Mon, 27 Apr 2009

Step-by-step guide to reclaim your DNA

So you have not been convicted or cautioned for any crime - you are innocent - but your DNA profile is still held on the National DNA Database (NDNAD) and a commercial lab is storing a sample of your DNA. You need to get off this crime-related intelligence database and ensure that your personal genetic information sample is destroyed.

Maybe, you read the articles Don't delay: Delete your DNA today and Three months on, you still can't get off the DNA database, wanted to write to reclaim your DNA but didn't really know how to get started? The new Reclaim your DNA, website launched by GeneWatch UK, No2ID, Open Rights Group and Black Mental Health UK guides you step-by-step through the process:

Innocent urged to reclaim their DNA from reluctant Government

Launched today, a new ‘Reclaim your DNA’ website helps innocent people contact the police to seek destruction of their DNA and database records. The coalition of rights groups supporting it accuses the Government of dragging its feet in removing innocent people from the National DNA Database. The European Court of Human Rights ruled last December that the retention of innocent people’s DNA and fingerprints is unlawful.

Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK, said: “If Scotland can remove innocent people from the DNA database, why can’t this happen everywhere? It’s time for people in the rest of Britain to demand their rights”.

Phil Booth, Co-ordinator of NO2ID, said: “The principle is simple and fair. When charges are dropped, DNA samples should be destroyed. No charge, no DNA – stop treating the innocent as criminal suspects”.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, said: “We have human rights: we need to exercise them if we want to successfully defend them. The digital age means data is constantly easier to collect, store, and analyse, so when government goes too far, it is vital citizens act to defend their right to privacy”.

Matilda MacAttram, Director of Black Mental Health UK, said: “The fact that three quarters of Britain’s young black men and over half of black Londoners are on it clearly shows that the DNA database has criminalised a whole community, whilst most real criminals are still not on it. Black Mental Health UK welcomes this new website. It will enable thousands of innocent people who are currently being criminalised by a system that clearly doesn’t work to get their genetic data back.”

The website also provides advice if you are not sure if the police have your DNA, you were cautioned or convicted of a minor offence, or you gave your DNA to the police voluntarily.

Act now to reclaim your DNA and/or show your disagreement with this unlawful government policy!

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Thu, 23 Apr 2009

Why are you sending me to prison? I cannot tell you that

Dinah Rose QC is a barrister with direct experience of working with the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), which assesses deportation cases, often taking evidence in closed sessions. At a meeting calling for an end to secret evidence, she told this anecdote:

I can still recall my deep feeling of shame when I heard the appellant ask the judge the question: why are you sending me to prison? To which the judge replied: I cannot tell you that. I could not believe that I was witnessing such an event in a British court. I could not believe that nobody protested or made a fuss. They simply took him to jail, without any explanation at all.

Are you shocked that this happens in this country? Don't you feel the urgent need to make a fuss?

As an outcome of this meeting, an Early Day Motion (EDM 1308) has been tabled by Diane Abbott to call on the Government to bring about an independent review into the use of secret evidence in UK courts. If you care about the fundamental right of anyone to receive a fair and open hearing, the right not to be imprisoned or subjected to draconian control orders or bail conditions based on secret evidence, the rule of law and habeas corpus then write to your MP to ask him or her to sign this EDM:

That this House believes the use of secret evidence in UK courts is fundamentally wrong;

notes that secret evidence is evidence held by the Home Office against an individual that neither the individual, nor their legal representation, may see;

further notes that in recent cases secret evidence has been used to detain individuals in prison for up to three years without charge or trial;

further notes that these individuals may also be put under a control order or severe bail conditions, greatly limiting their movements and ability to lead a healthy life;

believes that the use of secret evidence by the state against individuals runs entirely contrary to Habeas Corpus;

recognises the European Court of Human Rights' ruling that detaining individuals on the basis of secret evidence is unlawful because detainees had not been able to effectively challenge the allegations against them;

and calls on the Government to begin an immediate independent review into the use of evidence that is not ever heard by the defendant or their lawyer but which is used to justify indefinite detention, severe bail conditions or control orders.

On Monday March 30, in a committee room in the House of Commons, Diane Abbott MP chaired a meeting entitled, 'Britain’s Guantánamo? The use of secret evidence and evidence based on torture in the UK courts, to discuss the stories of some of the men held as 'terror suspects' on the basis of secret evidence, and to work out how to persuade the government to change its policies. Andy Worthington has done a fantastic job reporting on this meeting. Below are links to the relevant posts. I recommend you set aside some time and read them all.

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Wed, 22 Apr 2009

Soon to be former suspects

Twelve suspects were arrested around Northwest England on 2009-04-08. They were accused of being part of a 'major terrorist plot', as Gordon Brown called it. The police have released the 12 suspects without charge. Some of them were subsequently served with deportation orders and are in the custody of the UK Border Agency. This has all the elements of propaganda: much hyped arrests, no bomb making equipment found at all, followed by all the arrestees released with none being charged.

They are still described in the media as 'suspects', 'terror suspects', 'terror raid men', etc., but they are all innocent. So a more appropriate description would be 'innocent men' or 'students'. Even GMP Chief Constable Peter Fahy conceded this point: 'We can only operate to one standard, and that standard is that people are innocent until they are proved guilty.'

Suspects Released - Channel 4 News

Soon they're likely to find themselves described as 'former suspect'. Here's what I wrote at the time this expression was used in captions to describe me:

In both the Sky News Today and the Politics Show interviews, the caption introduced me as 'Former Suspect'. Is that more appropriate than say ‘London resident’ or ‘Tried to take the tube’? Such captions have to be short, but this shortening of what is really ‘Formerly considered by the Police to present a suspicious behaviour’ can give the impression of a universality. This would erroneous. Let me know how you react to this label.

Former suspect - Sky NewsFormer suspect - BBC Politics Show

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Sun, 19 Apr 2009

Public order tactics and the Lucifer effect

Sir Ken Jones, ACPO president, said this Sunday on police public order tactics:

Unlike many other countries we do not have standing "riot police" and using this term does not aid understanding. In policing demonstrations and the like we need to mobilize hundreds, sometimes thousands, of police officers from other work. The so called "riot police" we see on TV are mostly everyday officers from our neighborhoods and communities who would rather be somewhere else. Our officers are trained and deployed according to what works best to deliver people's democratic rights against the rights and needs of the majority who are not involved. It has to be said that there are many who get involved in street protest who are intent on creating riots, damaging property and attacking our officers. The presence of such groups, well organised and determined, is sadly an increasing feature of public protest across Europe. They pose a very real threat to legitimate protestors, public and police. Police officers are only human but know that their standards of behavior in all situations must be beyond reproach, no matter what provocation is offered. Those who cross the line must be dealt with. However there is a need to approach this objectively and look at the issue from all perspectives. And those who do not cross the line, the vast and overwhelming majority, deserve our support.

Philip Zimbardo, infamous for his 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, defined the Lucifer Effect as 'the point in time when an ordinary, normal person first crosses the boundary between good and evil to engage in an evil action'. In 2004 Zimbardo served as an expert witness for the defence in one of the Abu Ghraib court-marshal hearings. Here's an extract from the review of his book in Discover Magazine:

Situational forces mount in power with the introduction of uniforms, costumes, and masks, all disguises of one’s usual appearance that promote anonymity and reduce personal accountability. When people feel anonymous in a situation, as if no one is aware of their true identity (and thus that no one probably cares), they can more easily be induced to behave in antisocial ways.

In both cases from the G20 demonstrations independently investigated by the IPCC - the worst cases of identified police brutality - the police officers involved were not wearing any visible identification. The officer who hit and pushed Ian Tomlinson also wore a balaclava. These are apparently used to protect officers when there's a risk of fire; in that instance there was no such risk. The balaclava just made the officer more anonymous.

Demonstrators are dehumanised, Sir Ken Jones described them, in the extract above, as groups ('many', 'such groups') with no reference at all as to where they come from or why they may demonstrate or what for. Except for one mention of 'legitimate protestors', the rest of the text is aligned with the Met's building up of a 'summer of rage'. The contrast with how he describes the police is telling: 'police officers', 'everyday officers', 'officers', 'human', 'those'.

It's not just some officers being out control in the heat of the moment. The whole system protects such behaviour and promotes the impression that the police are above the law. Crucial CCTV footage is missing (or maybe not), no police officers are convicted for deaths in custody... The last time a police officer was convicted following a death in custody was for assault charges in 1971. A long way from the Nine principles of policing established by Sir Robert Peels.

If Zimbardo's theory is valid, the officers being investigated by the IPCC are not just bad apples but representative of a systemic problem that shows the need for accountability at all levels including senior officers.

(And why does Sir Ken Jones uses American spelling in this ACPO press release?)


The new United Campaign Against Police Violence is organising a public rally in Friends Meeting House on Euston Road at 7:00pm on Tuesday 5 May on:

A national demonstration is planned by the campaign for Saturday 23 May.

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Wed, 15 Apr 2009

Those who are to be convicted

Commander Simon Foy, head of the Metropolitan Police's Homicide and Serious Crime Command, Specialist Crime Directorate wrote an appalling comment piece titled DNA database keeps us safe in The Guardian. It includes this paragraph:

The decision about whether to remove the DNA of those who are yet to be convicted of an offence will rightly be made by politicians. In the past the police have made the case to government for retaining these samples and they have agreed, but the EU case may change that. Obviously Jeffrey's knowledge and grasp of the scientific details surpasses mine, I'm just an investigator but the reality for me is the more people on the database, the more effective our investigation will be. [Emphasis added]

Letting pass that it wasn't a EU (in Brussels) case but a European Court of Human Rights (in Strasbourg) judgement, the court found 'that the blanket and indiscriminate nature of the powers of retention of the fingerprints, cellular samples and DNA profiles of persons suspected but not convicted of offences [...] fails to strike a fair balance between the competing public and private interests and that the respondent State has overstepped any acceptable margin of appreciation in this regard.' [Emphasis added] That adding more profiles of individuals on the database helps to solve more crime has been debunked by GeneWatch UK.

Commander Simon Foy is writing about individuals who have been suspected and hence arrested but not convicted of any offences - either because no further action was taken or because they were acquitted after having been charged. These are individuals who are innocents.

The rest of the article is poor as well, but that someone of the rank of Commander can condemn innocents as 'yet to be convicted' is really crass. This demonstrates that in the eyes of the police the National DNA Database (NDNAD) is a crime-related intelligence database.

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Tue, 14 Apr 2009

Missing CCTV footage - again

As early as February, Met's Superintendent David Hartshorn was extolling that the 'Police are preparing for a "summer of rage"'. Predicted highlights included the G20 Summit: Xmas coming early for activists, and industrial disputes in reaction to the downturn in the economy. That gave plenty of time for the Police to ensure they were fully prepared for the - mostly peaceful - demonstrations and climate camp scheduled for April 1st.

Met CCTV campaignThe police, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), know the importance of video footage for evidential use. They already went through much controversy about missing CCTV footage in Stockwell tube station at the scene of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes by a police officer. (In my case, CCTV footage was lost because no police officer actually requested it from Transport for London.)

That's why the Police promotes 'a few simple rules to ensure that CCTV is not rendered useless' (image on the right taken from this campaign). And that's also a justification for the police using their own photographers and videographers, the Forward Intelligence Team (FIT), as was exemplified at the previous climate camp in Kingsnorth.

In light of the above, it could have been expected that as part of its preparation, the police would have checked that all the CCTV cameras in the City of London were in good order. As soon as incidents had been known to happen the relevant footage would have been secured.

Witnesses rapidly came forward about police brutality against peaceful protesters and about the assault on Ian Tomlinson. The IPCC has already received 120 complaints relating to police actions at the G20 demonstrations. However, key CCTV footage is still lacking.

• 2009-04-01 During the G20 protests in the City of London, Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper vendor, collapses in Cornhill. He is pronounced dead at the hospital. He had been assaulted by a police officer minutes before collapsing.

• 2009-04-02 The IPCC releases its first statement: in which it states it 'will be assessing the circumstances [and] will be examining CCTV and attending the post-mortem this afternoon, as is usual in cases of this nature.' Reports from witnesses start appearing; they are consistent in how the protesters went to help Mr Tomlinson.

• 2009-04-03 The Guardian contacts City of London police - tasked with conducting the investigation into Ian Tomlinson's death on behalf of the IPCC - and says it has obtained photographs of him lying on the pavement at the feet of riot police. There was no evidence he was involved in altercations with the police.

• 2009-04-04 Witnesses provide statements to the IPCC that Ian Tomlinson was assaulted by riot police shortly before he collapsed. A post-mortem examination finds he suffered a heart attack.

• 2009-04-06 The IPCC justifies its decision of tasking an investigation 'into the circumstances of police contact with Ian Tomlinson' to the City of London Police. The IPCC will only manage investigation. IPCC Commissioner for London Deborah Glass said:

Just after 7pm on 1 April, Mr Tomlinson can be seen on CCTV walking up King William Street and approaching a police cordon opposite the Bank of England. It is believed he wanted to get through the cordon to continue his walk home from work. Police officers refused to let him through.

A short time later, Mr Tomlinson can be seen on CCTV walking around the corner into Royal Exchange Passage. A number of witnesses have described seeing him there, getting caught up in a crowd and being pushed back by police officers. This is the aspect of the incident that the IPCC is now investigating.

Minutes later he is seen on CCTV walking back onto Cornhill from Royal Exchange Passage.

Mr Tomlinson walks for about three more minutes, before collapsing on Cornhill. The CCTV shows that Mr Tomlinson was not trapped inside a police cordon at any stage.

Several members of the public state that they tried to help Mr Tomlinson. Others reported the incident to nearby police officers. CCTV shows police officers forming a cordon around him near a group of protesters so that the police medics could give first aid.

They then carried Mr Tomlinson on a stretcher through the Cornhill / Birchin Lane cordon and continued first aid. An ambulance then arrived and he was taken to hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Witness Appeal

Commissioner Deborah Glass continued: “The investigation is continuing to look through CCTV footage to see whether the incident inside Royal Exchange Passage has been captured and we already have a number of witness accounts from the area. However, I would ask anyone else who saw Mr Tomlinson at about 7.20 p.m. or who may have taken a photo of him around that time to contact us so that we can build up a full picture of what happened.

• 2009-04-07 The Guardian publishes on its website amateur video footage it received from a fund manager from New York that clearly shows Ian Tomlinson was pushed to the floor by a riot officer. This officer is seen with a baton. An IPCC investigator and a City of London officer visiting the Guardian's offices to be handed a dossier of evidence asked that for the video to be removed from the website.

The IPCC states '[it] has been made aware of the footage broadcast on a national newspaper's website. We are now attempting to recover this evidence. We will be assessing this along with the other statements and photographs that have already been submitted.'

• 2009-04-08 The IPCC confirms it has 'recovered video footage from a national newspaper last night. We are now in the process of analysing it, along with the other evidence we have obtained on the case.'

Channel 4 News publishes new footage that shows the moment a policeman hit Ian Tomlinson with a baton before pushing him (the footage was recovered from a camera that was broken in an incident).

The IPCC reverses its decision to allow City police to investigate the death and eventually decides 'to independently investigate the alleged assault by police on Ian Tomlinson shortly before his death. The investigation will also look into whether that contact may have contributed to his death.'

IPCC investigators and City of London Police, under IPCC direction, examined CCTV, statements and police records and spoke to independent witnesses. [...]

Yesterday evening, the IPCC was made aware of some footage of the incident running on a national newspaper's website. This was the first time we were made aware of the footage. An IPCC investigator immediately contacted the newspaper and collected the footage from them last night.

This morning, IPCC investigators have been analysing that footage and, in light of this new evidence, a decision has been taken that this investigation will now be fully independent. This means that the IPCC will now use its own full team of investigators. To ensure that there is no loss of effectiveness, some specialist resources from City of London police will continue to be used to carry out forensic and analytical research for our investigation.

Several police officers, including the officer who struck and pushed Ian Tomlinson have come forward. He apparently came forward after recognising himself on the video. In the group of police officers present during the assault on Ian Tomlinson, the riot officers were apparently from the Met and the dog handlers from the City of London police. He is from the Metropolitan Police’s Territorial Support Group (TSG). He was wearing a balaclava and no visible collar number.

• 2009-04-09 Nick Hardwick, chairman of the IPCC, tells Channel 4 News: 'We don't have CCTV footage of the incident... there is no CCTV footage, there were no cameras in the location where he was assaulted.'

The IPCC later that day speaks to More 4 News to confirm Hardwick's comment, by saying that the CCTV cameras overlooking the incident were not working.

The IPCC confirms that 'we now have the details of the Metropolitan Police officer who we believe appears in the footage we recovered last night, and who appears to make contact with Ian Tomlinson.'

• 2009-04-14 The IPCC release the following clarification on CCTV:

On Thursday 9th April 2009 Nick Hardwick, Chair of the IPCC went on to Channel 4 news – just 24 hours after the IPCC independently took over the investigation in to circumstances surrounding Ian Tomlinson’s death.

During the live interview he said - "We don't have CCTV footage of the incident... there is no CCTV footage, there were no cameras in the location where he was assaulted."

At this point Mr Hardwick believed that he was correct in this assertion– we now know this may not be accurate.

There are cameras in the surrounding area.

From the outset it has been a main line of our enquiry to recover all CCTV from the Corporation of London and from all private premises in the area. This work is ongoing and involves many hours of viewing and detailed analysis.

IPCC Commissioner and deputy chair Deborah Glass said “We continue to appeal for more information, including any other video footage. Clearly there were a lot of people in the area when this incident happened and we still need people to contact us with any information or images they have of Mr Tomlinson.”

Anybody who saw Mr Tomlinson in Royal Exchange Square is asked to contact the IPCC on 0800-096 9071 or email Tomlinson@ipcc.gov.uk.

The City of London police suddenly becomes interested in private CCTV footage and sends an email to businesses (via El Reg):

The City of London Police are investigating the G20 Protests on 1st April 2009, under Operation Princess. Officers from the Major Investigation Team will shortly be attending various business premises throughout the City with a view to seizing CCTV evidence.

It is anticipated that most premises will retain their CCTV for 31 days, but if for some reason your premises keeps it for less than that time please make contact immediately in order that your seizure can be prioritised.

• 2009-04-14 The Guardian reports that City of London police manage and control the public CCTV cameras in the area, including at least one that overlooks Royal Exchange Passage:

There were at least two cameras on or beside Royal Exchange Passage. One, on the corner of Threadneadle Street, is a City of London police camera that can turn through 360 degrees. A second is affixed to Number 11 Royal Exchange, pointed at the area where Tomlinson may have been assaulted. [...]

A photograph taken by Branthwaite around one minute after that alleged assault shows a CCTV camera affixed to a wall in the distance.

Branthwaite has revisited the scene and taken more pictures of the CCTV camera, which she believes was pointed at the spot where she witnessed the first alleged assault.

"It's difficult to know what the lens was like on that camera," she said. "But given where it was pointed along the whole street, directed into the centre of Royal Exchange Passage, it seems likely it showed the incident I saw. That attack occurred in that vicinity."

Who killed Ian Tomlinson?CCTV footage is missing when, by coincidence of course, it would be damaging to the police. Police hide their identification (such as the shoulder identification of this officer assaulting a woman in a vigil for Ian Tomlinson). Cameras get broken in incidents involving the police. And anyone taking a picture of a police officer risks falling foul of counter-terrorism legislation.

As is clear from the above timeline, the IPCC was forced by the weight of independent video footage, photographs and witness statements to deal with the death of Ian Tomlinson directly. It took seven days to go from assessment to managed inquiry by the City of London police to an IPCC investigation.

One wonders what would have happened if there hadn't been this wealth of independent, mostly amateur, material.

As well as a criminal inquiry into the death of Ian Tomlinson, there must be a public inquiry into police brutality reviewing Mr Tomlinson's death, the unprovoked violent behaviour of some police officers and the general police tactics, such as kettling, when managing peaceful demonstrations. There's also a need for a comprehensive review of the laws and guidelines affecting public video capture and photography. As has been demonstrated amateur and news video and photographic documentation is essential to police accountability and justice.

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Fri, 10 Apr 2009

Voluntary electronic tagging

El Reg

The mobile phone as self-inflicted surveillance

And if you don't have one, what have you got to hide?

Published in El Reg

Like the breadcrumbs in Hansel and Gretel, mobile phones leave a trail wherever they go. Practically everybody can be tracked via this trail, and the beauty of it all is, we're effectively tracking ourselves.

By design, phones pass their location on to local base stations. You can gauge how effectively the networks can track you by requesting your personal information from your network provider using a data subject access under the Data Protection Act, or by just running Google Mobile Maps on your phone. The smaller 3G cells in central London give an even better location than on GSM.

Google Mobile Map Mobile phone penetration in Europe reached an average of 111.26 per cent in 2007 according to ITU estimates, while in the UK it was 118.47 per cent. We love them so much that we are more likely to leave our wallet at home than our mobile.

The location breadcrumbs from these, along with other communication traffic data, are kept as part of a mass surveillance operation affecting everyone. They are collected by the networks, retained for a year, and handed over to the police and other bodies on request.

Professor Steve Peers, of the University of Essex and Statewatch, points out that although the system is incredibly sweeping, it doesn't stigmatise anyone because every phone call is going to be subject to this.

It's no longer just the individuals who are suspect of, or connected to, or convicted of a crime who are subject to some sort of additional surveillance beyond which they would traditionally have been subjected to. As regards to data retention, as regards to fingerprints, as regards to passenger records, it's everyone or a very large percentage of the population subject to the hoovering of that information.

This is cogent analysis. Mobile phones and email are used by everyone, including terrorists and other criminals. The data can be instrumental in tracking down criminals, with the caveat that having a bigger haystack does not make it easier to find a needle. But it misses one perverse effect - those who will be stigmatised in the future are those who don't have traffic data retained.

Lack of traffic data is what becomes suspicious. There are already two documented cases in Europe where not carrying a mobile phone was considered one of the grounds for arrest.

On 31st July 2007, in Brandenburg and Berlin, Germany, the flats and workplaces of Dr. Andrej Holm and Dr. Matthias B., as well as of two other persons, were searched by the police. All four were charged with "membership of a terrorist association" and are alleged to be members of a so-called 'militante gruppe' (mg):

According to the arrest warrant against Andrej Holm, the charge against the four individuals was justified on the following grounds:

• Dr. Matthias B. is alleged to have used, in his academic publications, "phrases and key words" which are also used by the 'militante gruppe';

[...]

• The fact that he - allegedly intentionally - did not take his mobile phone with him to a meeting is considered as "conspiratorial behavior".

On 11th November 2008, 150 French anti-terrorist police officers swooped on the 330-inhabitant village of Tarnac to arrest four men and five women aged 22 to 34, since nicknamed the 'Tarnac Nine'. These 'brilliant students' were living in a farm and ran a grocery store. All but one have been released. They were accused of "criminal association connected to a terrorist enterprise". French Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie (MAM) was in the news soon after:

The Interior Minister is convinced of having saved France by nipping a revolution in the bud. For MAM, the defendants are the seed of Action Directe.

"They have adopted the method of clandestinity. They never use a mobile phone. They managed to have, in the village of Tarnac, friendly relations with people who could warn them of the presence of strangers," said the minister.

In the village, people laugh at this statement. One of the defendants rented an apartment above the town hall. "Is it a clandestine method?", asks Jean-Michel, who goes on: "Can one be labelled terrorist because he does not have a mobile phone?". Here, mobile reception is poor.

Mass surveillance of the rest of us is becoming even more pervasive. The UK started transposing the European directive on retaining data generated through electronic communications or public communications networks (European Directive 2006/24/EC) with the Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2007. These came into force on 1st October 2007 and require service providers to retain fixed and mobile telephony traffic data of everyone's calls and SMS and MMS for one year and hand it over on request.

More than 650 public authorities can lawfully obtain communications data, including intelligence and law enforcement agencies, emergency services and other public authorities, such as the Financial Services Authority, local councils and the Home Office's UK Border Agency.

These regulations were superseded this week (on 6th April 2009), by the 2009 Regulations eventually completing the implementation of the European directive by adding the requirement to retain Internet access, email and Internet telephony traffic data as well.

What has to be retained in all cases is data necessary to trace and identify the source and destination of a communication and to identify the date, time and duration, and the communication's type. For mobile telephony and for Internet access, email and telephony, there's also a requirement to retain data necessary to identify users' communication equipment (or what purports to be their equipment) and the location of mobile communication equipment. The detail of exactly what needs to be retained has been regrouped in an easy to read list in a schedule to the Statutory Instrument (S.I.).

Earlier this year, Sir David Omand, a former Cabinet Office security and intelligence coordinator, gave a clear indication of what some in Whitehall have on their wish-list:

[A]pplication of modern data mining and processing techniques does involve examination of the innocent as well as the suspect to identify patterns of interest for further investigation.[...] Finding out other people's secrets is going to involve breaking everyday moral rules. So public trust in the essential reasonableness of UK police, security and intelligence agency activity will continue to be essential.

One extension to the traffic data retention guidelines that fits within this agenda is the building of a massive central silo for all UK communications data. Another is the e-Borders database (in pilot schemes, 0.0035 per cent of people screened were arrested); the location of your mobile phone had better match the country you declared you would be in.

Professor Steve Peers offers a glimmer of hope:

What is the relevance of [the European Court of Human Rights DNA database ruling in] Marper to that? To what extent can it regulate or stop what is clearly an ongoing development?

Marper is very relevant if it rules out the sweeping collection of personal data regardless of the stigmatisation factor and regardless of the UK factor (the distinction between the UK and the rest of the Council of Europe countries). If we ignore these factors and say what is wrong here is purely sweeping collection of personal data, then this is a very significant judgement. Then it's profoundly important. It really stands in the way of what we're already doing across Europe, not just in the UK.

Of course the ruling may be interpreted to have no relevance outside its application to the retention of DNA and fingerprints. Then Sir David Omand's national security strategy may be further implemented and carrying a mobile phone - an electronic tag - could become a necessity, if you don't want people to think you have something to hide.

El RegRead and comment on this article at El Reg...

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Tue, 07 Apr 2009

A public inquiry into police brutality is necessary

Police brutality kills

Last week a man being detained in a police kettle, during the G20 demonstrations, died. It was after 7pm, he had finished his day's work at a newsagent and wanted to go home. A video shot minutes before he collapsed shows him walking with his hands in his pocket and being violently pushed to the floor by a baton-wielding riot police officer. The police detained and assaulted many peaceful demonstrators in these so called kettles where a police cordon blocks anyone from leaving (or even getting in). This tactic was recently ruled lawful by the Law Lords and the case is now on its way to the European Court of Human Rights. As kettling is a form of detention, the death of Ian Tomlinson likely amounts to a death in custody.

A post mortem carried out by a Home Office pathologist revealed that Mr Tomlinson died of a heart attack. "The family have arranged a second postmortem examination to take place later this week" explained a statement read out by Jules Carey, solicitor for Mr Tomlinson's family. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is managing an investigation by City of London Police into the circumstances of police contact with Ian Tomlinson "to independently investigate the alleged assault by police on Ian Tomlinson shortly before his death. The investigation will also look into whether that contact may have contributed to his death."

As was the case when Jean-Charles de Menezes was killed, the police statements to the media were wrong and remained uncorrected on the following days. A week later, the IPCC is saying that the CCTV cameras overlooking the incident were not working after initially claiming that there "were no cameras in the location where he was assaulted."

Read some witness statements here and here.

The picture above is by Bethnal Green police station (where some demonstrators have been detained after being arrested) at the end of a march against police brutality and in memory of Ian Tomlinson. Another one is planned for this Saturday, this time from Bethnal Green police station to Bank, starting at 11:30am.

There must be a public inquiry into police brutality reviewing Mr Tomlinson's death, the unprovoked violent behaviour of some police officers and the general police tactics, such as kettling, when managing peaceful demonstrations.

First published 2009-04-07; last updated 2009-04-11.

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