Results tagged “Intelligence and Security Committee” from Spy Blog - SpyBlog.org.uk

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
(c)GCHQ.

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.

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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 Wikileaks.org 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
www.intelligencecommissioners.com.


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) ?

    Sir_Paul_Kennedy_306.jpg

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

    Sir_Mark_Waller_170.jpg

    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:

http://consultation.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/justiceandsecurity/the-consultation

Email: justiceandsecurity@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk

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

by Friday 6th January 2012

Why is membership of the Intelligence and Security Committee being kept secret from the pubic ? There has been no official public announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron, except for the appointment of Sir Malcom Rifkind as chairman back on 6th of July ?

Both Houses of Parliament appear to have rubber stamped, without holding any debates or any public confirmation hearings, a list of candidates, but have these people actually been appointed or not ?

The ISC is the only (feeble) mechanism of supposedly public oversight of these powerful vested interests, whose bureaucratic empires are such a potential threat to our freedoms and liberties.

Intelligence and Security Committee -- Membership Motion House of Lords debates, 26 October 2010, 3:05 pm

Moved By Lord Strathclyde

That this House approves the nomination of Lord Butler of Brockwell as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

Motion agreed.

Lord Butler of Brockwell , who sits as a Cross Bench Peer, is a former Whitehall Sir Humphrey, who the intelligence agencies have experience with, as he was chosen to conduct the Butler Review (.pdf) which highlighted some of the intelligence and political failings in the in up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, especially regarding the alleged "weapons of mass destruction" which were never found, and the "sexed up" intelligence dossiers.

Whether this experience means that he is good at discovering if the intelligence agencies are deliberately or inadvertently misleading the Intelligence and Security Committee remains to be seen. He will probably be an improvement over the extremely partisan and authoritarian "double dipping" Labour peer and Member of the Scottish Parliament, Lord.Foulkes of Cumnock.

Again, this may be a nomination, but the actual decision to appoint him to the Committee is one which is made only by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who has failed to make any public announcement confirming any members of the ISC, except for his initial appointment of the former Conservative Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind as chairman, back in July.

The other still as yet unconfirmed candidates put forward by the House of Commons are:

Hazel Blears (Labour - please not her!!), Sir Menzies Campbell (Liberal Democrat) , Mr Mark Field (Conservative), Paul Goggins (Labour) , Mr George Howarth (Labour), Dr Julian Lewis (Conservative)

i.e. there is nobody with any experience of large information technology projects (which the intelligence services have spent and, seemingly wasted, hundreds of millions or billions of pounds of public money on)

Similarly, apart from perhaps Paul Goggins (who was exiled to Northern Ireland as Minister) there is nobody with any experience of alienated minority communities. Hazel Blears actually managed to further alienate minority communities when she was Minister for Communities and Local Government !

See the previous Spy Blog article - Hazel Blears and Sergeant Flanderka - "tension monitoring" i.e. snooping on local communities.

These are two of the most important areas which the ISC should be forensically investigating the performance of the intelligence agencies, on behalf of the wider public.

See: Proposed Intelligence and Security Committee appointments - do *not* let Hazel Blears anywhere near the ISC !

Since the dispute with Gordon Brown's Cabinet Office and Number 10 Downing Street apparatchiki, over political interference with and contempt for the ISC under the previous Labour chairman Dr Kim Howells, there Intelligence and Security Committee.no longer appears on the Westminster Parliament Committees web pages at all.

Incredibly, the Cabinet Office web page about the ISC now points to a Central Office of Information web page, which is hosted by Google ! See http://isc.independent.gov.uk

Why should the webserver logs of visitors to this ISC web page be automatically available o foreign governments and companies ? What about the Google cookie tracking profile of whoever is maintaining this Google Docs web page ? If they do not log out of their Google account and delete or block the tracking cookies, then they will be handing quite a bit of intelligence information to Google and therefore to the US government and intelligence agencies.

For now, the Cabinet Office is still hosting, the previous public versions of the Intelligence and Security Committee reports online - you should probably download these now (remember to use Tor or some other method of confusing their Communications Traffic Data analysis) , before they disappear due to "budget cuts".

This new Intelligence and Security Committee needs to prove to the public that it really is independent, otherwise they may as well save the tax payer some money and not bother to pretend to oversee the work of these powerful bureaucracies.

One step in that direction would be to set up confidential whistleblower contact arrangements, to allow and members of the public and especially also patriotic or aggrieved intelligence agency insiders,or from commercial companies supplying the military / intelligence / security bureaucracy, to contact the Intelligence and Security Committee, without being snooped on by, or tipping off, the UK (or foreign) intelligence agencies.

They should have an ISC website with an SSL/TL encrypted web contact form, independent of Cabinet office and a public contact email address, which is also independent of any government department or agency e.g.
chairman@isc.x.gsi.gv.uk.

They should also publish and maintain a PGP Public Encryption Key.

There should also be a 24 hour 365 days a year telephone answering machine and a mobile phone number for SMS text messages, and a postal address.

Prime Minister David Cameron should also re-affirm the Wilson Doctrine, which forbids UK intelligence agencies from snooping on the communications of Members of the House of Commons or Members of the House of Lords, something which unlike every other Prime Minister since 1966, he has still failed to do.

There has been no "independent" scrutiny of the UK intelligence agencies since the General Election in May even though, in the meantime, there have been several high profile "spy" cases reported in the UK media, over which the intelligence agencies should have been penetratingly questioned. e.g. the Israeli assassination of a Hamas terrorist in Dubai involving the abuse of British Passports / expulsion of the alleged Mossad station chief in London, the Daniel Houghton MI5/ Mi6 £900,000 secrets for sale to the Dutch case, the death of Dr Gareth Willams (GCHQ / MI6 ?), the "don't ask" complicity in torture and "extraordinary rendition", the upsurge in real bombs in Northern Ireland, etc..

Over 4 months later the new Intelligence and Security Committee is taking shape, with the appalling prospect of the incompetent and untrustworthy "New Labour android" Hazel Blears being given an important role as a member.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Conservative Foreign Secretary (therefore formerly in charge of MI6 the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ) was appointed as the chair by Prime Minister David Cameron back in July.

13 Sep 2010 : Column 710

Business without Debate
Business of the House

[...]


INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY

Resolved,

That Hazel Blears, Sir Menzies Campbell, Mr Mark Field, Paul Goggins, Mr George Howarth, Dr Julian Lewis and Sir Malcolm Rifkind be recommended to the Prime Minister for appointment to the Intelligence and Security Committee under section 10 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994.- (Angela Watkinson , on behalf of the Committee of Selection. )

The peculiar Intelligence and Committee, which is neither a Select Committee nor a Joint Committee of Parliament, is not yet complete, as the (token) member or members from the House of Lords have not yet been appointed. It is very unusual that there is not more of a Conservative / Liberal Democrat Coalition majority on this Committee.

For the first time, Parliament is meant to have a slightly bigger role in appointing members to the ISC, rather than simply leaving it up to the Prime Minister and his inner circle of advisors and cronies, as before.

It would be interesting if David Cameron actually rejected some or all of these recommendations. He should certainly reject Hazel Blears.!

  • Hazel Blears (Labour) - was the Home Office Minister of State (Crime Reduction, Policing & Community Safety) and then Minister of State (Policing, Security and Community Safety). She also led the "community snooping" initiatives when Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government. She helped to force the notorious Identity Cards Act 2006 into law.

    Her record as one of the architects of the Labour Big Brother / Big Nanny / Surveillance / Database State makes her appointment to the Intelligence and Security Committee particularly unwelcome as she simply cannot be trusted to protect ordinary, innocent, law abiding members of the public, from such creepy control freakery.

    She featured heavily as one of the worst offenders in the "MPs' expenses" scandals: e.g. this Daily Mail report: MPs' EXPENSES: Blears writes £13,332 cheque to Inland Revenue for Capital Gains Tax avoided on 'second home'

    If she is appointed, nobody should believe that Britain's secretive intelligence agencies will not continue to hide secrets from scrutiny by the Intelligence and Security Committee. If Hazel Blears is appointed, one could sympathise with them for doing so, since she is provably untrustworthy with state secrets.

    Hazel Blears has not once, but at least twice broken the Official Secrets Act, 1989 section 8 Safeguarding of information, through sheer incompetence and negligence.

    See the previous Spy Blog article

    Hazel Blears - stolen laptop, no encryption, breach of Restricted and Confidential rules - which email accounts were used ?

    and for example, the Daily Telegraph report :

    Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, has blundered by displaying secret papers relating to MPs expenses as she walked along Downing Street.

    In both cases she clearly failed "to take such care to prevent the unauthorised disclosure of the document or article as a person in his" (or her) "position may reasonably be expected to take."

    Either of these breaches in elementary data security regarding classified, Protectively Marked documents, could have resulted in dismissal and perhaps criminal prosecution, with a penalty of up to 2 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine, if a Civil Servant or private sector government contractor had been guilty of them.

    Once public confidence is gone, in the ability of a politician to be trusted or to keep national security secrets, it can never be rebuilt. For this reason alone Prime Minister David Cameron should reject Hazel Blears as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, or else he will be giving a public signal of its uselessness.

    We do not want Hazel Blears to be allowed to serve on the Intelligence and Security Committee, or in any other position of power or influence whatsoever.

  • Paul Goggins (Labour) - was a junior Home Office Minister with experience of Prisons and who was also exiled to Northern Ireland as a junior Minister and then as Minister of State where he must have had frequent contact with the intelligence agencies. Whether this makes him "house trained" or an effective inquisitor, alert to all their tricks, remains to be seen.

  • George Howarth (Labour) - like Paul Goggins was also a junior Home Office and then a junior Northern Ireland minister. He has previously served on the Intelligence and Security Committee from 2005 to 2010 i.e. he is the most experienced potential ISC member so far mentioned.

  • Dr. Julian Lewis (Conservative) - he seems to have an interest in military matters, but he also has a record of helping to deny transparency and accountability of MPs, which makes him untrustworthy in our view, to represent the public in the secret scrutiny of secret agencies.


    He was one of the prime movers behind the the scandalous attempt by the House of Commons to further neuter the Freedom of Information Act which was touted as protecting the freedoms of Constituents, but actually had the effect of trying to hide "second homes" and other expenses scandals from the public. He was also behind the pompous amendment to the Political Parties and Elections Act, which removed the requirement for General Election candidates to disclose their home addresses on nomination and ballot papers. Given how many candidates claim to be "local", why should they not have to prove it, by giving their home addresses ?

  • Mark Field (Conservative) - who ? He seems to be a lawyer in a safe Conservative seat - how and why was he recommended to be appointed to the ISC ?

  • Sir Menzies Campbell (Liberal Democrat) - former Liberal Democrat Leader - we did not think that it was appropriate for him to stoop to being a member of the ISC. He has "an interest" in Foreign Affairs and has served on the Intelligence and Security Committee for the fag end of Gordon Brown's awful Labour government. He is reported as being friendly with Gordon Brown, who is his Parliamentary constituency neighbour.

We await with interest ,further recommendations or appointments to the Intelligence and Security Committee. There is no good reason why the Prime Minister should only appoint a token one or two members from the House of Lords, as has been the custom in recent years. Almost any Peer of the Realm, woulds be an improvement on the despicable former MP George Ffoulkes, who consistently took the most totalitarian NuLabour line possible. To be fair to Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, as a "double dipping" Westminster and Scottish parliamentarian, he does actually ask a lot of Written Questions of the Executive(s) - some of them pointless and partisan, but he does put his lazier colleagues to shame.

We hope in vain, for the appointment of say, the Earl of Errol, who is actually computer literate and who is therefore, unlike all the other members of the ISC (mostly liberal arts graduate lawyers) actually capable of scrutinising the utility and cost effectiveness of the vast array of intrusive IT databases and surveillance projects and secret IT infrastructures, which the intelligence agencies spend or waste so much of our precious public money on.

We also demand to know whether the outgoing Chair of the ISC's (Dr. Kim Howells, Labour) criticisms of the meddling and conflict of interest by Cabinet Office and the Prime Minister's office under Gordon Brown, have lead to any actual independence of this new Intelligence and Security Committee, or not e.g. is their email still provided (and therefore legally snooped on) by the Cabinet Office ?


The British public deserves to know and trust that the powerful, secretive intelligence agencies like GCHQ the Government Communications Head Quarters, MI5 the Security Service and SIS/MI6 the Secret Intelligence Service are operating properly and cost effectively, especially given:

  • The rise in actual real terrorist bomb attacks and killings in Northern Ireland

  • The recent Court cases revealing complicity in "extraordinary rendition" by the US intelligence agencies and the tacit complicity of UK intelligence in the use of torture.

  • Chinese internet espionage stories

  • Personnel vetting and IT security failures highlighted by the trial of alleged wannabe spy, the ex-MI6 employee Daniel Houghton

  • Major IT project failures and cost overruns e.g. the SCOPE project, the lack of backup disaster recovery data centres for the intelligence agencies.

  • Still no viable plan for the use of electronic intercept as evidence in Court.

  • Frightening and expensive plans for mass surveillance and data trawling against millions of innocent people.

  • The ongoing threat from self radicalised Muslims, racists, animal rights or environmental extremists etc.

With the dire state of public finances, there must be financial cuts in the budgets of some or all of these secret agencies. How are we the public meant to know if these financial cuts are justified or not ?

That is the role of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, which is appointed by the Prime Minister.

However, like so much else, the last Labour Government left this in a shambles, with strong hints of political interference from Downing Street and / or the Cabinet Office, according to the outgoing (Labour) chairman of the Committee Kim Howells.

See:Intelligence and Security Committee Report 2009-2010 - interference by the Cabinet Office, MI5 DIGINT, Northern Ireland terrorism, new Cyber Defence bureaucracy but CESG financially bankrupt ?

For no good reason that we can see, currently there is no Intelligence and Security Committee in operation at all.

When will Prime Minister David Cameron appoint a new Committee ?

Will it be given the extra investigative manpower and budgetary resources it needs to work independently of the Cabinet Office etc. ?

At the very least they need forensic accountancy and IT project management resources to be able to understand the technical complexity and impact of potential budget cuts on GCHQ, MI6, MI5 etc.

By the time the National Audit Office or perhaps the Commons Public Accounts Committee get a sniff of such secret projects, there could have been millions or billions of pounds of public money wasted.

Alternatively, if the wrong budgets or projects are cut, delayed or cancelled, then we could needlessly find ourselves in another bloody war or terrorist outrage, because of inappropriate penny pinching.

The remit of this new Intelligence and Security Committee should be expanded beyond the roles of just the three main intelligence agencies.

They should also cover units or agencies which use the same technology and techniques as the main intelligence agencies do. e.g. the various UK Special Forces units like the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR), or the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) or the Police units like the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU) or the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command.

It should also look the role of sub-contracted intelligence agency functions either to so called "friendly" foreign intelligence agencies like the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who, it appears, may have been allowed to breach British sovereignty by recruiting and running intelligence assets within UK Muslim communities

They must also investigate the shadowy and unaccountable world of Private Military Contractor / Mercenary companies, operating with UK Military and Intelligence agencies overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan etc. but, it appears, also being used within the United Kingdom.

As with the publication of the RIPA Commissioners' Annual Reports, it is not acceptable to delay the appointment of this Committee until September or October, they should already have been hard at work now.

Spy Blog would be interested to see in the(pseudonymous) comments or via email (PGP encrypted if you like) , your nominations for who you would trust to sit on this cross party committee of MPs and Peers., bearing in mind that most of the experienced former members of the ISC have now retired.


Even though the text has not yet been published, the Identity Documents Bill, to hopefully repeal the Identity Cards Act, scrap the National Identity Register and stop fingerprint or other biometrics from being shoe horned unnecessarily into passports, was given its formal First Reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday 26th May 2010.

12.18 pm

[...]


26 May 2010 : Column 170

[...]

BILL PRESENTED

Identity Documents Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Theresa May, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Hague, Secretary Kenneth Clarke and Damian Green, presented a Bill to make provision for and in connection with the repeal of the Identity Cards Act 2006.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 1) with explanatory notes (Bill 1-EN).

[...]

12.21 pm


This is the first Bill presented by the Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition government.

Just after this First Reading, the allocation of Chairs of the Select Committees of the House of Commons was announced.

The new scheme is that all backbenchers, from all parties, will be allowed to vote on the election of these Chairs, although only for candidates from the allocated parties.

We do rather wonder why the Home Affairs Committee, which will supposedly scrutinise the Government on Policing, Immigration and "National Security" etc. has been allocated to the Labour Party.

Presumably this Committee will still have a Government majority on it, as it has always done.

Will Keith Vaz retain his Chairmanship of this Committee ?

The Justice Select Committee, which will supposedly scrutinise Prisons and Freedom of Information policy etc. is to have a Liberal Democrat Chair.

26 May 2010 : Column 171

[...]

Select committees appointed under SO No. 152:

Business, Innovation and Skills Labour
Children, Schools and Families Conservative
Communities and Local Government Labour
Culture, Media and Sport Conservative
Defence Conservative
Energy and Climate Change Conservative
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Conservative
Foreign Affairs Conservative
Health Conservative
Home Affairs Labour
International Development Liberal Democrat
Justice Liberal Democrat
Northern Ireland Conservative
Science and Technology Labour
Scottish Affairs Labour
Transport Labour
Treasury Conservative
Welsh Affairs Conservative
Work and Pensions Labour

Other specified select committees:

Environmental Audit Labour
Procedure Conservative
Public Administration Conservative
Public Accounts Labour

We await announcement of the appointment of the Intelligence and Security Committee , which is not a Select Committee, but which is supposedly to be reformed slightly.

Will it manage to escape from the Cabinet Office, like the previous Committee recommended (the Cabinet Office web page for the ISC now gives a 404 not found error)

The Intelligence and Security Committee Annual Report 2009-2010 (.pdf) has been published, exactly as we predicted in our previous blog article:
Intelligence and Security Committee publishes Two annual reports - Gordon Brown keeps one still secret

i.e. only on the actual day of the debate in the Commons, presumably to deliberately restrict the number of Members of Parliament and members of the public who would actually read and analyse it.

The covering letter to the prime Minister Gordon Brown by the outgoing Labour ISC Chairman the Rt. Hon. Dr Kim Howells, MP

"I am grateful that you have agreed to publish both Reports before the House of Commons debate on our work on 18 March."

Gordon Brown broke this promise !

The backbench Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay, pointed out that the 2009 - 2010 Report had not been published "in good time" for the debate on 18th March:

18 Mar 2010 : Column 1049

[...]

I put the problem simply: approximately 600 MPs do not know of the existence of the 2009-10 report because they are not here in the House of Commons today. When I went to our own dear Vote Office-I make absolutely no criticism of its staff-to ask for papers for today's debates, I was given the 2008-09 report; only when I came into the Chamber and listened to the Chairman of the Committee did I realise that there was another document worth looking at.

18 Mar 2010 : Column 1050

It is a mickey-take of Parliament when that sort of thing happens and I just wonder who is to blame. Will anyone own up to that cavalier handling by Parliament? We need to watch that in the future. To be candid, I think it is indicative of the cavalier way in which the scrutiny of our security and intelligence services has been dealt with by a number of people, including Ministers and, I have to say, my colleagues on the ISC.

Technically, since the debate on 18th March 2010 was only about the 2008 - 2009 report, MPs could in theory have another debate on the 20009 - 2010 report, but do not hold your breath in anticipation.

There appears to have been some sort of petty interference from the Cabinet Office and / or the Prime Minister and his henchmen, with the running of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

7. [...]

According to the legislation which established the Committee, it can set its own procedures. These have, naturally, evolved over the last 16 years through written agreements and verbal assurances. It has become very clear to us, however, that corporate knowledge of these procedures within Government has been lost over time and there was now very little awareness of our procedures, some of which date back to when the Committee was first established. This has led in some cases to misunderstandings as to the statutory independence of the Committee and its work and the nature of the relationship between the Committee and the Prime Minister.

This Report includes an appendix making a plea by the ISC to divorce themselves from reliance on the Cabinet Office for facilities and budget. The Cabinet Office is belatedly now seen to have a conflict of interest regarding Intelligence matters by the ISC, which rightly feels that the public perception of its supposed Independence from Government has been compromised.

This potential conflict of interest was obvious to outside observers since the very inception of the ISC.

A few crumbs of information from the 2009 - 2010 report:

The Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, who are supposed to provide the public with independent scrutiny of the secret intelligence services, has actually written two Annual reports in the last 9 months.

11 March 2010: The Intelligence and Security Committee's Annual Report for 2008-2009 was laid before Parliament today by the Prime Minister. A copy of the Report can be found here. A copy of the Government Response to the Intelligence and Security Committee's Annual Report 2008-2009 can be found here.

The Committee has issued an accompanying Press Release, which can be found here.

These Annual Reports are not an adequate mechanism for holding the secret intelligence agencies to account, either for their waste of public money, or for how well they are doing their job.

See:

Perhaps there is some good reason for the 8 month publication delay of this supposedly Annual 2008 - 2009 report , but since nobody trusts Gordon Brown not to lie by omission, we assume that there was some sort of petty political reason for the unnecessary delay.

Dr. Kim Howell's, the outgoing Labour chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, who will not be standing for re-election at the forthcoming General Election, seems a bit frustrated with the

"We also sent our Annual Report for 2009-10 to the Prime Minister on Friday 5 March 2010.
This is a shorter report, given the duration of the Parliamentary year, however it covers some
fundamental issues.

[...]

We have been assured by the Prime Minister that this Report will also be published in good time before the debate next week.

This is an opportunity for Gordon Brown to show his respect or contempt for Parliament and the British public.

We would like to be proved wrong, but we assume that Gordon Brown will break this promise to Kim Howells.

The debate on the Intelligence and Security Committee Report is scheduled for this Thursday 18th March 2010.

On past performance, we expect a few paper copies this 2009 - 2010 report to have been made available a few minutes before, or perhaps even during this debate, in the Vote Office, giving MPs and others no time to read and analyse it beforehand.

We doubt if it will be published on the web until after the debate in the Commons.

Here are a few points which stood out for Spy Blog, when reading this censored ISC report:

It is hard to see how Yet Another Censored Report by the Intelligence and Security Committee into the 7th July 2005 London bomb attacks will satisfy the victims and their families and many others, who want an actually independent Public Inquiry.

They still have not bothered to examine any possible links with the failed 21st July 2005 attacks.

Review of the Intelligence on the London Terrorist Attacks on 7 July 2005 (published 2009) [PDF 1,401KB, 108 pages]

There are a couple of points of more general interest, such as a graphical illustration of searching for a needle in a haystack involved in Communications Data Traffic Analysis, and some explanation of some technical jargon, which might interest tv and film scriptwriters or fiction novelists.

The scale of Operation CREVICE is demonstrated by the following diagram. It shows all calls assessed to relate to international counter-terrorism, between unique parties, between 1 January and 1 April 2004 (with each line representing one or more calls). There are *** unique numbers (tens of thousands) with *** links between them. Of these, 4,020 are linked to CREVICE. The vast majority of these were eventually assessed not to be related to the bomb plot itself, or even to the wider facilitation network, and were in fact wholly innocent or irrelevant. Each was a potential lead, however, that had to be checked to see if it was relevant or not. The diagram identifies two numbers which were later associated with Mohammed Siddique KHAN.

ISC_Comms_Data_Traffic_Link_Analysis_450.jpg

Of course, Jacqui Smith's plans for Communication Data Traffic Retention and Data Warehousing would simply throw several more haystacks full of data at such a problem - a waste of resources, with horrible privacy and security implications for millions of innocent people.

The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) is an increasingly useless way for the Government to pretend to provide independent scrutiny of the secret intelligence agencies. The ISC's highly censored Annual report, sometimes provide a few tantalising glimpses of what these agencies are wasting our public money on, without providing any hard evidence of any actual successes, and with no indication of value for public money.

Having delayed publication of this censored report for over 3 months, the Government also gets to timetable the "debate" in the Commons about this Report, probably in another 6 months or so, judging by previous years.

The mainstream media have cherry picked the section on the failure of the SCOPE computer project, but have not bothered to look any deeper into the worrying projected increase in the size and intrusiveness of the Surveillance / Snooper / Secret Police State which this Report hints at, involving the general expansion of all of the intelligence agencies, and projects such as the Intelligence Exploitation programme, the IQ Programme, the Interception Modernisation Programme and the Communications Data Bill.

These all seem to be an expansion of snooping and data trawling through large numbers of innocent people's data, in pursuit of mythical "terrorist patterns", without any evidence that such snooping can possibly work technically, and without any effective error correction mechanisms and procedures, to investigate individual abuses, and to purge the records, provide financial compensation and issue a public apology to the inevitable victims False Positive matches.

Yet again, the ISC fails to scrutinise either the Serious Organised Crime Agency, or the various "domestic extremism" Police units set up by the unaccountable Association of Chief Police Officers, or any military Special Forces covert surveillance and reconnaissance units.

There is also no investigation of the revolving door whereby retired intelligence agency or police counter terrorism specialists join Private Military Contractor and Security / Mercenary companies.


ISC Annual Report 2007-08
[PDF 658KB, 58 pages]

The Government's Response to the ISC Report, is, as usual, even less informative than the Report itself:

Government Response to the ISC Annual Report 2007-08 [PDF 298KB, 8 pages]

Some Spy Blog notes and questions on the ISC report:

Icelanders are NOT Terrorists !

|

The bungling Labour Government and Gordon Brown's mis-handling of banking and financial market regulation, as Chancellor and as Prime Minister, makes him personally at least as much to blame as anybody else on the planet, for the current international financial and banking crisis of of confidence. Even when the financial markets sort themselves out, there will be long lasting damage to the international reputation of Gordon Brown, and, unfortunately, also to that of United Kingdom.

There is a recent recent Hollywood film called How to Lose Friends & Alienate People , and that is exactly what Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling have managed to do to our friends and allies, in the strategically vital country of Iceland.

Icelanders_are_NOT_terrorists_banner_300.jpg

Icelanders are not terrorists

Help us stop abuse of the Anti-terrorism Act

Gordon Brown unjustifiably used the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act of 2001 against the people of Iceland for his own short-term political gain. This has turned a grave situation into a national disaster, affecting families in both Iceland and the United Kingdom. Help us avert greater damage by signing this petition now.

See Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act of 2001 Part 2 Freezing Orders

On Wednesday October 8th, the British Government invoked Anti-terrorist legislation, which was in effect aimed at the people of Iceland. This devastating attack on our society was received with disbelief here in Iceland. The people of Iceland have always considered themselves great friends of the United Kingdom. Our nations have a long history of mutually beneficial trade and have been close allies in NATO and Europe.

Hour by hour and day by day the actions of the British government are indiscriminately obliterating Icelandic interests all over the world and, in so doing, diminishing the assets that could be used to reimburse depositors with Icelandic banks in the United Kingdom and Iceland. The government's actions are also endangering the future of nearly all Icelandic companies and of the entire nation, in addition to over 100,000 employees of British companies with Icelandic connections. In this regard we would like to stress that the Icelandic authorities have always maintained their intention to honour their obligations in this matter, contrary to claims made by Chancellor Alistair Darling and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

In these trying times, it is vital that we all work together to meet the troubles that lie ahead. We cannot let leaders, like Gordon Brown, destroy the long-term relations of our nations for their own short-term political gain. Mr. Brown would never have reacted to the collapse of a bank from a larger and more powerful nation by tarnishing its people as terrorists and criminals.

We, the people of Iceland, ask you, our friends from the United Kingdom and elsewhere, to join us in the common cause of ending diplomatic hostilities between the Icelandic and UK governments. It is our hope that this will stop the unnecessary economic damage on both sides, so that we can start to rebuild and make amends.

Sign the on-line petition

The Government media spin line is that somehow the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 is not just "anti0terrorism" legislation, but that is not how it was sold to Parliament and the public at the time, with worthless promises of safeguards by Ministers, who did not actually amend the detailed text of the legislation accordingly, a political trick which has been used time after time by this Government and its torrent of complicated repressive legislation.

The toothless Intelligence and Security Committee, tried, in producing their Annual report for 2004 / 2005 (.pdf), to get a single, coherent definition of "the Economic Well-being of the United Kingdom", which is one of the vague definitions of "National Security", in various bits of legislation.

They failed in this seemingly simple task - each Whitehall department and agency seems to have its own slightly different definition (most of which are kept secret from the public).

Some of you may remember the empty promises made by Gordon Brown back in July,

The proposals published in this green paper, 'The Governance of Britain', seek to address two fundamental questions: how should we hold power accountable, and how should we uphold and enhance the rights and responsibilities of the citizen?

See : 'The Governance of Britain (.pdf 63 pages)

There is a Chapter called:

2. Making the executive more accountable

Paragraphs 89 to 96 promised to reform, ever so slightly, the secretive and defective (in terms of public scrutiny and transparency) Intelligence and Security Committee of "experienced" Parliamentarians.

This supposedly keeps a democratic check on GCHQ, the Secret Intelligence Service MI6, the Security Service MI5, and the Defence Intelligence Staff, and perhaps the Serious Organised Crime Agency SOCA, with the occasional mention of what used to be regional Police "Special Branch" units and the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, through the totally inadequate mechanism of a heavily censored Annual Report, which the House of Commons cannot even be bothered to debate every 12 months.

The ISC does not seem to bother to scrutinise other intelligence gathering and snooping organisations such UK military Special Forces e.g. the SAS or the Special Reconnaissance Regiment etc. or the ACPO National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (who concentrate on animal rights extremists and on environmental and peace camp demonstrators), or any of the Treasury's terrorist finance financial snooping and asset freezing units, or HM Revenue and Customs etc. It does not scrutinise any of the European Union intelligence agencies to which the UK is signed up to e.g. Eurojust, Frontex , Europol or SitCen etc. It does nothing to question the supposed "special relationship" with United States intelligence agencies.

There is no evidence whatsoever of any reform at all, given that a new Labour chairman of the Committee i.e. Yet Another Ex-Minister, has been been appointed by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, without any public hearings, consultation or debate.

Written Ministerial Statements Tuesday, 21 October 2008

21 Oct 2008 : Column 8WS

Prime Minister
Intelligence and Security Committee

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): In accordance with section 10 of the Intelligence and Security Act 1994, I have appointed my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Kim Howells) to be the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett) for her distinguished leadership of the Committee in providing effective and independent parliamentary oversight of the work of the Security and Intelligence Agencies.

Will we see Kim Howells grilling the Ian Lobban, the newly appointed Director of GCHQ and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, over her attempts to subvert this obviously necessary investment in new equipment for GCHQ under the Intercept Modernisation Programme, and to sneak in a democratically and judicially unaccountable secret data mining database of all Communication Traffic Data in the UK, thereby spying on millions of innocent British citizens, thereby circumventing the existing, audit trails and weak safeguards under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 ?


We would have liked to have been able to comment on the latest Intelligence and Security Committee's Annual report, which appears to have been leaked, at least in in part to The Guardian newspaper, but it does not yet appear to be online on the Cabinet Office website.

The Guardian is running a story on the cancellation of phase 2 of the delayed SCOPE intelligence sharing computer system: Multimillion pound security project shelved by ministers

Perhaps the Intelligence Agencies do not trust the rest of Whitehall with their intelligence sources, and do not want SCOPE to be rolled out to thousands of people.

The House of Commons is due to debate the (usually heavily censored) Intelligence and Security Committee's Annual Report tomorrow, Thursday 17th July 2008, but obviously the General Public are not to be allowed to participate , or to lobby their Members of Parliament ahead of the debate.

Thursday 17 July 2008

[...]

Motion: to approve resolutions relating to the Intelligence and Security Committee

Debate: on the Intelligence and Security Committee Annual Report 2007-08

[...]

How does leaking details from this (censored) Annual report, only to favoured mainstream media journalists, ahead of the supposedly informed debate in the House of Commons, but not making it available to the public via the world wide web, give the impression of anything other than media spin and a deliberate attempt to hide bad news ?

This is not acceptable behavior for a Parliamentary Committee which is supposed to perform some sort of independent scrutiny on behalf of the public, but who seem instead to collude with the Executive branch of Government and the bureaucracy, in keeping as much information as possible from the general public, and even from other Members of Parliament.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, the Cabinet Office website does have a copy of the Intelligence and Security Committee Annual Report for 2006 - 2007, and the Government's Response to that report.

In both of these documents, phase 2 of the SCOPE project was only, apparently, delayed, rather than cancelled, as the Guardian reports.

The House of Commons is only now, in mid July, "debating" this heavily censored and anodyne report, some 6 months after it was published on the 29th January 2008, and which had actually been submitted on 4th December 2007, and only actually covers the period up to October 2007.

The Parliament website therefore gave the wrong impression, that the House of Commons would be debating the 2007 - 2008 report.

We commented on this report back on 29th January 2008, along with the appointment of Margaret Beckett to the chair of the Committee.

c.f. Margaret Beckett appointed as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee - 2006 - 2007 Annual Report published

This is not proper, transparent, democratic scrutiny of the working of the secret agencies or the Government policies, which are supposed to protect our national security. and defend our freedoms.

Intelligence and Security Committee Report 2006

|

The annual Intelligence and Security Committee Report, does its usual job of providing only the vaguest details about the running of the United Kingdom's intelligence agencies and security services. Neither the public, nor the intelligence agencies themselves are best served by so much secrecy and failure to get the answers to probing questions.

They give the impression that important questions of policy, which would not compromise tactical or operational secrets are not even asked, let alone answered.

Combined with the dubious media spins and leaks, is it any wonder that conspiracy theories thrive, and that few members of the public , especially those in, say the Islamic or Irish or the online communities, have any confidence that the intelligence services are doing a competent job, for the public good.

Annual Report 2005-06 [PDF 445KB, 47 pages]

A few points which caught our attention:

This website, despite its domain name, is not primarily focussed on the secret world of British intelligence agencies like MI5, MI6, GCHQ, DIS etc.

The House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee has published its annual, heavily censored report, which bears a striking similarity to last year's report.

Some comments on the public findings of this report, which the Government merely "takes note of the view of the Committee", and is not bound to do anything about:

Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee has published their 2003-2004 annual report (.pdf)

This report is the fig leaf of what passes for Parliamentary oversight of the secret intellingence agencies in the UK, and only gives brief details about their activities and expenditures. Even these are censored in the report. Other democratic countries manage to provide the tax paying public with much more detail and insight, without compromising their national security.

Nevertheless, the report mentions things which will be of some interest to students of Government technology project cock ups.

If there is one thing that the UK Government is worse at than Information Technology Projects, it is probably large office complex projects. The new GCHQ "Doughnut building" is all very well, and a much needed replacement for the sub standard pre-fab accommodation which GCHQ has squatted in for so many years.

The report highlights the various scandals involving the lack of financial control and managerial leadership at GCHQ e.g. the auditors refused to sign off the accounts for 3 years in a row!, GCHQ can only find and account for 92% of the equipment assets which we have paid for, by means of the accounting trick of ignoring anything under £10,000 value etc. - 8% of what must be billions of pounds worth of assets is a lot of public money which has been lost through incompetence or possible corruption.

It is no great surprise that the new Doughnut building is simply too small to hold all the GCHQ staff. The occupancy is alleged to be 115% , so the 1950's vintage pre-fabs remain in use, despite the fact that the site has been sold off to private sector developers, who will soon be within their rights to bulldoze these or else to milk the Government for massive financial compensation.

The Secret Service MI5 seems to have been concentrating too much on terrorism and has taken its focus off Russian and Chinese espionage.

The Secret Intelligence Service MI6 apparently managed to underspend its allocated budget, supposedly due the situation in Iraq and various unnamed project delays They too seem to have withdrawn from intelligence activities in certain parts of the world - at a guess Latin America, although they claim to have been the only agency with some spare capacity to devote to some anti-Organised Crime activities, presumably drug smuggling (although obviously with no success in Afghanistan).

The report has this curious comment:

"135. We believe that this situation mainly derives from the history of cuts in the 1990s as part of the post-Cold War budget realignment, which put the Agencies on the defensive. When international terrorism began to spread in the mid 1990s, the Agencies felt that they could not ask for additional resources, not least because they were already being accused of inventing new tasks for themselves."

Surely this is an argument for much more openness on the part of these Agencies, to demonstrate their actual worth to the taxpayer ?

The Government does not seem to have properly reviewed the Critical National Infrastructure since 2002, this remains a concern for the Committee i.e. there has been no progress since their similar comments last year:

"We were also informed that the JIC had not assessed the threat to the CNI from electronic attack since 2002. Capabilities to attack the CNI exist, and, while both NISCC and CESG sought to reassure us that they were reducing the vulnerability of the CNI to technical attack, we were not convinced.

We recommend that the threat to the UK?s Critical National Infrastructure and vulnerability to electronic and other attacks should be examined by the JIC and considered by Ministers."

There also needs to be actual real money and resources spent on things as fundamental as an audit of what exactly constitutes the UK's Critical National Infrastructure - most of it is under the control of private sector companies, not the Government.

Increasingly these private sector companies are not the handful of former state monopoly companies with which the civil service has been used to dealing with so cosily over the years, but are based overseas e.g. an attack on the Home Location Register computer of a mobile phone company in mainland Europe could easily compromise part of the UK's Mobile Phone Network.

" SCOPE

About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog attempts to draw public attention to, and comments on, some of the current trends in ever cheaper and more widespread surveillance technology being deployed to satisfy the rapacious demand by state and corporate bureaucracies and criminals for your private details, and the technological ignorance of our politicians and civil servants who frame our legal systems.

The hope is that you the readers, will help to insist that strong safeguards for the privacy of the individual are implemented, especially in these times of increased alert over possible terrorist or criminal activity. If the systems which should help to protect us can be easily abused to supress our freedoms, then the terrorists will have won.

We know that there are decent, honest, trustworthy individual politicians, civil servants, law enforcement, intelligence agency personnel and broadcast, print and internet journalists etc., who often feel powerless or trapped in the system. They need the assistance of external, detailed, informed, public scrutiny to help them to resist deliberate or unthinking policies, which erode our freedoms and liberties.

Email & PGP Contact

Please feel free to email your views about this blog, or news about the issues it tries to comment on.

blog@spy[dot]org[dot]uk

Our PGP public encryption key is available for those correspondents who wish to send us news or information in confidence, and also for those of you who value your privacy, even if you have got nothing to hide.

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

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You can download a free copy of the PGP encryption software from www.pgpi.org
(available for most of the common computer operating systems, and also in various Open Source versions like GPG)

We look forward to the day when UK Government Legislation, Press Releases and Emails etc. are Digitally Signed so that we can be assured that they are not fakes. Trusting that the digitally signed content makes any sense, is another matter entirely.

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Dissidents

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g. see Spy Blog's Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - or use this easier to remember link: http://ht4w.co.uk

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

Digital Security & Privacy for Human Rights Defenders manual, by Irish NGO Frontline Defenders.

Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

Links

Watching Them, Watching Us

London 2600

Our UK Freedom of Information Act request tracking blog

WikiLeak.org - ethical and technical discussion about the WikiLeaks.org project for anonymous mass leaking of documents etc.

Privacy and Security

Privacy International
United Kingdom Privacy Profile (2011)

Cryptome - censored or leaked government documents etc.

Identity Project report by the London School of Economics
Surveillance & Society the fully peer-reviewed transdisciplinary online surveillance studies journal

Statewatch - monitoring the state and civil liberties in the European Union

The Policy Laundering Project - attempts by Governments to pretend their repressive surveillance systems, have to be introduced to comply with international agreements, which they themselves have pushed for in the first place

International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance

ARCH Action Rights for Children in Education - worried about the planned Children's Bill Database, Connexions Card, fingerprinting of children, CCTV spy cameras in schools etc.

Foundation for Information Policy Research
UK Crypto - UK Cryptography Policy Discussion Group email list

Technical Advisory Board on internet and telecomms interception under RIPA

European Digital Rights

Open Rights Group - a UK version of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a clearinghouse to raise digital rights and civil liberties issues with the media and to influence Governments.

Digital Rights Ireland - legal case against mandatory EU Comms Data Retention etc.

Blindside - "What’s going to go wrong in our e-enabled world? " blog and wiki and Quarterly Report will supposedly be read by the Cabinet Office Central Sponsor for Information Assurance. Whether the rest of the Government bureaucracy and the Politicians actually listen to the CSIA, is another matter.

Biometrics in schools - 'A concerned parent who doesn't want her children to live in "1984" type society.'

Human Rights

Liberty Human Rights campaigners

British Institute of Human Rights
Amnesty International
Justice

Prevent Genocide International

asboconcern - campaign for reform of Anti-Social Behavior Orders

Front Line Defenders - Irish charity - Defenders of Human Rights Defenders

Internet Censorship

OpenNet Initiative - researches and measures the extent of actual state level censorship of the internet. Features a blocked web URL checker and censorship map.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Reporters without Borders internet section - news of internet related censorship and repression of journalists, bloggers and dissidents etc.

Judicial Links

British and Irish Legal Information Institute - publishes the full text of major case Judgments

Her Majesty's Courts Service - publishes forthcoming High Court etc. cases (but only in the next few days !)

House of Lords - The Law Lords are currently the supreme court in the UK - will be moved to the new Supreme Court in October 2009.

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals under FOIA, DPA both for and against the Information Commissioner

Investigatory Powers Tribunal - deals with complaints about interception and snooping under RIPA - has almost never ruled in favour of a complainant.

Parliamentary Opposition

The incompetent yet authoritarian Labour party have not apologised for their time in Government. They are still not providing any proper Opposition to the current Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition government, on any freedom or civil liberties or privacy or surveillance issues.

UK Government

Home Office - "Not fit for purpose. It is inadequate in terms of its scope, it is inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management systems and processes" - Home Secretary John Reid. 23rd May 2006. Not quite the fount of all evil legislation in the UK, but close.

No. 10 Downing Street Prime Minister's Official Spindoctors

Public Bills before Parliament

United Kingdom Parliament
Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.

House of Commons "Question Book"

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

FaxYourMP - identify and then fax your Member of Parliament
WriteToThem - identify and then contact your Local Councillors, members of devolved assemblies, Member of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament etc.
They Work For You - House of Commons Hansard made more accessible ? UK Members of the European Parliament

Read The Bills Act - USA proposal to force politicians to actually read the legislation that they are voting for, something which is badly needed in the UK Parliament.

Bichard Inquiry delving into criminal records and "soft intelligence" policies highlighted by the Soham murders. (taken offline by the Home Office)

ACPO - Association of Chief Police Officers - England, Wales and Northern Ireland
ACPOS Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland

Online Media

Boing Boing

Need To Know [now defunct]

The Register

NewsNow Encryption and Security aggregate news feed
KableNet - UK Government IT project news
PublicTechnology.net - UK eGovernment and public sector IT news
eGov Monitor

Ideal Government - debate about UK eGovernment

NIR and ID cards

Stand - email and fax campaign on ID Cards etc. [Now defunct]. The people who supported stand.org.uk have gone on to set up other online tools like WriteToThem.com. The Government's contemptuous dismissal of over 5,000 individual responses via the stand.org website to the Home Office public consultation on Entitlement Cards is one of the factors which later led directly to the formation of the the NO2ID Campaign who have been marshalling cross party opposition to Labour's dreadful National Identity Register compulsory centralised national biometric database and ID Card plans, at the expense of simpler, cheaper, less repressive, more effective, nore secure and more privacy friendly alternative identity schemes.

NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID bulletin board discussion forum

Home Office Identity Cards website
No compulsory national Identity Cards (ID Cards) BBC iCan campaign site
UK ID Cards blog
NO2ID press clippings blog
CASNIC - Campaign to STOP the National Identity Card.
Defy-ID active meetings and protests in Glasgow
www.idcards-uk.info - New Alliance's ID Cards page
irefuse.org - total rejection of any UK ID Card

International Civil Aviation Organisation - Machine Readable Travel Documents standards for Biometric Passports etc.
Anti National ID Japan - controversial and insecure Jukinet National ID registry in Japan
UK Biometrics Working Group run by CESG/GCHQ experts etc. the UK Government on Biometrics issues feasability
Citizen Information Project feasability study population register plans by the Treasury and Office of National Statistics

CommentOnThis.com - comments and links to each paragraph of the Home Office's "Strategic Action Plan for the National Identity Scheme".

De-Materialised ID - "The voluntary alternative to material ID cards, A Proposal by David Moss of Business Consultancy Services Ltd (BCSL)" - well researched analysis of the current Home Office scheme, and a potentially viable alternative.

Surveillance Infrastructures

National Roads Telecommunications Services project - infrastruture for various mass surveillance systems, CCTV, ANPR, PMMR imaging etc.

CameraWatch - independent UK CCTV industry lobby group - like us, they also want more regulation of CCTV surveillance systems.

Every Step You Take a documentary about CCTV surveillance in the Uk by Austrian film maker Nino Leitner.

Transport for London an attempt at a technological panopticon - London Congestion Charge, London Low-Emission Zone, Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras, tens of thousands of CCTV cameras on buses, thousands of CCTV cameras on London Underground, realtime road traffic CCTV, Iyster smart cards - all handed over to the Metropolitan Police for "national security" purposes, in real time, in bulk, without any public accountibility, for secret data mining, exempt from even the usual weak protections of the Data Protection Act 1998.

RFID Links

RFID tag privacy concerns - our own original article updated with photos

NoTags - campaign against individual item RFID tags
Position Statement on the Use of RFID on Consumer Products has been endorsed by a large number of privacy and human rights organisations.
RFID Privacy Happenings at MIT
Surpriv: RFID Surveillance and Privacy
RFID Scanner blog
RFID Gazette
The Sorting Door Project

RFIDBuzz.com blog - where we sometimes crosspost RFID articles

Genetic Links

DNA Profiles - analysis by Paul Nutteing
GeneWatch UK monitors genetic privacy and other issues
Postnote February 2006 Number 258 - National DNA Database (.pdf) - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

The National DNA Database Annual Report 2004/5 (.pdf) - published by the NDNAD Board and ACPO.

Eeclaim Your DNA from Britain's National DNA Database - model letters and advice on how to have your DNA samples and profiles removed from the National DNA Database,in spite of all of the nureacratic obstacles which try to prevent this, even if you are innocent.

Miscellanous Links

Michael Field - Pacific Island news - no longer a paradise
freetotravel.org - John Gilmore versus USA internal flight passports and passenger profiling etc.

The BUPA Seven - whistleblowers badly let down by the system.

Tax Credit Overpayment - the near suicidal despair inflicted on poor, vulnerable people by the then Chancellor Gordon Brown's disasterous Inland Revenue IT system.

Fassit UK - resources and help for those abused by the Social Services Childrens Care bureaucracy

Former Spies

MI6 v Tomlinson - Richard Tomlinson - still being harassed by his former employer MI6

Martin Ingram, Welcome To The Dark Side - former British Army Intelligence operative in Northern Ireland.

Operation Billiards - Mitrokhin or Oshchenko ? Michael John Smith - seeking to overturn his Official Secrets Act conviction in the GEC case.

The Dirty Secrets of MI5 & MI6 - Tony Holland, Michael John Smith and John Symond - stories and chronologies.

Naked Spygirl - Olivia Frank

Blog Links

e-nsecure.net blog - Comments on IT security and Privacy or the lack thereof.
Rat's Blog -The Reverend Rat writes about London street life and technology
Duncan Drury - wired adventures in Tanzania & London
Dr. K's blog - Hacker, Author, Musician, Philosopher

David Mery - falsely arrested on the London Tube - you could be next.

James Hammerton
White Rose - a thorn in the side of Big Brother
Big Blunkett
Into The Machine - formerly "David Blunkett is an Arse" by Charlie Williams and Scribe
infinite ideas machine - Phil Booth
Louise Ferguson - City of Bits
Chris Lightfoot
Oblomovka - Danny O'Brien

Liberty Central

dropsafe - Alec Muffett
The Identity Corner - Stefan Brands
Kim Cameron - Microsoft's Identity Architect
Schneier on Security - Bruce Schneier
Politics of Privacy Blog - Andreas Busch
solarider blog

Richard Allan - former Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam
Boris Johnson Conservative MP for Henley
Craig Murray - former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, "outsourced torture" whistleblower

Howard Rheingold - SmartMobs
Global Guerrillas - John Robb
Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends

Vmyths - debunking computer security hype

Nick Leaton - Random Ramblings
The Periscope - Companion weblog to Euro-correspondent.com journalist network.
The Practical Nomad Blog Edward Hasbrouck on Privacy and Travel
Policeman's Blog
World Weary Detective

Martin Stabe
Longrider
B2fxxx - Ray Corrigan
Matt Sellers
Grits for Breakfast - Scott Henson in Texas
The Green Ribbon - Tom Griffin
Guido Fawkes blog - Parliamentary plots, rumours and conspiracy.
The Last Ditch - Tom Paine
Murky.org
The (e)State of Tim - Tim Hicks
Ilkley Against CCTV
Tim Worstall
Bill's Comment Page - Bill Cameron
The Society of Qualified Archivists
The Streeb-Greebling Diaries - Bob Mottram

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke - Freedom off Information campaigning journalist

Ministry of Truth _ Unity's V for Vendetta styled blog.

Bloggerheads - Tim Ireland

W. David Stephenson blogs on homeland security et al.
EUrophobia - Nosemonkey

Blogzilla - Ian Brown

BlairWatch - Chronicling the demise of the New Labour Project

dreamfish - Robert Longstaff

Informaticopia - Rod Ward

War-on-Freedom

The Musings of Harry

Chicken Yoghurt - Justin McKeating

The Red Tape Chronicles - Bob Sullivan MSNBC

Campaign Against the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Stop the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Rob Wilton's esoterica

panGloss - Innovation, Technology and the Law

Arch Rights - Action on Rights for Children blog

Database Masterclass - frequently asked questions and answers about the several centralised national databases of children in the UK.

Shaphan

Moving On

Steve Moxon blog - former Home Office whistleblower and author.

Al-Muhajabah's Sundries - anglophile blog

Architectures of Control in Design - Dan Lockton

rabenhorst - Kai Billen (mostly in German)

Nearly Perfect Privacy - Tiffany and Morpheus

Iain Dale's Diary - a popular Conservative political blog

Brit Watch - Public Surveillance in the UK - Web - Email - Databases - CCTV - Telephony - RFID - Banking - DNA

BLOGDIAL

MySecured.com - smart mobile phone forensics, information security, computer security and digital forensics by a couple of Australian researchers

Ralph Bendrath

Financial Cryptography - Ian Grigg et al.

UK Liberty - A blog on issues relating to liberty in the UK

Big Brother State - "a small act of resistance" to the "sustained and systematic attack on our personal freedom, privacy and legal system"

HosReport - "Crisis. Conspiraciones. Enigmas. Conflictos. Espionaje." - Carlos Eduardo Hos (in Spanish)

"Give 'em hell Pike!" - Frank Fisher

Corruption-free Anguilla - Good Governance and Corruption in Public Office Issues in the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla in the West Indies - Don Mitchell CBE QC

geeklawyer - intellectual property, civil liberties and the legal system

PJC Journal - I am not a number, I am a free Man - The Prisoner

Charlie's Diary - Charlie Stross

The Caucus House - blog of the Chicago International Model United Nations

Famous for 15 Megapixels

Postman Patel

The 4th Bomb: Tavistock Sq Daniel's 7:7 Revelations - Daniel Obachike

OurKingdom - part of OpenDemocracy - " will discuss Britain’s nations, institutions, constitution, administration, liberties, justice, peoples and media and their principles, identity and character"

Beau Bo D'Or blog by an increasingly famous digital political cartoonist.

Between Both Worlds - "Thoughts & Ideas that Reflect the Concerns of Our Conscious Evolution" - Kingsley Dennis

Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair - the rich Uzbek businessman and his shyster lawyers Schillings really made a huge counterproductive error in trying to censor the blogs of Tim Ireland, of all people.

Matt Wardman political blog analysis

Henry Porter on Liberty - a leading mainstream media commentator and opinion former who is doing more than most to help preserve our freedom and liberty.

HMRC is shite - "dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of the HMRC, who have to endure the monumental shambles that is Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)."

Head of Legal - Carl Gardner a former legal advisor to the Government

The Landed Underclass - Voice of the Banana Republic of Great Britain

Henrik Alexandersson - Swedish blogger threatened with censorship by the Försvarets Radioanstalt (FRA), the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishement, their equivalent of the UK GCHQ or the US NSA.

World's First Fascist Democracy - blog with link to a Google map - "This map is an attempt to take a UK wide, geographical view, of both the public and the personal effect of State sponsored fear and distrust as seen through the twisted technological lens of petty officials and would be bureaucrats nationwide."

Blogoir - Charles Crawford - former UK Ambassodor to Poland etc.

No CCTV - The Campaign against CCTV

Barcode Nation - keeping two eyes on the database state.

Lords of the Blog - group blog by half a dozen or so Peers sitting in the House of Lords.

notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society - blog by Dr. David Murakami Wood, editor of the online academic journal Surveillance and Society

Justin Wylie's political blog

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

Armed and Dangerous - Sex, software, politics, and firearms. Life’s simple pleasures… - by Open Source Software advocate Eric S. Raymond.

Georgetown Security Law Brief - group blog by the Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law , at Georgtown University, Washington D.C, USA.

Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia

NuLabour

Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at http://nuclear-weapons.info

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence and Security Committee - the supposedly independent Parliamentary watchdog which issues an annual, heavily censored Report every year or so. Currently chaired by the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Why should either the intelligence agencies or the public trust this committee, when the untrustworthy ex-Labour Minister Hazel Blears is a member ?

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

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Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

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Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

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Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

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Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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

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Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

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

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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

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WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers