Results tagged “Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000” from Spy Blog -

The UK media reporting about the now convicted terrorist Rajib Karim, a British Airways trainee software engineer based in Newcastle, has been devoid of most of the interesting details which were made public in the courtroom.

Is this because of UK journalistic technical incompetence ?

The Wall Street Journal did publish rather more details about the Encryption etc.

This article certainly does not even fall under standing DA Notice 3 Ciphers and Secure Communications, which applies to UK government secrets, not terrorist ones,
so why do the UK media reports about this case look as if they have been censored ?

This is yet another terrorism case involving emails or other messages stored on a seized computer, which are almost the only evidence used to prosecute and convict, even though such emails are inadmissible as evidence, by either the prosecution or the defence, in a UK Court (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 section 17 Exclusion of matters from legal proceedings) if they were, instead, intercepted in transit in the UK.

U.K. Case Reveals Terror Tactics


FEBRUARY 7, 2011


The methods that terror suspects use to conceal their communications are "a real problem" for police and intelligence authorities, says Lord Alan West, who was security adviser to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Other experts say such problems have been made worse by off-the-shelf software.

The previous government had even looked into whether they should make it a criminal offense for suspects to not hand over decryption codes, Lord West said.

How could Admiral Lord West of Spithead not know that his Labour government did not simply "look into" the question of "whether they should make it a criminal offense for suspects to not hand over decryption codes" ?

It is astonishing that the former Labour Security Minister at the Home Office, a former head of Defence Intelligence and former First Sea Lord, appears to be ignorant of the enactment and enforcement of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 Part III Investigation of electronic data protected by encryption etc.

This was amended by the Terrorism Act 2006 to increase the criminal penalty for refusing to hand over the plaintext or cryptographic keys in response to a Section 49 notice, if the magic words "national security case " or, as amended by the Policing and Crime Act 2009 the other magic phrase "child indecency case" are uttered. i.e. a criminal penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment, rather than the penalty of up to 2 years in prison in any other case.

The time needed to break such codes was one reason the previous British government under Mr. Brown argued for holding terror suspects for as long as 28 days without charge, Lord West added.

The decryption of these email messages in this case took far longer than even 90 days which the Labour government securocrats and apparatchiks were trying to impose.

According to this BBC report "experts from the Metropolitan Police Service Counter Terrorism Command spent nine months decrypting 300 coded messages found on his computer hard drive."

Rajib Karim was arrested on 25th February 2010 and charged on 11th March 2010 and has now been convicted on 28th February 2011.

On what basis was he charged and remanded in custody, if the gathering of actual evidence from the de-cryption of his computer took another 9 months ?

Remember that he had no weapons or explosives or co-conspirators in the UK. Neither had he actually attempted to sabotage any British Airways computer systems.

The current government of Prime Minister David Cameron recently reduced this to 14 days.

The Protection of Freedoms Bill clause 57 Permanent reduction of maximum detention period to 14 days, only reached its Second Reading in the Commons yesterday, it is not yet law.

Upon raiding Mr. Karim's apartment police recovered, among other things, a laptop and an external hard drive able to store some 320 gigabytes of data, according to prosecutors. The hard drive held some 35,000 files including messages with Mr. Karim's brother, with Mr. Awlaki--a leader of terror group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula--and with other colleagues, prosecutors say.

What exactly led them to suspect Karim in the first place ? Perhaps surveillance of his brother's communications traffic data.

Mr. Karim allegedly hid the messages and other data stored on the drive by changing the suffix at the end of the name of key files, which would typically tell a computer what program would be needed to open them up. That included four files labeled "Quran DVD Collection," which appeared to be compressed files because they took the suffix ".rar," which relates to a type of software that reduces the size of a file, according to prosecutors.

RAR is a very commonly used compressed file format used by RapidShare and other encrypted "cyber locker" web based file sharing services worldwide.

Will the Rajib Karim case be used by the UK government to try to suppress or ban these web services ?

Mr. Ball said he noted these files were unusually large, and discovered that they were actually created in a different program, Pretty Good Privacy, which enabled each file to run as a separate, encryption-protected "virtual hard drive." Without the correct password, the files were completely unintelligible.

It's the equivalent of "a safe with a combination," Mr. Ball said in court. He sent the files to British intelligence services, which returned them decrypted, or unlocked. Once able to open the files, Mr. Ball testified, he still wasn't able to read most of the messages contained with them: Mr. Karim had enciphered the text, leaving it scrambled and unreadable.

This is the most interesting part of this article: Just how vulnerable are PGP encrypted container files to the "British intelligence services" ?

Was this a dictionary attack on the pass phrase or some other vulnerability ?

Can religious fanatics stop themselves from using Koranic or Biblical etc. passphrases ? ]

Mr. Karim left police a clue, however. On the external hard drive was a disguised file that looked like it was meant for viewing thumbnail-size photographs--but that actually consisted of text with instructions for using a spreadsheet containing a purpose-built formula to decipher the message, according to Mr. Ball. The spreadsheet also worked in reverse, enciphering messages before sending to another member of the group, Mr. Ball said.

So why didn't Karim use PGP or GPG for email or file encryption ?

Those instructions helped Mr. Ball decrypt the messages and see that--according to prosecutors' account--Mr. Karim was passing to Mr. Awlaki information about British Airways' computer and security systems that could be vitally important for those wishing to conduct a terrorist attack.

Still, it took many more months for the messages to fully come into focus. There were many spreadsheets on the hard drive, and sometimes numerous versions of each one. Even once unscrambled, prosecutors allege the messages contained false names and other coded words, further obscuring their contents. The names of countries and people, as well as their sex, were changed, and their movements and activity were discussed as if involved in business transactions, prosecutors allege.

As an additional layer of protection, prosecutors say, Mr. Karim and his colleagues didn't exchange their messages as emails, which can be intercepted. They instead uploaded them to public websites that host files, where another member of the group could then download them to his or her own machine.

Presumably Lord West and the Home Office will pretend that they could not have possibly guessed (despite the warnings from regular Spy Blog readers and every civil liberties and digital data rights organisation in the UK) that the mandatory Data Retention of UK or EU based email log files, provided by Communications Services Providers would have been so easily circumvented by terrorists. N.B. this scheme was "policy laundered" by the Labour government, i.e. they suggested it in the first place and used the UK's turn at the temporary chairmanship of the European Union Council of Ministers, to force it through as a European Directive and then claimed that it was all Europe's fault that this had happened.

This by no means the first terrorism case in the UK where the suspects did not send emails in the usual manner - there have been some where the Drafts folder on say a US based web mail system, has been accessed by two or more people who have pre-shared the logon credentials, never sending any incriminating emails at all.

In a further safeguard, prosecutors allege, Mr. Karim used software to erase other electronic fingerprints from his laptop, including a program called "Windows Washer" that effectively deletes traces of Internet browsing history from the machine.

Something which is certainly not illegal. What about the built in Privacy modes of the leading web browsers then ?

Write to Alistair MacDonald at and Cassell Bryan-Low at

They seem to have a better job of reporting the details of this case, as revealed in open Court, than the British media have bothered, or perhaps have dared, to do.


Some University College London students and others, have been trying out their Web 2.0 skillz by producing a smartphone App and Location Based Services web map called Sukey, in support of the student / anarchist protests, which are nominally about the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition Government financial cutbacks, due to the appalling state of the economy, which was ruined by the incompetence of the previous Labour government.

"Sukey" is meant to be a pun on the nursery rhyme "Polly put the kettle on, Sukey take it off again"

"Kettling" is the police jargon for the controversial tactic of surrounding crowds of peaceful protesters and preventing them from dispersing and going home for several hours, even when they are fed up with the protest. Demonstrators are also photographed and video surveilled and attempts are made to gather names and addresses from those who are ignorant of their legal rights not to do so unless actually arrested.

Despite making bold claims about the "security" of Sukey e.g. "Sukey is safe" and "Your data is safe with Sukey" here is nothing about any mobile phone anonymity techniques which might pose some problems to securocrats and their automated Single Point of Contact systems for grabbing Communications Traffic Data and Subscriber Details from mobile phone network companies

There is not even any basic advice about (not) taking anything but untraceable, disposable mobile phones to a demonstration or protest.


A tool for non-violent demonstrations.

Which, if it actually works, can also be easily misused by others.


To keep peaceful protesters informed with live protest information that will assist them in avoiding injury, in keeping clear of trouble spots and in avoiding unnecessary detention.

The application suite gives maximum information to those participating in a demonstration so that they can make informed decisions, as well as to those following externally who may be concerned about friends and family.

It should make full use of the crowd in gathering information which is then analysed and handed back to the crowd.

Success Criteria

The success of the project will be measured by user feedback according to the primary and secondary success criteria listed below.


Keeping people safe on demonstrations.

Anyone can use it.

Ensuring protesters are kept informed of the official demonstration route together with en-route amenities (eg WiFi, Toilets, Tube stations, First Aid, Coffee shops, Payphones etc).


Provide a live viewing platform for interested parties not at the demonstration.

Which will also provide a Communications Data analysis and data mining opportunity for UK police and intelligence agencies, foreign intelligence agencies and corporate spies.

Key Elements of Solution

1. How we can help you to help each other


Inform and educate.

Find out what is going on as it happens.

No matter what happens, sign up to the free SMS system.

SMS text messages are never free of charge.

Who is paying for this ?

What's in it for the user?

What are you getting?

Stay informed and make the right decisions during the demonstration.

Avoid trouble spots and risking injury.

Get live demonstration news as it happens.

Allow political organisers and manipulators to track the progress of the demonstrations they have organised, remotely, at a safe distance.

Allow political organisers and manipulators to feed false information to the police etc. and to manipulate some or all of the demonstrators into creating diversions to allow either peaceful media stunts or violent attacks, unhindered by the police etc.

Allow the forces of law and order / repression, yet another intelligence source to help to track the demonstrations they are policing or repressing, remotely, at a safe distance.

Why contribute information?

Help other peaceful demonstrators.

Provide an accurate view of events as they happen.

Accurate ? Just the facts, with all of the facts, with no political bias at all ?

Even large , well funded media organisations and the police are not capable of doing that.

Show what goes on in protests.

We exist to support decisions - be a part of it.

2. Sources of information

Information sources

Information crowd sourced from demonstrators out on the street.




The Sukey website urges people to publish digital photos to Twitpic and / or Flickr, but
it does not provide any of the easily available automatic software tools or even any advice, about removing or anonymising some or all of the Exif meta data embedded in such images, which can and will be used to help hunt down protesters and to prove that the photographers were present at a particular location and time.

None of the #sukey tagged photos on Twitpics, for example, appear to have had their Exif metadata removed, there are a couple examples of photos published from HTC Desire HD and HTC Wildfire phones

Up to the minute information from social and traditional media.

Other Options

3. Information Presentation

Simple to use, uncluttered display

Must have a degraded version for lower spec phones

Must show freedom of movement and support fast decisions

4. Back End Data Processing

Use of Swarming Algorithms

It seems unlikely that existing Swarming Algorithms which simulate animal behaviour in unconstrained free air or water space, can be directly applicable to the behaviour of crowds of humans

Computer simulation modelling of the various permanent and temporary barriers to movement across all of the streets and protest target buildings of central London, is far harder than the existing state of the art studies and simulations of people flows in comparatively simple and well controlled sports stadia or airports or railways stations etc.

Use location data to detect freedom of movement

Presumably the mean Twitter and Google GPS data rather than GSM or 3G mobile phone cell transmitter Location Based Services data and triangulation.

Prioritisation of Messaging and Reports to and from crowd

Coalesce multiple reports of same event

Exactly the classical real time Command and Control problems faced by those who are policing such demonstrations.

There seem to be some reports that might be using the open source crisis mapping tool SwiftRiver to try to achieve this.

Must process footpaths and open spaces - not just roads

5. Security

User Security

No user identifiable data to be stored. Ever.

Regular User Security reviews throughout build

Encrypt locations on data requests

This is all very misleading !

This encryption of cannot do anything to hide the Communications Traffic Data cell phone Location Based Data Services and Subscriber Details ,which are controlled by the mobile phone networks and third party companies like Twitter and Google.

Such Communications Traffic Data is automatically handed over to the police and intelligence agencies, without any Court Order or Judicial Warrant of any sort, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 Part 1 Chapter II Acquisition and disclosure of communications data

Neither the student protesters nor the Sukey App developers and operators have any control over this at all..

Neither do they have any control over the Google Latitude system, which they are encouraging people to sign up their smartphones to, and then to allow to track via Google Maps. What difference does any encryption make, when Google retains all your data and then sells or gives it law enforcement or intelligence agencies as requested ?

Encryption Keys to be generated either by users or automatically and undiscoverable by team.

Junk all identifiable data from Apache logs

System Security

Protected from DDOS and seizure


Multiple routing options

Multiple servers/server locations

Multiple resilient, secure computers and communications infrastructure cost money.

Who is paying for this ?

Who exactly is in charge of the Sukey system ?

The "Security overview" page is partly re-assuring, but also rather worrying.

Sukey is safe

At the very earliest stages of building Sukey we had a meeting where we divided the team into groups. The groups were: Data Input, Data Processing, Presentation, Security. In other words, security has been a key issue right the way through Sukey's design and build and has received as much focus as any of the more visible aspects of the project.

The team members involved on the security side are a mix of commercial information security experts and computer nerd under/post graduates who love nothing better than a complex algorithm. One of our key team members has technical commercial data security patents in his name and has provided information security consultancy to IBM, Lockheed Martin, and to the NHS.

All data received by Sukey is anonymised using secure encryption that is known to be unbreakable in less than 10 years using current computer technology. The process we use ensures that we can't decrypt any personal identifiers in the information sent to us. Even with a court order.

Attention to detail on security has been a hallmark of the project â€" both person identifiable security and the overall security and resilience of the Sukey service against infrastructure attack or failures.

Your data is safe with Sukey.

Is it really ?

The use of encryption does not automatically mean anonymity for users of or contributors to

Following It would be much more reassuring if the people mentioned exactly which encryption algorithm they were using, instead of making speculative claims about its alleged strength. The fact that they have not done so gives rise to the suspicion that they have attempted to write their own encryption software, an approach which is fraught with danger for the users of

What is wrong with using standard AES 256 encryption via a TLS session, especially for data which will be out of date in less than an hour after which it should be securely deleted from computer memory and never needs to be stored on a computer hard disk at all ?

it would be more impressive, if the team with their "attention to detail" had actually demonstrated their commitment to the use of strong encryption, by running a https:// session encrypted version of the website . However there is currently no Digital Certificate installed.

Similarly, there is no published PGP Public Encryption and / or Digital Signing Key available either, only Google gmail accounts, which are vulnerable Mutual legal Aid law enforcement requests

It looks as if the team need to be reminded that "Even with a court order." is irrelvant in the United Kingdom, - no court order is needed by the Police for access to Communications Data ( which must be Retained for at least a year) and none is required for Cryptographic Keys either.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 Part III Investigation of electronic data protected by encryption etc. does not require a Poice constable to get the prior permission of any Court, before serving a Section 49 Notice on someone , forcing them to hand over their cryptographic de-cryption keys , or the de-crypted plaintext. A Court only comes into play if and when you are deemed to have refused to comply with such an order, when you are facing up to 5 years in prison or up to 10 years in prison if the magic words "national security" are mentioned.

It will be interesting to see if the team does actually release its software source code to the public as it has promised, whilst it works on an improved version for the next protest.

Until they do so, you should avoid using the App and website, from anything except an anonymous mobile phone, unless you wish to attract Police , Intelligence Agency and corporate surveillance onto yourself and your family, friends and business associates,

If Sukey is not (yet) suitable for the streets of London, then it would be positively dangerous to deploy it or anything similar, in trouble spots like Tunisia or Egypt etc.

N.B. mobile phones actually require quite a bit of effort to initially obtain and maintain in an untracked, anonymous state.

See our website Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers etc. which covers some basic mobile phone anonymity techniques, removing Exif meta data from digital images, and some other anonymity techniques.

As always, the Chief Surveillance Commissioner tends to reveal a little more than either the Interception of Communications Commissioner or the Intelligence Services Commissioner ever do in their Annual reports.

Annual report of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner to the Prime Minister and to Scottish Ministers for 2009-2010 (.pdf)

Unlike the other two RIPA Commissioners, Sir Christopher Rose does actually have something to report about RIPA Part II:

CHIS = Covert Human Intelligence Sources
i.e. spies , undercover agents, paid informers, unpaid informers etc.


4.8 There were 5,320 CHIS recruited by law enforcement agencies during the year; 4,495 were cancelled (including some who were recruited during the previous year) ; and 3,767 were in place at the end of March 2010. The figures for the previous year which were 4,278, 4,202 and 3,722 indicate a slight increase in usage.

4.9 During the current reporting year other public authorities recruited 229 CHIS of whom 182 were cancelled during the year with 90 in place on 31 March 2010.

During the previous year 234 were recruited, 153 cancelled and 106 were in place at the end of the year. Again just over half of CHIS usage was by government departments. The light use of RIPA/RIP(S)A powers by local authorities is even more pronounced in relation to CHIS recruitment. 97% recruited five or fewer and 86% did not use CHIS.

There are some criticisms of CHIS management and tradecraft:

5.9 There are too many occasions when inspections reveal poor tradecraft in managing CHIS. Infrequent physical meetings and reliance on communication by text messages are rarely adequate. There have also been instances where law enforcement officers have pretended to be the CHIS when communicating with his associates online, without properly providing the CHIS with an alibi. It seems to me that this is an unsafe practice.

The protection of CHIS is one of the main reasons cited for the vast amount of secrecy and lack of freedom of information and transparency in the Police and Intelligence Agencies etc.

Such amateurism in the handling of CHIS should be punished by removal of those responsible from any positions of power or authority involving CHIS - they could literally get people killed through such incompetence.

Encryption Keys and RIPA Part III

At last a few details about RIPA Part III:

NTAC = National Technical; Assistance Centre, now run by GCHQ, politically controlled by the Foreign Secretary.

Section 49 - encryption

4.10 During the period reported on, NTAC granted 38 approvals. Of these, 22 had permission granted by a Circuit Judge, of which 17 have so far been served. Six were complied with and seven were not complied with, the remainder were still being processed. Of the seven that were not complied with, five people were charged with an offence, one was not charged and the other is still being processed. So far there has been one conviction with other cases still to be decided.

4.11 The conviction related to the possession of indecent images of children and this offence is the main reason why section 49 notices are served. Other offences include: insider dealing, illegal broadcasting, theft, evasion of excise duty and aggravated burglary. It is of note that only one notice was served in relation to terrorism offences.

These statistics further aggravate the injustice to someone who does not fall into any of these categories see the previous Spy Blog article: "JFL" provides some more details about his imprisonment for refusing to divulge his cryptographic keys under a RIPA Part III section 49 notice

4.12 These statistics are provided by NTAC which is able to be accurate regarding the number of approvals it has granted. But it is reliant on those processing notices to keep it informed regarding progress. It appears that there has been delay in serving some notices after approval has been granted (hence the difference between the number approved and the number served) . Notices, once approved, should be served without delay. If delays continue, I will require an explanation.

Sir Christopher does not seem to have delved into whether or not the de-crypted plaintext or the cryptographic keys were actually stored securely, ideally also using strong encryption or not, once they had been seized as evidence through the section 49 orders.

Unless and until the public is reassured about that, then there will be lots of non-cooperation from businesses which risk massive "collateral damage" to their core business systems, as a result of police investigations involving only part of their computer infrastructure, or a few employees or customers.

There is nothing specific about Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), but there is a section on CCTV:

Closed Circuit TeleVision - CCTV


5.22 My Chief Inspector has met the Interim CCTV Regulator and, as a member of the Independent Advisors Group, he will represent me in the development of the National CCTV Strategy.

How things have changed. Previously the Surveillance Commissioners took no interest in overt or covert CCTV spy cameras.

5.23 I am pleased by the proliferation of protocols between local authorities and police forces. In particular, I am satisfied that there is a wider acceptance of the need for authorisations to be shown to those responsible for using cameras covertly. But I am concerned at the number of inspections reporting the ability of some police forces to control, remotely, cameras owned, solely by or in partnership with, a local council. Sometimes control can be taken without the knowledge of the council CCTV Control Room or the guarantee that an appropriate authorisation exists. Equally, there is no guarantee that the person remotely operating the camera is appropriately qualified to conduct such an operation. Protocols should clarify the procedures to be followed when control is taken by others outside the CCTV Control Room and ensure that suitable safeguards are in place to prevent misuse.

Report of the Intelligence Services Commissioner for 2009 (.pdf), by the Rt,Hon. Sir Peter Gibson

Just like all the previous Intelligence Services Commissioner reports, the lack of public detail makes a mockery of the whole RIPA oversight process - it takes 16 pages to say almost nothing at all.

Yet again, there has been no call for Sir Peter to oversee any RIPA Part III encryption key or plaintext orders. This appears to have been left to the Chief Surveillance Commissioner.

Part III of RIPA

34. As I have noted above, Part III of RIPA came into force on 1 October 2007. However, no notification of any directions to require disclosure in respect of protected electronic information has been given to me in 2009 and there has been no exercise or performance of powers and duties under Part III for me to review.

The Intelligence Services Commissioner has gone through the motions with the Identity Scheme Commissioner Sir Joseph Pilling, bearing in mind the scrapping of the scheme which is still in progress.

11. On 16 November 2009 the Identity Minister, Meg Hillier, signed the Commencement Order allowing the Identity and Passport Service to begin issuing identity cards to members of the public living or working in Greater Manchester with effect from 30 November 2009 though it should be noted that identity cards were also made available to Home Office/Identity and Passport Service civil servants as well as airside workers in Manchester and London City Airport for a few weeks beforehand. On 10 December 2009 I had a useful meeting with Sir Joseph Pilling, the Identity Commissioner, in which we discussed our respective areas of responsibility under the ICA. I informed him that I did not envisage that I would need to obtain information about the acquisition, storage and use of data in the National Identity Register by organisations other than the intelligence services. At the time of writing this Report I am not aware of any acquisition, storage and use made by the intelligence services pursuant to the ICA of information recorded in the National Identity Register and in view of the intended repeal of the ICA it is unlikely that there will be any such acquisition, storage or use

Obliviously he has a good professional working contacts with the Intelligence agencies, but does that automatically taint him as the chairman of the Inquiry looking into allegations of complicity in torture of foreign terrorist suspects by MI5 or MI6 etc, appointed by PM David Cameron ?

He is already looking at:

Guidance on detention and interviewing of detainees by intelligence officers and military personnel

39. On 18 March 2009 the Prime Minister made a statement to Parliament about the detention and interviewing of detainees by intelligence officers and military personnel and announced my agreement to his request that the Intelligence Services Commissioner should monitor compliance by the intelligence agencies with the consolidated guidance on the standards to be followed during the detention and interviewing of detainees. My role in monitoring compliance will not commence until the consolidated guidance has been published. Such publication has not yet occurred,

The Report contains exactly the same words as the Interception of Communications Commissioner regarding the Investigatory Tribunal. A public agency broke the law, but will not be published for doing so. Why can they not at least be named and shamed in public ? There cannot be any "national security" grounds for not doing so.

Another year, another brief Annual Report by a RIPA Commissioner

Interception of Communications Commissioner Annual Report for 2009 (.pdf) , the right hon. Sir Paul Kennedy.

As with all the previous RIPA reports, the statistics about the number of Interception warrants or about the number of Communications Data requests are deliberately not broken down into any meaningful level of detail and should be ignored, although there will no doubt be plenty of media articles which are based on the headline figures.

How many people do these figures represent ? One criminal suspect could have many mobile phones, one interception warrant could be used to capture millions or billions of email messages.

There should be a breakdown of Communications Data requests since not all Public Authorities are allowed to request the full set of subscriber details, "friendship tree" call or email patterns and location data. Revealing such figures would not prejudice ongoing investigations.

As before, there are a trivial number of minor reported procedural and form filling Errors by the Police and Intelligence agencies (Interception and Communications Data) and , to a lesser extent the hundreds of other Public Authorities who have Communications Data powers, mostly due to keyboard typing errors.

Fewer of these Errors are now even being reported, in order to reduce bureaucracy:

3.11 Accordingly I agreed to a change in the error reporting system whereby public authorities now only report errors which have resulted in them obtaining the wrong communications data and where this has resulted in intrusion upon the privacy of an innocent third party. Other errors are simply recorded.


As before, we challenge the claim that the public are in any way "reassured" by this RIPA Commissioner (or any of the other RIPA Commissioners):



The Agencies always make available to me the personnel and documents that I have asked to see. They welcome my oversight, as ensuring that they are acting lawfully, proportionately and appropriately, and they seek my advice whenever it is deemed appropriate. It is a reassurance to the general public that their activities are overseen by an independent person who has held high judicial office

National Technical Assistance Centre snooping infrastructure down for 3 days

The National Technical Assistance Centre was formerly under the Home Office / MI5 now it is under the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and GCHQ.

Amongst other things they operate the "black box" legally authorised snooping under RIPA infrastructure which taps into major telephone and internet company infrastructure (not the same as GCHQ's main interception infrastructure)

2.27 Three errors attributable to the National Technical Assistance Centre (NTAC) were reported during the period of this report, one of which I now explain. NTAC reported a technical fault within their infrastructure that resulted in the prevention of delivery of intercept related information to the intercepting agencies for three days. A project to prevent this type of error occurring has been initiated and is expected to deliver improvements in the system in 2010.

How much public money is now being spent on NTAC and its "black boxes" ?

No Interception of Communications Commissioner involvement with Encryption, again ?

Yet again, on RIPA Part III, whilst the boilerplate text explaining the legal section of the Act is copied from previous reports, there is no mention of the Interception of Communications Commissioner having been advised of any Section 49 Notices demanding access to cryptographic de-cryption keys or to the plaintext information which has been protected by encryption.

Were all the cases in the past year really dealt with by the Other RIPA Commissioners ?

There is no mention of any reports or inspections by the Inspectors or by the ICC himself into how well or how badly the Code of Practice is being adhered to regarding electronic information protected by encryption.

Mobile phones in Prisons

It is interesting to see that the ICC and his inspectors seem to have finally taken our suggestion regarding illegal Mobile Phones in Prisons, made in previous years, that whilst they are inspecting the procedures for Interception and Communications Data analysis in Prisons, something which technically they have no power to do under the RIPA, but which they have been asked to do by successive Home Secretaries.

4.12 The inspections have also revealed that an alarming number of Category B local prisons appear to have a very limited capacity to monitor prisoners who pose a real threat to good order and security and this is a cause for concern. The smuggling of drugs and illicit mobile telephones are serious problems for most prisons, irrespective of their security status, and if a serious incident were to occur, which could have been prevented through the gathering of intercept intelligence, then prison managers and staff could find themselves in an indefensible position. Regrettably on occasions my Inspectors still have to emphasise this point in a number their reports.

4.13 The Category B local prisons, which were inspected during the reporting period, were asked to provide details of the numbers of illicit mobile telephones and associated equipment that had been seized in a six month period. Statistics from 25 prisons were collated and these revealed that 1,456 mobile telephones and 797 SIM cards were seized. Under the Offender Management Act 2007 and Prison Order 1100 dated 26 March, 2008 it is now a criminal offence to convey a mobile telephone or a component part of this equipment into a prison without the authorisation of the Governor and 11 of the prisons were making use of this legislation. However, the availability of such a large number of illicit telephones in the prison system is a serious cause for concern because prisoners can also use them to access the Internet.

4.14 Following the publication of the Blakey report in 2008 the Chief Operating Officer issued the Mobile Phones Good Practice Guide which was designed to help prisons minimise the number of mobile phones entering prisons and disrupt the number of mobile telephones that they were unable to find. Intelligence from the Pin-phones does help to prevent and detect attempts to smuggle them into the prison and this was part of the strategy. Clearly quite a number of the establishments are unable to implement the strategy fully because the resources and equipment are weighted far too heavily in favour of the offence related monitoring and this is a continuing problem. It is crucially important that prisoners are prevented from using mobile telephones to conduct criminal or illicit activity inside and outside the prison. Better use of the Interception Risk Assessments will eventually reduce the amount of offence related monitoring which needs to be conducted and this will in turn increase the capability to conduct more intelligence-led monitoring.

No mention of the Wilson Doctrine

There is no mention of the Wilson Doctrine in this year's public report, except for the background reference to current Prisons policy:



Communications which are subject to legal privilege are protected and there are also special arrangements in place for dealing with confidential matters, such as contact with the Samaritans and a prisoner's constituency MP

See the previous Spy Blog article: When will Prime Minister David Cameron re-affirm and extend the Wilson Doctrine on the protection from snooping on constituents' communications with their elected representatives ?

Still no progress on the use of Intercept Evidence in Court proceedings

2.10 Both the Advisory Group of Privy Counsellors and the government believe
that the potential gains from intercept as evidence justify further work in order to
establish whether the problems identified are capable of being resolved. The issues
involved are complex and difficult. I hope to be able to report on the progress
made on the planned further work in my 2010 Annual Report.

There are couple of positive bits of this report:

The Home Office has now published

Intercept as Evidence Report Dec 10th 2009 (.pdf 331Kb)
Sir John Chilcot, was chairing the Privy Council Working Group (comprised of politician lawyers and civil servants, but no actual IT experts) on "Intercept as Evidence", before being appointed to conduct the deliberately delayed, for Labour party political reasons, inquiry into some aspects of the war on Iraq,

Yet again, the UK security and legal establishment in Whitehall, has failed to produce an acceptable or practical policy on the use of phone and internet electronic interception, to be used as evidence, by both the prosecution and the defence, in criminal trials involving terrorism or other serious crimes.

  • How can this be, when every other country in the world, with the possible exception of the Irish Republic, can mange to do this ?
  • UK Courts can and do make use of Intercept Evidence which has been produced by foreign law enforcement agencies.
  • UK Courts also seem to accept evidence gained from intrusive surveillance hidden microphones or video cameras or other "probes" , which may well pick up one side or both sides of a phone conversation.
  • Nothing in the reports produced by this Privy Council Working group provides any safeguards regarding the use of intercept evidence used against British citizens, by foreign countries, in Extradition proceedings.

The Report sets out an obviously unworkable list of 9 criteria, which seeks to preserve the status quo.

There is an extremely dubious argument on the question of transcription and translation resources. Somehow the argument has been allowed that, for some reason, all current interception investigations would have to be transcribed and translated, to proper court evidential standards i.e. with extra effort being spent to record each and every unclear recording or the translation every word of a foreign language conversation.

Remember also, that not all serious crime cases actually involve any translation of obscure foreign language dialects at all.

Surely this extra effort is only necessary, in the minority of investigations, where a criminal case is actually being prepared for trial ? Why can this not be handled by staff who are not employed in front line work for the law enforcement or intelligence services ?

The media spin about this report, that somehow it is "too expensive" to store all the possibly exculpatory intercept material i.e. long hours of boring or innocent conversations, and not just the potentially incriminating bits, is so ridiculous as to be deliberately misleading, given the low cost of terabytes of disk space these days and the billions of pounds being wasted on ID Card databases and the mandatory retention of the Communications Data of millions of innocent people etc.

Sir Ken MacDonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions has pointed out that the intelligence agencies and the police are already under a legal duty to bring to the attention of the courts any evidence they find which tends to show an alibi or the innocence of an accused person, perhaps there are cases where they have deliberately concealed this ?

If there are cases where people have been under electronic surveillance for years on end, without saying anything incriminating, then the totality of that non-evidence >strong>should be allowed to be presented in court by defence lawyers - perhaps some of them may actually be innocent of what they are suspected of ?

The Report mentions that there should be safeguards against "fishing expeditions" by defence lawyers, something which Judges already deal with adequately in all other types of court evidence. However there is no mention of the "fishing expeditions" and "data trawling" through innocent people's data, which the intelligence agencies and police appear to be involved in, something which the untrustworthy and technologically incompetent Labour Home Secretaries or Foreign Secretaries are meant to prevent, through a test of proportionality when signing an Interception Warrant.

The Report also mentions that the mock trials and legal advice over the last year or so, to test this flawed legal model, has involved over a hundred people, and cost over £2.5 million, all for nothing.

All in all, this yet another failure by the Home Office, for which Home Secretary Alan Johnson and his predecessor Jacqui Smith are to blame politically, although, the unelected and unaccountable Admiral Lord West of Spithead, who is nominally in charge of the Home Office's Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, must also share some of the blame.

Why has the Rt. Hon. Sir Paul Kennedy, the current Interception of Communications Commissioner appointed under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, allowed himself to be embroiled in the disgraceful MPs' expenses political scandal ?

The BBC reports:

18:28 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

MPs 'can appeal against expenses repayments'


Auditor Sir Thomas Legg sent out letters to MPs with his initial recommendations that they repay money, or provide more details, in October and they have been responding to him.

Appeal court judge

His final letters to MPs will go out next week, on 7 December.

It is up to the Members Estimate Committee to decide what to do about Sir Thomas's final recommendations, expected in early 2010.

It has asked former Court of Appeal judge Sir Paul Kennedy - who was also the government's Interception of Communications Commissioner - to consider written submissions by some MPs.

It says they must show "cause why there are special reasons ... that it would not be fair and equitable to require repayment either at all, or at the level recommended".

The appeals process is expected to be completed by 15 January 2010, after which MPs will be asked to vote on the committee's recommendation that they pay back the sums requested.

Sir Paul Kennedy is a former Appeal Court Judge, but surely there are plenty other such retired Judges available ?

There has been a vast increase in state snooping on Electronic Communications (thousands of warrants a year) and on Communications Data (hundreds of thousands of requests per year), which the Interception of Communications Commissioner is supposed to oversee, so where does he find the time to spare, to devote to MPs' expense claims ?

Will this mean that the Annual Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner is even shorter, and less detailed than usual ? Will it be, as in previous years, delayed beyond the statutory maximum of one calendar year after the data to which it refers ?

What was the point of appointing Sir Thomas Legg, and then later appointing Sir Paul Kennedy someone to potentially overturn his supposedly independent decisions ? Why was this process not set out fully and transparently in the first place ?

To the furious general public, this appointment by the Members Estimate Committee, looks like an "establishment coverup", since this retired Judge has no legal powers to punish errant MPs.

We also note that there obviously is not much work being done by Sir John Chilcot's "working group" on the admissibility of intercepted communications as evidence in court (currently forbidden by RIPA), since he is now busy with the Iraq war inquiry / coverup.

"JFL" has emailed us with some more details about this worrying Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) section 49 case - see the article on The Register by Chris Williams - see UK jails schizophrenic for refusal to decrypt files)

Having been contacted by "JFL", Spy Blog asked a few Questions - here are some edited and annotated quotations, omitting, for now, the names of the people mentioned by "JFL" , apart from the Judge, who is named in The Register article.

I served my nine months imprisoned and am now basically free, within the UK and on probation.

> Did you have access to a lawyer when you plead guilty ?

An extremely incompetent solicitor. Even _after_ sentencing he told me that I'd be eligible for HDC tag, which would have meant release in a fortnight.

HDC tag = Home Detention Curfew - enforced by private sector subcontractors with electronic ankle tags

Had I stood mute, taken as Not Guilty (Innocent) then I would have definitely been returned to HMP Winch for another three months+ awaiting trial, for RIPA. He also promised me 'as long as I needed' on 02 Jun to consult with my barrister yet on the day arranged *_none_*. My barrister, Mr [name 1], predicted a high end sentence of 12mns.

> Did the police take any reference samples from each other when they tested you for
> explosives, to eliminate cross contamination ?

Ms. [name 2] at the DSTL tested:
The cell at Paddington Green: walls, bench, floor, frame (?!),
St. Pancras interview room: table top, chair, floor by chair.

They did not test the officers, the _hand_cuffs, the initial detention area inc seat, strip search room, water cup, urine bottle, tape recorder machine that I helped fix while waiting, Eurostar train, dirty cash used etc..

i.e. plenty of scope for cross contamination at the levels of a few nanograms i.e. a few billionths of a gram (10-12 Kilograms)

DSTL= Defence Science and Technology Laboratory the bit of the UK Government Defence Research Agency labs not sold off to Qinetiq.

> Do your bail conditions permit or forbid you from using encryption ?

The UK dis-possessed me of TBs of US business data, but no ban on computing longer than 6.5mns (not while in prison).

TB = TeraByte - one thousand GigaBytes of data.


I am a computer scientist with a small business in [name of a famous town in Silicon Valley] (with Editors Reviews).

"JFL" now provides some more details:

My story is at its best since this started, it isn't a tragedy and pity is wasted. The tragedy, the pity and the shame (big word) is that this is the state of the UK today; this reflects badly on the human species as the UK is one of the five core members of the UN Security Council not just a fallen imperial force on a small, wet island. A scoop for you is that my sentence was ten concurrent doses of nine months for the RIPA s53, and simultaneously nine months for the fictitious CJA 1925 s36 (IPS) crimes and also *one year* for the second count of this offence (see The Offence starring Sean Connery), plus one month for the missed appointment.

CJA 125 s36 = Criminal Justice Act 1925 section 36 Forgery of a passport - remember that "JFL" did not "forge" a passport, he only applied for another one in his own name.

The Offence is a 1972 film directed by Sidney Lumet : "It stars Sean Connery as a frustrated, obsessively aggressive police detective who snaps and kills a suspect (Ian Bannen) for personal reasons which are explored over the course of the film yet not fully revealed until the end."

The RIPA pt III is very much a terrible piece of legislation for our macro culture. Yet it's CTC's position in our culture that is the danger in this Emperor's New Clothes War on Terrorism, (note to Jack Herer's book on the earlier? War on Drugs with its Russian tzar reference).

The Emperor Wears No Clothes: The Authoritative Historical Record of Cannabis and the Conspiracy Against Marijuana by Jack Herer

CTC framed me, they set me up all because I believe in one's right to be silent. DC [name 3] told me, in company, that I'd
never get my passport back because it was invalid, claiming this was due to my change of name via deedpoll in 2007 (and with no receipt until near the Crown Court date I'd no evidence that they ever had possession of it. I hadn't used it since Paris). I informed him then that I'd therefore be applying for a replacement. He did absolutely nothing to deter me from this, unknowingly to me, criminal course. CTC then waited until they could then charged me with these additional offences.

The CT Division of the CPS believed all the lies of CTC. The Judge believed the lies and simply fell for the _evil_spirit_ of CTC. They managed to convince him without any evidence that I had manufactured the *legal* RDX. The misbelieved actions may "have been entirely innocent experimentation, it may not have been, but you must now pay the consequences [for your crimes]...," Judge Hetherington said. CTC's investigation was named Operation Fontine and run by DI [name 4], promoted during this time. My case has been uptaken by DI [name 5] of the PSD.
Regards, JFL.

CPS = Crown Prosecution Service/ - whose lawyers seem to be easily bamboozled by weak scientific evidence when presented by the Police or intelligence agencies - remember the fictitious "Red Mercury" / New of the World "fake sheikh" sting prosecution fiasco ?

CT = Counter Terrorism

CTC = Counter Terrorism Command - which has now subsumed Special Branch and the Anti-Terrorist Branch, of the Metropolitan Police Service. Sometimes they seem to act nationally, not just in London. They have also been involved in non-terrorist related controversies such as the arrest and searching of Members of Parliament and / or their offices and homes. Hundreds of these officers have been investigated for abusing their corporate American Express credit cards, and several of these are facing prosecution.

RDX = chemical name Cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine is a military military / commercial high explosive, not the sort of thing which can be made at home. Modern equipment can detect minute traces of this and other common explosives and illegal drugs, but, at very low concentrations i.e. at nanogram levels, there is a huge problem of cross contamination from other suspects or reference samples etc.

DI = Detective Inspector

PSD = Professional Standards Division which supposedly investigates complaints against the police internally within a particular Police force.

This is not the same as a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)

The UK based online IT industry publication, The Register reports on a story which shows that not only has this Labour government taken George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four as surveillance state policy plan, rather than as a dystopian warning, but they have also allowed a Kafkaesque securocacy and (in)justice system to use the full panoply of "anti-terrorism" national security powers against vulnerable members of society, without making us all any safer.

UK jails schizophrenic for refusal to decrypt files

Terror squad arrest over model rocket

By Chris Williams

Posted in Law, 24th November 2009 11:36 GMT

Exclusive The first person jailed under draconian UK police powers that Ministers said were vital to battle terrorism and serious crime has been identified by The Register as a schizophrenic science hobbyist with no previous criminal record.

His crime was a persistent refusal to give counter-terrorism police the keys to decrypt his computer files.

The 33-year-old man, originally from London, is currently held at a secure mental health unit after being sectioned while serving his sentence at Winchester Prison.

In June the man, JFL, who spoke on condition we do not publish his full name, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment under Part III of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). The powers came into force at the beginning of October 2007.

JFL told The Register he had scrambled the data on several devices as part of security measures for his business, a small software company


His disappearance led to a raid on 7 March this year. Officers bearing sub-machine guns broke down the door of JFL's flat. He rang local police before realising CTC had come for him.

At the local Fareham police station he was served with the section 49 notice. Signed by CTC's Superintendent Bell, it said: "I hereby require you to disclose a key or any supporting evidence to make the information intelligible."

JFL maintained his silence throughout the one hour time limit imposed by the notice. He was charged with ten offences under section 53 of RIPA Part III, reflecting the multiple passphrases needed to decrypt his various implementations of PGP Whole Disk Encryption and PGP containers.


After three months on remand JFL faced trial on 2 June. He pleaded guilty to all the charges, wrongly believing he would be released that day with an electronic tag thanks to time served. Instead, taking into account the passport offences and missed bail, he received a total of 13 months.

Before finishing what would have been a six-and-a-half-month prison term during September, JFL was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. He now does not know when he will be released from hospital.


During sentencing, the judge seemingly confirmed that NTAC staff had been unsuccessful in their attempts to crack the encrypted files - or had not bothered trying. "To this day no one really has any idea as to what is contained in that equipment," he said. One file encrypted using software from the German firm Steganos was cracked, but investigators found only another PGP container.


The suspicion of terrorism was dropped long before trial and JFL was sentenced under RIPA Part III as a general criminal rather than a threat to national security. Although he admitted guilt, JFL argues he did nobody any harm and the offences were all related to not cooperating fully with police.

Despite referencing his solitary existence, Judge Hetherington appeared not to know about JFL's mental health problems and criticised him for not speaking to authorities.

Abandoning normal court procedures, he said: "It was because I was satisfied you would not tell the Probation Service anything significant further that I saw no purpose in obtaining a pre-sentence report which is normally a prerequisite for someone of no previous convictions who has not previously received a prison sentence," he said.

Sticking to normal procedure might have helped explain much of JFL's behaviour in interviews and while on bail. Pre-sentence reports include mental health records and JFL himself sought psychiatric treatment once before, while a computer science student.


Regular readers of Spy Blog (and all of our PGP encrypted communications correspondents) should read the full article carefully.

We read it with a mixture of pity for plight of the the mentally afflicted "JFL", and an increasing sense of fury at this Labour government's Soviet style system of nameless accusations and the presumption of guilt for potential thought crimes, none of which were actually backed up by any physical evidence or other witnesses etc.

Why should we tolerate such Kafkaesque injustice here in the UK ?

How has it made us any safer from real terrorists ?

It does not appear that "JFL" was given any proper legal advice when he was arrested.

Is he legally represented now ? If so, then by whom ?

Is there any way that good people who are worried by this story can send "JFL" some things whilst he is in the Prison / Secure Hospital Ward ?


  • letters,
  • magazines,
  • money for toiletries, cigarettes etc. (regardless of whether he smokes or not)
  • or postage stamps (convicted prisoners only get the postage paid for one letter a week, but they can send many more at their own expense) and
  • Prison PIN Phone credits (which have now replaced the former Prison Phone Card system) etc.


Prisoner [number ?]
c/o Her Majesty's Prison Winchester
Romsey Road
SO22 5DF

The Home Office has published its summary of the responses to the public consultation Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000: Consolidating orders and codes of practice (1.7Mb .pdf) which ran from April to July.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000: consolidating orders and codes of practice - responses to the consultation (269Kb .pdf) says that:

The 222 respondents comprised:

  • 104 local authorities;
  • 9 local authority associations;
  • 10 law enforcement bodies;
  • 9 other public authorities;
  • 6 legal reform or scrutiny bodies;
  • 5 communications service providers;
  • 3 training organisations;
  • 2 housing agencies;
  • 2 oversight commissioners (the Chief Surveillance Commissioner and the Interception of Communications Commissioner);
  • 68 members of the public (of whom 27 had experience of working with RIPA); and
  • 4 other NGOs with interests in the prosecution of offenders, waste management, computing and children's rights.

Spy Blog raised the following issues in response to this public consultation, with little success:

1) Mandatory use of strong Encryption should be explicit in the Regulations and Codes of Practice

2) Automatic Number Plate Recognition data needs to be brought within the RIPA framework

3) Sub-division of "Communications Data" to now include a separate Location Based Services data category

4) All Local Authorities should have their Intrusive Surveillance and Covert Human Intelligence Source powers removed. Access to Subscriber Details should continue, but no LA access to Location Based Services data.

5) The abuse of Children as Covert Human Intelligence Sources

Interception of Communications in Prisons etc.


The Annual Report for 2006 of the Interception of Communications Commissioner Rt.Hon. Sir Paul Kennedy is very bland, and lacking in detail, but there is an area of concern, by omission - the safeguards, if any, when tracking or monitoring smuggled mobile phones in Prisons.

About half of all the site visits and re-visits (about 120) by Sir Paul Kennedy and his team of 6 Inspectors appear to be to Prisons.

However, technically, Sir Paul has no legal powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 to supervise the Interception of postal or electronic communications in Prisons.

26. I have, at the request of the Home Secretary, continued in a non-statutory role, the oversight of the interception of communications in prisons, which was undertaken by my predecessor.

Perhaps the situation has not yet arisen, but, in theory, the management or staff of a privatised Prison or Detention Centre (or even a state run one) could , perfectly legally, refuse to cooperate with Sir Paul and his Inspectors, perhaps on the grounds of cost or perhaps when working to rule during a pay dispute, especially if they are not under the threat of a forthcoming contract renewal.

There is nothing wrong in principle with Sir Paul and his team inspecting the interception regimes in Prisons, but this really should be done on a proper statutory basis, and, given the large number of visits involved, some money should be allocated from the Ministry of Justice who have now been lumbered with responsibility for Prisons.

Since the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice love to tinker with Legislation, why can they not bring Prisons and Immigration Detentions Centres etc. under the legal scrutiny of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act ?

Sir Paul obliquely hints that all is not well in the Prison Service:

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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Please bear in mind the many recent, serious security vulnerabilities which have compromised the Twitter infrastructure and many user accounts, and Twitter's inevitable plans to make money out of you somehow, probably by selling your Communications Traffic Data to commercial and government interests. (same window)


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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