back to article Tory 'terror' affair shows danger of ubiquitous surveillance

Few will be surprised by the verdict of the Home Affairs Select Committee on the Damian Green affair. But the conclusion to the debacle is a useful and timely illustration of the threat to democracy posed by the forthcoming Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP). A delayed consultation on its proposals, one of which is a …

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Anonymous Coward

Trust?

"Public trust in the essential reasonableness of UK police, security and intelligence agency activity will continue to be essential," Omand continues in his treatise on surveillance data mining"

It is, then, such a pity that so few members of the public trust the UK police or the Government or it's agencies.

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Pirate

UK Political Prisoners

What particularly troubles me is that Damian Green, and Christopher Galley were effectively arrested and held as political prisoners.

The only reasons for detaining them was Sir David Normington desperation to protect his career, Jacqui Smiths political interest, and general Home Office embarrassment as yet another scandal.

This is simply a Stalinist approach to suppressing political dissent; arrest and detain people who disagree with you or make you look foolish.

Jacqui Smith, and particularly David D-Notice Normington (the senior civil servant who allegedly made an exaggerated complaint to Police)... must go.

Which is an opinion that probably makes me (and anyone who agrees) a 'terrorist'.

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Anonymous Coward

As our Prime Minister said:

"My fellow Englishmen: tonight our country, that which we stand for, and all we hold dear, faces a grave and terrible threat. This violent and unparalleled assault on our security will not go undefended... or unpunished. Our enemy is an insidious one, seeking to divide us and destroy the very foundation of our great nation. Tonight, we must remain steadfast. We must remain determined. But most of all, we must remain united. Those caught tonight in violation of curfew will be considered in league with our enemy and prosecuted as a terrorist without leniency or exception. Tonight, I give you my most solemn vow: that justice will be swift, it will be righteous, and it will be without mercy. "

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Alert

Of course...

...the mole could just stuff the documents in an envelope and post it.

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Black Helicopters

Tinfoil hat

There was a really good TV series in the late 1970s called 1990 - it's never been repeated which is a pity as they were damn good storylines. I think that it's time the beeb dusted it off and ran it again. Some of the plots will sound rather familiar...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1990_(TV_series)

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High tech surveillance demands low-tech evasion

Before you know it MPs will have to start following the same routes as the terrorists are- meeting in person, passing on messages by hand, leaving the phone at home, generally doing the things they used to do before electronic communications were ubiquitous. It may be impossible to have a secure high-tech conversation without a good understanding of cryptography and transport technologies ( I'll be interested to see what suggestions other posters come up with for subverting the regular network ) but I guess as the focus of surveillance falls increasingly on the electronic, things real people do in the real world will be slightly less looked-for.

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Stop

Reasonableness?

As in the kind of reasonableness that allows you to baton an innocent man over the head whilst he walks home from work, giving him a fatal heart attack? The kind of reasonableness that leads you to arrest people for taking photographs of historic buildings and trains?

The kind that allows you to shoot an innocent man repeatedly in the head, claiming him to be a 'terrorist suspect', having followed him for miles and allowing him to board a tube train? The kind that leads you to subsequently photoshop his face for the media in order to make him look more 'Asian', and to smear him as a cocaine addict in order to imply that somehow, he got what he deserved?

The kind of reasonableness that gives you cause to shoot an unarmed man in the shoulder in his own home, branding him a terrorist, then upon finding no evidence to support this assertion, to attempt to slur him with false accusations of internet perversion and money laundering?

The kind of reasonableness that allows you to fake a dossier of evidence claiming that we are all thirty minutes away from being destroyed by chemical and biological weapons launched by a rogue middle east state, leading to an illegal attack on said state costing tens of thousands of lives, many of innocent men women and children. The kind of reasonableness that allows you to then cover up advice given by your own attorney general prior to launching said war that any such action would be a breach of international law.

The kind of reasonableness that allows you to harass a local newspaper journalist with evidence pointing towards corruption in your police force, to the point of confiscating her equipment and reading her private and privileged communications under some spurious constitutional law introduced by the back-door by a political party only interested in protecting its flimsy reputation?

The kind of reasonableness that allows your policemen to career into the body of a teenage girl whilst driving at over 60mph in Manchester city centre, knocking her 100ft away from the collision, causing her severe brain-damage, then to claim in a civil suit (having slipped out of criminal charges) that she deserved it because she had been out drinking 'under-age'? The kind that allows you to disappear CCTV footage of the incident from the area, then to lie to a court when footage is found that it would cost too much to transfer the tapes?

The kind of reasonableness that allows local councils to use anti-terror legislation to spy on residents for wheelie-bin misuse?

This is the reasonableness of the corrupt, lazy, lying, self-serving, power-grabbing bastards that make up the police, government and 'security services' in the UK. These are the people we are supposed to trust with details of our communications, our movements, our relationships, our beliefs, our sexual habits, our shopping habits, our history and our identity. We are supposed to believe that contrary to all previous evidence, these details won't be mishandled, misused, lost, leaked, faked, abused, compiled, graded, sold and otherwise abused- as the people in charge of them are essentially ‘reasonable’, and therefore not required to be subject to any safeguards or restrictions?

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@Jez Burns

+1

Thanks for saving me having to type all of that lot!

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Happy

@Graham

You're welcome! I think I need a lie down now..

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Coat

Correction

Case mentioned in paragraph 6 happened in Nottingham, not Manchester- sorry!

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Trust?

I'm going to trust a government who supported a man who was going to spread lies and propaganda about MPs and their families? A government with a reputation already for lying and spreading false accusations about their opponents, who use the full resources of the inteligence services to attempt to discredit someone who has the gall to stand up and hold them to account?

Oh alright then, guess mine will be a postal vote next year then?

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Oz
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@ Jez Burns

Well done for typing that tome - I couldn't have put it better myself.

It's all the above cases of reasonableness, plus plenty of others, that ensures the average, and usually reasonable, person in the street has lost much of, or all, faith in the authorities.

I fear it's a bit late to reverse this trend as it's the same authorities, who rather than listen to these valid issues, bulldoze legislation that is completely pointless and unnecessary, and in the process turn us all into criminals. A police state indeed.

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Stop

What on earth is this all about?

"The "national security" justification offered by Jacqui Smith for the warrantless counter-terror police raid on a fellow member of Parliament's offices was trumped up by officials embarrassed by a series of leaks, we've now learned."

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and what a lovely government-bashing bandwagon the majority of the media (including the el reg) has jumped on.

I'm no labourite or tory-boy (currently just confused about who the hell a sane person would vote for...) but can we please have some perspective on this:

You're in charge of the Home Office. For the last few months there have been a number of leaks to the public regarding internal documents. At this point you:

a) Suspect there is a mole - this is embarassing and you'd like them to stop

b) Don't know what else they are leaking or who to - this is a genuine national security concern. If you don't know who the leak is, how exactly do you know in advance that this isn't a national security issue at all?

So, you call in the cops. Now, whether they were right to go after Mr Green IS a good argument, given that they had found the source of the leak and could thus ascertain his access rights and no doubt a 'confession' regarding what he'd leaked, this probably should have ended here as far as the police go.

It didn't however and the police went in to see Mr Green. WITHOUT A WARRANT. Oh my. That's awful, the police can't do such horrible things in this country.

Unless the police ask to come in, and you let them, and then they ask to search, and you let them.

Which is what happened.

This isn't a political scandal, it's a non-event as far as I can see. The only question to be asked is did the Met need to take this further than the mole they had found and for what reasons.

Have I missed something fundamental to this story or this is just an excuse to bash the Labour party that everyone seems to have jumped on?

P.s. 'Anti-terrorism' police are just special branch by a different name, the same people who would and should be investigating internal home office security breaches.

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Anonymous Coward

Says it all really

"Finding out other people's secrets is going to involve breaking everyday moral rules."

The masks are being stamped out and will be in the post shortly.

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the rules are already being bent

Bent...more like shredded and burned and then shat upon.

@ Jez Burns Well, done man. Expect a surprise visit in the near future by some "friends of the government".

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@G Murphy

If the information being leaked is detailing counter-terror operations or security details concerning vital infrastructure then it is a National Security matter.

If it is information that the Labour Party has tried to bury because it shows (a) they are not as successful as they claim at stopping illegal immigrants and (b) they are, um, not giving 100% accurate information to the Electorate they are supposed to represent and serve then it is a Public Interest matter.

Anti-terror legislation is intended to stop religious militants of ANY race, colour or creed attacking people. It is not intended as a catch-all to stop anything that New Labour do not like, or to allow the Home Secretary to cover up lies and malicious falsehoods.

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RW

@ breakfast

Don't forget hollow pumpkins as drop points per the famous Alger Hiss spying scandal in the US ca. 1950.

Russian spies were fond of using hollow tree crotches as drop points.

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@ Jez Burns

"As in the kind of reasonableness that allows you to baton an innocent man over the head whilst he walks home from work, giving him a fatal heart attack?"

And now look what they've been sitting on for a week

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8004222.stm

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Thank's to Jez Burns & Tinfoil hat Tony

Thank's Jez, a damned good read and very well put I can't think of anyone I know who would disagree with a single word of it.

Can I second Tony's comment about the TV Series "1990" - it's superb television and well recommended - is Piratebay still up?

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@Tony

1990.

Why do I get the feeling this would be Jacquie Smiths reward for getting her homework done on time?

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Oz

@G Murphy

Labour bashing is nothing if done by the other parties, right? However there are a large number of Labour MPs who have publicly stated that the actions taken were dubious, if not unlawful. I can't help thinking that it's not just the opposition who have actually opposed this behaviour, which rather devalues your argument

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@ G Murphy

So, there might be some national-security-related leaks that you don't know about - you don't know the leaks exist, you don't know who's leaking them, and you don't know where they're being leaked to?

That's like Rumsfeld's famous "unknown unknowns" - if you start arresting people because they might have done something you have no evidence for, you'd never stop arresting people. Many journalists have, at one time or another, received leaks from government sources - do you arrest them all in case they also received national-security-related leaks?

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@Jeff & @Oz

Jeff, perhaps I wasn't clear enough. I agree with you, but your argument is in hindsight. Unless you know differently there was absolutely no way the Home Office would have known whether matters concerning national security were being leaked or not.

As far as 'counter-terrorism' goes; there wasn't really any, I don't know where this has come from, as I said before, the police are the counter-terrorism unit, but this is just the new name for special branch and no powers under anti-terror legislation were used...

@Oz

Oz, like with any orgsanisation if you think the ship is sinking don't say you sided with the captain, I don't think you can infer much from rebel MPs. I've yet to see any indication that the actions the police took were unlawful, they are allowed to enter premises without a warrant if you let them, it really is that simple.

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Happy

@Jeff Rowse

" It is not intended as a catch-all to stop anything that New Labour do not like, or to allow the Home Secretary to cover up lies and malicious falsehoods."

But it's so handy for that as well.

It was also what was used to freeze the UK assets of the Icelandic banks that went bust.

Do you get the feeling its a law that needs a muzzle and putting on a short leash.

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Does nobody face the consequences?

"there has been considerable damage to national security already as a result of some of these leaks"

If this statement to the police by the Home Office is not true then hasn't the offence of "wasting police time" been committed? I look forward to the author being charged with this offence.

If not then false claims can be made with impunity in the hope that occasionally the subsequent fishing expedition by the police may turn up some evidence, not necessarily relevant to the original claim and use that as justification for the action. Suppose the police search had turned up some sexually explicit material in this case - I bet we'd all have heard about it.

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Stop

Reasonable is Relative

"Public trust in the essential reasonableness of UK police, security and intelligence agency activity will continue to be essential,"

I read it as: "Vee have vays of making ze policies seem reasonable!" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy_of_tension

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