Results tagged “MI5” from Spy Blog -


The new Director General of the Security Service (MI5), Andrew Parker gave his first public speech, yesterday Tuesday 8th October 2013, at the following in the tradition of his predecessors, before an uncritical audience at traditional at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in Whitehall.

The Guardian has a useful analysis:MI5 chief's defence of GCHQ surveillance: extracts and analysis by Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor

The full text of his speech is worth commenting on, given the mainstream media briefing and spin, which, apart from The Guardian, is wholly uncritical of all of the claims and evasions made in this speech.

Address by the Director General of the Security Service, Andrew Parker, to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Whitehall, 8 October 2013.

RUSI is a securocrat thinktank which is literally in Whitehall, opposite next to the Banqueting House, on the same opposite side of the road as to Downing Street, between the Cabinet Office and Horse Guards.

Google Maps Streetview of 61 Whitehall.

[Thanks to the readers who pointed out the error with the geography]

It is now the traditional venue for MI5 Director General's public speeches. N.B. neither the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) nor GCHQ have bothered with even this tiny level of public transparency.

1. I'd like to start by thanking Professor Michael Clarke and the Royal United Services Institute for offering this forum for my first published speech as Director-General of MI5. RUSI is rightly recognised at home and around the world in the leading rank of independent, authoritative voices on national security matters.

2. I was appointed Director-General of MI5 in April. MI5 is a highly specialised and professional organisation. Its work has been critical to the safety and security of the country and our people for over a century. Leading MI5 is both a tremendous privilege and an enormous responsibility. Those responsibilities are as wide ranging as they are serious. Our work is ever more subject to public debate and scrutiny. I want to use the opportunity of my first public speech tonight to open my contribution to those debates.

"ever more subject to public debate and scrutiny" - really ? where ? Not in Parliament nor in the DA-Notice observant mainstream media.

3. I will focus on three things:

  • the MI5 of 2013, and what guides and shapes it;
  • the enduring and diversifying threat from Al Qaida and its imitators; and third
  • the question of how in a world of accelerating technological change MI5 will continue to be able to get the information it needs to protect the UK.

4. Let me begin with a personal perspective. I joined MI5 30 years ago, fascinated and drawn by the opportunity to work in a professional organisation doing work of real national importance. That might sound starry-eyed, but it has been my genuine experience every day since.

5. Over the years, with many excellent colleagues, I have been greatly privileged to be part of MI5's work in protecting the UK through numerous extraordinary and historic events that have shaped the life of this country.

6. Covert threats to the UK's security can arise from many different quarters. Wherever and whenever they do it is MI5's job to be there, gathering intelligence, investigating and disrupting to protect the United Kingdom.

7. We have seen countless examples of the capacity of individuals, groups and nations to act aggressively for a host of reasons, be it from fear, suspicion or a sense of grievance. We are all too familiar with the way that terrorism, espionage, cyber attack, and weapons of mass destruction are all features of the darker side of our modern world.

8. Of course the type and mix of security threats shifts. Over recent decades new threats have emerged (Al Qaida), old ones have fallen away (Cold War subversion), mutated (Northern Ireland-related terrorism) or branched out in new forms (cyber espionage).

9. MI5 has changed with the times too. So have our close partner Agencies: especially GCHQ, SIS and the police, upon whom our work depends. Together we have a rich and proud history of continually adapting, reshaping, developing new skills and ways of working, and growing innovative capabilities to meet new challenges.

10. The past decade has seen some of the greatest shifts in MI5's post-war history. In recent years we have responded to the rising threat of Islamist terrorism, taken on a new lead role for intelligence work in Northern Ireland, built cyber work, and helped secure the Olympics. As I speak today we are tackling threats on more fronts than ever before.

"built cyber work" - what exactly is the MI5 rather than the GCHQ or Police aspect of this ?

11. But some things don't change. For over a hundred years MI5 has been protecting this country and its people from many kinds of danger: through two World Wars, the Cold War and bloody campaigns of terror. Critical to our success down the decades, and still today, are the enduring qualities that define MI5.

12. I had the pleasure of speaking to several hundred retired members of the Service earlier this year. The audience spanned recent leavers right back to a distinguished colleague who had served during the Second World War. They strongly recognised those defining qualities that remain at the core of MI5 today:

  • the energy, commitment and clarity of purpose;
  • the deep importance of integrity, objective judgement, and the rule of law;
  • operational agility, skill and sheer inventiveness; and
  • the way we work together in common endeavour.

13. Security threats are a feature of the modern world, but they do not define it. We are all lucky to be able to live without fear in a free society. It is the task of MI5 and all the vital partner agencies on whom we depend to keep it that way. We deal with threats and dangers all day every day. But for the public at large security concerns are rightly not a dominant part of daily life. Lethal terrorist attacks in the UK remain rare. MI5 and partners have a long track record of detecting and preventing most attempts.

14. But our task is getting harder. The threats are more diverse and diffuse. And we face increasing challenges caused by the speed of technological change. Those are my twin themes tonight.

"Lethal terrorist attacks in the UK remain rare" - not rare, but extremely rare. How much of this is due to MI5 is completely unclear.


15. My predecessor spoke last year about cyber threats. This evening I am majoring on terrorism. Describing the reality of the terrorism threat we face is challenging in public discourse. I've heard too much exaggeration at one end, while at the other there can sometimes be an alarming degree of complacency.

16. A partial picture does the public a disservice. It ultimately tends to corrode confidence in what MI5 and others do, and why. That is one of the main reasons why my predecessors over the past 20 years have made it an occasional habit to speak on the record. None of us joined MI5 to make public speeches. But I too believe strongly that the public is owed an explanation of the threats the country faces and what we are doing about them. Ministers properly take the day-to-day role in doing that, but I think it right that from time to time the public also hear direct from those who work behind the scenes to defend them.

Ministers are meant to be responsible for MI5 and the other intelligence agencies, but they simply do not bother to explain any of their actions, in any worthwhile detail.Instead they pretend that they can "neither confirm nor deny" nor "discuss" anything to do with "national security.

How convenient for them, but this stupidity breeds mistrust in the whole of government and lets conspiracy theories run wild.

17. I'm not focusing on Northern Ireland terrorism this evening in detail, but given its importance and its central part in MI5's work, I can't leave it without saying a few words. We have obviously seen enormous progress in re-building normality in Northern Ireland in the fifteen years since the Good Friday Agreement. But we still have to deal with continuing incidents of violence on both sides.

18. MI5 is necessarily focused on the darkest end. Various terrorist factions remain determined to kill people. We and the Police Service of Northern Ireland detect and disrupt the vast majority of their attempts. But occasionally we are all stung with the tragedy of wanton murder, as we saw most recently with the shooting of David Black last November. Rejecting the political process in Northern Ireland, these ragged remnants of a bygone age are in a cul-de-sac of pointless violence and crime with little community support. We will continue to work with the police to put these thugs and killers in front of the Courts.

Those "ragged remnants of a bygone age" in Northern Ireland still seem to be better armed and have much better access to weapons, explosives and bomb making skills, than any of the recent Islamist extremist plotters.

There should be more focus on Northern Irish terrorism than on purely overseas Islamic extremist plots or fund raising.

19. Turning to international terrorism, let's start with the plain facts: from 11 September 2001 to the end of March this year 330 people were convicted of terrorism-related offences in Britain. At the end of that period 121 were in prison, nearly three-quarters of whom were British. In the first few months of this year there were four major trials related to terrorist plots. These included plans for a 7/7-style attack with rucksack bombs, two plots to kill soldiers, and a failed attempt to attack an EDL march using an array of lethal weapons. There were guilty pleas in each case. 24 terrorists were convicted and sentenced to more than 260 years in jail.

Most of these had no access to weapons, explosives or even money.
Many of those convicted were not actually plotting anything in the UK at all.

The foiling of the potential armed attack by an Islamic extremist gang on the English Defence League extremist march had nothing whatsoever to do with MI5. The idiots got the time of the EDL march wrong and were stopped and arrested by Police, because their car had no insurance, with a car boot full of unsophisticated weapons !

Six admit planning to bomb English Defence League rally

Andrew Parker should have been advised not to use this (non) example in a speech about MI5 and Terrorism.

Far too many of these convictions have been simply for Orwellian Thought Crimes under the notorious Terrorism Act s58 Collection of information - most educated readers of Spy Blog have more knowledge in their heads, than many of those who have been convicted under this section ever downloaded from the internet e.g. the probable honeypot Inspire Magazine

c.f. Spy Blog MI5 / MI6 / GCHQ / CTIRU should positively deny any involvement in "Operation Cupcake" alleged cyber attack on "Inspire" magazine"

N.B. slide 20 in the Washington Post's version of a recent release from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (censored in The Guardian version) shows that "Inspire Magazine" was a successful NSA hacking target after 8 months.

EGOTISTICALGIRAFFE (Washington Post version)

20. Today, the threat level for international terrorism in the UK is assessed to be 'substantial': attacks are considered a strong possibility. But what does that really mean?

21. Since 2000, we have seen serious attempts at major acts of terrorism in this country typically once or twice a year. That feels to me, for the moment, unlikely to change.

22. While that tempo seems reasonably even, the ground we have to cover has increased as the threat has become more diversified.

23. Ten years ago, the almost singular focus of the international CT effort was Al Qaida in South Asia. Since that time we have seen violent Islamist groupings in various countries and regions exploiting conflict, revolutions and the opportunity of weakened governance to gain strength and refuge. Some have adopted the Al Qaida brand, becoming franchised affiliates with what at the same time has been a declining Al Qaida core in South Asia.

24. A time-lapse sequence of a world map over the past decade would show outbreaks in Iraq, North & West Africa, Yemen, Somalia, and most recently Syria.

25. Al Qaida and its affiliates in South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula present the most direct and immediate threats to the UK. For the future, there is good reason to be concerned about Syria. A growing proportion of our casework now has some link to Syria, mostly concerning individuals from the UK who have travelled to fight there or who aspire to do so. Al Nusrah and other extremist Sunni groups there aligned with Al Qaida aspire to attack Western countries.

Why devote any expensive resources to people who are planning to travel to fight in Syria or elsewhere ?

Would today's MI5 be snooping on a modern day Eric Blair (better known as George Orwell) who volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War ?

Many of those who do so will either be killed or disillusioned, rather than posing any sort of threat (without access to weapons or explosives etc.) if they ever come back to the UK.

26. The ability of Al Qaida to launch the centrally directed large scale attacks of the last decade has been degraded, though not removed. We have seen the threat shift more to increasing numbers of smaller-scale attacks and a growing proportion of groups and individuals taking it upon themselves to commit acts of terrorism. It remains the case that there are several thousand Islamist extremists here who see the British people as a legitimate target.

27. Overall, I do not believe the terrorist threat is worse now than before. But it is more diffuse. More complicated. More unpredictable.

28. We have again seen the reality of terrorism this year. At the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria and then in Nairobi two weeks ago, we saw once more the unconstrained intent of the terrorists in action and the impact on Britons living and working around the world. And on 22 May, Fusilier Lee Rigby was brutally killed in Woolwich -- the forthcoming trial prevents me saying more. And we have seen violent attacks against Muslims and Mosques.

MI5 did nothing at all to prevent the murderer of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich despite having the alleged murderers under various levels of surveillance for years.

It may even be that the repeated harassment and attempts to recruit the chief suspect and members of his family into becoming MI5 informers actually contributed to this stupid and evil murder.

The Intelligence and Security Committee is meant to have looked into this, but., of course, they have not actually told the public anything, whilst the murder trial proceeds, but don't hold your breath for anything at all critical of Mi5.

Again, Andrew Parker should have been advised not to use this (non) example in a speech about MI5 and Terrorism.

Counter Terrorism

29. I'd like to turn now to counter terrorism. The months preceding 7 July 2005 saw widespread scepticism about the threat... Surely it couldn't happen here? I was Counter Terrorism Director the day Al Qaida murdered 52 people in London. I led the Service's CT response - a story for another day. But the steps we and our partners were then able to take with an injection of new resources led directly a year later to what has been described as the biggest counter terrorism success in modern history. Al Qaida tried to bring down a number of transatlantic airliners using liquid bombs -- the reason why there are restrictions on taking liquids on planes today. Like so many other attempts before and since, we were able to detect that plot and, with partners, stop it.

Therefore Andrew Parker must have been complicit in or and should take personal responsibility for MI5's failure to supply the supposedly independent and all powerful Intelligence and Security Committee with all the relevant information regarding the July 2005 attacks.

The ISC had to sheepishly issue a second report into the July 2005 attacks and both the ISC and MI5 lost a huge amount of public credibility and public trust as a result.

Report into the London Terrorist Attacks on 7 July 2005 (2006)

Review of the Intelligence on the London Terrorist Attacks on 7 July 2005 (2009)

The airliner liquid bomb threat over-reaction has caused millions of pounds of economic damage and has actually put passengers lives at more risk.

The huge pile of baggage which built up at Heathrow airport and elsewhere when the restrictions on liquids were rushed in, which then was flown on passenger planes as well as cargo planes, without the associated passengers on the same plane. This risked Pan Am Flight 103 Lockerbie style bomb attacks and aided drug smuggling instead of making the public any safer.

30. But, as events have tragically shown, we can't stop them all.

31. There can be no doubt that the UK has one of the most developed and effective set of counter terrorist capabilities and arrangements in the world. But I don't say this with any boasting. As I've often said to heads of sister agencies overseas who have made such admiring remarks, what we have in the UK is not the product of some clever consultant on a management away-day with a flipchart and a marker pen. It was not designed and implemented in some giant leap.

32. The reality is of course that the UK has built and then advanced through many stages a set of defences over four decades in response to near-continuous severe terrorist threat. Over that time in Great Britain and Northern Ireland thousands of people have died at the hands of terrorists. We have continually adapted, adjusted and advanced what we do to counter it, applying hard won lessons, sometimes painfully learned. With partners in GCHQ, SIS, and the police, we continually challenge ourselves to move forward and keep improving. Increased investment and the skilful leadership of my predecessors have created a Security Service in the UK that is the envy of the world. Similar advances have been made in the agencies we depend upon.

33. In one sense counter terrorism is an extraordinary proposition. Let me say what I mean. Terrorism, because of its nature and consequences, is the one area of crime where the expectation sometimes seems to be that the stats should be zero.

34. Zero. Imagine applying the same target to murder in general, or major drugs trafficking. That is the stuff of 'pre-crime' in the Tom Cruise movie 'Minority Report'.

35. Life is not the movies. In a free society 'zero' is of course impossible to achieve in the face of persistent and serious threats - though we will keep stretching for it. The utter unacceptability of terrorism is the reason why so much effort is rightly devoted to intelligence work to detect plans and thwart plots before they occur.

36. A strong record of success risks creating an expectation of guaranteed prevention. There can be no such guarantee.

"though we will keep stretching for it." - We do not expect MI5 etc. to completely protect us from every terrorism attack and they should not be allowed to even try to snoop on all (or most) of our (innocent) communications, all of the time.

37. And then there is the difference between knowing of someone and knowing everything about them. Let me say what I mean. With greater resources since 7/7 we have worked very hard to identify as many as possible of the people in the country who are active in some way in support of terrorism.

38. As my predecessors have said at different times, there are several thousand of them, with varying degrees of involvement. My repeating this immediately risks conjuring the perhaps reasonable-seeming assumption that knowing who somebody is means MI5 then somehow knows everything about that person and can continually monitor every aspect of their life. We cannot.

Sounds like a pre-emptive washing of hands regarding the Drummer Lee Rigby murder.

Our impression of that murder is that the two alleged murderers only talked face to face to each other whilst planning an almost random , spur of the moment attack. Unless there had been an armed MI5 or Police surveillance team tracking them, no amount of MI5 communications or other remote surveillance could have prevented this evil murder.

39. The idea that we either can or would want to operate intensive scrutiny of thousands is fanciful. This is not East Germany, or North Korea. And thank goodness it's not. Successive Governments have made careful decisions about both the scale and powers of organisations like MI5, proportionate to the threats, and have gone no further. Britain is a democracy that rightly prizes the freedom of the individual. We do not want all-pervasive, oppressive security apparatus.

That is not how East German or North Korean state surveillance works, though, is it ? Even they did not / can not snoop on everything all of the time.

Surely everyone in MI5 must be familiar with this famous quote from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four part 1 chapter 1.

Spy Bog George Orwell's 1984 - telescreen and the surveillance society

There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinised.

40. Knowing of an individual does not equate to knowing everything about them. Being on our radar does not necessarily mean being under our microscope. The reality of intelligence work in practice is that we only focus the most intense intrusive attention on a small number of cases at any one time.

There is no reason to disbelieve Andrew Parker when he states the obvious regarding properly authorised and sanctioned, narrowly targeted snooping.

Nobody has ever been prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act or the Computer Misuse Act or the Data Protection Act or The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act etc. for malicious, private snooping , stalking, harassment of their ex-wives or partners (something we absolutely know happens in other organisations like the Police or the Department for Work & Pensions or HM Revenue & Customs etc.) or for financial gain (by selling information to tabloid journalists or foreign intelligence agencies or for insider trading financial speculation.

If MI5 and the other other intelligence agencies want to try to regain the public's trust, which they have lost, they will have to be much more open and ruthless in stamping out, in public, any abuses of the massive snooping infrastructure that they have built in secret.

41. The challenge therefore concerns making choices between multiple and competing demands to give us the best chance of being in the right place at the right time to prevent terrorism. There are of course processes for making these decisions, but I can't emphasise too strongly that it is not and never can be a precise science, and it should not be treated as if it were. It centres on the art of judgement by intelligence professionals, who rarely have more than fragments of a picture to work with.

42. We are not perfect, and there are always things we can learn, do better and sharpen up on. That we have a habit of doing so is one of our enduring strengths. And it's right that independent scrutineers like the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) can look at what we have done and help point out areas in which we can improve.

The neither the secretive RIPA Commissioners nor the Intelligence and Security Committee, command any public trust - they are all seen, rightly or wrongly, as Whitehall poodles.

43. I am very pleased that we are a highly accountable Service. It is critically important to the sort of country we all want to live in that organisations like mine do not have free rein, and equally that we are not politically directed. We operate under law. I am in charge of our operations, but am accountable to the Home Secretary. She in turn is accountable to Parliament and the British People, responsibilities that I know she treats with the utmost seriousness.

Like all her recent Labour and Conservative predecessors as Home Secretary, this "utmost seriousness" does not actually involve taking responsibility for MI5 failure and honorably resigning from office, does it ?

44. There is an important double-lock there: Minsters cannot direct MI5 operations, but equally I have to explain and answer for what we do. MI5 initiates operations, but conducting the most intrusive activity requires the signed authority and consent of the Secretary of State in every instance.

Not just a "Secretary of State" but a "senior official" can also sign an Intelligence Services Act warrant or a RIPA Interception warrant, after Charles Clarke's failures to properly notice identical boilerplate text on what should have been individual, different warrants he was supposed to individually scrutinise and sign. This led to the amendments in the Terrorism Act 2006 s31 & s32

45. Our accountability goes much further. MI5 is overseen independently by Parliament through the ISC, inspected by two independent Commissioners (usually senior Judges), held to account on any complaints from the public by a senior and independent Tribunal of judges and lawyers, and audited by the National Audit Office. We give evidence in court.

Neither the Interception of Communications Commissioner, Sir Anthony May nor the Intelligence Services Commissioner, Sir Mark Waller (until December 2013)

are still Judges. They are retired Judges and no longer have any legal powers e.g. Contempt of Court etc. which could be used to fine or imprison truculent Intelligence Agency personnel.

They are very secretive and refuse to engage with the public, a necessary task for which they have no legal mandate and no budget for.

46. Rightly, these arrangements are tough and testing. They have just been strengthened further by the passage of the Justice and Security Act. This has expanded the powers and the resources of the ISC by a significant degree, allowing them for the first time to investigate operational matters of significant national importance.

The ISC is virtually technologically illiterate and has no experience of successfully scrutinising multi-million pound Information Technology projects, which are so common in intelligence agencies these days.

47. I welcome this reform and the enhanced confidence it can give to the public. The fact that much of this oversight necessarily happens out of public hearing leads some commentators to mistake silence for weakness. That is plain wrong. From my experience, I know that all of the bodies I have mentioned and their supporting staff pursue their responsibilities very fully, professionally and conscientiously.

48. We are also coming soon to the first Public Hearing at which the Agency Heads will be televised answering questions from the ISC in Parliament. Whilst it can never replace the value of candid and classified evidence given in closed session about the detail of our work, it will be an important and visible extension of the accountability process and one which is transparent and tangible to the British public.

This televised session was supposed to happen in the first week of July.

When exactly is it now scheduled for ? (no information on ISC or MI5 websites)

There should be a mechanism for the general public to submit Questions to be put to the heads of the UK intelligence Agencies by the Intelligence and Security Committee. However, we fear that this will be a bland, meaningless bit of public relations, not proper transparency or scrutiny.

There are plenty of questions which do not require the revelation of tactical secrets or sources or truly secret techniques.


49. I want to mention some of the challenges we face doing our work in the future. I'll do so in the way I talk about this to my staff. I often describe the work of MI5 as a duality: keeping the country safe today, and ensuring we remain able to do so tomorrow. In other words, doing all we can to tackle the threats the country faces today, while also positioning ourselves and developing the capabilities we need to be able to protect the UK against future threats. That second aspect might seem obvious but in a rapidly changing world it is becoming ever more important. It will require constant effort and forward thinking if we are to have the ways and means to hold back tomorrow's threats.

50. Let me explain. Our success in the future depends on how well we are able to respond to two principal themes. I have mentioned the first already: the diversifying threat landscape on all fronts. The challenge for us and for SIS and GCHQ is how to spread our effort effectively across a broader, shifting front. As always we will need to ensure we are at all times looking where the problems for the UK are developing most strongly. That applies across the whole range of fronts, not just terrorism.

"That applies across the whole range of fronts, not just terrorism."
e.g. G20 summits, the United Nations, European Union, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SWIFT, Saudi banks, Brasilian petroleum and mineral industries, Belgacom Belgium's main telecommunications company, Tor users etc. , according to the revelations from Edward Snowden.

Edward Snowden

51. The second, perhaps greater, challenge is the accelerating technology race. The internet, `big data', and leaps in technology continue profoundly to change how we all live. There are healthy debates about how society and indeed the economy gain most from the best, while setting aside less welcome effects. Its relevance to our subject tonight is in the opportunities it gives to terrorists, and the challenges posed to us in tracking what they do.

52. What do I mean? The internet is used by terrorists for many purposes: broadcasting their propaganda, radicalising vulnerable individuals, arranging travel, buying items, moving money and so on. But the primary issue is communication.

53. When I joined the Service, communication between remote individuals was by telephone or by letter. Where there were grounds to do so, both could be covertly intercepted under legal warrant. We could reasonably assume that we could acquire the whole content of the target's communication for analysis. At a lower threshold we could acquire their call data: a list of what calls they had made and received, without the content.

54. The internet and related technologies offer a rather different world - better in so many ways, but better too for the terrorists. Through e-mail, IP telephony, in-game communication, social networking, chat rooms, anonymising services, and a myriad of mobile apps the terrorist has tens of thousands of means of communication. Many of those routes are now encrypted. Further advances are made every day.

"tens of thousands of means of communication" - not even full time professional internet experts have access to or will ever use "tens of thousands".

55. How the UK decides to respond to these developments will directly determine the level of security available against the threats we face. Retaining the capability to access such information is intrinsic to MI5's ability to protect the country.

56. Shifts in technology can erode our capabilities. There are choices to be made, including, for example, about how and whether communications data is retained. It is not, however, an option to disregard such shifts with an unspoken assumption that somehow security will anyway be sustained. It will not. We cannot work without tools.

57. Technologies advance all the time. But MI5 will still need the ability to read or listen to terrorists' communications if we are to have any prospect of knowing their intentions and stopping them. The converse to this would be to accept that terrorists should have means of communication that they can be confident are beyond the sight of MI5 or GCHQ acting with proper legal warrant. Does anyone actually believe that? We would all like to live in a world where there were no good reasons for covert investigation of people. But as events continue to prove, that is not the world we are

58. And let me be clear - we only apply intrusive tools and capabilities against terrorists and others threatening national security. The law requires that we only collect and access information that we really need to perform our functions, in this case tackling the threat of terrorism. In some quarters there seems to be a vague notion that we monitor everyone and all their communications, browsing at will through people's private lives for anything that looks interesting. That is, of course, utter nonsense.

Be very clear, just because Mi5 does not officially look through your innocent private (non terrorist, non criminal) communications now, the mere fact of snooping on them and storing them puts them at risk from rogue insiders (especially where personal jealousy or personal financial gain) and from future spies and extremist politicians who may change the current rules.

Until MI5 and their sister agencies can prove that they have really robust internal mechanisms to prevent such rogue or future malicious abuses of the surveillance infrastructure, it is better that they not be trusted with anything except narrowly focused investigations, coupled with an aggressive data destruction policy.

We do not expect 100% "security" and they should not have 100% access to our communications.

59. What we know about the terrorists, and the detail of the capabilities we use against them together represent our margin of advantage. That margin gives us the prospect of being able to detect their plots and stop them. But that margin is under attack. Reporting from GCHQ is vital to the safety of this country and its citizens. GCHQ intelligence has played a vital role in stopping many of the terrorist plots that MI5 and the police have tackled in the past decade. We are facing an international threat and GCHQ provides many of the intelligence leads upon which we rely. It makes a vital contribution to most of our high priority investigations. It causes enormous damage to make public the reach and limits of GCHQ techniques. Such information hands the advantage to the terrorists. It is the gift they need to evade us and strike at will. Unfashionable as it might seem, that is why we must keep secrets secret, and why not doing so causes such harm.

It should be Foreign Secretary William Hague, who is responsible for GCHQ, making such a defence of their snooping activities.

At the very least it should be the Director of GCHQ Sir Iain Lobban, who defends his own organisation in public, not the Director General of the Security Service MI5.

What precise information has been of any value to terrorists whatsoever, in the revelations by Edward Snowden ? How does the revelation of the cover name of say TEMPORA and the millions or billions spent on it, without any real technical details at all, make any difference to a potential terrorist ?

The only operational details revealed have been about spying on supposedly friendly allies and international organisations, who are clearly not terrorists.


60. In closing, let me remind you of something that is too easily forgotten. MI5 is in the end an organisation of members of the public from every walk of life who care very much about the sort of country we live in. That's why they work there. Believe me it's not for the money. Our whole raison d'être is the protection of the freedoms we all enjoy. The fundamental principles of necessity and proportionality run deep in the Service. We bring thoughtful and considered balance to decisions about use of intrusive techniques. Far from being gratuitous harvesters of private information, in practice we focus our work very carefully and tightly against those who intend harm. The law requires it. All our internal controls, systems and authorisation levels are built accordingly and subject to independent inspection and oversight.

61. Threats are diversifying, but not diminishing. The internet, technology and big data are transforming our society. We have a tough job to do in rapidly changing times. We can't stop every plot, much as we try and much as we would like to. There are choices ahead that will determine whether we can sustain what we do, or accept that it will erode.

62. But, standing before you today, I can say that we are well placed to tackle the bulk of the threats we face, because of the support we receive from our colleagues in GCHQ, SIS and the police and, most of all, because of the commitment of the men and women who make up MI5.

Ok, we support what you meant to be trying to do, but we do not trust the under resourced, technologically illiterate, far too secretive and public hating ,supposedly independent scrutiny of your activities
Note that there is no mention whatsoever in this speech of what, if anything, MI5 is doing in Counter Intelligence. Have all the foreign intelligence agencies operating in or against the United Kingdom magically stopped ?

MI5 The Security Service seems to have allowed its legally required Register of Data Controllers entry Z8881167 to expire (or else the Information Commissioner's Office has not bothered to publish a new or updated entry)

Registration Number: Z8881167

Date Registered: 19 January 2005 Registration Expires: 18 January 2013



P.O.BOX 3255

This register entry describes, in very general terms, the personal data being processed by:

This register entry contains personal data held for 3 purpose(s)
Purpose 1

Staff Administration

Purpose Description:

Appointments or removals, pay, discipline, superannuation, work management or other personnel matters in relation to the staff of the data controller.

Data subjects are:

Relatives, guardians and associates of the data subject


Data classes are:

Personal Details
Family, Lifestyle and Social Circumstances
Education and Training Details
Employment Details
Financial Details
Racial or Ethnic Origin
Physical or Mental Health or Condition

Sources (S) and Disclosures (D)(1984 Act). Recipients (1998 Act):

Data subjects themselves
Current, past or prospective employers of the data subject
Healthcare, social and welfare advisers or practitioners
Education, training establishments and examining bodies
Financial organisations and advisers
Central Government
Employment and recruitment agencies



Purpose 2

Method 2

Data Controllers further description of Purpose:


Data subjects are:

Customers and clients
Advisers, consultants and other professional experts

Data classes are:

Goods or Services Provided

Sources (S) and Disclosures (D)(1984 Act). Recipients (1998 Act):

Data subjects themselves
Business associates and other professional advisers
Employees and agents of the data controller
Central Government


None outside the European Economic Area

Purpose 3

Method 2

Data Controllers further description of Purpose:


Data subjects are:

Staff including volunteers, agents, temporary and casual workers
Complainants, correspondents and enquirers
Relatives, guardians and associates of the data subject
Advisers, consultants and other professional experts


Data classes are:

Personal Details

Sources (S) and Disclosures (D)(1984 Act). Recipients (1998 Act):

Employees and agents of the data controller
Police forces
Central Government
Ombudsmen and regulatory authorities


None outside the European Economic Area

Statement of exempt processing:

This data controller also processes personal data which is exempt from notification

Search the Register of Data Controllers:

The United Kingdom Security Service MI5 has an interesting little Quiz, to help pre-screen potential Intelligence Officer recruits,

Spy Blog disagrees with several of the "correct" answers to this Quiz. If these really reflect the MI5 Security Service Intelligence Officer mindset, then there needs to be some retraining as soon as possible.

N.B. if you have gone to the MI5 website, or have arrived at this Spy Blog web page through, say, a Google web search or through Twitter or a blog RSS feed and you have not bothered to take any precautions to hide or fake your computer's IP address and web browser details, cookies etc. from foreign companies and governments, then you should have, in our view, already failed the MI5 Intelligence Officer recruitment procedure.

Discretion is vital. You should not discuss your application, other than with your partner or a close family member.

Unfortunately, we suspect that MI5 still does not take "cyber security" / privacy and anonymity as seriously as it should.

The Quiz need Adobe Flash to be installed on your computer to run and imposes an artificial time deadline,

You can examine the source material and the questions (with the "correct" scores for each option) at your leisure, at our Spy Blog answers - MI5 Investigative Challenge Intelligence Officer Quiz web page.

This fictional scenario involves some alleged foreign intelligence officers operating from their Embassy in London (see the Spy Blog London Diplomatic List archive). However, in real life, Counter-intelligence operations against foreign intelligence officers under "diplomatic cover" in London takes up only a small proportion of MI5's resources compared with Counter-Terrorism..




A couple of paragraphs from Mi5 Director General Jonathan Evans' speech seem to contradict each other:

The Threat to National Security

Address at the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals by the Director General of the Security Service, Jonathan Evans.

16 September 2010


10. It is interesting to note in this context that in the last ten years what might be called a "zero tolerance" attitude to terrorist risk in Great Britain has become more widespread. While it has always been the case that the authorities have made every effort to prevent terrorist attacks, it used to be accepted as part of everyday life that sometimes the terrorists would get lucky and there would be an attack. In recent years we appear increasingly to have imported from the American media the assumption that terrorism is 100% preventable and any incident that is not prevented is seen as a culpable government failure. This is a nonsensical way to consider terrorist risk and only plays into the hands of the terrorists themselves. Risk can be managed and reduced but it cannot realistically be abolished and if we delude ourselves that it can we are setting ourselves up for a nasty disappointment.

We agree with this, except that it is unfair to simply blame this risk aversion / "no stone unturned" / Cover My Bureaucratic Backside nonsense on the "American media". The morally weak, unscrupulous and incompetent Labour party control freaks, who were in positions of power in Government, are at least as much to blame.

They were always willing to Be Seen To Be Doing Something about terrorist threats, even though they were helping to make matters worse.

11. In the investigations that we are pursuing day to day, sometimes our ability to uncover and disrupt a threat goes right down to the wire, as was the case with the airline liquid bomb plot in 2006. The plotters were only days away from mounting an attack. Sometimes it is possible or necessary to step in much earlier, though in such cases it can be hard to get enough evidence to bring criminal charges. But I would rather face criticism when there is no prosecution (often accompanied by conspiracy theories about what was supposedly going on) than see a plot come to fruition because we had not acted soon enough. Operation Pathway, the disruption of an Al Qaida cell in North West England 18 months ago, is a good example of a necessarily early intervention where criminal charges could not eventually be sustained. The case has subsequently been reviewed by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and Mr Justice Mitting concluded that the case involved a genuine threat from individuals tasked by Al Qaida. Whilst we are committed to prosecutions wherever possible it is a sad fact that for all sorts of good reasons terrorist threats can still exist which the English criminal justice system cannot reach. The government cannot absolve itself of the responsibility to protect its citizens just because the criminal law cannot, in the particular circumstances, serve the purpose.

"The government cannot absolve itself of the responsibility to protect its citizens just because the criminal law cannot, in the particular circumstances, serve the purpose."

No ! This is an argument for extra- judicial punishments and for the harassment of people who should be treated as "innocent until proven guilty, on actual evidence" regardless.

Where has this stupid idea been imported from ?

This weasel worded paragraph tries to imply that all of the people who were arrested under Operation Pathway pose a terrorist threat, which is obviously untrue.

There is also no mention of the "collateral damage" caused by the hurried arrests themselves, where at least two completely innocent people were forced to the ground at gunpoint, in public, putting their lives and those of the passing public at risk unnecessarily, before they were released without being arrested, and without any public apology or compensation.

Remember that despite intensive forensic searches, no weapons, explosive or terrorist money etc. was ever found in Operation Pathway.

Surely the benefit of doubt must be given to terrorist suspects, where it is not possible to catch them red handed and they should simply be be let go and kept under surveillance ?

This is an acceptable risk, as per the argument outlined in paragraph 10, because otherwise there is far too much "collateral damage" to innocent people and the terrorist s will have won a victory by conning the Government and intelligence agencies into destroying our freedoms and liberties, which is precisely what the terrorists want to achieve.

There is no evidence that the widely condemned house arrest and other restrictions without any trial or evidence, through the "Control Orders" scheme works at all.

Jonathan Evans appears to be arguing for its continuation, and possible extension to people who have been released after having served their time in prison for terrorist related offences.

Finally MI5 appears to be moving into the 21st century.

21. I would like to conclude with a brief reference to the espionage threat. Events over the summer in the United States underlined the continuing level of covert intelligence activity that takes place internationally. Espionage did not start with the Cold War and it did not end with it either. Both traditional and cyber espionage continue to pose a threat to British interests, with the commercial sector very much in the front line along with more traditional diplomatic and defence interests. Using cyberspace, especially the Internet, as a vector for espionage has lowered the barriers to entry and has also made attribution of attacks more difficult, reducing the political risks of spying. And cyber espionage can be facilitated by, and facilitate, traditional human spying. So the overall likelihood of any particular entity being the subject of state espionage has probably never been higher, though paradoxically many of the vulnerabilities exploited both in cyber espionage and traditional espionage are relatively straightforward to plug if you are aware of them. Cyber security is a priority for the government both in respect of national security and economic harm. Ensuring that well informed advice is available to those who need it, including through the use of private sector partners is, and will remain, vital.

"though paradoxically many of the vulnerabilities exploited both in cyber espionage and traditional espionage are relatively straightforward to plug if you are aware of them"

Another argument for not letting Hazel Blears anywhere near the Intelligence and Security Committee - see the previous Spy Blog article:

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

Unfortunately, MI5 itself has a history of "cyber security" blunders with their public website, their public alert email system and with the activities of the likes of Daniel Houghton, all of which were "relatively straightforward to plug if you are aware of them".

The Mail on Sunday has a peculiar article about Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, which seems to contradict itself, even as published.

Why should we believe a story based on quotes from an anonymous "senior security source" ?

MI5 'vetoed Security Minister over links to Ukrainian oligarchs'

By Christopher Leake and Mark Hollingsworth
Last updated at 1:48 AM on 15th August 2010

Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones - the Shadow Security Minister when the Tories were in Opposition - was widely expected to take over the newly created role of National Security Adviser to David Cameron with overall responsibility for British intelligence policy at home and abroad.

Widely expected by whom, exactly ? Not by us.

But the pivotal security post was awarded instead to Whitehall mandarin Sir Peter Ricketts.

The Baroness, 70, was appointed Minister of State at the Home Office in charge of security and counter-terrorism - a more junior position, which restricts her responsibilities to domestic intelligence issues.

As Minister of State at the Home Office in charge of security and counter-terrorism, she has the power to sign or reject warrants by MI5 the Security Service, if the Secretary of State is unavailable. She also sits as a permanent member of the new National Security Council , with access to the same top level intelligence summaries and reports as the Prime Minister and Sir Peter Ricketts etc.

In what way are "domestic intelligence issues" less important than foreign ones ?

Here are some quotes (not whistleblower documentary evidence of any sort) from an anonymous" security source":

A senior security source revealed that the Baroness's appointment was blocked after MI5 produced a report about her links to two controversial Russian oligarchs.

Is this the same source as in the next few paragraphs, or a different one ?

According to a source, MI5 sent the Prime Minister's aides a confidential briefing about her connections to two billionaires with alleged links to organised crime and a Russian mafia leader.

The source said: 'The job of National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister needed a high-security vetting clearance because it involved knowing and handling sensitive state secrets.

The role of Minister of State at the Home Office in charge of security and counter-terrorism also involves "knowing and handling sensitive state secrets." . Unlike the National Security Adviser role, the holder of this Ministerial position also has executive power and can sign Orders for new or amended secondary legislation and can approve or reject warrants and certificates and notices etc. under intelligence, terrorism, serious crime and immigration laws, in lieu of the Secretary of State the Home Secretary.

'As a result, Cameron's private office at No 10 asked MI5 for any relevant information that was needed for the PM to make this appointment.

'MI5 sent a summary of the intelligence on Neville-Jones's financial assoc­iations with the two oligarchs. Based on that submission and on a separate briefing by his political advisers, Cameron decided not to appoint her.'

Mr Cameron then appointed Sir Peter, a former Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, who has been credited with persuading the Prime Minister to remove British troops from Afghanistan by 2015.

Will that target date really be achieved ?

Earlier this month it was reported that Sir Peter had agreed to carry out the role for 12 months only before returning to the diplomatic service.

A source said: 'Pauline was absolutely furious that she did not get the top job. She threatened to resign, but took up the ministerial post once she realised that was the most she was going to get. She is still very bitter and prickly about being snubbed in this way.'

Insiders have pointed out that the Baroness's role is less wide-ranging than that of her predecessor Lord West, Gordon Brown's former security adviser. Although only a Home Office Under Secretary, he enjoyed a brief that spanned the globe.

As a Home Office Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Lord West had less executive power than Baroness Neville-Jones does as a Home Office Minister of State.

The two men at the centre of the controversy surrounding the Baroness are Ukrainian oligarch Dimitry Firtash and Russian tycoon Mikhail Chernoy.

Is it really acceptable, in the out of touch fantasy world of Whitehall and the Westminster village of politicians and mainstream media journalists, to think that alleged links to foreign billionaires who may or may not have links with organised crime gangs, somehow disqualifies someone from one sensitive advisory post involving national security, but that such allegations are ok for a Ministerial job also involving national security ?

If there was any substance to these allegations, then Baroness Neville-Jones could not be trusted to hold either post, something which is clearly nonsense.

Two years ago, the Baroness revealed in the House of Lords Register of Members' Interests that her office received £20,000 a year from British businessman Robert Shetler-Jones, who oversees the assets of Mr Firtash.

Why were these questions not raised two years ago then ?

Mr Shetler-Jones made the donations to the Baroness plus a further estimated £80,000 to the Conservative Party as a private individual and through his UK-registered company Scythian Ltd. The fact that it was a British-based company made the payments legal under political funding rules


The Baroness said yesterday that she received the money from the Conservative Party.

But Mr Shetler-Jones said last night that he made donations to the people who managed the Baroness's office 'over and above what I gave to the Conservative Party'. He has since stopped supporting the Baroness financially.

The Baroness used the money to pay the salaries of her adviser Mark Phillips, a research associate for the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, and a part-time secretary.

Is that two salaries out of £20,000 a year or is Mark Phillips acting as both advisor and part time secretary ?

According to the RUSI staff biography of Mark Philips:

    Prior to joining RUSI, Mark was Chief of Staff to Baroness Neville-Jones during her time as Shadow Security Minister and National Security Adviser to the Leader of the Opposition and, after the 2010 general election, Security Minister. In this capacity he managed all security legislation in Parliament, was speechwriter to Baroness Neville-Jones, and had a central role in developing the Conservative Party's national security policies and post-election implementation plan. His remit covered all aspects of national security, including the National Security Strategy, Strategic Defence and Security Review, machinery of government, intelligence, counter terrorism, resilience, Olympic security, stabilisation and conflict prevention, procurement and the role of industry in defence and security. Mark co-authored the Conservative Party's National Security Green Paper, A Resilient Nation (January 2010).

Given that this Green Paper acknowledged the obvious national security risks to the UK of over-reliance on Russian gas supplies and pipelines, there does not appear to be anything which favours Ukrainian gas billionaires there.

Mr Shetler-Jones, a property developer who speaks fluent Russian, is chief executive of Group DF - the holding company for the multi-billion-pound assets of Mr Firtash


Mr Firtash became a billionaire through a lucrative gas trading company RosUkrEnergo (RUE), which until two years ago had a monopoly over supplies from Russia into Ukraine and onwards to EU customers such as Poland and Hungary.

RUE has been the subject of an investigation by the US Department of Justice over its alleged links to Semyon Mogilevich, 64, a Ukrainian-born billionaire who is said to control RUE and is one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.

So there is no proven link between Shetler-Jones, Dimitry Firtash and "the Russian mafia" at all.

Has Dimitry Firtash been banned from the UK or had any of his assets seized by the Serious Organised Crime Agency ? No.

The second oligarch with whom the Baroness has been linked is Mikhail Chernoy, a 58-year-old Uzbekistan-born Israeli indust­rialist, who made billions from the Russian aluminium industry.

He is the main financial sponsor of the Intelligence Summit, a Washington-based Right-wing anti-terrorist think-tank, whose executive council has included the Baroness.

Chernoy has been banned from entering the US because of alleg­ations of money laundering, illegal business deals and claims of connections to the Russian mafia.

The billionaire has denied any wrongdoing or any ties to organised crime and has been cleared in several countries, including Switzerland, of links to the mafia.

Has Mikhail Chernoy been banned from the UK or had any of his assets seized by the Serious Organised Crime Agency ? No.

Speaking at her £2 million Chelsea townhouse in West London yesterday, the Baroness said: 'It was clear a very long way back that David Cameron wanted an official in that position [of National Security Adviser].

'There was not at any stage a commitment on David's part that I should have that position. It was not a position I ever discussed with him or sought. It was always my understanding that should the party win the Election I would have the position I now have.'

The Baroness denied having ever met Dimitry Firtash, Mikhail Cherney or Robert Shetler-Jones.

So, no holidays with or fawning over, foreign billionaires or rich British contributors to party funds, like so many Labour politicians then ?

She said the donations to her office had been 'properly registered' by the Conservative Party and then allocated to her.

Last night neither the Home Office not the security services were prepared to comment officially on the Baroness's appointment.

But senior Home Office officials repeated the Baroness's claim that the National Security Adviser post had always been designed to go to an official.

So, is this anonymous security source lying or exaggerating ? If so then why ?

The intelligence services are forbidden by law from interfering in UK politics, although there are no criminal sanctions against any of their employees from doing so, especially anonymously, with or without the blessing of their colleagues.

The MI5 Security Service website section on Myths and Misunderstandings claims that:

5. MI5 monitors the private lives of Ministers and other public figures

We are sometimes alleged to be responsible for monitoring the private lives of people because they have a high public profile, including members of the Royal Family, Government Ministers and Members of Parliament. This is not the case. We only investigate individuals whose activities fall within our statutory remit under the Security Service Act 1989.

6. We "vet" every government employee

Our role in the vetting of candidates for employment in sensitive government posts is based solely on checks against our records. Decisions on employing staff are the responsibility of the Department concerned and we do not investigate or interview candidates on their behalf.

The Security Service Act 1989 stipulates that we may only disclose information for use in deciding whether someone should be employed in sensitive work if we do so in accordance with arrangements approved by the Home Secretary. If, when we check, we find that we have a significant and relevant security record on an applicant, we may provide a summary assessment of the security information. However, the mere existence of a Security Service record does not necessarily mean that an assessment will be made. There is no "blacklist".

The Guardian reports:

Former MI6 worker pleads guilty over official secrets

Daniel Houghton, who faces prison, was arrested in Scotland Yard sting at central London hotel in 2009

* Haroon Siddique and agencies
*, Wednesday 14 July 2010 12.26 BST

A former British spy

Working for MI6 / SIS the Secret Intelligence Service does not automatically make you into a "spy". Perhaps Daniel Houghton's computer skills were used as a technician or website developer etc., rather than as an Intelligence Officer, who might analyse or control or participate in foreign spying missions with Covert Human Intelligence Sources or "secret agents" or informers or "intelligence assets" etc.

who tried to sell top secret files to foreign agents admitted two offences under the Official Secrets act today.

He did become a wannabe or failed spy, once he attempted to sell British secrets to what he thought was a foreign intelligence agency

Daniel Houghton, who worked for MI6 between September 2007 and last May, was arrested in a Scotland Yard sting at a central London hotel in March after offering to sell documents to Dutch intelligence agents for £2m.

Was the name of this "central London hotel" really not mentioned during any of the Court proceedings ?

Which one was it ? Any notoriety will soon become history and will bring in tourists.

The information consisted of MI5 files he had accessed while working for MI6

Why did an MI6 employee have access to MI5 files ?

What happened to "air gaps" or "data minimisation" etc ?

and a list of his former colleagues with their home addresses and mobile phone numbers.

Not just a copy of an internal email / office / job title directory then, but home addresses and mobile phone numbers. .

This really could have put their lives at risk of harassment or even physical danger.

Did the "Dutch intelligence agents" get their hands on some or all of this sensitive data ? Can they really be trusted ?

At the very least all the mobile phones listed should have been changed.

They should not just have changed the numbers or SIM cards, but also the mobile phone handsets as well, since the handsets supposedly unique International Mobile Equipment Identifiers can be so easily cross referenced with any Call Data Records made by the MI5 and MI6 people using the old phone numbers.

Appearing at the royal courts of justice,

Presumably that should read the "Royal Courts of Justice".

25-year-old Houghton denied a count of theft but admitted two charges of unlawful disclosure of material relating to security or intelligence contrary to the Official Secrets act.

The MI5 documents concerned specialist techniques developed by spies for gathering intelligence.

MI5 cannot claim exclusive copyright on such techniques, which they may have borrowed or stolen from someone else in the first place.

Houghton burned many of the files onto DVDs and CDs on his office computer before taking them home.

The former MI6 agent, who holds British and Dutch nationality,

One of the hated former Labour government's "nazi" style powers could be used by the Conservative - Liberal Democrat coalition Home Secretary Theresa May, to deprive Daniel Houghton of his British citizenship and right of entry to or abode in the UK, just as she has done in the case of the Russian spy Anna Chapman,

Provided that the Netherlands government does not revoke his citizenship first, the British government would not be making him stateless, by depriving him of his British citizenship, which they are not allowed to do.

Immigration and Nationality Act 2006 section 56 Deprivation of citizenship

(2) The Secretary of State may by order deprive a person of a citizenship status if the Secretary of State is satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good."

approached the Netherlands intelligence security and intelligence service offering to sell information in August 2009.

Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst(AIVD) (General Intelligence and Security Service)

N.B. an SSL/TLS encrypted website only ! When will MI5 and MI6 and GCHQ move to this ? (hint: it actually makes tracking visitors a bit easier) .

A meeting was arranged for 18 February 2010 but, unknown to Houghton, the Dutch had tipped off MI5. Houghton was secretly videoed and bugged as he used a memory card and laptop computer to show his wares to the Dutch agents.

The former spy said he would throw in two lists containing details of MI6 employees he had worked with.

One contained more than 300 names, while the second had the home addresses and mobile phone numbers of 39 agents.

300 names does sound like an internal email distribution list.

39 names are probably his former work mates and friends who he was willing to betray.

How long before mischief making fake disinformation claiming to be these alleged lists of names of MI5 or MI6 employees, gets published by or or by various conspiracy theory websites ?

After Houghton's initial offer to sell the information for £2m, the price was negotiated down to £900,000 and, in a subsequent phone call, a meeting was set for the handover two weeks later. During negotiations, he revealed he had a second memory card, containing further information, hidden at his mother's home in Devon. This card has never been found.

Why did he put his mother and family at risk in this way ?

Many people would have tortured and killed them all for far less than £900,000, in order to get hold of that memory card.

There has been no mention of encrypted files in any of the reports on this case - why did Daniel Houghton not bother to use anything like PGP or TrueCrypt ?

Why did he not arrange to use a Dead Letter Drop or even a courier service ?

What about electronic funds transfers to foreign bank accounts in tax havens ?

On 1 March, Houghton handed over two memory cards and a computer hard drive after displaying the contents on a laptop.

As he left the London hotel carrying the suitcase, he was arrested by plain clothes officers from Scotland Yard's specialist operations wing after a brief struggle.

Why exactly did the idiot agree to any meetings in London ?

When Houghton handed over the information to supposed Dutch spies, he claimed he had given them "everything".

But officers from Scotland Yard's specialist operations unit found hard copies of classified paperwork, some marked top secret or secret, while searching his shared rented flat in Hoxton, east London.

Another wannabe spy or whistleblower who had paper copies of secret or top secret documents at home !

Why did he not digitally photograph or scan them and then strongly encrypt the files and then destroy the paper copies ?

They also discovered a Sony memory card containing about 7,000 files, some of them deleted, thought to be copies of a list of MI6 agents and the files he tried to sell.

Deleted files can be recovered, especially from flash memory devices which do not always erase data very well due to

a) their local Wastebaskets (actually hidden under some Apple operating system versions !)

b) Many flash memory cards have WIndows FAT filing systems on them, for which there are plenty of "recover deleted photo images" programs available.

c) Their Wear Leveling algorithms which spread used flash memory locations relatively evenly, because at some point flash memory cells become permanently burned into a logical one or zero state, unlike magnetic recording media.

See the section on CD-ROMs and DVDs and USB flash memory media our Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - Technical Hints and Tips for protecting the anonymity of sources for Whistleblowers, Investigative Journalists, Campaign Activists and Political Bloggers etc.

Maybe the "etc." should include "wannabe spies" - although we suspect that such people will never bother to read it.

Some of the documents held by him have yet to be traced, and security service officials have warned that unauthorised disclosure of the material could have a significant impact on operations to protect Britain.

Houghton is also said to hold potentially valuable experience of security techniques in his memory.

So what ? Most readers of Spy Blog probably know much more dangerous stuff than the incompetent Daniel Houghton !

Is The Guardian advocating the abuse of some sort of Orwellian Labour party style "thought crime" offence like the catch all Terrorism Act 2000 section 58 Collection of information ?

Piers Arnold, prosecuting, told the judge, Mr Justice Bean, that the pleas entered today were acceptable to the prosecution.

He asked for the theft matter to be adjourned until after Houghton had been sentenced "with the prosecution's intention to offer no evidence in respect of that charge".

Presumably they had little or no evidence of actual physical theft of memory device or hard disks etc.

Unless the hard copies of the secret or top secret documents were originals rather than photocopies or computer printouts, then proving an offence under the Theft Act 1968 section 1 would have been difficult.

Surely the Government's lawyers must have known that they cannot use the Theft Act 1968 section 1 for "intellectual property" or "trade secrets" or even "national security secrets" since its wording demands the permanent deprivation of something physical.

Houghton claimed his actions were "directed by voices" and the defence has submitted psychiatric reports in mitigation.

This BBC report claims, however, that

Police sources said Houghton appeared to have been motivated by greed.

One senior source said he was living a "champagne lifestyle on ginger beer wages".

The prosecution is to obtain its own independent report ahead of sentencing at the Old Bailey on 3 September, although Bean warned that custody was "inevitable".

The Official Secrets Act 1989 section 10 Penalties lists a maximum penalty of up to 2 years in prison and / or a fine for each,of the two Section 1 offences that Houghton has plead guilty to. Technically he could be sentenced to 4 years in prison, if the sentences were made to run consecutively.

We suspect that he will not spend that long in prison - remember that it costs the taxpayer about £35,000 a year on average to keep someone in prison, probably more, if Houghton is put into a maximum security Category A prison.

BBC Radio 4 Six O'Clock News:15/04/2010 (iPlayer)

20.00 to 21.15 into the 30.55 broadcast.

Here's our Home Affairs correspondent, Andy Tighe

"The 25 year old is charged with stealing highly classified electronic files, containing intelligence gathering techniques belonging to MI5, the domestic Security Service.

He allegedly acquired them while working for MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, between September 2007 and May 2009.

It's claimed he tried to sell the files, but was caught in an undercover operation at a London hotel on March 1st this year, involving officers from the intelligence services and Scotland Yard.

Today at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, he was also accused of unlawfully disclosing lists of intelligence staff, containing sensitive personal details.

Wearing a jacket and open necked shirt, Daniel Houghton said nothing during the short hearing and gave no indication, as to whether he intends to plead guilty or not guilty.

He was remanded in custody and will next appear at a preliminary hearing at the Old Bailey on April 29th."

See also the BBC report Former MI6 man sent for Old Bailey trial, which is a slightly misleading headline, as a Preliminary Hearing is not the same as a full Trial at the Old Bailey.

It is not clear from Andy Tighe's BBC report if the " lists of intelligence staff, containing sensitive personal detail" were from MI5 the Security Service or MI6 the Secret Intelligence Service, or from both, or from other agencies as well.

Neither is it clear which bits of the allegations against Houghton relates to the Official Secrets Act 1989 and which to the Theft Act 1968,

See the Spy Blog category archive Wannabe Spies.

The importance of this case involves the bogus claims by Labour Ministers, that somehow the all of the insider staff who have access to, for example, the National Identity Register or the NHS Summary Care Record databases etc., will somehow have better personnel vetting and technological security measures than MI5 and MI6.

If these intelligence agencies cannot protect the "sensitive personal details" of their own staff from being smuggled out of their supposedly high security buildings and computer systems, then why should the general public believe Labour politicians and Whitehall mandarins, when they pretend to be able to protect the "sensitive personal details" of everyone in the whole country ?

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.


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:

Neither the Defence nor the Prosecution lawyers have sufficient security clearance !

The Magistrates Court bail hearing hearing is adjourned until Thursday 25th March 2010.

The Western Morning News (which covers the West of England, including Devon, where Daniel Houghton's family is based) reports:

Spy case delay over secrets clearance
Saturday, March 13, 2010, 10:00

A FORMER MI6 spy charged with trying to sell top secret files to a foreign country has not been able to brief his lawyers because they do not have security clearance to speak to him.

Daniel Houghton, whose family live in Holne, near Ashburton, Devon, and who studied graphic design in Exeter, remains in custody and cannot apply for bail until lawyers are given clearance.

Houghton, 25, is accused of attempting to sell confidential electronic files, including memory sticks and a laptop hard drive detailing MI5's intelligence-gathering techniques.

However, his lawyers and the legal team prosecuting him, found they would be in breach of the Official Secrets Act and could be charged with breaking the law themselves if they went ahead with the case.

This is suspiciously odd.

Previous Official Secrets Act trials have not needed specially cleared defence and prosecution lawyers.

Surely a Judge can be trusted to decide what secret evidence to include or exclude from an Official Secrets trial ?

Prosecutions under the Official Secrets Act need the consent of the Attorney General, so has she changed the rules, without any Parliamentary scrutiny or debate ?

Why are Crown Prosecution Service lawyers chosen for an Official Secrets Act case somehow not to be trusted ? Perhaps this media report is a bit misleading

"security cleared" lawyers are not necessary for the more serious charge (with a longer potential prison sentence) against Daniel Houghton under the Theft Act.


Piers Arnold, prosecuting, outlined the dilemma during a brief hearing at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.

He said: "What the joint proposal is today is that the matter be put off for a period of two weeks with a view to carrying out the relevant security clearance procedures for the defence so they are in a position to take full and mindful instructions from their client."

Michael O'Kane, defending, said: "In order to get instructions from Mr Houghton with a view to ascertaining whether a full bail application can be made, we would be falling foul of the Official Secrets Act and exposing him to further offences as well as ourselves."

District Judge Timothy Workman adjourned the case until Thursday March 25, when a bail application is expected to be made.


How can the defence lawyers be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act, when their conversations with their client are supposedly Legally Privileged ?

Why do the lawyers, on either side, need full access to all the secret information allegedly being sold, simply for a bail hearing ?

Who will security vet the Judge in the case ?

"security vetting", is obviously no guarantee of any sort, since many other accused spies in the past have had a very high "security clearance", which proved to be worthless.

There is no legal basis, under the Official Secrets Act 1989, for any exemptions from prosecution for anybody, even if they actually do have a "security clearance", something which is not mentioned at all in the wording of the Act.

There is still no mention of why Houghton is not being prosecuted under the Terrorism Act section 58.

There is still no mention of which country's intelligence agency Houghton is accused of thinking that he was selling the top secrets to.

The Daily Telegraph reports that former the MI6 employee Daniel Houghton, who is being tried under the Theft Act and the Official Secrets Act, for ineptly trying to sell alleged MI6 and MI5 "intelligence gathering technique) secrets to undercover UK counter intelligence agents, used DVD / CD and USB flash memory technology to smuggle out and store the alleged top secret and secret documents:

Spycatchers trap MI6 man 'trying to sell secrets'

A former MI6 spy has been accused of trying to sell "top secret" intelligence files to a foreign government for £2m.

By Duncan Gardham, Security Correspondent
Published: 5:12PM GMT 03 Mar 2010

Daniel Houghton, 25, was caught in a sting operation after allegedly approaching a foreign intelligence agency offering to sell them information he had collected while working for the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6.

The files, which belonged to the domestic security service MI5, allegedly related to the capabilities of the security and intelligence services and the techniques they have developed to gather intelligence, sources said, and were labeled "top secret" and "secret."

Houghton, who worked for MI6 between September 2007 and May 2009, allegedly telephoned the foreign intelligence service three months after leaving MI6 to try and arrange a deal.

He telephoned a "foreign intelligence service" and expected not to alert the UK counter-intelligence units ??

But undercover MI5 officers, known as "spy catchers", met him in February to view the material on his laptop and allegedly negotiated a price of £900,000, while recording the meeting with hidden listening devices.

If the alleged "top secret" documents really deserved that level of classification, then some people and organisations would be willing to pay much more than that.

Houghton allegedly told them he had downloaded the information onto a number of CDs and DVD disks which he then copied onto a secure digital memory card of the type used in cameras.

He also allegedly told the undercover MI5 officers that he had copied material onto a second memory card which he had hidden at his mother's home in Devon.

They arranged to meet him again at a central London hotel where he allegedly showed them the material on a laptop and then handed over two memory cards and a computer hard drive.

Sources said he was allowed to leave the hotel room with £900,000 in a suitcase before he was arrested as he waited for a hotel lift by plain clothes officers from the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command.

It is understood Houghton told them: "You've got the wrong man."

Police have conducted a series of raids since the arrest on Monday at Houghton's shared flat in Hoxton, east London and at his mother's home, a farm house in Holne, near Newton Abbot in Devon.

They are understood to be looking for any copies of the material he may have downloaded and any other material he may have stolen.

Sources said they had found additional hard copies of material marked "top secret," "secret" and "restricted."


According to The Press Association etc

The two detailed charges he is facing are: Between September 1, 2007 and May 31, 2009 within the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court he stole property, namely a number of electronic files containing techniques for intelligence collection, belonging to the British Security Service. Contrary to section 1(1) Theft Act 1968.

The other charge is that on March 1, 2010 within the jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court, being a person who has been a member of the security and intelligence services, without lawful authority he disclosed articles relating to security or intelligence, namely a number of electronic files containing techniques for intelligence collection, which were in his possession by virtue of his position as a former member of the British Secret Intelligence Service. Contrary to section 1(1) Official Secrets Act 1989.

  • Does this imply that the authorities have no proof as to exactly when Houghton is alleged to have stolen the secret and top secret documents and have just bracketed his entire period of employment with MI6 ?

This case shows that trusted employees, even of MI6 the Secret Intelligence Service, can use easily concealed USB flash memory devices to smuggle out secret documents from supposedly heavily guarded buildings or computer networks.

This should be of interest to other, more honourable and less corrupt whistleblowers - see our Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers Technical Hints and Tips for protecting the anonymity of sources for Whistleblowers, Investigative Journalists, Campaign Activists and Political Bloggers etc.

However, this case also shows a lack of professionalism by the wannbe corrupt spy, who seems to have revealed rather too much personal information about himself and his family to his supposed "foreign intelligence agency" customers. Meeting them in person a hotel room in London (rather than in a foreign country), not making use of Dead Letter Drops or encryption and expecting to simply walk away with £900,000 in cash in suitcase (without being robbed or murdered) after handing over the secrets , seems rather arrogant, naive, and obviously illegal.

  • Did Houghton work on a joint MI6 Secret Intelligence Service and MI5 Security Service operation ?

  • if not how did he have access to MI5 secrets when working for MI6 ?

  • Why did he leave the employment of MI6 last year ?

At the age of 25, he must have started stealing secrets only a year after leaving the University of Birmingham. Given the six months or more it can take for recruitment and Developed Vetting (DV) security vetting clearance, he must have started stealing secret stuff almost immediately that he had access to it.

According to the Daily Mail: Ex-MI6 agent appears in court charged with trying to sell top secret files 'for £2million'

Born in Holland, Houghton has dual British-Dutch nationality and is fluent in English and Dutch. Educated at Dartmouth Community College in Devon where his family live in nearby Holne, Houghton studied graphic design at Exeter College.

At Birmingham University, he studied computer interactive systems, achieving top marks which brought him to the attention of the security services

  • Did he hack in to their supposedly secure computer systems from the inside ?

We doubt that Daniel Houghton was employed as an "agent" or as a "spy" i.e. a Covert Human Intelligence Source (usually foreign but also within the UK) as the mainstream media headlines claim.

  • Was he employed as an Intelligence Officer or was he employed to work on their Information Technology systems ?

  • Which "foreign intelligence agency" did he think that he was betraying and selling the secrets to ? There really is no good reason for keeping that a secret from the British public.

  • Was he working alone, or did he have accomplices ?

Why the Theft Act 1968 but not the Terrorism Act 2000 section 58 Collection of information ?

  1. The Official Secrets Act 1989 section 1 (1) carries a penalty(defined in section 10 Penalties of "only" up to 2 years in prison and / or a fine (per offence), is obviously applicable to a former member of MI6.

  2. Unless Houghton was stupid enough to steal and to hand over the original CDs, DVDs or the computer hard disk, which physically belonged to his former employer MI6, then how does the Theft Act 1968 apply ?

    There would be no need for all the civil Copyright legal cases, if somehow, a mere digital copy of information or data could be misinterpreted as Theft as defined by the Theft Act 1968 section 1

    (1)A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it;


    This cannot apply to digital copies of the information or documents - it can only apply to the originals or master copies on physical media or hardware.

    The theoretical maximum of up to 7 years in prison is for major thefts of property or money.

  3. Why is Daniel Houghton not also facing a Terrorism Act 2000 section 58 Collection of information charge, which attracts a penalty of up to 10 years in prison ?

    Surely "top secret" MI5 "intelligence gathering techniques" is obviously "information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism" ?

    This is a catch all offence which does not require proof of any actual terroristic intent, only knowledge of the fact of its potential usefulness to terrorists.

    These documents, if accurately reported above, would be much more useful to terrorists, than the stuff which several people are in currently in prison for, which they downloaded from the internet.

Anonymous briefing before Court Reporting Restrictions apply

It is also worth questioning why the authorities seem to have anonymously briefed Duncan Gardham, the Security Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph in so much detail ?

This report (and our blog analysis of it) comes before any media reporting restrictions have been ordered, as Daniel Houghton is not yet facing trial by jury.

This seems to be a feature of recent national security trials - the accused is found guilty in the mainstream media, well before he faces an Judge and Jury, on the basis of anonymous leaks from nameless Whitehall bureaucrats, given to selected, favoured mainstream media journalists.

N.B. if the UK Government or legal system authorities want bloggers not to comment on a trial in progress, then they will have to inform us directly via email or through a comment posting, or through a prominent online public announcement that there are actually reporting restrictions in place and the details of exactly what they cover. We are reasonably intelligent, but not psychic.

Those of you taking an interest in this, or similar cases, should download and save your own copies of any relevant newspaper or blog articles to your own (secure and encrypted ?) computer systems, since the online versions could easily be be censored through secret injunctions or takedown notices, or just the threat of expensive legal action.

Another bit of proposed legislation, which will hopefully be lost due to the forthcoming General Election, is the flawed Bribery Bill 2009

For some reason it has been introduced by Jack Straw's Ministry of (In)Justice in the House of Lords.

Note that there are no provisions to strengthen the legislation against corrupt lobbying by Members of the House of Commons or of the House of Lords or of senior Whitehall Sir Humphreys.
Incredibly, it appears that this Labour Government still intends to make it illegal for, say the Secret Intelligence Service MI6 to bribe a Foreign Government official for information or influence, even where this serves the United Kingdom's national security interests.

Conversely, they are giving any "law enforcement agency", an unfathomable exemption from bribery offences, "for the prevention or detection" of Serious Crime. This includes Local Authority Trading Standards or Environmental Health departments, who are notorious for their lack of expertise and training, when it comes to "simple" Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act use of Covert Human Intelligence Sources.

What conceivable excuse have these "law enforcement agencies", including the Police or HM Revenue and Customs, got for bribing anyone whatsoever ?

The MI5 Security Service website design was officially re-launched on the 1st of September 2009. - New version of Security Service website

We have also introduced a new Freephone number (0800 111 4645) to make it easier for members of the public to contact us to report suspected threats to national security. This is in addition to our existing Public Telephone Number (0207 930 9000).

N.B. the exisiting telephone number should "officially" be written as 020 7930 9000.

If, as stated in the they really are trying to recruit agents and informants from overseas , as well as from within the UK, then the international dialing code prefix would also help: +44 (0)20   +44 020 7930 9000.

Given how little content there is overall on the MI5 website, the "other language" versions could easily have been full translations of the whole English language website, rather than just cut down versions.

More worrying, is the inconsistent, or entirely missing foreign language versions of the SSL encrypted secure web contact form.

The English language secure web form, correctly, goes to an SSL encrypted web page (https://) , and then properly processes the potentially very sensitive personal details or intelligence tip off, with a server side script, again protected via SSL, even if you follow a link from the default unencrypted web pages.

The Arabic version secure web form also does this correctly..

However, the Welsh language web contact form, but it does not, by default, make use of SSL encryption. (It can be made to do so, if you change "http://" to "https://" by hand). We suspect that very little use will be made of this Welsh language form, but Welsh is one of the legally defined official languages of the United Kingdom.

The French, Russian, Urdu, Farsi and Chinese language versions do not bother to offer a link to a translated version. These foreign language pages even hide the navigation links to the original English version of the secure web contact form.

The Chinese language version has a broken web link to what was probably former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's official ministerial biography on the Home Office website.

The Farsi version of the website has a translated contacts page, which mentions Secure Sockets Layer (spelled out in English) , but does not bother to use it. The postal address also misses out the word "Desk" from "The Enquries Desk. PO Box 3255, London SW1P 1AE "

How relevant or interesting to the rest of the world, are the relatively detailed explanations about UK legislation like UK Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 etc., which is what much of the translated versions seem to concentrate on ?

Still missing from the English version, let alone the foreign language ones, is an SMS text message short code method of contact (mobile phones are much more common than internet connected computers) ,

There is still no MI5 Security Service published PGP public encryption key or a public email address - why not ?.

The MI5 Security Service MI5 Contacts Us web page is still much better than, that of the MI6 Secret Intelligence Service, or even the Metropolitan Police Service Anti-Terrorism Hotline contact pages (which does at least have an encrypted web form).

Some of the new features such as the MI5 News and Updates RSS syndication feed had already been sneaked in back in July, without any fanfare.

We wonder if this new website design (not very different from the old one) has actually been properly security penetration tested, following the Cross Site Scripting vulnerability demonstrated back in July. - see Which was worse - the MI6 website spelling mistakes or the MI5 website Cross Site Scripting vulnerability ?

The graphical images chosen and, presumably officially approved at the highest level, to represent the MI5 "corporate brand image" or "look and feel" give the impression of a sinsister, Kafkaesque bureaucracy:


Note how many blurred images, or people with their backs to the camera, or with their faces otherwise obscured etc. there are in this selection of graphics from the website, which seem to depict the organisation and its targets and the general public as "shadow people".

The mainstream media like the Mail on Sunday, and The Sun, quoting the Conservative party spokesman and former military officer Patrick Mercer MP, have pointed out the embarrassing spelling mistakes made on the Secret Intelligence Service MI6 website

Frank, a security officer, might have been expected to know there aren't three Ls in patrollling while, elsewhere, drivers taken on for chauffering duties (as opposed to chauffeuring) will be carrying out saftely checks and graduates can expect to have a great carees after joinging the service.

Other spelling mistakes include apppointed, negotations and crtical.

But the most shocking mistake comes in the introduction, where MI6 cannot even get 'instability' right, listing 'regional instablity'

Very embarassing, but surely this is less serious than the reported MI5 Security Service website which had a Cross Site Scripting vulnerability last week ?

MI5 and WHO Websites Compromised

Vulnerable to cross-site scripting attacks

By Lucian Constantin, Web News Editor

22nd of July 2009, 11:33 GMT

Websites belonging to UK's national security agency, the MI5 (Military Intelligence, Section 5) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been found vulnerable to cross-site scripting attacks. The weaknesses allow attackers to inject rogue IFrames, prompt JavaScript alerts or redirect visitors to other potentially malicious Web pages.

The cross-site scripting flaws were reported by a member of a group of programmers and security enthusiasts calling themselves Team Elite. Going by the online handle of [-TE-]-Neo, the grey hat hacker posted screenshots of several proof-of-concept XSS attacks against the two websites.

Cross-site scripting, or XSS, is a type of vulnerability that facilitates injecting rogue code into otherwise legit Web pages. Such flaws generally result from failure to properly validate user input into forms and can have different levels of impact, with persistent or Type 2 XSS being the most severe.

It is worth noting that, in the case of the MI5 and WHO websites, the cross-site weaknesses are non-persistent, or Type 1, and can only be exploited by opening malformed URLs. However, this does not mean that they are not dangerous.

Non-persistent XSS vulnerabilities can be used to significantly increase the credibility of phishing or malware-distribution campaigns. Instead of having to trick a user into visiting a fake page hosted on a dubious domain, the attacker can link to a vulnerable page on the legit domain directly.

The weakness in the MI5 website is located in the search form, which allows passing code as a search string. This can be used to inject a rogue IFrame into the page, which can, in turn, load more malicious code from a third-party domain via its src= attribute.


According to the hacker, the administrators of both websites have been notified, but, at the time of writing this article, the MI5 site was still vulnerable.


Why is this lack of a quick response from MI5 not a surprise ?

The stupid "shoot the messenger" attitude to those who try to report vulnerabilities, so prevalent in Whitehall, must have contributed to this unprofessional mistake, which very seriously damages the Security Service's brand credibility, as supposed "cyber terror / cyber warfare" defence trusted advisors.

Will the Intelligence and Security Committee or the new Office of Cyber Security bother to look into this incident, which reveals that proper website security management procedures, are still not being followed, even after the MI5 website notification email debacle ?

We doubt it.


Yesterday the Security Service MI5, dutifully alerted us via email, that the Terrorism Threat Level had been reduced a notch from SEVERE to only SUBSTANTIAL

Current threat level

The current threat level is assessed as SUBSTANTIAL (as of 20th July 2009 - see threat level history for previous changes).

This means there is a high likelihood of future terrorist attacks and indicates a continuing high level of threat to the UK.

See The UK's threat level system for more information on what threat levels mean, who decides the level of threat and how the threat level system is used.

The Government continues to maintain a state of heightened readiness in response to the threat from international terrorism. It remains the Government's policy to issue warnings or advice if this ever became necessary to protect public safety in the event of a specific and credible terrorist threat.

Source and form of the threat

The threat of international terrorism comes from a diverse range of sources, including Al Qaida and associated networks, and those who share Al Qaida's ideology but do not have direct contact with them. A threat could manifest itself from a lone individual or group, rather than a larger network. Domestic terrorism related to Northern Ireland, principally from dissident Irish Republican and Loyalist terrorist groups, also remains a threat.

The terrorist threat can take a number of forms, as terrorists may use a variety of methods of attack to achieve their objectives. These may include explosive devices, firearms, missiles, kidnapping, infiltration and electronic attacks. See the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) (new window) website for practical advice on how to defend against these threats.

This page has been produced in consultation with the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC). It will be regularly reviewed and updated. Whilst every care has been taken in preparing this summary, the Security Service accepts no liability for any statement contained therein (see our Content Disclaimer).

What exactly is anyone doing now , which is any different from before ?

The general public is still being told to Obey and Report Anything Suspicious, as always..

MI5 and the terrorists are unlikely to be doing anything different from normal either.

Note the importance given to the Content Disclaimer !

MI5 Security Service senior management officials appear to be trying to cover themselves legally, from any blame (or lawsuits) arising from any failures on their part:

Security Advice disclaimer

The Security Service shall have no liability to any person for the accuracy or contents of the security advice published on this website. The Security Service assumes no responsibility to any person. No warranties are given. No liability is accepted for any inclusion or omission herefrom or the absence of any other information or matter. Furthermore, no liability or responsibility is accepted for any further advice given or omission to give further advice, prior to or subsequent to the advice published on this website.

The MI5 Security Service website now sports an RSS syndication feed for News and Updates, with little buttons to spread the News items to Digg,, Reddit and Stumbleupon

All very "Social Networking" aware, however the actual feed

does not include any mention of the change to the Terrorism Threat Level.

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.


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 Daily Telegraph (followed by the rest of the mainstream media and plenty of blog commentators) have reported the comments of the former Director General of MI5 the Security Service, Dame Stella Rimington, about her unease with the the current Labour Government's legislative assault on our civil liberties.

Spy chief: We risk a police state

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has warned that the fear of terrorism is being exploited by the Government to erode civil liberties and risks creating a police state.

By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 10:42PM GMT 16 Feb 2009


"Since I have retired I feel more at liberty to be against certain decisions of the Government, especially the attempt to pass laws which interfere with people's privacy," Dame Stella said in an interview with a Spanish newspaper.

"It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state," she said.

Dame Stella, 73, added: "The US has gone too far with Guantánamo and the tortures. MI5 does not do that. Furthermore it has achieved the opposite effect: there are more and more suicide terrorists finding a greater justification." She said the British secret services were "no angels" but insisted they did not kill people.


We like to read original sources and to check evidence for ourselves, so here is a link to the original interview in the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, which was published over two weeks ago.

The first part of the interview (omitted below) deals with how realistic spy novels and films are, compared with her real life experience, and with her own successful career as a spy thriller novellist.

Stella Rimington, ex directora de los servicios secretos británicos (MI5) y novelista

"La prensa me calificó deamade casa superespía"

IMA SANCHÍS - 04/02/2009


¿Alguna vez ha estado en desacuerdo con medidas antiterroristas?

Desde que me he jubilado me siento con mayor libertad para estar en contra de ciertas decisiones del Gobierno, especialmente el intento de aprobar leyes que se inmiscuyen en la intimidad de las personas.


Sería mejor que el Gobierno reconociera que existen riesgos en lugar de atemorizar a la gente para poder aprobar leyes que restringen las libertades, precisamente uno de los objetivos del terrorismo: que vivamos atemorizados y bajo un Estado policial.

Tras el 11-S, ¿hay servicios secretos de ciertos países que se han extralimitado?

Sí. EE. UU. ha ido demasiado lejos con Guantánamo y las torturas, eso el MI5 no lo hace, y además ha conseguido el efecto contrario: cada vez hay más terroristas suicidas que encuentran una mayor justificación.

¿Cuál ha sido su decisión más difícil?

Muchísimas, pero quizá, al finalizar la guerra fría, decidir si debíamos ayudar a los servicios de inteligencia de los países del Este en la transición democrática o no, porque habían sido nuestros enemigos y además continuaban espiándonos. Los ayudamos.


You can get an idea of how well the Daily Telegraph translated this via online translation tools, e.g. Babelfish

The Sunday Telegraph has two stories about Foreign Spies in the United Kingdom, which, if true, raises serious Questions about the current performance of MI5 the Security Service., claiming that the traditional espionage threat against the UK is not being dealt with because of the resources diverted to anti-terrorism investigations.

Just as seriously, the Sunday Telegraph seems to be claiming that a Foreign Intelligence agency, the CIA is actively snooping on, and recruiting informers and "intelligence assets" here on the streets of the United Kingdom, outside of the direct control of the British intelligence agencies and outside of the legal powers and protections under which they are supposed to work.

  • Is MI5 the Security Service lobbying for more money and resources i.e."British Jobs for British Spies"

  • Why has the CIA been allowed to spy on British citizens, directly here in the United Kingdom, independently of the British intelligence agencies ?

  • What happened to British Sovereignty ?

  • How can we be sure that they are not using their usual tactics of entrapment or perhaps torture, here on British soil, things which we are supposed to believe that UK intelligence agencies do not indulge in, but which US ones certainly do when operating outside of the United States ?

  • How can we be sure that the US agents, especially if "they don't tell us the names of all their sources" are not wastefully duplicating the work already done by the British agencies ?

  • How can we be sure that both British and US agents are not being played off against each other by their informers and "intelligence assets" ?

  • What guarantee is there that the US agents are all really targeting Al Quaeda etc. in the UK, and are not also indulging in their own economic and political espionage and insider trading etc ?

  • Has Home Secretary Jacqui Smith illegally conspired to evade the provisions of the various Acts of Parliament which are supposed to regulate British intelligence agency operations, by allowing the CIA to operate illegally here in the UK ?

  • Will the Intelligence and Security Committee under their new chairman Kim Howells bother to investigate this dire situation, or will they just publish Yet Another Anodyne Censored Annual Report ?

Britain under attack from 20 foreign spy agencies including France and Germany

Spies from 20 foreign intelligence agencies, including Nato allies such as France and Germany, are attempting to steal Britain's most sensitive secrets.

By Sean Rayment, Security Correspondent
Last Updated: 9:05PM GMT 07 Feb 2009

Russia and China have been identified as having the most active spy networks operating in the UK but it is understood that some European countries are also involved in espionage attacks against Britain.

Details of the spy plots were revealed in a government security document obtained by The Sunday Telegraph which states that Britain is "high priority espionage target" for 20 foreign intelligence agencies.

Why do the Daily Mail's online picture editors keep mis-identifying images of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) headquarters building at Vauxhall Cross, at the corner of Vauxhall Bridge and the Albert Embankment, on the South side of the river Thames in London, with that of the Security Service (MI5) ?

The latter is at Thames House, on the North side of the River Thames, at the corner of Lambeth Bridge and Victoria Embankment, near to the Houses of Parliament.


See the official gallery of images of Thames House on the Security Service MI5 website.

Both buildings are completely different visually, but, in recent months, the Daily Mail has now twice mis-identified the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS / MI6) building at Vauxhall Cross as being the Security Service MI5 headquarters.

e.g. Today's article about First Division Association civil service trades union representation at both of these intelligence agencies (obviously with a "no strike" agreement in place);

The spy who came in from the union meeting: MI5 brings in 'relationships support' for staff


Spy central: The MI5 headquarters near Vauxhall Cross on the River Thames

The EXIF metadata in the original of this image only says:

Credit : © Reuters

Previously, to illustrate Quentin Letts' article on the Intelligence and Security Committee on the 18th of July: Some custard pies for our shadow spook-watchers they used the caption


MI5 headquarters - above scrutiny?

The EXIF metadata for this image is a bit more informative:

Object Name : picture NICK SKINNER.London views taken from roof of Millbank To
Date Created : 2002:09:22
Originating Program : AMB eLib
City : London
Province-State : London
Country-Primary Location Name : United Kingdom
Original Transmission Reference : IP*1919671
Source : Daily Mail
Caption-Abstract : picture NICK SKINNER.London views taken from roof of Millbank Tower..MI5 headquarters.

This metadata captioning also mis-identifies the building, but that really is no excuse for a London based mainstream media organisation, which regularly publishes articles about these two intelligence agencies.

Obviously, we did try to leave a Comment on the Daily Mail blog style website, back in July, simply pointing out the error, but, as many other people have found, the comment moderation / censorship, which appears to have been sub-contacted out to a third party company, is insultingly useless, and there are no comments displayed at all.

Other people also seem to be having problems with the Daily Mail's website handling of comments and online images e.g. Tim Ireland: The Daily Mail: let's kick arse and take names and Beau Bo D'Or: Daily Mail Steals Another Image and Accuses Me of Google Bombing

The Associated Newspapers management need to sort this out, because it is damaging the online reputation of the Daily Mail brand.

The relationship between the mainstream media and anonymous briefings by intelligence agency and police sources is a strange one.

The Guardian has, mysteriously, published a couple of figures, which do not appear in the Annual Reports of the Interception of Communications Commissioner or of the Intelligence Services Commissioner, which do not seem to add up.

MI5 targets dissidents as Irish terror threat grows

* Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
* The Guardian,
* Monday July 28 2008

The security services are picking up more suspicious activity from Northern Ireland's dissident republicans than from any other radical group in the UK, the Guardian has learned.

Up to 60% of all the security services' electronic intercepts - phonetaps and other covert technical operations - have come from dissidents, despite the threat posed by hundreds of suspected Islamist extremists on the mainland.

MI5 is directing its attention to a hardcore of republicans, fearing they are determined to destabilise the peace process.

"Up to 60% of all the security services' electronic intercepts - phonetaps and other covert technical operations" - that is quite a startling claim, and if true, a very worrying one.

Sir Hugh Orde, chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, has separately confirmed that the dissident threat is the highest since he took office.

With fears escalating over the intent of republicans opposed to powersharing in the province, security sources have told the Guardian that:

· 80 hardcore dissidents may be plotting terrorist attacks.

· The Real IRA and Continuity IRA's short- term goal is to kill a Catholic police officer in the hope of deterring young Catholics and nationalists from joining the PSNI.

· Dissidents' targets have also recently extended to prison officers.

· Police numbers are so stretched that officers with anti-terrorist experience are being transferred from Greater Belfast - once the crucible of the Troubles - to rural areas.


The Director General of the Security Service MI5 , Jonathan Evans' speech in November 2007 in which he claimed that:

I mentioned earlier that the number of people we are seeing involved in terrorist-related activity in the UK has increased to at least 2000. And we suspect that there are as many again that we don't yet know of.

Something does not add up here.

Can it be true that 60% of MI5's surveillance activities are directed at only 80 hardcore dissidents supporting the Real IRA / Continuity IRA, and only 40% is being directed at the remaining 2000 - 80 = 1920 suspects ? These are presumably mostly Islamic suspects, but surely there are still some Protestant terrorist group supporters ? Is the surveillance of Russian and Chinese intelligence agents etc. who are also being monitored by MI5, counted separately ?

The tenor of the article strongly implies that this figure does not just apply to Northern Ireland, but to the whole of the United Kingdom.

Assuming that is actually possible to equate each "phonetap" with each "other covert technical operation" as a measure of MI5's Surveillance Activity:

80 x Real IRA = 60% of Surveillance Activity
1920 x Al-Quaeda = 40% of Surveillance Activity

(80 x Real IRA) / 60 = 1% of Surveillance Activity
(1920 x Al-Quaeda ) / 40 = 1% of Surveillance Activity

(80 x Real IRA) / 60 = (1920 x Al-Quaeda) / 40
80 x Real IRA x 40 = 1920 x Al-Quaeda x 60

3200 x Real IRA = 115200 x Al-Quaeda
Real IRA = (115200 / 3200) x Al-Quaeda

Real IRA = 36 x Al-Quaeda

Is each Real IRA or Continuity IRA supporter suspect in Northern Ireland really generating 36 times as much MI5 electronic surveillance activity, as each, mostly but not entirely mainland UK, Al Quaeda supporter suspect ?

Are Real IRA and Continuity IRA supporters likely to be more or less adept than Al-Quaeda linked plotters, at protecting their electronic communications, and in countering directed or
intrusive surveillance ?

The Omagh bomb trial must have made it clear to these "hardcore dissidents" that their mobile phone calls had been analysed and intercepted, both in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic.

Are they playing disinformation games with the Security Service, and creating artificial "chatter", to soak up and waste their surveillance resources ?

Even allowing for the fact that MI5, targether than the Police Service of Northern Ireland now has the lead role in Northern Irish anti-terrorist operations, and that on the mainland UK, many Al-Quaeda supporter suspects might be being watched by the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command or other Police Forces, the numbers in this article still seem to be wrong.

[Hat tip to Lord Norton, writing at the new House of Lords group blog Lords of the Blog]:

Adding value

Published July 1, 2008 Lord Norton

What have the Rt Rev. John Charles, Bishop of Lincoln, and Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5, got in common?

Answer: They were both introduced into the House of Lords today. The Bishop joins the House by reason of seniority, replacing a retiring Bishop. Baroness Manningham-Buller is, as far as I am aware, the first former head of MI5 to be elevated to the peerage. She is not, though, the first member of the security service to become a peer.


Hansard says:

Introduction: Baroness Manningham-Buller

Baroness Manningham-Buller--Dame Elizabeth Lydia Manningham-Buller, DBE, having been created Baroness Manningham-Buller, of Northampton in the County of Northamptonshire, for life, was introduced between the Lord Inge and the Lord Luce.

Wikipedia entry for Baroness Manningham-Buller

It will be interesting to see if this former Director General of the Security Service MI5 speaks or votes in the forthcoming stages of the Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 which will debated in the House of Lords. - the Second Reading is due next week on Tuesday 8th July 2008.

About this blog

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

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

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

Email & PGP Contact

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


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

We offer this verifiable GPG / PGP public key (the ID is available on several keyservers, twitter etc.) as one possible method to establish initial contact with whistleblowers and other confidential sources, if it suits their Threat Model or Risk Appetite, but will then try to establish other secure, anonymous communications channels e.g. encrypted Signal Messenger via burner devices,or face to face meetings, postal mail or dead drops etc. as appropriate.

Current PGP Key ID: 0x1DBD6A9F0FACAD30 which will expire on 29th August 2021.

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

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

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Dissidents

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

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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

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

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

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

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

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


Watching Them, Watching Us

London 2600

Our UK Freedom of Information Act request tracking blog - ethical and technical discussion about the project for anonymous mass leaking of documents etc.

Privacy and Security

Privacy International
United Kingdom Privacy Profile (2011)

Cryptome - censored or leaked government documents etc.

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

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

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

International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance

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

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

Technical Advisory Board on internet and telecomms interception under RIPA

European Digital Rights

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

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

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

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

Human Rights

Liberty Human Rights campaigners

British Institute of Human Rights
Amnesty International

Prevent Genocide International

asboconcern - campaign for reform of Anti-Social Behavior Orders

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

Internet Censorship

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

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

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

Judicial Links

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

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

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

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

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

Parliamentary Opposition

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

UK Government

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

No. 10 Downing Street Prime Minister's Official Spindoctors

Public Bills before Parliament

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

House of Commons "Question Book"

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

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

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

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

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

Online Media

Boing Boing

Need To Know [now defunct]

The Register

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

Ideal Government - debate about UK eGovernment

NIR and ID cards

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

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

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

International Civil Aviation Organisation - Machine Readable Travel Documents standards for Biometric Passports etc.
Anti National ID Japan - controversial and insecure Jukinet National ID registry in Japan
UK Biometrics Working Group run by CESG/GCHQ experts etc. the UK Government on Biometrics issues feasability
Citizen Information Project feasability study population register plans by the Treasury and Office of National Statistics - comments and links to each paragraph of the Home Office's "Strategic Action Plan for the National Identity Scheme".

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

Surveillance Infrastructures

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

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

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

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

RFID Links

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

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

Genetic Links

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

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

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

Miscellanous Links

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

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

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

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

Former Spies

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

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

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

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

Naked Spygirl - Olivia Frank

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

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

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

Liberty Central

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

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

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

Vmyths - debunking computer security hype

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

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

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

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

Bloggerheads - Tim Ireland

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

Blogzilla - Ian Brown

BlairWatch - Chronicling the demise of the New Labour Project

dreamfish - Robert Longstaff

Informaticopia - Rod Ward


The Musings of Harry

Chicken Yoghurt - Justin McKeating

The Red Tape Chronicles - Bob Sullivan MSNBC

Campaign Against the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Stop the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Rob Wilton's esoterica

panGloss - Innovation, Technology and the Law

Arch Rights - Action on Rights for Children blog

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


Moving On

Steve Moxon blog - former Home Office whistleblower and author.

Al-Muhajabah's Sundries - anglophile blog

Architectures of Control in Design - Dan Lockton

rabenhorst - Kai Billen (mostly in German)

Nearly Perfect Privacy - Tiffany and Morpheus

Iain Dale's Diary - a popular Conservative political blog

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

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

Ralph Bendrath

Financial Cryptography - Ian Grigg et al.

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

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

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

"Give 'em hell Pike!" - Frank Fisher

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

geeklawyer - intellectual property, civil liberties and the legal system

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

Charlie's Diary - Charlie Stross

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

Famous for 15 Megapixels

Postman Patel

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

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

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

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

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

Matt Wardman political blog analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No CCTV - The Campaign against CCTV

Barcode Nation - keeping two eyes on the database state.

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

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

Justin Wylie's political blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

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

Cool Britannia


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

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

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at

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UK Legislation

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

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

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

UK Legislation Links

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

UK Commissioners

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

UK Intelligence Agencies

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

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

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

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

cpni_logo_150.gif Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure
Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

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

Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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

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

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

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

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

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

Campaign Button Links

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

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

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

FreeFarid_150.jpg - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

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

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

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

Open Rights Group

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

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

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

Amnesty International's campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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

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

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

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

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

No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV


I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !


Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign


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


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

wblogocrop_150.jpg - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers