criminal sanctions, to bind their successors.

In addition, the ISC still needs to use suffcient technological and human counter espionage measures, because Hostile Foreign Intelligence Services (whether "enemies" or "allies") and criminals will also be targeting the Members of the Committee and their staff and families, to try to glean the identities of the Committee's confidential contacts and sources.

Will this Open Evidence session actually reassure the sceptics (like Spy Blog) of the effectiveness of the scrutiny provided by the Intelligence and Security Committee ?

Or will it be little more than a recital of how everything that the Intelligence Agencies do is lawful and that they should be trusted regardless ?

Send your own Questions (or tip offs) to the ISC

You can send the Intelligence and Security Committee an email with your own Questions or even tentative first approaches with a view to giving evidence in private via:

which will be encrypted in transit on the network, but which will be vulnerable to GCHQ and NSA and other snoopers whilst on the public internet.

Postal address is:

Intelligence and Security Committee
35 Great Smith Street

You are also welcome to send your Questions anonymously to Spy Blog, which will then be passed on to them as securely and as anonymously as possible:

Spy Blog PGP public encryption key for

After being hastily cancelled in the first week of July 2013, the Intelligence and Security Committee has again announced the "historic" first ever open oral evidence taking session with the three heads of the UK's intelligence agencies.

23 October 2013
posted 23 Oct 2013 03:04 by ISC Admin
Open Evidence Session

At 14:00 on Thursday 7 November, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament will be holding an Open Evidence Session with the three heads of the UK Intelligence Agencies:

Sir Iain Lobban, Director, GCHQ;
Mr Andrew Parker, Director General, Security Service; and
Sir John Sawers, Chief, Secret Intelligence Service.

No doubt all three are rehearesing what they will say and are being given taxpayer funded TV media coaching, so that they do not make fools of themselves in public.

Sir John Sawers a former Ambassador and British Permanent Representative to the United Nations, is likely to have most experience with the media, but the ISC is unlikely to ask any of the tree of them any hard questions.

This will be the Committee's first Open Evidence Session: it will be the first time the three heads of the Intelligence Agencies have appeared in public together to talk about their work.

The session will give an insight into the world of intelligence, and the work the Agencies do on behalf of the UK. It represents a very significant step forward in terms of the openness and transparency of the Agencies. The Committee will question the Agency Heads on the work of the Agencies, their current priorities and the threats to the UK. Among other things it will cover the terrorist threat, regional instability and weapons proliferation, cyber security and espionage.

The sort of things readers of the censored ISC Annual Reports have become used to.

However, since this is a public session, it will not cover details of intelligence capabilities or techniques, ongoing operations or sub judice matters. The Committee questions the Agencies about these details in their closed sessions.

So absolutely everything to do with the Edward Snowden revelations will be kept secret.

The session will be held on the Parliamentary estate and will last approximately an hour and a half. It will be broadcast on

Clearly not this is not likely to be a Parliamentary Committee Room in the main Palace of Westminster and the "secure" brutalist bunker architecture of the QE II Conference Centre is part of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), not part of the Parliamentary Estate.

At a guess one of the Portcullis House Committee rooms might be used as they are already wired up for TV broadcast and which it is easier to smuggle the secret squirrels in and out via the maze of the Norman Shaw Building etc. for security reasons.


Parliamentary Estate boundaries as per Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 128 - crossing these boundaries without permission is criminal trespass.

The session will be broadcast on a short time delay. The time delay is a security mechanism to allow the Committee to pause the broadcast if anything is mentioned which might endanger national security or the safety of those working for the Agencies. A similar process was used during the public hearings for the Iraq Inquiry.

There will be a limited number of seats available in the meeting room itself. For security reasons, the Committee has agreed that for this first Open Session these seats will be available to full Parliamentary pass holders and a small number of print journalists only. A notification of the event has been posted on the parliamentary intranet and pass holders have been invited to apply for a seat, which will be allocated on a 'first come, first served' basis.

Media arrangements are being dealt with separately.

The week before and the weekend after this "historic" session, there is likely to be a lot of Whitehall "media handling" and spin to manipulate the usual suspect newspapers and broadcast media to emphasise the official line and to ignore the unanswered (and probably unasked) questions.

Submit Questions for the ISC to ask the heads of GCHQ, MI5 & SIS

We invite Spy Blog readers to submit their own Questions for the heads of the UK Intelligence Agencies either for the open session or for the closed one, either directly to the ISC:

Postal Address

Intelligence and Security Committee
35 Great Smith Street

Email Address

Alternatively, if you suspect that you may be tracked and monitored by the Intelligence Agencies, especially if you are a current or former employee, Spy Blog will pass on your Questions as anonymously as possible on your behalf.

Spy Blog PGP public encryption key for
Fingerprint: F529 A804 A171 548E B2B7 A724 A165 A294 80CF AA4C
expires on 6th September 2014

See also Spy Blog's Technical Hints and Tips for protecting the anonymity of sources for
Whistleblowers, Investigative Journalists, Campaign Activists and Political Bloggers etc.

Intelligence agency staff whistleblower protection

The ISC has the theoretical power to protect actual witnesses giving evidence from any criminal or civil prosecutions or internal disciplinary measures. This is all very well for hiding the sins and errors of the heads or former heads or senior staff of the intelligence agencies, but is not adequate for more junior staff or contractors, whose evidence or testimony may contradict or may have been hidden from the more senior staff. These people risk their security clearances and commercial contracts if they speak out and so should get extra protection.

There should be whistleblower protection afforded by the Intelligence and Security Committe, similar to that outlined in our correspondence with the Detainee Inquiry (which was nobbled when trying to look into allegations of torture complicity by the UK intelligence services & MOD etc.)

Witness but not whistleblower protection for the Detainee Inquiry into torture complicity of MI5, SIS, GCHQ

Without this, middle level or senior intelligence agency staff, fearful for their own jobs, could well authorise the deployment of the full panoply of their state backed surveillance powers in a "mole hunt" exercise, self-justified on "internal national security" grounds, to try to identify who has attempted to "spill the beans" to the Intelligence and Security Committee, regardless of whether they actually go through with it or actually say anything really controversial.


Jemima Khan, Henry Porter and William Sieghart invite you to:

Mass Surveillance The debate in Britain must not be silenced

Twitter: @stopbuggingusUK
Twitter hashtags: #debatestartshere and #stopbuggingus

Tickets via email:


RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects)
66 Portland Place
London W1B 1AD

Google Map

When ?

Monday 4th November 2013

6.45pm to 9.00pm [N.B. it now looks to be starting at 6.30]

Confirmed Speakers:

Alan Rusbridger (editor of The Guardian)
David Davis MP
Sir Simon Jenkins
Jo Glanville (PEN)
Tom Watson MP
Wolfgang Büchner (Editor-in-Chief, Der Spiegel)
Julian Huppert MP

It would be better if some proponents / defenders of the current surveillance state were willing to try to justify the status quo in the light of the Edward Snowden revelations as these speakers are all very likely to agree with each other.

The proximity of this event to the BBC and the presence of some print / online media editors should ensure some media coverage.

Remember that there will be a Whitehall led "media handling" / spinning campaign in the run up to the potentially very dull Intelligence and Security Committee televised open evidence session with the heads of the the three UK intelligence agencies (invited print media only in the audience) on Thursday 7th November 2013. There needs to be media coverage which counters the likely spin.

The meeting location is opposite the Chinese Embassy . Will the nearby Met Police / MI5 surveillance teams now "accidentally" log all the meeting attendees' mobile phones & add their CCTV images to their political "extremist" databases ?

Hopefully any Spy Blog readers who do attend will leave their usual mobile phones at home and / or will have registered via a disposable, one time email alias.

The Observer carries an extraordinarily worrying claim by Sir Malcolm Rifkind the chair of the supposedly independent Intelligence and Security Committee, which is supposed to provide statutory oversight of the intelligence agencies, in debate with Henry Porter.

Henry Porter v Malcolm Rifkind: surveillance and the free society

Malcolm Rifkind and Henry Porter
The Observer, Saturday 24 August 2013 20.49 BST


What you clearly don't understand is that the ISC has two duties, not one. The first is to criticise and condemn the intelligence agencies if they exceed their powers or act foolishly. The second, just as important, is to defend them and declare their innocence when unfairly attacked by journalists or politicians. They cannot defend themselves. We are determined to do so, but only when the facts justify it.


According the Intelligence Services Act 1994 which set up the Intelligence and Security Committee, its remit was:

10 The Intelligence and Security Committee.

1)There shall be a Committee, to be known as the Intelligence and Security Committee and in this section referred to as "the Committee ", to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of--
(a)the Security Service;
(b)the Intelligence Service; and

The recent Justice and Security Act 2013 slightly increases the powers of the ISC, but its purpose and duty remains the same

Main functions of the ISC

(1)The ISC may examine or otherwise oversee the expenditure, administration, policy and operations of--
(a)the Security Service,
(b)the Secret Intelligence Service, and
(c)the Government Communications Headquarters.

(2)The ISC may examine or otherwise oversee such other activities of Her Majesty's Government in relation to intelligence or security matters as are set out in a memorandum of understanding.

Therefore the duty of the Intelligence and Security Committee is the first role of scrutiny but not the second of public relations !

The ISC has no legal remit to

defend them and declare their innocence when unfairly attacked by journalists or politicians

It is nonsense to pretend that

they cannot defend themselves

There is no legal barrier to the heads of Mi5, MI6 and GCHQ from giving public interviews themselves or having official spokesmen and official press releases to counteract any unfounded rumours and speculation.

Each of these intelligence agencies is supposedly politically answerable to either the Home Secretary or the Foreign Secretary, both of whose departments employ a surfeit of public relations and media spin doctors, who could and should issue official, on the record, public statements on behalf of the intelligence agencies as required.

The practice of "anonymous Whitehall sources", selectively officially briefing journalists in secret, fools nobody except themselves.

The Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister should te the ones defending the intelligence agencies. They should resign if and when the intelligence agencies are caught out having exceeded their democratically ethically acceptable roles, whether or not the agencies have been acting under the legal cover of a carte blanche under the UK's sneakily worded laws, which make it almost impossible for them to act illegally.

The Intelligence and Security Committee must not be seen to be fulfilling the role of a public relations department for the intelligence agencies, as this looks like a conflict of interest and destroys public trust in the whole system of supposed Parliamentary scrutiny .

Unfortunately that is exactly what it seems to have become under the chairmanship of Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who, incredibly, is making Spy Blog look back to previous Labour chairs of the ISC with a hint of nostalgia.


Spyblog has always been a strong supporter of journalists or other online publishers protecting the Anonymity of whistleblowers or other confidential sources by using the most professional human and technological techniques available.

However, whistleblower anonymity is rarely maintained indefinitely. It is vital whilst a whistleblower is in immediate danger of arrest or other reprisal, but very often a genuine whistleblower wants to go public with their story.

This now seems to be the case for Edward Joseph Snowden, the former CIA employee and computer systems infrastructure contractor recently working for the NSA in Hawaii, who has identified himself as the source of the recent revelations published in The Guardian and the Washington Post.

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations

Monday 10th June 2013 is unlikely to shed much light on the United Kingdom aspects of this affair.

Home Secretary Theresa May and MI5 involvement in the #Woolwich murder suspects - nothing will be revealed because the court case is still in progress.

Supposedly the new Director General of MI5 the Security Service Andrew Parker is meant
to have given evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has been on television on Sunday, failing to reassure the public that GCHQ and NSA have not been snooping on innocent UK people

Hague claimed the standard "Intelligence gathering in UK is governed by strong legal process. It is authorised, necessary, proportionate & targeted

Will William Hague resign if it is disclosed that the US snooping on the UK was not always under direct British control and in accordance with UK rather than US law ?

Exactly the same sort of unconvincing assurances were made by his Labour predecessor Jack Straw in regard to torture / rendition by the USA and with the cooperation of UK intelligence agencies. Straw had to admit that he had mislead Parliament over rendition flights to and from UK sovereign territory. The Detainee Inquiry if it is ever re-convened after being nobbled, and the court cases from Libya will show either that Jack Straw was lying about sanctioning assistance in kidnapping and torture or he was not informed in detail by MI6 the Secret Intelligence Service and not informed by GCHQ who should have been monitoring this.

Spyblog expects that William Hague's statement to the House of Commons on Monday will try to divert attention from the main allegations regarding the revelations about the NSA's global snooping efforts and British GCHQ involvement in them, by waving the usual "terrorism" flag and claiming that GCHQ always operates within UK law.

The inference that the NSA's PRISM system was used by the British authorities, presumably GCHQ, to generate 197 reports has lead to speculation that could have been illegal interception under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
However, if William Hague has signed a warrant under the Intelligence Services Act 1984, which gives GCHQ effectively a carte blanche to do stuff overseas that would otherwise be illegal here in the UK, then, technically, he will be able to claim that all such snooping was , in fact legal.

He will not, of course mention any specific details of those 197 cases or reports, but the wretched "neither confirm nor deny" nonsense which he repeated on Sunday will no doubt come into play again.

What possible justification is there for "neither confirm nor deny" for anything whatsoever to do with the intelligence agencies, no matter how far removed from actual tactical operations or live investigations ?

There is no problem in discussing the cost or lack of value for money of say large military defence procurement programmes for submarines or aircraft carriers or combat aeroplanes etc. Doing so does *not* harm our national security and gives no significant advantage to a potential enemy whatsoever. It may actually deter some potential enemies from attacking us in the first place.

But the UK government will try to hide behind the outdated "neither confirm nor deny" nonsense when it comes to even mentioning the code names of mulch-million pound computer projects used by GCHQ etc.

Hague will also claim that , somehow, the Intelligence and Security Committee provides independent scrutiny of the UK Intelligence Services.

The ISC has never commanded much respect from the public in the past and even the slight changes to its remit and powers to investigate recently brought in this year would not have applied to the recent revelations, which go back to 2006 or so.

Coincidentally, the Intelligence and Security Committee seem to be off to the USA on Monday for a previously arranged trip to be briefed by the more powerful US intelligence watchdog committees.

None of the members of the ISC can be considered to be even moderately expert at computer and internet and telecommunications technology. Malcolm Rifkind managed to confuse Interception of Content with Communications Data when recently championing a revival of the #snooperscharter in the aftermath of the #Woolwich murder.

So it is completely plausible to assume that they will be easily bamboozled by technical jargon and fail to grasp the nuanced threats to the United Kingdom if they are actually briefed on the details of PRISM or Boundless Informant and the underlying snooping infrastructure upon which these systems rely.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind and the other other members of the ISC should ask:

1) Is the FBI / NSA snooping on the mobile phone Communications Traffic meta data of the phones belonging to the members of the Committee and their staff ?

N.B. There are no protections for "foreigners" under the relevant US snooping laws, as demonstrated by the top Secret Verizon / FISA court order, no matter how friendly they are to the USA.

2) The ISC's own website is hosted on, which is hosted by Google, with their Reports being published via Google Docs,

The ISC should establish, whilst they are in the USA, who exactly has been given access to the web server visitor logfiles.

If they cannot get straight answers to those two simple questions, which affect the security and effectiveness of the Intelligence and Security Committee itself, then they cannot provide any public reassurance whatsoever in this whole affair, regardless of what William Hague might claim in his statement.

The Justice and Security Bill 2013 is now awaiting Royal Assent and the Pariament website has not yet published the consolidated final text of the Act online.

However it is possible to see amendments which have been passed:

"secret courts" Closed Material Procedure

The controversial "secret courts" Closed Material Procedure stuff has been passed and has successfully distracted the opposition from properly scrutinising the other bits of the Bill in any great detail.

Reading some of the coverage of the "secrets courts" controversy, one might have been led to believe that the existing system is somehow open and accessible to all, especially online,

The truth is that there is a vast amount of deliberate secrecy and sheer incompetence (espcially online) which effectively hides much of the supposedly "open" justice system from the public, only giving the (rich) privileged few access to some, but not all of it.

Try using the HM Courts & Tribunal Service website to try to work out which cases are actually being heard next week or next month and in exactly which Court room - impossible.

Try (in vain) to find any Court Transcripts of cases officially online

Spy Blog does not think that Closed Material Procedure will make much difference on its own - it is in addition to Public Interest Immunity certificates and in camera court proceedings, it does not replace them.

Nobbling of Norwich Pharmacal orders

2) Of much more interest to the Whitehall securocrats is the nobbling of Norwich Pharmacal orders, which is what gave the legal team in the case of
Binyam Mohamed such leverage and embarassed various MI6 managers and officials in Court (with their identities etc. being kept secret, under exisiting legislation and procedures)

Given what could be revealed in the torture complicity cases from Libya, Iraq, Afganistan etc. or if it ever gets re-started the currently suppressed Detainee Inquiry, the new section 14 Disclosure proceedings and section and section 15 Review of certification are likely to be used to cover up historical political enbarassment rather than to protect actual, up to date tactical operational information.

There has been barely any mention of this in the media or in Parliament.

Freedom of Information Act to apply to the Intelligence and Security Committee

One welcome amendment is the one to Schedule 2 one which amends the Freedom of Informationm Act 2000, to allow Freedom of Information Act requests to the Intelligence and Security Committee itself, but don't get too excited about this, no real secrets are likely to be disclosed.

Obviusly they will bat away any request for material supplied by the Intelligence Agencies themsleves, under the standard FOIA exemptions, but, it will be interesting to get some figures about the workings of the Committee itself and about the number of complaints, or investigations and any delays etc.

There will also be FOIA requests about the how much public money the ISC spends and on what.

However, there seems to be another control freak power within this legislation which extends the power of the ISC to refuse FOIA requests.

ISC: Publication of information received in private

Inserted into Schedule 1:

"Publication of information received in private


(1) This paragraph applies to information received by the ISC in private in
connection with the exercise of its functions.

(2) The ISC--
(a) may only publish the information by way of a report under
section 3, and
(b) must not otherwise disclose the information to any person if the
ISC considers that there is a risk that the person will publish it.


if the ISC considers that there is a risk that the person will publish it. is puzzling and appears to set up a conflict with spirit of the Freedom of Information Act, since every FOIA disclosure is at "risk" of being published

This could be used to refuse any FOIA requests, no matter how innocuous, because of the FOIA exemption section 44 (a) Prohibition of disclosure because this would be "prohibited by or under any enactment," i.e. this Act itself

This could be applied even to historical information with no current tactical operational value e.g. correspondence with dead dictators which has not been supplied directly by the intelligence agencies themselves etc.

It would also allow the ISC to simply refuse to give any meaningful statements to the press or media - i.e. Leveson Inquiry media censorship enacted !

ISC: some legal protection for Witnesses, but not proper Whistleblower protection

Also inserted at the end of Schedule 1 is:

"Protection for witnesses


(1) Evidence given by a person who is a witness before the ISC may not be used in any civil or disciplinary proceedings, unless the evidence was given in bad faith.

(2) Evidence given by a person who is a witness before the ISC may not be used against the person in any criminal proceedings, unless the evidence was given in bad faith."

All well and good, so far as it goes.

This would prevent evidence from say the former head of MI6 who was in charge when
an allegation of torture complicity was made, from being used in court from now being sued or prosecuted, on the basis of what he says to the ISC.

However this is insufficient on its own, to encourage any serving intelligence officers from reporting potential or actual malpractice or illegality, from contacting the ISC for them to investigate.

What use is this "witness protection" if there are no actual criminal or civil or disciplinary proceedings, but a whistleblower is identified to the intelligence services and they revoke his or her security clearance or change his or her duties to a less trusted role, not because of what the whistleblower said but because of the fact that they said anything at all to an external body i.e. they they broke the culture of omertà

There may or may not be a resultant Employment Tribunal case, but the whistleblower's career within the intelligence agency would effectively be over.

What is true for actual whistleblowers, also applies to potential whistleblowers who have not actually provided any evidence to the ISC yet, but who have tried to contact them "anonymously".

What is really required is protection by the Intelligence and Security Committee of the identities of any internal whistleblowers

c.f. Spy Blog letter to the Detainee Inquiry re: lack of whistleblower anonymity protection and immunity from prosecution

As there should have been with the now defunct Detainee Inquiry, there should also be an explicit prohibition against Communications Data snooping or other Directed Surveillance ("stakeouts, following people and vehicles, photographing meetings) or Property Interference (planting electonic audio / video "probes" or bugs or GPS tracking devices) techniques or the use of Covert Human Intelligence Source informers or undercover operativess, aimed at the members of the Intelligence and Security Committee, their staff and familes, or, more likely their mobile phones, telephon lines, internet connections, email accounts or their physical offices.

Actual Interception of communications, in theory requires a Secretary of State to authorise the RIPA warrant, but snooping on Communications Data or other surveillance techniques for "national security" or to "prevent leaks of sensitive information" does not. The temptation for an intelligence agency as a whole or for powerful officials within such an agency, with something to hide which might affect their own careers, is enormous.

The Attorney General, the Cabinet Secretary and the heads of each of the intelligence agencies should issue binding orders or "guidance" on their subordinates along the lines of what was actually produuced for the Detainee Inquiry, which should also apply to any actual or potential witnesses or whistleblowers in contact with the Intelligence and Security Committee

c.f. Witness but not whistleblower protection for the Detainee Inquiry into torture complicity of MI5, SIS, GCHQ

Still dithering over an overdue blog article about the CIA/FBI Petraeus affair in the USA and how a similar adulterous affair involving the British intelligence/military/political securocrat establishment it might play out here in the UK and the slightly different techniques needed in the UK to keep your emails and mobile phone data from betraying your illicit affair, compared with the various US articles on the subject.

In the meantime, it was annoying to have to read about the ConservativesForPutin debacle.

The original media interest seems to have been prompted by Michael Weiss (@michaeldweiss, the research director of the slightly libertarian Henry Jackson Society think tank.

Moscow-on-Thames - Britain's Conservatives are rolling out the red carpet for Vladimir Putin's wealthy oligarchs.

There is nothing wrong with a group of Young Conservatives trying to promote better relations with Russia, whether for genuine ideological reasons or for selfish financially ambitious ones, given the number of rich Russians living in, what is for them, an offshore tax haven created for them in London by Labour's Gordon Brown and maintained by the current Conservative / Liberal Democrat Coalition government.

Question: How exactly did a new group, only set up in August, manage to attract several Conservative Members of Parliament and Prince Michael of Kent to support them ?

Following an alleged trip to Russia paid for by the Russian government for some members of the ConservativeFriendsOfRussia in September, they published in October an
article by their spokesman Richard Royal (@TheCommandante) who works in Public Relations for Ladbrokes bookies (and who denies that this trip actually took place)

There is some justified criticism of Labour MP Chris Bryant's inept chairmanship of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Russia i.e. that it could technically be disbanded because it was 6 weeks overdue in holding its Annual General Meeting, as per Parliamentary rules.

However, they stupidly illustrated this with a copy of the notorious old photo of the openly gay Chris Bryant published in 2003 on the Gaydar dating site, which was a landmark in brazen NuLabour's "I'm just going to brazen this out" attitude and which was perhaps a sign of the grudging acceptance or tolerance of such personal life scandals by the public .

The ConservativeFriendsOfRussia website now displays this message, although their Twitter feed (@CFoR1) is still online:

The Conservative Friends of Russia has taken the decision to suspend its website until further notice. Members and event ticket holders can contact for information

However, Spyblog did retrieve a copy of this article from the Google Cache (without the offending photo of Chris Bryant)


The article also mentions that Labour's Chris Bryant took over the leadership of the APPG from Liberal Democrat Mike Hancock, without mentioning his affair with Ekaterina Zatuliveter, another person with KGB / FSB relatives who was cleared by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, after an incompetent investigation by the Security Service MI5.

There is also implied criticism of money given to Chris Bryant and / or the APPG on Russia:

It was also recently revealed that Bryant has received nearly £17,500 in the last year from The Independent, owned by Russian billionaire father and son duo Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev, and received £2,500 in 2010 from PR firm Bell Pottinger, which has counted Boris Berezovsky amongst their clients.

Lebedev (astonishingly, a former KGB agent based in the Russian Embassy in London, who used to monitor the UK press and media, who now controls the Evening Standard and the Independent newspapers) and Berezovsky are rich Russians who are opposed to Putin and his cronies.

Despite the denials by Richard Royal (@TheCommandante) of any undue influence or money from the Russian Embassy, this has very understandably raised the suspicion that the ConservativeFriendsoFfRussia were becoming Nashi style ConservativesForPutin

The Daily Telegraph:
I'm a victim of Russian smear campaign, says MP photographed in underwear

The Daily Mail reports: Prince snubs party after photo furore

Luke Harding, from The Guardian has more details, including the possibility of Yet Another Foreign Donors Party Funding scandal.

Tory blushes deepen over activities of Conservative Friends of Russia

How Kremlin got diplomats to woo Tories

The Guardian concentrates on Sergey Nalobin (@SNalobin), the 1st Secretary at the Political section of the Russian Embassy in London. Even if he did not have KGB / FSB relatives, anyone in that post would only be doing his job properly, in trying to influence a group like ConservativeFriendsOfRussia who seem to be in favour of better relations between the UK and Russia. Surely our Embassy staff try to do exactly the same thing in Russia and elsewhere ?

None of these articles draw any attention to the the fact the Sir Malcolm Rifkind is not just any old Tory grandee, he is a former Foreign Secretary and is currently chair of the the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which is supposed to hold UK intelligence agencies to account on our behalf and is supposedly trusted with secret or top secret documents and information.

As such he is much more of a target by Russian "agents of influence" than was the Liberal Democrat Mike Hancock, a lowly member of the less sensitive Commons Select Committee on Defence.

It is not appropriate for him to be associated with any Friends of {insert Foreign Country] group at all, whether it is is Russia, the USA, China, Israel, France etc..
That applies to both "official" cross party All Party Parliamentary Groups and to unofficial, partisan ones like CFoR. No doubt the people get on to the Intelligence and Security Committee claim to have experience of and an interest in International Relations, but they should suspend all such "Friends of..." schmoozing and lobbying whilst they serve on the Committee, because of the obvious risk of the perception of a conflict of interest, or worse.

What if he had met with someone from the Russian Embassy or elsewhere who was under surveillance as an FSB or GRU intelligence agent ? Would the chairman of the ISC really put in a "contact report" to MI5 about the meeting ? Would MI5 then be justified in intercepting his electronic communications and data mining his communications data, on "national security" grounds, thereby "legitimately" evading the Wilson Doctrine against doing so ?

This would have the effect of making it even more difficult for any whistleblowers from within the intelligence agencies to contact the Intelligence and Security Committee in confidence regarding incompetence, corruption, use of torture etc.

Sir Michael Rifkind seems to have resigned from this group last Friday, but his involvement with them in the first place needs to be questioned.

  • When exactly did he sign up to be its honourary president ?
  • Why did he do so ?
  • Was it off his own bat, or was he influenced (inappropriately) by the intelligence agencies, to provide some credibility for the CFoR group, who could then be used to indirectly or directly help with MI6 intelligence or MI5 counter-intelligence operations against Russian targets, both in London and in Russia ?

Should Sir Malcolm Rifkind resign as chairman of the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee ?

The Conservative / Liberal Democrat Coalition Government has been a bit more respectful to the public than the previous Labour government was, with respect to the publication of the the Annual Reports by the Commissioners, set up under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. They seem to be publishing them all at the same time in the July following the year calendar year to which they apply. Labour managed, on occasion, to delay publication of these Reports (which are in any case already censored of any interesting details) for nearly 2 years after the statutory deadline for publication.

The entirely separate yet equally content free Annual Report of the Intelligence and Security Committee has also been published in the same week as the RIPA Commissioners' reports.
(see later blog posting)

This year all of these reports have undergone an update to their design and layout, with a few more graphs etc. but none of them fulfils the claims by the Government that they somehow provide Reassurance to Parliament and the Public, that either the extensive snooping powers of the State are not being abused or that the secretive Intelligence Agencies are not wasting huge amounts of public money and committing various crimes, which can be justified in a few exceptional "national security" cases.

That hypothesis may perhaps be true, but the inadequate mechanism of censored annual reports, from legally toothless Commissioners or Committees, who do their best not to investigate individual complaints from the public, fails to inspire any confidence.

A few bits which caught our attention:

Why is it that two former High Court judges and all of the Home Office / Cabinet Office securocrats and mainstream media journalists have failed to spot the misleading tables in both the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Intelligence Services Commissioner's reports with respect to RIPA Part III The Investigation electronic data
protected by encryption
. ?

2011 Annual Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner

page 6

Which section of RIPA ?What is the power?When can this power be used?Who can use this power?Who authorises use of this power?Who oversees the responsible use of power?
Pt. IIIThe investigation of electronic data protected by encryptionInterests of national security

Prevention / detection of crime

Interest of economic well being of United Kingdom; or

For the purpose of securing the effective exercise or proper performance by any public public authority of any identified statutory power or statutory duty.

Any public authority Authorisation is most frequently by a Judge Oversight is conducted by the Interception of Communications, Intelligence Services and Surveillance Commissioners except where authorised by a judge

Intelligence Services Commissioner 2011 Annual Report

Annex B

Page 42

Which section of RIPA ?What is the power?What is a typical use of this power?When can this power be used?Who can use this power?Who authorises and who oversees the responsible use of power?
Pt. 3 The investigation of electronic data protected by encryption Request for encryption password or key pertaining to criminal suspects's computer
  • Interests of national security
  • Prevention/ detection of crime
  • Interest of economic well being of United Kingdom; or For the purpose of securing the effective exercise or proper performance by any public public authority of any identified statutory power or statutory duty
Any public authority Authorisation is most frequently by a Judge

Except when authorised by a judicial authority, oversight is conducted by the Interception of Communications, Intelligence Services and Surveillance Commissioners

These misleading tables give the impression that any public authority has powers to compel the handover of de-cryption keys or de-crypted plain text, when it clearly only the Police, SOCA, SCDEA, HMRC and the Intelligence Agencies who can do so.

Neither the IOC nor the ISC mentions if they have dealt with any Section 49 notices at all - were they kept out of the loop ? Only the Chief Surveillance Commissioner's report gives any details about encrypted information requests.

The "authorisation" of Section 49 notices is not actually by Judges or by "judicial oversight", it is by Police Constables (at or above the rank of Superintendent) and by NTAC (National Technical Assistance Centre now part of GCHQ).

Chief Surveillance Commissioner Annual Report for 2011-2012

Home Office support

3.13. The Home Secretary is required by the Police Act 1997 to provide me with the support necessary to fulfil my responsibilities. The support I receive continues to be, in some respects, inadequate. In particular, information technology for many years has failed to meet the demands of remote, secure and mobile working which is an integral part of the inspection process. Promises of improvement are not fulfilled and there appears little urgency to resolve recurring problems. Similarly, I have to rely on archaic facsimile machines which repeatedly malfunction.

That just about sums up the effectiveness and esteem in which the (technologically incompetent) Home Office holds the RIPA Commissioners

Section 49 - encryption

4.10. During the period to which this report relates, NTAC granted 57 approvals from 57 applications. Permission was not sought in three cases after NTAC approval. From the remainder, 33 had permission granted by a Circuit Judge, of which 20 have so far been served. Of these nine were complied with and 15 were not (this includes orders obtained in the last reporting year but not progressed at the time of the last report); the remainder are still being processed. It was decided not to proceed with five of the 14 people were charged with an offence. So far, in the period of this report, NTAC has been informed that there have been two convictions with other cases still in progress.

4.11. One conviction related to the importation of controlled substances, the other related to a fraud offence. Other offences include: domestic extremism, possession of indecent images of children, insider dealing, fraud, evasion of excise duty, drug trafficking and drug possession with intent to supply.

4.12. These statistics are provided by NTAC who are able to be accurate regarding the number of approvals granted. However, unless informed by the case team, the statistics cannot properly reflect the snapshot at the time of this report. However, it appears that there has been delay in serving some notices after approval has been granted and information regarding the progress of the cases although requested is not as prompt as it should be. Notices, one [sic] approved, should be served without delay and the information supplied to NTAC as soon as possible

57 requests and only 2 criminal cases which led to convictions (possibly on the basis of the other evidence presented, not the De-crypted material) is a very poor justification for the Section 49 snooping powers, which have done so much damage to the reputation of the United Kingdom as a good place from which to run an internet e-commerce related business.

Neither of these convictions involved any national security i.e. terrorism or espionage cases

National security does not feature in the vague list of "other offences" either.

It is unacceptable that these muddled figures appear to show that RIPA section 49 notices are being served without Judicial permission

Digital investigation and data sharing

5.16. The Data Protection Act is not within my remit but the ease with which data can be shared is of interest to me, particularly when the data being shared is the result of covert surveillance. First, there must be adequate protection of sources, techniques and product and this is not always apparent when there is no human in the loop to challenge the need to know. Secondly, I do not detect much effort by some authorising officers to make adequate arrangements for the destruction of product which was the result of collateral intrusion or not of value to the investigation or not properly authorised. The default solution appears to be in favour of retention. The necessity and proportionality of retaining data, which may later be shared in a different context, is as important as the necessity and proportionality of obtaining it in the first place.

5.17. A frequent response to my Inspectors' enquiries regarding a reduction in directed
surveillance is that 'overt' investigations using the Internet suffice. My Commissioners have expressed concern that some research using the Internet may meet the criteria of directed surveillance. This is particularly true if a profile is built by processing data about a specific individual or group of individuals without their knowledge.

5.18. There is a fine line between general observation, systematic observation and
research and it is unwise to rely on a perception of a person's reasonable expectations or their ability to control their personal data. Like ANPR and CCTV, the Internet is a useful investigative tool but they each operate in domains which are public and private. As with ANPR and CCTV, it is inappropriate to define surveillance solely by reference to the device used; the act of surveillance is the primary consideration and this is defined by RIPA section 48(2-4) (monitoring, observing, listening and recording by or with the assistance of a surveillance device). The Internet is a surveillance device as defined by RIPA section 48(1). Surveillance is covert "if, and only if, it is conducted in a manner that is calculated to ensure that persons who are subject to the surveillance are unaware that it is, or may be taking place." Knowing that something is capable of happening is not the same as an awareness that it is or may be taking place. The ease with which an activity meets the legislative threshold demands improved supervision.

The Internet is a surveillance device as defined by RIPA section 48(1).

implies that there should be specific Direct Surveillance authorisations before investigators
are allowed to use, say, Social Media data mining tools and then only for narrowly targeted investigations, not for "data trawling" or "fishing expeditions"

Automated Number Plate Recognition

5.19. The Commissioners invited ACPO representatives to present the case for continued
operation of the ANPR system when legislation demands authorisation. It was accepted that ANPR cameras can be used for an overt and covert purpose. The Commissioners were not persuaded to alter their guidance. I am pleased that ACPO has decided to improve its national guidance and to incorporate the advice of my office.

5.20. I am less happy to discover that the proper ANPR authorisation process can be circumvented using the Police National Computer. I do not desire to prevent the use of this very useful tool, but the ease with which ANPR can be used for directed surveillance demands that authorisation processes should not be circumvented.

5.21. The Commissioners believe that the use of privately owned ANPR systems for a covert purpose should be subject to authorisation if it is to be used for the benefit of a public authority operation or investigation.

5.20. I am less happy to discover that the proper ANPR authorisation process can be circumvented using the Police National Computer.

How many times has this happened ? Who are the culprits ?

Interception of Communications Commissioner 2011 Annual Report

As usual, the Interception of Communications Commissioner's report fails to provide enough of a detailed breakdown of the figures which it presents to be meaningful

The examples of the types of errors, caused by human mistakes when entering telephone numbers or email addresses or physical addresses etc. into computer systems or authorisation paperwork show how true to life Terry Gilliam's film Brazil, where the innocent character "Buttle" is arrested and tortured in place of the terrorist called "Tuttle" has proved to be:

page 31

...Unfortunately in two separate cases where a CSP disclosed the incorrect data, the mistakes were not realised and action was taken by the police forces on the data received. Regrettably, these errors had very significant consequences for two members of the public who were wrongly detained / accused of crimes as a result of the errors. I cannot say more about these two instances at this time as investigations are ongoing....

This is no error correcting mechanism within this system of RIPA regulation which forces the authorities to make public apologies and to pay financial compensation and to wipe out the erroneous data from all of their database and paperwork systems.

Astonishingly, the IOC has not bothered to, or has not felt able to, actually contact the victims of these mistakes or their lawyers directly and it must be assumed that the reason for their false arrests has been kept secret from them.

page 32

Under the Code of Practice I have the power to direct a public authority to provide information to an individual who has been adversely affected by any wilful or reckless exercise of or failure to exercise its powers under the Act. So far it has not been necessary for me to use this power but there is no room for complacency, and each public authority understands that it must strive to achieve the highest possible standards.

So even when people have been falsely arrested as a result of Communications Data mistakes, the IOC has not directed the police etc. to inform the individuals or to apologise.

Even if the Police etc. did so of their own volition, exercising one of the few legal powers which the Interception of Communications Commissioner actually has and "naming and shaming" the culprits, could have sent a useful message to the other public authorities and communications service providers.

There are some graphs etc. in the new report format template which give a few crumbs of evidence to inform the debate over the controversial Draft Communications Data Bill

There really needs to be a far more detailed breakdown, by each requesting public authority
for there to be a meaningful debate. This would not affect any operational security aspects of any ongoing or future investigations.

page 29

Figure 5 - Breakdown of Communications Data Authorisations/Notices by Type

Subscriber Data: 52%
Traffic Data: 25%
Service Use Data: 6%
Combination: 17%

Intelligence Services Commissioner 2011 Annual Report

As usual, there is almost not useful public content in the Intelligence Services Commissioner report.

Since there is no direct mechanism or budget for the secretive Intelligence Services Commissioner to deal with complaints from the public (who are usually not be aware of possible abuses by the intelligence services, due to the overwhelming blanket of secrecy), it is hard to see what Reassurance to the Public or Parliament the role of Intelligence Services Commissioner actually provides.

In the same way in which the Interception of Communications Commissioner inspects the justifiable snooping on the phone calls in Prisons, without this actually being part of the RIPA legislation, the Intelligence Services Commissioner is now involved in doing some vague, non-statutory oversight of:

page 28 onwards


i.e. the use of or knowledge of torture .

Now that the Detainee Inquiry (conducted by the previous Intelligence Services Commissioner, Sir Peter Gibson) has been nobbled, this is as close to any independent oversight of potential torture practices by the UK military and intelligence services that there is i.e. not very much.

As Spy Blog readers will have come to expect, the ISC has found no wrongdoing:

Based on the information provided to me, and to the extent set out in my remit, I am not aware of any failure by a military or intelligence officer to comply with the Consolidated Guidance in the period between 1st January and December 31st 2011. I have received assurances from the relevant departments and intelligence agencies that they have disclosed fully relevant information about cases within the detainee grid. I am also assured that I have been given full access to both information and officers to discuss particular cases both in the UK and during Station visits. I therefore have no reason to doubt that the guidance is being complied with based on the information that has been provided to me in 2011.

Nick Pickles of BigBrotherWatch has done a good job of analysis of the letter signed by Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, sent via the Tory Whips to Conservative MPs, regarding the Communications Capability Development Programme enhanced snooping plans.

Minister's letter fails to answer key questions

The text of the letter is published by the ConservativeHome blog: (.pdf)

It really is shocking how little detailed grasp of the technological and social impact Government Ministers and MPs seem to have.

The Special Political Advisors / spin doctors who draughted this letter seem to have deliberately omitted key features of the both the Communications Data Development Programme and of the Green Paper on Justice in this briefing letter to MPs.


4 April 2012

Dear Colleague

There has been a lot of press coverage in recent days about two of our key policies to maximise public protection: on communications data capability and the Justice and Security Green Paper. We are committed to maintaining national security and protecting the public in the face of changing circumstances whilst continuing to honour our commitment to protect civil liberties.

1. Communications data capability

The need to act

Communications data - information such as who called whom and at what time - is vital to law enforcement, especially when dealing with organised crime gangs, paedophile rings and terrorist groups. It has played a role in every major Security Service counter-terrorism operation and in 95 per cent of all serious organised crime investigations. Communications data can and is regularly used by the Crown Prosecution Service as evidence in court.

But communications technology is changing fast, and criminals and terrorists are increasingly moving away from landline and mobile telephones to communications on the internet, including voice over internet services, like Skype, and instant messaging services. Data from these technologies is not as accessible as data from older communications systems which means the police and Security Service are finding it increasingly hard to investigate very serious criminality and terrorism. We estimate that we are now only able to access some 75% of the total communications data generated in this country, compared with 90% in 2006. Given the pace of technological change, the rate of degradation could increase, making our future capability very uncertain.

We estimate that we are now only able to access some 75% of the total communications data generated in this country, compared with 90% in 2006.

Politicians may be easily fooled by statistics, but we are not.

Theresa May and the Home Office need to publish the actual evidence and assumptions on which they have based these figures.

One place where these figures should have been available from, but they are not, is from the censored Annual Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner.

That is why, in the Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review, published in 2010, we said we would "introduce a programme to preserve the ability of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain data and to intercept communications within the appropriate legal framework."

We therefore propose to require internet companies to collect and store certain additional information, like who an individual has contacted and when, which they may not collect at present. The information will show the context - but not the content - of communications. So we will have for internet-based communications what we already have for mobile and landline telephone calls.

It is simply not technologically possible to obtain the "certain additional information, like who an individual has contacted and when" from social networking websites like Facebook or Twitter, without Intercepting the Content of these web based services

Safeguarding civil liberties

When we published the Defence and Security Review, we also made clear that we would "put in place the necessary regulations and safeguards to ensure that our response to this technology is compatible with the Government's approach to information storage and civil liberties." In seeking to ensure our law enforcement agencies continue to retain capabilities to protect us from harm, civil liberties will be respected and protected.

The data will be stored by the industry to enhanced standards which we shall set and which will be overseen by the Information Commissioner. The data will be available only to designated senior officers, on a case-by-case basis, authorised under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), and the process will be overseen by the Interception of Communications Commissioner. It will be available only if it is necessary and proportionate to a criminal investigation.

If sufficiently "juicy" or "newsworthy", such material has been handed over for free or sold to politically favoured media journalists or sold corruptly to private investigators / information traders , many of whom are former police or intelligence agency employees.

It is also sent, without any effective safeguards whatsoever, to foreign governments.

The majority of the data will be retrospective not real time (an exception might be the tracking of a communications device during a terrorist operation or kidnapping) and will be used as part of an investigation to identify key facts, including as evidence in courts.The police and other agencies will have no new powers or capabilities to intercept and read emails or telephone calls and existing arrangements for interception will not be changed. We envisage no increase in the amount of interception as a result of this legislation.

So what ? The new proposals have nothing to do with the existing system of email and phone interception.

The new proposals will try to extend this existing flawed RIPA regime to social media like FaceBook and Twitter, to Voice over IP telephony, video conferencing and chat like Skype orthe various Instant Messaging protocols, to search engine searches like Google and to Peer to Peer filesharing like Bittorrent

The impression being given is that this snooping will only be available for terrorism or serious crime investigations, but the exisiting RIPA allows Communications Data to be grabbed for much less serious alleged crimes as well.

Differences with Labour's proposals

Despite what has been claimed by some, this is very different to the scheme proposed by the last government. They wanted to build a Big Brother database with all communications data held in one place by government. Under our proposals, there will be no government database and the data recorded will be strictly limited and regulated and will be destroyed after a year.

The data will not be stored by the police or government but by communications service providers who already store some of this data for their own business purposes and under the EU Data Retention Directive. They will be paid by government for this service. But the costs incurred are a fraction of those we would face if we had to try to find an alternative way of developing the very significant evidence that this data provides us; indeed there is no like-for-like alternative.

Labour's original proposals were for a centralised database, which they then changed to a distributed database held by the Communications Service Providers, after their Intercept Modernisation Programme had been ridiculed by everyone who was expected to make it work in practice.

The Conservative / Liberal Democrat Government's vague plans for Communications Data Development programme sound identical in practice to those discredited Labour fantasies.

We have already made changes to limit who can access communications, and how they can access it, and we intend to make further changes in future. Local authorities will now have to get a magistrate's approval to see communications data and they will not be permitted to see more than simple data, such as subscriber to a mobile phone.

There are some clauses in the so called Protection of Freedoms Bill, which is still not on the statute books, over a year after it was introduced.

It is therefore a lie to claim that they have "already" done anything or that "Local authorities will now have to get a magistrate's approval" - these legal powers have not yet been been passed into law, let alone commenced !

We intend to ensure that all departments who can get access to any data will only be able to do so under one legal framework, set out in RIPA.

The previous Labour government lied about doing this as well.

Instead they let the arrogant Department for Social Security / Department for Work and Pensions abuse their "legacy" powers i.e. Section 109B of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 (as amended by the Social Security Fraud Act 2001) passed after RIPA, to grab Communications Data for free, without having to pay the nominal processing fee of around £15 to £25 pounds for a targeted Name and Address Subscriber request form British Telecom etc. and without having to undergo any RIPA training or to submit to even the cursory RIPA Interception of Communications Commissioner oversight scheme.

The importance of forcing junior bureaucrats to actually get their bosses and accounts departments to sanction the auditable expenditure of public money, when they make such Communications Data snooping requests cannot be overemphasised. It is effectively the only mechanism which prevents excessive demands for "all Communications Data" in a certain geographic area or during a certain time period from being demanded, over and over again by inexperienced or lazy or corrupt investigators.

As soon as data is slurped "in bulk, in real time" into secret, unaccountable databases for "data mining", then the risks of corruption, abuse and false positives ruining the lives of innocent people, at great expense, without actually catching any more criminals as a result, increases dramatically.

Access to communications data will be overseen by the Interception of Communications Commissioner. So this is not, as some have tried to suggest, a transfer of power from the judiciary to the state.

There is currently no judicial involvement at all (the secretive Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Intelligence Services Commissioner are both retired senior Judges, but they do not approve or decline any Interception warrants (rubber stamped by a Secretary of State or an anonymous senior civil servant)

The police and Security Service will not be able to intercept the content of calls and emails, except as now when it is necessary and proportionate as part of an investigation relating to serious crime or national security, and only when they have obtained a warrant signed by a Secretary of State.

A balanced approach

For the first time in more than a decade, we have a government that respects civil liberties.

The previous Labour control freak government used to claim that they also "respected civil liberties", but they literally used Orwellian newspeak to redefine the meaning of such words.

It is up to the Coalition government to prove through action, not just words, that they are really different from their Labour predecessors.

We have abolished ID cards, cut back government databases and limited pre-charge detention. But we must not allow the internet to become an unpoliced space, with criminals
free to go about their business with abandon.

The Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review - in which we announced our intention to update communications data capability in October 2010 - can be found here.

Green Paper on Justice and Security

The Government also faces a problem with challenges to executive decisions, for example when it refuses British citizenship or excludes from the UK an individual believed to be involved in activities which threaten national security. These decisions are made on the basis of sensitive intelligence. In judicial reviews of such decisions, again, there is no statutory basis for closed material procedures to be available to the court. This means the Government is unable to fight the case and may have to allow British citizenship to an individual believed to be engaged in terrorism-related activity, for example, because the courts have no secure forum to handle the appeal process.

How many times has such a refusal of British citizenship ever happened ?

There is no problem if there is some actual prima facie hard evidence, of actual terrorist activity against British interests.

If all there is is "intelligence" consisting of unfounded rumours, gossip, anonymous denunciations, false positive identifications etc. then this should rightly be ignored by a Court , just like Hearsay "evidence" for exactly the same common sense reasons.

The recent MI5 investigation into Ekaterina Zatuliveter, showed how incompetent and superficial such "investigations" can be.

That case also shows that there already is a "secure forum to handle the appeal process" "national security" and Immigration and British citizenship executive decisions - the Special Immigrations Appeals Commission (SIAC)

Our proposals

These examples illustrate the compelling case for changing the current rules so that these sorts of cases can be properly heard in a Closed Material Proceeding (CMP) by a judge, where a judgment can be reached on the basis of all

The circumstances in which a CMP would be triggered would be exceptional and rare. They will not apply at all to criminal proceedings and would only apply in compensation cases, or other civil cases based on highly sensitive intelligence material.

The proposals in the Green paper also attempt to "nobble" the Inquests into deaths caused by the Police or by UK or Foreign Military forces, especially by USA "friendly fire".

The Daily Mail is claiming today, via some anonymous Whitehall briefing, that this aspect of the Green Paper, which is not mentioned in this letter, may perhaps be dropped:

Climbdown on secret inquests: Victory for the Mail's open justice campaign

Alongside these proposals to extend judicial scrutiny over Government actions, we also want to give Parliament greater powers of scrutiny by increasing the status, remit and powers of the Intelligence and Security Committee. One option in the Green Paper is for the ISC to be made a statutory Committee of Parliament, to allow it to hold public evidence essions and to give it the power to require information from the security and intelligence agencies.

Spy Blog has been following the inadequate scrutiny provided by the Intelligence and Security Committee for years.

The overall effect is that the Security Service will be more accountable to Parliament and to the courts than at present and that more sensitive evidence will be considered by courts than is possible now.

The Green Paper can be found here. (.pdf)

Further information

We will listen to those who have made suggestions as we develop our plans. If you require any more information, please do get in touch with our PPSs Edward Timpson MP and Ben Wallace MP.

Theresa May Kenneth Clarke

Where is the important topic of Intercept as Evidence for use by either the prosecution or defence in Court (currently forbidden by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 section 17 exclusion of matters from legal proceedings), which is entirely relevant to both the CCDP and CMP proposals ?

Green Paper on Justice and Security

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The Ministry of Justice / Cabinet Office have produced a public consultation Green Paper on Justice and Security. which closes on 6th January 201.

Some Spy Blog observations on:

Nobbling civil cases and inquests

The first section seems to be about various proposed legalistic fiddles to the evidence procedures civil cases and Inquests.

They seem to be proposing to infect civil courts and inquests with the same wretched Special Advocate / Closed Material Procedures schemes which were introduced under Labour for the ineffective Special Immigrations Appeals Tribunal (SIAC) and the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission (which rarely does anything at all).

They also appear to be trying to nobble the use of Norwich Pharmacal orders (a rarely used legal precedent which allows a third party not directly involved in a civil case, to be ordered to hand over information or evidence which is pertinent). Such orders have recently been applied to cases tainted with "national security" or "intelligence" rather than actual evidence.

If you believe the Green Paper, this is to allow better, more accurate "justice" in cases cases which involve genuine "national security" secrets, which might otherwise have to be abandoned or settled out of court by the government to preserve "the public interest" in secrecy.

The increasingly hated and incompetent previous Labour government always cloaked its repressive legislative onslaught on our civil liberties and freedoms with Orwellian newspeak and the Coalition seems to be following suit.

Whilst there is a case for keeping genuine time limited tactical intelligence, or the specific details of still viable technological intelligence gathering techniques, or the identities of Covert Human Intelligence Sources secret, there is no trustworthy mechanism for limiting such secrecy only to such examples.

Far too often, the "national security" classification of documents or witness testimony is really about preventing embarrassment to politicians, mandarins and apparatchiki in Whitehall etc.e.g. the torture claims case of Binyam Mohamed and the inquest into the "Friendly Fire" deaths of UK military personnel caused by trigger happy US Air Force ground attack aircraft pilots in Afghanistan etc.

It is all about maintaining the fiction of the appearance of "The Control Principle"

We expect our intelligence partners to protect our material when we share it with them, and we must be able to deliver the same protection of their material.

Confidence built up over many years can all too quickly be undermined. That is why, if the trust of the UK's foreign 'liaison' partners is to be maintained, there should be no disclosure of the content or fact of the intelligence exchange with them without their consent. This is known as the Control Principle.

The United States government, for example, regularly betrays this Control Principle, either through incompetence, or when it suits them politically e.g.

  • Leaving Diplomatic Cables involving the United Kingdom or our allies on vulnerable computer systems accessible by millions of low level US military personnel, bureaucrats and defence contractors, to then be published "for maximum impact" by the cult.

  • Several UK anti-terrorism raids involving international plots, have had to be rushed too early, before the alleged plotters have actually got their hands on any explosives or weapons or money etc.because the US government crowed about them in public, thereby perhaps tipping off some of the suspects.

Is this Control Principle going to be applied to all of the secret MI6 correspondence recently retrieved by journalists and human rights activists from abandoned government offices in Libya ?

In the Binyam Mohamed case, which is what led directly to the still not yet properly running Detainee Inquiry on UK Government complicity in torture, the "intelligence material" details in dispute had already been made public in the USA, but the UK government persisted in wasting public money on legal appeals to pretend to be upholding the "Control Principle".

Still no proposals about Intercept As Evidence

A major failing of this Green Paper is the lack of anything about the policy of No Intercept As Evidence.

This is Yet Another Broken Promise by the Coalition government - both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats claimed that they would sort this out, when making thei increasingly worthless pre-election promises. The Labour party, is as usual, failing to hold the government to account, presumably because they dare not remind people of their own repressive mendacity.

Whitehall is still dithering about this after all these years, with the "Advisory Group of Privy Counsellors" chaired by Sir John Chilcot, not actively doing anything about it, as he is presumably busy giving the likes of Tony Blair etc. an easy time of it over at the still running Iraq Inquiry anyway. - see the previous Spy Blog article Intercept as Evidence Report - £2.5 million spent and still no workable "legal model"

Intelligence and Security Committee

The slightly more interesting section is on proposed reforms to the Intelligence and Security Committee and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 Commissioners - The Intelligence Services Commissioner and the Interception of Communications Commissioner

All of these suffer from a lack of public visibility amongst the general public and a vast amount of scepticism about their effectiveness amongst those of us who do actually bother to read their censored public reports.

Question: What changes to the ISC could best improve the effectiveness and credibility of the Committee in overseeing the Government's intelligence activities?

3.4 The Government recognises the criticisms that have been made about current oversight arrangements, particularly that they do not provide sufficient public reassurance that current scrutiny is effective.

The Government does not want the ISC to have even the weak powers of a Select Committee

3.18 A possible option would be to change the status of the ISC to that of a departmental select committee. Departmental select committees have a remit 'to examine the expenditure, administration and policy' of the relevant government department and associated public bodies. A Standing Order, which would need to be renewed each Parliament, could cover appropriate handling of sensitive material, accommodation, staffing and reporting. Creating a select committee would result in oversight being demonstrably undertaken by Parliament.

3.19 However, under such arrangements the Government would clearly have no veto on publication of sensitive material.

That is the whole point !

There would be a real risk that, with fewer safeguards in place than under the present arrangements, Agency Heads would find it hard to reconcile their statutory duty to protect information with their statutory duty to facilitate parliamentary oversight.

Contempt of Parliament and contempt for the general public.

Sharing of less sensitive information and a corresponding reduction in both the credibility and effectiveness of the oversight the committee provided could be the result.

For these reasons, the Government believes this option should not be taken forward.

How can this be less effective or less credible than the current milksop that is the Intelligence and Security Committee ?

3.23 As the ISC has developed its role it has, with the agreement of previous and current governments, taken evidence from bodies beyond the three Agencies which are a part of the wider intelligence community within government These include Defence Intelligence in the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office and the central government intelligence machinery in the
Cabinet Office (including the Joint Intelligence Organisation). It has also, in its annual reports, made recommendations relating to those bodies. The ISC has proposed that this role should be formalised.

3.24 These bodies are part of larger departments (MOD, Cabinet Office and Home Office) which are overseen by the appropriate departmental select committee. However, where the work of these organisations relates directly to intelligence material, the relevant departmental select committees are not able to provide oversight. The Government proposes formally to recognise the wider role the ISC should play in overseeing the Government's intelligence activities by enabling it to take evidence from any department or body in the wider intelligence community about intelligence-related activity where to do so would help the ISC provides coherent intelligence oversight. This development would not affect the primary accountability of those bodies to the relevant departmental select committee of the House of Commons.

It is obvious that even Members of the Select Committee on Defence, like the Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock are not actually trusted with any secrets:

Why is Sir Stephen Lander (ex DG of MI5) involved in the SIAC deportation case of Katia Zatuliveter ?

However, what in the USA would be the criminal act of acting as an Unregistered Agent of a Foreign Government, is tolerated and encouraged by UK Ministers and top Civil Service mandarins, when it comes to commercial or political lobbyists as revealed in the Liam Fox / Adam Werrity scandal.

Accommodation, staffing and budget

3.31 We are considering possible changes to the ISC's staffing, accommodation and funding with a view to strengthening both the ISC's actual and symbolic connection to Parliament. The most tangible physical demonstration of independence, and a natural consequence of the ISC becoming a Committee of Parliament, would be to make
arrangements with the parliamentary authorities for the ISC to be accommodated in suitably secure premises on the parliamentary estate, rather than on the government estate. Similarly, its staff could have the status of parliamentary staff (rather than departmental civil servants based in the Cabinet Office), and its budget funded directly from parliamentary appropriation rather than the Cabinet Office's departmental budget.

3.32 The Government accepts that some of the proposals in this section, if implemented, would require a modest uplift in the Committee's current levels of resourcing. The ISC itself has made a case for an increase in its resourcing. Following decisions on next steps after this consultation, the Government - with the parliamentary authorities if the above plans are taken forward - proposes to review the level of resourcing that the ISC requires to support it in the discharge of its functions and the nature of the skills the Committee requires to have at its disposal.

How about an actual Investigative team with access to scientific forensic techniques for examining paper and computer documents ?

How about some forensic accountants who can "follow the money" any suspected trail of waste and corruption involving secret projects ?

How about proper secure and anonymous electronic and physical communications facilities, which the UK intelligence agencies are expressly forbidden from snooping on ?

How about a comprehensive intelligence agency whistleblower protection scheme backed up by criminal sanctions, to encourage internal whistleblowers who may have important allegations or evidence to bring forward to the ISC, without the fear of being detected or punished by their work colleagues or bosses.

See Spy Blog letter to the Detainee Inquiry re: lack of whistleblower anonymity protection and immunity from prosecution

Access to information

3.36 Under current legislation the ISC requests information from the Heads of the three Agencies who can, in theory, decline to disclose information if it is 'sensitive' (as defined by ISA - which could include information about sources or methods or relating to articular operations or which has been provided by foreign partners who do not consent to its onward disclosure). An Agency Head's refusal to disclose such information to the ISC can be overturned by the relevant Secretary of State on public interest grounds. In practice,

Agency Heads have rarely refused an ISC request for information.

The fact that they have actually done so repeatedly in the past, has been revealed in the public section of several of the ISC's censored Annual Reports.

The Government agrees with the ISC's proposal that the Committee should be given the power to require information from the intelligence Agencies. The Government also agrees with the ISC proposal that this should be subject only to a veto exercisable by the relevant Secretary of State, rather than by the Head of the individual Agency, as now.

About time too, although what actual difference the location of the exercise of such a veto will actually make in practice, remains to be seen.

Raising the public profile of a couple of the RIPA Commissioners

The Commissioners

The role of the Commissioners in intelligence oversight

3.39 Independent oversight of the Agencies is provided by the Intelligence Services Commissioner and the Interception of Communications Commissioner. The Commissioners are appointed by the Prime Minister for a (renewable) period of three years and must hold or have held high judicial office.

The Intelligence Services Commissioner's central function is to keep under review the issue of warrants by the Secretary of State, including those authorising intrusive surveillance (e.g. eavesdropping) and interference with property, in order to make sure that the Secretary of State's issue of the warrants was in compliance with legal requirements. The Interception of Communications Commissioner's central function is to keep under review the issue of warrants for the interception of communications. More details of the remits of the Commissioners can be found at Appendix G.

3.43 The Government proposes that the Commissioners' ability to discharge these types of duties is placed on a statutory footing, in order to ensure transparency, coherence and a clear basis of authority. This would need to be broad enough to cover current non-statutory duties and also a range of potential future duties. The Government proposes that this is done by adding a general responsibility for overseeing the effectiveness of operational policies to the statutory remit of the Intelligence Services Commissioner, who would maintain responsibility for monitoring compliance by the Agencies with the necessary legal requirements in the exercise of their intrusive powers. The specific areas on which the Commissioner focuses at any one time would need to be agreed, on an ongoing basis, with the appropriate Secretary of State.

3.44 The effectiveness and value of the Commissioners in providing assurance and challenge to Ministers is not in doubt.

Yes there is plenty of doubt !

They are highly respected former members of the judiciary whose experience and insight is invaluable in checking the necessity and proportionality of the use of the Agencies' intrusive powers. However, their low public profile means that they play a lesser role in providing assurance to the general public that the activities of the Agencies are at all times reasonable, proportionate, necessary and compliant with all legal obligations. A number of steps have been taken recently to increase the public profile of the Commissioners. The Commissioners' most recent annual reports have been revised to make them more readable and with the inclusion of more qualitative information of potential interest to readers. A new dedicated website for the Commissioners has been established and is expected to go-live around the time of publication of this Paper. These steps are important as they allow the Commissioners to explain to the public how their offices work, what they do and how they link into other elements of the oversight landscape. The Government considers that future appointments should bear in mind the importance of the public element of the Commissioner role.

This "new dedicated website for the Commissioners " got off to a typically inept start:

MI5 inspector's website shut down after security blunder

A new website for the former High Court judges responsible for oversight of MI5, MI6 and wiretapping has been shut down after it emerged that anyone could edit any page of it.

By Christopher Williams, Technology Correspondent

8:00AM BST 23 Oct 2011

The security blunder forced the Intelligence Services Commissioner, Sir Mark Waller, and the Interception of Communications Commissioner, Sir Paul Kennedy, to pull the plug on their new website on Friday afternoon following enquiries by The Telegraph.

Every page contained an "edit" link that allowed anyone visiting the website to change any text and upload files.

After it was shut down a secure version was published at a new address


The secure version of their new website is at

Inspector General

The Government have also floated the idea of an Inspector General, but their proposal in Appendix I is rather half hearted:

Question: Are more far-reaching intelligence oversight reform proposals preferable, for instance through the creation of an Inspector-General?

Appendix I
Possible model for an Inspector-General

1. An Inspector-General (IG) could oversee the powers and policies of the security and intelligence agencies and retrospectively review their operational activity. An IG for the Agencies could replace the Intelligence Services Commissioner and part of the remit of the Interception of Communications Commissioner.

2. An IG could be responsible for oversight of all the Agencies' covert investigation techniques, including the use of authorisations under the Intelligence Services Act 1994, and use by the Agencies of powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) Part I Chapter I (interception) and Chapter II (communications data), Part II (surveillance and CHIS) and Part III (encrypted data). It could also be responsible for oversight of requirements arising out of new government policies or legislation or the development of new practices. The IG could also provide legal advice and guidance to the Agencies on the use of their covert investigative techniques.

Doesn't the existing role of Intelligence Services Commissioner already do this ?

3. An IG could review the policies and procedures of the Agencies that relate to operational activities, including ethical matters. Ethical matters could be referred from, and reviewed, in close co-operation with the Staff Counsellor.

Who are these Staff Counsellors to which intelligence agency whistleblowers could complain to regarding, say, ethical concerns they have about intelligence operations involving torture or excessive snooping on innocent people ?

Rt. Hon. Sir John Chilcot "was Staff Counsellor to the Security and Intelligence Agencies (1999-2004) and the National Criminal Intelligence Service (2002-06). "

What a small, cosy world there seems to be amongst senior Whitehall mandarins and Judges, even after they retire.

If you were a whistleblower within these organisations today, would you trust

  1. The personal integrity of such a former Whitehall mandarin or retired senior Judge - probably yes

  2. His Operational Security technical computer, communications and "Moscow rules" style anti-surveillance tradecraft, to keep your identity secret from your work colleagues and managers and from other intelligence agencies - almost certainly not

4. An IG could have a retrospective review function that would include the ability to launch its own enquiries into past Agency operational activity. It could have a right to request intelligence, subject to Ministerial veto.

That would be a change from the current RIPA only remit of the intelligence Services Commissioner.

5. This would create two distinct oversight bodies: one focused on the Agencies, and one on all other public authorities with RIPA powers.

The risk of this approach is that oversight of interception would be split between two different bodies, possibly leading to different standards or approaches emerging. This would need to be managed and would not necessarily be straightforward.

Oversight of Interception is not as much of a problem as the lack of proper oversight of the vastly larger number of requests / demands for Communications Data, something which the existing Interception of Communications Commissioner fails to satisfy the demand for public accountability.

6. The IG could have a statutory duty to consult the Prime Minister on its annual work programme. It could produce an annual report for the Prime Minister, and publish reports on the outcome of the retrospective enquiries into Agency operational activity and reviews into operational policies. The IG could have a duty to develop an effective public profile for its work.

There must be clear, very effective methods for members of the public and for whistleblowers to contact the Inspector General , securely and anonymously, in the first instance, without the technical or legal risk of being snooped by the very intelligence agencies that they might be complaining about or about which they are providing evidence of wrongdoing or incompetence or corruption etc.

A single, censored, RIPA Commissioner or Intelligence Security Committee style Annual report to the Prime Minister absolutely will not inspire any public or even Parliamentary confidence whatsoever.

Any such reports should be made directly to Parliament, like the Information Commissioner.

7. An IG could be appointed by, and answerable to, the Prime Minister. The post could have some form of pre-appointment scrutiny by Parliament and/or could be advertised publicly. The role could be filled by a suitably experienced judge. If this was not a judicial appointment, the IG could be a senior civil servant but would need to be supported by a legal adviser with the appropriate legal and/or judicial experience. The IG could head up a team which would include a Secretariat and specialists with responsibility for aspects of the work of the IG (e.g. interception)

No! The post should be independent of the executive arm of government i.e. it should be an appointment by the Queen, just like a High Court Judge.

Spy Blog suggestions

Question: What combination of existing or reformed arrangements can best ensure credible, effective and flexible independent oversight of the activities of the intelligence community in order to meet the national security challenges of today and of the future?

Question: With the aim of achieving the right balance in the intelligence oversight system overall, what is the right emphasis between reform of parliamentary oversight and other independent oversight?

Question: What changes to the Commissioners' existing remit can best enhance the valuable role they play in intelligence oversight and ensure that their role will continue to be effective for the future? How can their role be made more public facing?

A few Spy Blog suggestions which apply to the RIPA Commissioners or the proposed Inspector General and to the supposedly beefed up Intelligence and Security Committee

  1. How about some photos etc. of the Commissioners (or the Inspector General) on their website ? Like Sir Peter Gibson (ex Intelligence Services Commissioner) on the Detainee Inquiry website (if they can get the hang of Wordpress hosted in Amazon S3 cloud) ?


    Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Kennedy, Interception of Communications Commissioner (photo UPPA Ltd via Daily Mail)


    Rt. Hon. Sir Mark Waller, Intelligence Services Commissioner (photo via Serle Court Chambers)

  2. How about proper whistleblowing secure and anonymous contact web forms, email, postal address, mobile phones etc. for tip offs and whistleblowers ?

  3. Statutory whistleblower protection counteracting the exemptions to current "normal" employment, and the various "national security" legislation

  4. "Wilson Doctrine" extension to the Commissioners / Inspector General and the Intelligence and Security Committee and also their staff and families. This would apply to their public duties and to whistleblower related communications, but obviously not to investigations into private corruption etc.

  5. Criminal sanctions including prison and unlimited fines for breaches of these rules by the intelligence agencies or the police or private sector sub-contractors etc.

  6. Multi million pound budget and staff to handle enquiries from the public and the media - very cheap when compared to the lack of intelligence sources caused by mistrust of the agencies

  7. Inclusion within the Freedom of Information Act regime, with the proviso that most of the National Security exemptions will apply to most of their casework and investigations. However requests about the Commissioners / Inspector General offices themselves e.g. number of complaints, waiting time for complaints to be processed or investigated etc should be made public without question or delay.

  8. Statutory basis for the oversight of Prisons, which was lumped onto the Interception of Communications Commissioner by Gordon Brown, and which takes up a huge amount of his time and resources

Respond to the Consultation

Is it worth bothering to submit these to the formal Consultation process ?

There is an unencrypted web form:


Post: Justice and Security Consultation, Room 335, Cabinet Office, 70 Whitehall, London, SW1A 2AS

by Friday 6th January 2012

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.


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.

Current PGP Key ID: 0xA165A29480CFAA4C which will expire on 6th September 2014.

You can download a free copy of the PGP encryption software from
(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:

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)


Watching Them, Watching Us

London 2600

Our UK Freedom of Information Act request tracking blog - ethical and technical discussion about the 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

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 - 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 have gone on to set up other online tools like The Government's contemptuous dismissal of over 5,000 individual responses via the 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 - New Alliance's ID Cards page - 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 - 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 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 - 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 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 journalist network.
The Practical Nomad Blog Edward Hasbrouck on Privacy and Travel
Policeman's Blog
World Weary Detective

Martin Stabe
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
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


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.


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 - 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


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

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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

syf_logo_120.gif Secure Your Ferliliser logo
Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

cpni_logo_150.gif Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure
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."

SIS MI6 careers_logo_sis.gif
Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

Serious Organised Crime Agency - have cut themselves off from direct contact with the public and businesses - no phone - no email

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.

FreeFarid_150.jpg - 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)

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).

Amnesty International's campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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."

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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."

Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV


I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !


Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign


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."


Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

wblogocrop_150.jpg - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers