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back to article Animal rights activist hit with RIPA key decrypt demand

An animal rights activist has been ordered to hand over her encryption keys to the authorities. Section Three of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) came into force at the start in October 2007, seven years after the original legislation passed through parliament. Intended primarily to deal with terror suspects, it …

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So if I put a file on your disk you get two years?

This is why "possession" laws don't work.

If I make a junk file called "known activists.pgp", put it on your disk then call the cops, you're screwed. Two years in the clink for failing to comply.

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So we all have to be encryption experts then?

How exactly do you prove for instance, that you had no idea that there was an encrypted file on your pc? I am fairly tech savvie and I bet one of my pc's contains some encrypted data somewhere that I don't know about installed by a program long since binned.

Use truecrypt, as the container file cannot be linked in anyway shape or form to truecrypt. Encrypted file sir? <---- prove it is encrypted, then prove I encrypted it.

Isn't it a pleasant surprise to see legislation brought about for use in terrorism cases in its very first use used against an animal rights activist?

You are no longer innocent until proven guilty, you are guilty unless you can prove your innocence.

Welcome, to 1984.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm conflicted here...

Should I feel bad that this act is being used as a mallet, or should I feel good that it's being used on someone so richly deserving of a full smack upside the head?

Considering how these people treat other people, I should hope they go fishing for the encryption keys with a rubber finger.

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Dan

i'd do two years

so they couldn't get their mucky paws on my stuff.

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Alert

UK: Police State

All your files are belong to us!

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Lock her up

"The police are my enemy, I know that they have given information about me to Huntingdon Life Sciences (as well as hospitalising me),"

I honestly don't care about how it's done and the rights and wrongs of the RIPA, but this sort of statement sickens me. Heaven forbid they (HLS staff) should have some warning before the next time their houses / families are attacked. Apparently personal information should only go one way ...

I'm just glad these tools have stopped protesting outside my offices (because a company that _used_ to share the building has shares in the NYSE which lists Huntingdon - idiots).

Anyway, methinks the lady doth protest too much.

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Anonymous Coward

I keep my keys encrypted ...

... and would be happy to hand them over in that state. Of course, then you can give me another 12 days to hand over the key I used to encrypt the key. Which I'll be happy to do. Encrypted. :)

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Anonymous Coward

Terrorism.

You imply that amimal rights groups are not terrorists. Why? Some are good natured people with a genuin concern for animals (Although, in my opinion sometimes miss placed) but there is also a fair amount who will kill and distroy to get what they want. Terrorism.

BTW, this is anon because, unlike Islamic extremists, these people accualy worry me.

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Unhappy

... and so it begins...

If this woman is charged because she doesn't hand over her keys, then democracy has truly died in this shithole.

Personally, when I get home tonight, I am going to have to run shredder over all the free space on all my hard drives (some of which I'll have to dig out of drawers), as well as ensuring any keyring files, test encryptions, cached email and other miscellany are shredded also. I hoped I'd never see the day when it became illegal to forget decade-old passwords made up on the spur of the moment while playing with new software.

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Anonymous Coward

She probably is a terrorist.

You don't need to be a muslim to be a terrorist. I live in Oxford and I know full well the kind of stuff these people get up to. We even had anti-animal rights protester protests!

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Dead Vulture

absolute b*llocks isnt it?

Want to completely ruin someone? upload some encrypted files onto their machine, then make an anonymous phone call and say theres some dodgy kiddy files on someones machine, hey ho 5 years in jail.

We have seen what lazy b*stards the police are when it actually comes to investigating a case and how they always go for the easy prosecution whether the person is guilty or not.

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Dead Vulture

Six of one..

It's a terrible law. Of course it's a terrible law.

On the other hand, the Old Bill harassing those granny-exhuming Animal Rights nutters is just fine by me.

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Move your car or I'll tow it away under anti-terror laws

"What seems to have happened is that the CPS (who couldn't issue a notice anyway) have written asking the person to volunteer their key," he adds."

Sounds familiar, it's a compliance test and a big problem with UK (thanks Tony for your sterling work in undermining individual freedoms, you micromanaging tw*t).

Do X or I'll exercise my power to do Y.

To force them to do X they normally need to go to a judge to show cause, but once you give the power Y that doesn't require any judicial process around it, you get a load of "if you don't do X I'll do Y" and suddenly we have plastic police ordering people to do X sans the legal authority.

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Could set an interesting precident

Given the rather lax security of windows and ability of others (over the web for instance) to place files on your hard drive, this legislation could be a bit of an issue. The police could probably claim they have 'cause' to require decryption of any file given any name. Therefore, suppose someone has dropped an encrypted file on your hard drive. How can you comply? In this case, it might well be she has something to hide, but it could happen to anyone. Given that others have access to your hard drive, how can you be required to hand over any encryption pass phrase or whatever they ask for?

Rather seems the legislation is at odds with the technology. Also, it is rather interesting that the police can't crack it!! Given their resources, you would have thought it would be possible.

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Ummm...

Am I missing something here, or does the phrase 'or provide a clear text transcript of encrypted text' leave a rather large loophole to anyone unscrupulous enough to give the police any random files and claim that "these are the unencrypted versions, honest guv"....

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Black Helicopters

Bleeding Heart

Given the sort of activities animal rights extremists get up to I can't say I have much simpathy.

Campaigns of harresment, intimidation, stalking, libel, vandlism, and theft are well beyond the line where legitament protest ends. Its a form of petty terrorism at least.

I am happy the police are investigating these people.

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Mars

Intelligible form

Let's hope that aManFromMars doesn't get a request to put anything "into intelligible form" - he'd be banged up.

I can hear it now: "That is unencrypted; honest"

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Coat

I wouldn't worry...

Probably just a recipe for Veal and Fois Gras she wanted to hide from her mates.

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% <---- world's smallest ASCII violin

I'd be more sympathetic if she'd been a member of Al-Qaeda bent on blowing up a busful of babies. Al-Qaeda members have at least been brainwashed, often from birth, into believing that they are doing the work of the Almighty and will be rewarded with eternal paradise. Animal rights terrorists have no such excuse, they just woke up one day and decided that cancer and Parkinson's were awesome things to have.

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Coat

No Smoke Without Fire

Cue remorseful look - "I'm an Animal Rights Terrorist but I don't know anything technical because I love fluffy bunnies and me and PGP never got on and I don't have any encrypted files on my PC."

Yeah. Right. My arse.

However, there is just as much possibility that the police have absolutely no idea what they're looking at, knowing how much help they've been when Computrace pointed out to them where my stolen laptop is (and has been for 6 months waiting for them to pick it up).

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Rob
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Hmmm... tricky

As much as I hate the idea of the Police demanding your encryption keys, I also dislike animal activists even more, so let's hope she doesn't hand over her keys and they slam her in sing-sing. That's one looney, nut-job off our streets and not harming anyone.

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Anonymous Coward

How is this not an application to fight terrorism?

Animal rights extremists have been known to cause damage to property and people. That sounds like terrorism to me.

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Anonymous Coward

Torn

I am uncomfortable about this - the law is scary enough.

OTOH, having been in a company on the receiving end of harassment from the Animal Rights lunatics* I hope she never gives her keys over. And spends a long time out of contact with decent people.

(I was working for a large company, a subsidary of a subsidary let out a small office to a subsidiary of a firm who occasionally did work with HLS - instead of a nice letter point this out and would we consider our position on it, the first time we found out about this when the cars got paint-strippered and a bomb threat made. It took a few hours to figure out WTF was going on.)

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Coat

@Anonymous Coward

Too right, where is aManFromMars when you need him?

aardvark biscuit barrel hatstand

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Unhappy

Don't jump the gun..

Just because she IS an animal rights activist does NOT make her a VIOLENT animal rights activist until she is found guilty of such.

Jeez, some people are as bad as the government when it comes to labelling others.

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Anonymous Coward

I feel some are missing the point somewhat?

Yes, a lot of animal rights activists are petty terrorists, and some are arsonists, vandals and thugs -- but that doesn't stop this law being worrying.

If a law was brought in that allowed prosecution of anyone posting anonymously on the internet, would you agree with that? It could, after all, be used to lock up murderers, paedorasts, rapists, terrorists, illegal immigrants, thieves... The snag being, of course, that it could be used to prosecute a lot of people who would never dream of breaking the law.

Posted anonymously, obviously.

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Anonymous Coward

Get a grip guys

While there are definitely some grade-A nutters involved in the anti-HLS campaigns, there are also people who just stand outside the labs withy placards and shout. We don't know which group she belongs to.

Given the propensity for the police to use intimidation and harassment to protect big business, there's every chance that she's just some harmless hippy.

If we use the logic of most of the people commenting here, the police should be demanding to see the computers of every muslim in the country - after all, we've seen what *some* of them are capable of.

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What a silly definition of terrorism

Trains have been known to cause damage to property and people. Therefore trains are terrorists.

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This is Justice?

I'd bet that you can take any modern desktop computer that's been used for more than a six months and find some encrypted files on it that the current user has either no knowledge of or has long since forgotten.

Assuming the readership of El Reg are mostly IT pro's, Answer me this:

A client asks you to audit their network to ensure that every encrypted file can be decrypted and take responsibility (2 years jail-time), for any that you miss.

How many of you would you take that job on?

How many of you expect a regular user would stand a chance in hell of successfully completing that task?

This law as stands means as near as makes no difference, all computer users are by default criminals, a threat that our supposedly elected representatives and policing authorities are clearly going to use whenever it suits their agenda, which will inevitably mean always.

That it's being used now against a group that the majority see as 'gagging for a slap' is SOP, next soft target will be the filesharers, after that you're all game.

Guilty till proven innocent, Churchill is no doubt turning in his grave.

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Anonymous Coward

Lock her up she's obviously a terrorist.

Just like everyone else I am fully supportive of a free and democratic society and don't want to live in a police state...

Except of course unless it is "animal rights protesters" as we all know this group of people are collectively guilty of digging up grannies/arson/assault, I don't have any proof but I know it's true.

OK, OK so this is only one person and we have almost no information about her particular case, but does that really matter?

I think not, we should definitely condemn her now as strongly as possible. She is an ANIMAL RIGHTS PROTESTER after all, maybe we should bring back flogging just for them. At the bear minimum we need a special kangaroo court just for these guilty people.

Clearly she is as much threat as those who committed the atrocities on 11th September and 7th July, we need these laws to stop these animals rights protesters killing any more people.

I as many other commenters here believe the only solution is rash decisions and enforcing ridiculous (possibly unenforceable) laws that I would never otherwise support. At least when it comes to this particular - obviously guilty of something - minority group that I dislike.

I can only hope if I ever become part of an unliked minority I will get the support of all those who profess they want freedom and a just society.

I know now I can sleep safely at night, and that if I ever hold an unpopular view which is vilified by the media I will be judged purely by my INDIVIDUAL actions and character.

Thanks to all of you who are fighting the good fight, you champions of freedom, you heroes.

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Scum

Let's be perfectly clear people who value the life of animals above that of humans are scum. PETA still refuse to condem the use of violence to achieve their means, they are scum. The animal rights nutters outside AXA in the city each week with their megaphones spreading misinformation about HLS and what goes on there, they are scum. The granny exhumers, the Oxford student threateners, the ones that burned down a boat shed because it belonged to Oxford Uni, the ones that intimidate the Chemistry students because it's next door to a new animal lab, the ones that intimidate workmen on that lab, the ones that intimidate Zoology students, the ones who burned down a perfectly legitimate pig farm in the village I grew up in (killing all the animals) whatever other evil shit they do, they are scumy scum scum scum.

The ones who protest peacefully, I'd say are misguided, but fully entitled to protest.

This law, however is moronic, it relies upon the assumption that someone has a key to all of their data and that they knew the encrypted data was there. It relies upon the a negative being proved (I don't have a key to give you). I can't imagine it standing up in court, if it does it's a sad day for justice.

As a further point - if you are going to protest about the use of animals in drug testing, maybe you should protest to the government who require it, rather than the companies who are required to do it.

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Black Helicopters

Wasn't there something in the Act...

which covered disclosure of the requirement to produce the keys? From what I remember of the original bill there was a second offence of telling anyone that you had been requested to reveal the key.

Oh it is still there just it has to be enacted by the person authorising the request for the notice. Bit late for CPS to ask for that to be included.

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Pirate

I did it to myself...

Created a Truecrypt volume on my laptop with a nice long random key, and put (what I thought was) the key into my KeePass database.

I found out later when I came to mount it that the key wasn't the key. Had I been challenged to provide the key (which I wouldn't anyway), there would have been no way I could have.

Luckily there was nothing vital in the volume, so I recreated it. I then had to do it again after KeePass ate itself when the laptop fell asleep with TrueCrypt volume it lives on mounted. I love computers...

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It's so good to see that...

... So many people on here are happy to assume that because the woman involved is an "animal rights activist" and has had demands for her passwords she is clearly an "animal rights terrorist" who digs up grannies or whatever and thus are quite ok with the idea of *her* rights being violated.

Of course if it was *their* rights being breached and their passwords being demanded, they, knowing they were completely innocent and having had done nothing, would no doubt be shouting to high heaven about this.

Hypocrites.

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Dan
Stop

Human rights

While I agree that animal rights lot includes some sick nutcases (exhuming that grandmother was just low), the fact is that this kind of stuff is the direction in which we are headed. If it would be unjust for the Police to bang you up for having an encrypted file you know nothing about, then it would be equally unjust for it to happen to someone who you dislike. That's the point of human rights-type legislation and civil liberties - it protects all equally.

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@Mad Mike

"Rather seems the legislation is at odds with the technology. Also, it is rather interesting that the police can't crack it!! Given their resources, you would have thought it would be possible."

NOBODY has the resources to crack a file that has been properly encrypted with a sufficiently large key. Not even the NSA. That's the primary reason the US tried to prevent the dissemination of PGP, and why this particular clause of RIPA exists.

Besides, even if, hypothetically speaking, NSA/GCHQ and the like have acquired quantum computers or discovered some miraculous method of rapidly factoring massive prime numbers, they're certainly not going to tell the police unless they absolutely have to. You don't risk revealing a capability like that to the world unless the situation is absolutely desperate.

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Silver badge

Just tell them it's in Welsh...

Here is some coded text for everyone's PC.

"Qip suhsy qmnc ywyd igtq bjdwim. Ahys qpmabr gaxicgfg hhsfer jhag n. Javetvdtv syq mazlqws nbstr. Gibnrt le flinglepo dartmis."

I am NOT going to give anyone the key. Ever.

Now you're all in sh_t.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmmm...

You're all saying she might just be in the placard waving (or garden) variety of activist. Then why are the police going this far to investigate her?

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14, 28, 56 days...

Well, whether this particular piece of legislation is right or wrong, it does kind of put the mockers on the need to extend the 'hold without charge' period, since the biggest reason for this is supposedly the need to crack encryption. They won't provide an encryption key? Charge them with failure to provide it, refuse bail, sentence them and lock them up for up to five years legitimately while you investigate the other offences. In a nice prison where everyone can see them and they aren't subject to dodgy control orders.

HM Govmint can't have it both ways. Well, actually, they probably can, but they *shouldn't*.

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Encryption and DRM

Not sure how many of you are familier with TCG or Palladium et al. but if you believe what Ross Anderson (Professor of Security Engineering, University of Cambridge) says could be in the pipeline, Microsoft and some of the media companies may be putting DRM including encryption in to products and media.

This is so when you don't pay your regular licence fee (note the new costing model for Microsoft software, or 'rent' for your applications), you will not be able to open your media and YOUR documents. This could make it impossible for you to provide plain text copies of your documents (although probably MS could). And what about the audio files that are protected by DRM and the Certification Authority has disappeared/gone. How do you prove that it is not audio minutes of the most recent meeting of the local terrorist cell?

Look up "trusted computing" in Wikipedia, and follow the link in the reference to Ross Anderson. Be scared. Be very scared.

So, possible jail terms to everybody using future MS products, then.

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@Graham Marsden

Honestly, I would say that any assumptions about her status as an animal rights terrorist are based on context taken from her own quotes.

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Alert

Stalin's Russia

Glad to see there are plenty of people who are happy to brand this woman a terrorist despite there being no evidence to support it. I guess these people are the same people that determine your must be guilty if shot by the police.

Just because the police decide to take an interest in your private life doesn't mean you are guilty of anything. This is Britain, not Stalin's Russia .... well not yet anyway.

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Unhappy

@anon hmmmmm......

"You're all saying she might just be in the placard waving (or garden) variety of activist. Then why are the police going this far to investigate her?"

the same police that threatened a labour party heckler under the terrorism laws?

the same police that searched children and arrested peace protestors?

the same police that shot an innocent man in the London underground?

and lets not even go into some of the dodgy DNA cases (posting letters being very suspicious)

innocent until proven guilty does not mean innocent until investigated, as has been said often (thankfully) rights are not just for the people we like or thats a very sleep and slippery slope.

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@Jason Baziliauskas

IANAL But.....

A Section 49 notice says "Give us the keys/data" At the same time, you *could* be handed a Section 51 notice which says "You can't tell anyone we've just given you a Section 49 notice"

In this case, it seems she hasn't actually been given a Section 49 notice, so a Section 51 notice would not apply.

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Alert

re: Hmmmm...

Let me see if i can fix this for you...

----You're all saying he might just be the normal guy minding his own business. Then why are the police going this far to shoot him dead? (Talking about the de Menezes)----

I am sorry i used this in the argument but people like you just upset me.

See where that kind of argument is going.

And in any case this law is beyond ridiculous. How do you prove to anyone that you don't have something(in this case the encryption key) . I thought thats impossible.

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Here come the sympathizers

I object vehemently to the presumption of guilt and the "no smoke without fire" arguments... except in the case of those who actively oppose the progress and wellbeing of humanity in favour of other species.

To quote the great Gene Hunt, "human rights are for human beings."

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Oh yes

"You're all saying she might just be in the placard waving (or garden) variety of activist. Then why are the police going this far to investigate her?"

Oh yes, I like that.

If she's being investigated (the "until" part of "Innocent until proven guilty") then she *must* have done *something*.

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Anonymous Coward

In The U.S. of A

at least we still have the illusion of not being required to self-incriminate... nice right to have. we do a lot of stupid stuff this side of the pond, but it looks like everyone else is in a foot race to keep up. sorry about your luck.

it would be similar to throwing someone in prison because they refused to tell on themselves, not the actual crime they're accused of committing.

i'm not a big fan of some animal rights activists, since they damaged a lot of stuff at M.S.U. when i was there, but they still have rights. even terrorist idiots blowing people up have rights... up until they're guilty, then i don't have as much sympathy.

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Stop

@Hmmmm...

FFS, so everyone who the police ever accuse of anything is automatically guilty? Might as well abolish courts, judges, juries and trials then. Just give the police machine guns and let them shoot randomly into crowded shopping malls - after all, if the police are shooting at you, it must be because you're a bad person, right?

Get an effing clue. We have a justice system for a reason, and that is because in a democracy we do not believe that our rulers rule over us by divine right and therefore we do not believe that they are infallible. So for our own protection, and for the sake of accountability and justice, we are ALL innocent until proven guilty. If you want that protection for yourself, you have to extend it to *everyone*. How bloody amnesiac do you have to be to have forgotten all the miscarriages of justice based on falsified police accusations over the past few decades? What kind of sucker just believes everything they're told simply because the bloke who says so is wearing a uniform?

The police can and do get it wrong, and I hope they get it wrong with you next.

Because if they do, I'll be here insisting that you, too, are innocent until proven guilty.

No need to thank me. Just extend the same courtesy to the accused in this case.

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Anonymous Coward

re Hmmm..

@Anonymous Coward - why don't you sign in and use your name, if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear.

So far as not being allowed to disclose the fact she's being investigated - given that the CPS is making the request, then she's allowed to sing it from the rooftops. Presumably the old bill haven't got any evidence and are trying it on. Then we get f***wits saying she's a terrorist, I've got a gut feeling about this one, sarge.

It seems a lot of commenters are suddenly ambivalent about civil liberties, it's all "well it's a bad law, but.." The point of civil liberties is to protect _you_ against the government. If you then run around saying, "oh these people shouldn't have the protection we've got", you've lost the plot, because one day you'll be in the frame and people won't support you, they'll say, "well he's a geek, must be a bit odd, and the police aren't investigating for nothing.." Got it yet?

First they came for the animal rights extremists..

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