Category Archives: Security services

The spooks are still playing dirty tricks to get their snoopers’ charter: they must be stopped

David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation commissioned by Cameron, has just produced a 373 page report, ‘A Question of Trust’, which, partially at least, restored the fundamental principle of a free society into the toxic atmosphere of MI5/GCHQ’s (and the government’s) obsessive desire to introduce a snoopers’ charter in which the whole population is potentially targeted for algorithmic monitoring, with all the abuse, error and hacking that that entails.   He rightly condemns the current Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) as “incomprehensible, undemocratic, unnecessary and intolerable”.   But his central proposal is to shift oversight of the surveillance process from the Home Secretary to a new independent body and in particular to pass the power to authorise surveillance away from government to a panel of senior judges.   This is long overdue and should be strongly supported.
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The securocrats in MI5 and GCHQ are now going flat out to get their uncontrolled snoopers’ charter

It could only happen in Britain.   In the US, by contrast, a so-called Freedom Act (though it is far from that) has just been passed.   It will at least partially curb the power of government to collect bulk data on the lives of its citizens.   The Cameron government however is doing the opposite and is determined this time to push through the snoopers’ charter which it failed to get in the last Parliament and which MI5/GCHQ have been aching to get on the statute book ever since the Twin Towers of 2001.  This would not only give ever greater powers of mass surveillance to the police and secret services, it is also intended to prohibit server encryption which makes surveillance more difficult.   This is a complete contradiction of the Snowden revelations.   These exposed industrial-scale eavesdropping by State bureaucracies which had been proceeding secretly and without a shred of accountability ever since 2006, and without Snowden would probably have been proceeding unhindered to this very day.
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How far did blacklisting extend outside construction?

It was originally assumed that blacklisting was a secret tool used by construction companies – Balfour Beatty, Costain, McAlpine, Skanska, Carillion, Kier and over 30  others – to keep out people they didn’t want.   To achieve this the euphemistically named Consulting Association over 16 years (1993-2009) complied a database on thousands of construction workers who were denied a job if it was reported that they were trade union activists or had expressed concern about health and safety standards or had simply been the victims of derogatory gossip, thus destroying their livelihood for sometimes 30 or more years for reasons kept secret for the worker himself.   This scandal may finally be exposed in the High Court this year, though nearly half of the 3,213 persons with Consulting Association files on them have still not yet been traced.   But the latest evidence now emerging indicates two other sinister trends: the extensive involvement of the police and security services and the inclusion on the blacklists of several persons in public life who have had no connection whatever with the construction industry.
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The snoopers’ charter that refuses to die raises its ugly head again

Bang on cue, Cameron yesterday reiterated what Andrew Parker, head of MI5, had demanded just before, that in the light of the Paris killings the UK security services needed more surveillance powers.  Whenever there is a terrorist incident MI5 never misses an opportunity to demand ‘more resources’, closely followed in tandem by Cameron and May. Nobody of course would wish to deny the security services the funding and powers they need to target terrorists, but there are genuine questions to be asked as to how far extra powers are needed, especially if it is in the blanket form of mass surveillance.
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Lies, deceptions, ISC, MI5

The whole narrative of the UK government’s response to the brutal revelations of US rendition and torture at Guantanamo and ‘black sites’ spread across E. Europe, the Middle East and Asia has been one of subterfuge, deception and downright lying, in sharp contrast to the determination of the political class in the US to get (most of) the ugly truths out in the open.   It casts a profoundly dishonourable shame on this country both for its smothering blanket of secrecy and almost total lack of accountability for the grave misdeeds of Britain’s deep shadow State.   The duplicity of all UK governments over this issue in the last decade has been shocking.

Evasion 1:  The Blair government systematically denied any involvement for years, even though government memos were disclosed which showed that Straw delivered British Terrorism suspects to Guantanamo and even though Blair knew that the US was torturing its prisoners.
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Home Office gives UK citizenship to murderer

Immigration has now become toxic in British politics for well-understood reasons – excessive pressure on public services, concentration of immigrant communities in ghettos, lack of integration, etc.   But it is not till now that the truth is finally coming out about the almost unbelievable incompetence of the Home Office in the mismanagement of this problem, most of it under Theresa May’s current stewardship.   The Tories made it a big deal in 2010 that they would reduce immigration figures below 100,000 in this Parliament, but the number for this year has risen to 260,000 – a bigger missed target even than Osborne’s missed target for the budget deficit which he pledged would be a mere £40bn this year, but is actually £100bn.
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How far was the UK complicit in CIA rendition and torture?

The report published today by the US Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Dianne Feinstein,  makes horrifying, even disgusting, reading.   The tactics used against prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay or foreign CIA  black sites (i.e. torture chambers) included water-boarding (simulated drowning), ‘rectal rehydration’ (leading to anal fissures and rectal prolapse), sleep deprivation for a week or more imposed on those shackled, forced to stand and naked, hooding, iced-water immersion, slamming against walls, and threats of sexual and physical violence against prisoners’ families.   The Senate committee also notes that at least 26 of the detainees were ‘wrongfully held’, and the evidence used against them was often based on hearsay or mere rumour.   In extreme cases Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was water-boarded 183 times, and Abu Zubaydah 83 times who emerged an utterly broken man – maybe the aim of the exercise.   This was justified by the CIA on the grounds that the information extorted by torture ‘saved lives’ by revealing future plots.   The Senate committee after years of investigation stated it could find not a single case of this kind, only that torture revealed false information (anything to stave off further torture) or information already gleaned by more traditional forms of intelligence gathering.
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Despite Snowden May won’t take no for any answer over mass surveillance

The security services are getting desperate.   Over the last 4 years they, and their political figurehead May, have tried time and time again to push mass surveillance through Parliament.   Whenever a security scare arises or a trial of alleged terrorists or belated arrests over a drugs scandal, the cry is always foisted on the public that what we need is a comprehensive snoopers’ charter which will record all the communications of all the citizens in the UK.   No mention of the fact that they have already been doing this for over a decade through GCHQ’s Tempora and Bullrun programmes as Snowden revealed, and what they desperately want now is to legitimize their illegal activities.   No mention that they already infiltrating our smartphones via the Dreamy Smurf programme which can turn them on even when we’ve switched them off.   No mention that Nosey Smurf can turn on the microphone in a mobile remotely to listen in to our conversations, nor of Tracker Smurf which can track our location in real time.
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Cameron, over-hasty as always on rhetoric, has to retreat over action on ISIS

Cameron on Friday was waxing bellicose about a “greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before” because of ISIS.   Compared with Hitler in 1939?   Compared with the IRA during the 1980-90s?   But Cameron’s statement to the House yesterday was remarkable not only for the way he has been forced to backtrack over the weekend because of the legal and political constraints, but also for its very limited focus on British jihadis.   There was nothing about the central issue of how to deal with the ISIS threat on the ground, and nothing either about how to counter the radicalisation of young Muslims which is at the heart of turning them towards jihadism.   It was restricted entirely to trying to stop fighters returning to the UK, as it is estimated some 250 out of 500 have already done, and the proposals even on this were weak on detail and effectiveness.
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