Mon, 31 Dec 2007

Blog posts in 2006-2007



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Sun, 30 Dec 2007

Festive season

To friends and readers,

Best wishes for the festive season

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Wed, 26 Dec 2007

First woman convicted under the Terrorism Act

The BBC story about Samina Malik explains:

The jury found her not guilty of possessing articles for terrorist purposes. [ Section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000]

But they did convict of the lesser terror charge of collecting articles "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism". [ Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000]

This gives Malik the dubious honour of being the first woman ever convicted for offences related to Islamist terrorism in the UK.

Samina Malik is the 23-year old English woman who wrote bad poetry under the pseudonym of the ‘Lyrical Terrorist’ among others. This case is ‘profoundly disturbing’; this is the expression used by Gareth Peirce about the same Section 58 under which Malik was convicted.

This unease is shared by Rachel North who has been researching muslim radicalisation for the past two and half years:

There are many things about this case which disturb me (besides the appalling comparison of Owen's devastating poetry with Samina's ghastly scrawls). I think there are a great many Saminas in this country. In suburban bedrooms all over the UK, young men and women of all ages and religions and colours and shapes and sizes are writing bad poetry, listening to horrible lyrics, wearing black clothes, keeping diaries about how they hate the world and nobody understands, slamming the door and not coming down to eat their tea on time.
Things were ever thus.


Samina did not own any bombs, or guns, or quantities of fertiliser or peroxide, or detonators. She owned literature, and she wrote obnoxious lyrics and she seems to me to be as star-struck as the young girls and boys who wish they were ''with the band'', and who write letters and poetry expressing their admiration for the gangster rap thug, the death-metal anti-hero, the groupie-slapping rock star. If you can't drink, or smoke, or get a tattoo, or stay out late at gigs and hang about in trashy bars, then how do you express your rebellion? Samina wore a hijab, when her mother didn't. Samina wrote truly awful poetry. Samina, the shop girl, bored in WH Smiths beeping endless stuff through the tills to the endless airport crowds, then back home in her suburban bedroom, hoped to meet radical boys who thought she was ''cool''. Samina is the first woman to be convicted under the Terrorism Act.

Gareth Peirce pointed out that ‘we now see a new and disturbing phenomenon whereby more than one innocent defendant [is] unable to comprehend the accusation levelled’. It is not only defendants who find it difficult to comprehend that such possession is inconsistent with the right to freedom of thought. Here are Kathz' thoughts:

As children, my brother and I practised stealing handkerchiefs from one another's pockets. We were inspired by Fagin's gang in Oliver Twist. We became rather skilful - but never practised our skills on anyone else. We wrote stories - some in first person - imagining all kinds of extreme scenarios. My brother, aged 6, wrote a letter to a friend which suggested dynamiting the school he attended. (The head was quite worried by this but our mum was, rightly, amused. She knew the difference between play and act.) In my head I explored violent scenarios and I turned some of them into poems. I knew they weren't real. They will never be real.

In my poems, I still explore different characters and different points of view. In my novel (the one I will probably never finish) I explore a range of themes, including violence and murder. It's not real.

It's not real.

I haven't read full accounts of Samina Malik's trial. But so far as I can see, she has done no more than I would in exploring a character or point of view - or in following ideas on the web with curiosity. She has read books. She has visited websites. She has written poems. And she adopted a range of tags, including "Lyrical Terrorist."

I don't think real terrorists advertise their intentions in this way.

But Samina Malik has been told she faces a jail sentence. The charge was collecting articles "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism." I have articles like that. I have an Oyster card and a London tube map. I have an encycopedia which probably has more useful advice than the dangerous literature she is said to have collected.

One item of dangerous litterature found in the possession of Malik was the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook. Dick Destiny was asked by the defense to contribute a short analysis concerning this book:

It contains many errors and some rather large fabrications which, while not obvious to laymen, are glaringly apparent to professionals trained in chemistry and biology.

DD has combed over it many times in the past year, tracing its origins and showing that it is fundamentally just an abridged and Bowdlerized copy of a pamphlet that had been published in the US in 1988, Maxwell Hutchkinson's The Poisoner's Handbook (Loompanics).


Malik was convicted for possessing records deemed to be of potential use to terrorists, including the document pictured above. It has been published many places on the web and the above snapshot was published in a Sunday edition of the Washington Post newspaper in 2005.

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Human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce wrote a comment piece in the Guardian about her client Cerie Bullivant and the injustices faced by those charged with control order breaches. The context is is the verdict in the case of Cerie Bullivant where a clear-sighted jury concluded ‘that his every breach, including absconding, was reasonable in the face of the crushing effects of a secret accusation by the state’:

[...] Worryingly, within the "ordinary" criminal process, many defendants now face charges of such vagueness and uncertainty that, even after a trial, in many cases after conviction, they still have no understanding of why what they have done has been ruled criminal.

Defendant after defendant has discovered that a long-forgotten internet search has left an indelible record sufficient for a conviction under the profoundly disturbing section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows prosecution for simple possession of an item likely to be useful to terrorists, and carries a sentence of up to 10 years' imprisonment. While the record of use remains permanently, no equivalent reconstruction is available or even required of the mindset of the user at the time. The common elements in each conviction have now become familiar: the defendant had not the slightest idea that such possession was inconsistent with the right to freedom of thought; was not remotely involved in any terrorist activity; and was Muslim.

To be blunt, as most of such prosecutions to have gone through the courts have succeeded, there is now the bleak prospect of imprisonment for thousands of young people, all Muslim, who have similarly accessed the internet prompted by an interest - shared with millions of their contemporaries around the world, Muslim and non-Muslim - in the workings of political or radical Islam. Additionally, possession of the Channel 4 film Road to Guantánamo, or 21st-century Crusaders, a compilation of documentaries from the BBC and elsewhere, is currently being held to demonstrate "radicalisation", a condemnation as conveniently imprecise as the label "subversive" used in the postwar McCarthyite witch-hunts in America.

In the face of a succession of questionable convictions, we now see a new and disturbing phenomenon whereby more than one innocent defendant, unable to comprehend the accusation levelled, yet terrified at the prospect of inevitable conviction, insists on pleading guilty in an attempt to avoid sentences that become ever more severe.

Such increasing contamination of the legal process, capitulating to an insatiable executive appetite for secret hearings when the spectre of national security is invoked, brings about a distortion of what should be the central purpose of the criminal process: achieving justice through predictable certainty and clarity. This week's returnees from Guantánamo faced secret hearings no more unjust than ours. [...]

I recommend you read the article in full. The sentence in bold is my emphasis. I first heard Gareth Peirce in 2006 at an event organised by the Institute of Race Relations (Gareth's keynote is available in MP3). After reading some of her articles and stories about her, I was expecting a strong person with a powerful voice. She is short and speaks with a small voice. However, in the few occasions I was lucky to see her, when she speaks the room goes quiet. Her actions and intensity mean she commands respect.

Other recent news:

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Tue, 25 Dec 2007

National DNA Database breaches Articles 8 and 14 of the ECHR

On 2007-01-16, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) declared a challenge in ‘S’ and MARPER -v- THE UNITED KINGDOM, which may determine whether fingerprints and DNA samples taken from people who have been acquitted of crimes can be kept by the police, to be admissible and invited the parties to submit additional observations.

Below is the conclusion from the Response to questions posed by the Court upon the issue of its decision on admissibility and further submissions (31 pages). It states that the Court declares a violation of Article 8 (Right to respect for private and family life) and Article 14 (Prohibition of discrimination) of the Convention. It is dated 2007-03-15 and has just been republished by Statewatch.

A decision is expected in February 2008.


100. Both the retention and use of the fingerprints, DNA profiles and DNA samples of innocent persons, which PACE now allows, is a significant interference with the rights of such individuals under Article 8(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The information gathered and retained is far more intimate and intrusive than was recognised by the domestic courts; the creation of a record on the PNC, and resulting access to that record by a wide range of public authorities for a wide range of purposes, was not understood in the domestic courts; and the domestic courts failed to appreciate the distinction between DNA samples and DNA profiles.

101. Retention of such information is a fresh invasion of Art. 8 ECHR interests and must be subjected to fresh Art. 8(2) analysis. The Canadian approach to s. 8 of the Charter (the protective mantle only applies while the original justification for the taking of the material is still active) and the German Constitutional Court approach, applying proportionality analysis to each separate privacy invasion, are to be preferred over the approach of the domestic courts in S and Marper.

102. The interference in this case is not justified under Article 8(2) of the Convention because it is disproportionate to the legitimate aims being pursued. R (92) 1 and its explanatory memorandum (as analysed above) support this submission.

103. In addition, even if the Court accepts the government's claim that there are legitimate reasons for retention, the state must also justify rejecting the available 'less restrictive means' of achieving that objective, in particular the more privacy-friendly systems proposed by the Information Commissioner's Office (see exhibit).

104. In assessing whether the UK's approach is within its 'margin of appreciation' regard should be had to the fact that the UK's approach to both DNA databases and fingerprint databases is far more intrusive than that of any other Council of Europe or common law country worldwide. The UK is severely out of kilter with the approach in other democratic systems. Within Europe, the NDNAD of England and Wales is 800% larger than its closest rival in size, Germany's national database.

105. Not only does no other country in the world have a database on the scale of NDNAD or NAFIS, neither does any other country in the world treat its innocent citizens who have previously been incorrectly suspected of involvement in an offence en masse in the same manner as its convicted criminals. Further, the NDNAD and NAFIS have fewer safeguards than other large systems, and the NDNAD does not have an independent custodian monitoring its use and access to the sensitive information it contains.

106. At the very least, the keeping of DNA samples is unjustified. As they are not currently used for forensic purposes no legitimate purpose is pursued by their retention. Other countries with forensic DNA identification systems either destroy the sample immediately once the profile has been generated (New Zealand, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands) or permit the destruction of the sample at an earlier stage than the destruction of the profile or fingerprint (Australia). No other system worldwide retains DNA samples indefinitely. These systems recognise that the information contained in a DNA sample differs markedly from that contained in a DNA profile or fingerprint.

107. The blanket, permanent retention and open-ended use of personal information through the NDNAD, NAFIS and PNC under the PACE regime is unacceptable, and places the applicants at a permanent disadvantage when compared to those who have never been arrested (not on the relevant databases) and the police themselves (on an alternative database for a limited period of time, and with strong safeguards). It equalises the applicants with convicted criminals and, despite official assurances to the contrary, continues to mark them with the taint of criminality.

108. For the reasons set out above, it is submitted that this application should be allowed and the Court should declare a violation of Article 8 and Article 14 of the Convention.

See also the witness statement of Dr Caoilfhionn Anna Gallagher (97 pages), Council of Europe expert on Articles 8 (Right to respect for private and family life), 10 (Freedom of expression) and 11 (Freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and co-author of Blackstone’s Guide to the Human Rights Act 1998.

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Fri, 23 Nov 2007

Multics source reveals le jetteur des gazongues

The Multics operating system project started in 1965, the last host running it was shut down in 2000, and last week its code was open sourced. It was and still is a very influential system. The site gathers a wealth of information on Multics and lists those who contributed to it.

I have been lucky to encounter Multics when a student and experimented with this OS while learning about computer science. Even though students were only supposed to use tedEmacs soon became my favourite editor (I eventually got a fast modem with a throughput of 1200 bits per seconds so that I could use Multics Emacs from home as well as when at the University). One amusing defect I encountered was a reproducible way to crash Multics Emacs so that it would fill the screen with the word ‘pgazonga’. This word stuck in my mind.

Ten years later, while working at EXE Magazine, I got in touch with Bernard S Greenberg, the author of Multics Emacs, to eventually ask him ‘Do you remember this word? Does it have any meaning?’ Here's Bernie's reply as published in the September 1996 issue of EXE Magazine:

Mais certainement!

This will require some familiarity with Lisp. I doubt it ‘filled the screen’ with it, it probably mentioned it in an error message.

Lisp supports a facility called catch/throw, which effects a nonlocal transfer of control, from an active environment to a calling environment, aborting all called environments in between. The form which invokes this looks (in Maclisp) like this:

(throw value foobar)

and the form

(catch (do-this-here) foobar)

returns either the value of (do-this-here) or the value of value when the throw above is evaluated someplace within the execution of (do-this-here).

The symbol foobar (in this case) is known as a ‘catch tag’, and is used to associate catches with throws.

Now for the specifics:

‘Gazonga’ is a comic-strip phony-Italian word probably dating from the 30's or 40's. It might have occasionally shown up in my childhood (born '50) in old movies or comics. It has no meaning as far as I know, except it sounds Italian and colourful. Perhaps somebody might say it to accompany a punch in the nose or other crude violent act, the wave of a handkerchief over a magician's hat, or some other situation appropriate to a talismanic utterance. It is what today would be called ‘Manga word’ in Japan.

In Multics Emacs, the catch tag for ‘top level’, ie, the command loop, was ‘gazonga’. I probably chose this term because it evoked an onomatopoeic sense of a speedy projectile being shut downward, in this case, control, from the deep levels of Emacs execution to the top-level command loop. It should never have been visible to anyone, even extension writers, because the primitive (command-abort) was provided to throw it, and it's no one's business who catches it.

Multics Emacs, like its author, is very fond of foreign-language terms and expressions (language being one of my life-long interests), and included a panoply of functions (let alone code comments) borrowing from German, Latin, and French, but most of which (but not all!) were invisible to the extension writer (let alone end-user). A documented variable (der-wahrer-mark) was even, as can be seen, (inadvertently) in incorrect German syntax (should be ‘die wahre’).

So the internal function that threw to command level, that threw gazonga, as it were, was named jetteur-des-gazongues, the latter being what I assumed the reasonable translation of this non-term into French.

Now when the minibuffer was up, and some command caused an abort, ie, called (command-abort), this normally would be caught by the minibuffer, so that editing in the minibuffer could continue – the minibuffer's recursive command level would set up a recursive (catch ... gazonga) that would trap these aborts.

But in those days it came to pass that this was found not to be adequate - when you type ‘control g’ to abort out of the minibuffer, you do not want it to be caught by the recursive catch. So for this, I invented ‘les petites gazongues’, the ‘p’ is for ‘petites’, and hence ‘pgazonga’ – the ‘petites gazongues’ were continued ‘smaller’ and more agile than the regular ones because they deftly slip through a catcher of ‘regular’ gazongas, such as the net set up by the minibuffer, and sink all the way down to the bottom, ie, top command level (pardon the upside-down confusion, Multics was highly ‘stack oriented’, ie, top of stack = more levels into code). So control-G invoked the function jetteur-des-petites-gazongues to throw back to top level.

Of course, the were supposed to be caught by top level, and that's how it was all supposed to work. The bug you are somewhat belatedly reporting is almost certainly some esoteric case (during startup, perhaps?) wherein the catch for petites gazongues (pgazonga) was not set up, and a throw to that tag failed to find a catch, and hence the error that you probably saw.

Have I made myself perfectly clear?

Reader Robert Sproat contributed the following additional etymological data (found ‘utterly fantastic’ by Bernard Greenberg) in the October 1996 issue:

Bernard Greenberg's letter explaining the pgazonga message in Multics Emacs was fascinating and amusing, but Bernard might care to know, as a self-confessed language buff, that ‘gazonga’ did not originate as a comic-strip phoney Italian word from the 30's or 40's. It's cod German and dates from the First World War.

In the same way that homecoming Tommy Atkins Franglaised countless French idioms (eg, ‘ça ne fait rien’ into ‘San fairy Ann’), he changed Jerry's exclamation of Gezundtheit! when someone sneezed (roughly our ‘Bless you!’) to ‘Gazonga!’ or, more commonly, ‘Gazonka!’, ‘Gazonks!’ or even ‘Bazonka!’ This has long since died out of colloquial English but used to be very widespread and survived for many decades.

As late as 1960 or so in darkest South Pembrokshire, my mate's seventy-something Grandad would still merrily cry ‘Gazonks!’ if you sneezed near him, And at around the same time, Spike Milligan published a poem starting:

Say Bazonka! every day!
That's what Grandma used to say

Hardly IT-related, but interesting, ja?

Forward to November 2007, when the source of Multics is released, including that of Multics Emacs and one can start to hunt gazonga, pgazonga, gazongues and petites gazongues in the source tree:

Small historical note: since these events, ‘gazonga’ has evolved in some idiolects to mean ‘Incredibly large, voluptuous breasts’. As evidenced by the fact that this code (and 1996 reportage) were unremarkable at the time, it was not common parlance as that then.

(Another software archeology spelunking I've been involved with for close to twenty years is open sourcing Microsoft's original Basic 4K.)

First published on 2007-11-14; small historical note added on 2007-11-23; typo corrected on 2015-08-29 (h/t to Kitt).

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Thu, 15 Nov 2007

Oppose any extension to the pre-charge detention period - lobby your MP

act If you haven't already done so, write to your MP to ask him/her to oppose attempts by this government to increase further the pre-charge detention from its current 28 days period.

CAMPACC has published a model letter to help you ask your MP to give an undertaking not to vote for the renewal or extension of any ‘anti-terror’ powers (such as the extension of the detention without charge from 28 days to 56 days or possibly even 90 days, post-charge questioning of ‘terror suspects’, the creation of a new criminal offence of seeking ‘information which could be useful for terrorism’, travel restrictions for ‘suspects’, and the collective punishment of families of convicted terrorists). This effort is part of a national campaign bringing together many diverse organisations to oppose current anti-terror laws as well as their extension:

The government is planning yet more ‘anti-terrorism’ measures, which will go to Parliament in a new bill in October. This ‘anti-terror’ bill reinforces a trend beginning with the Terrorism Act 2000, whose broad definition of terrorism criminalised normal political activities, potentially on the basis of suspected ‘association’. This law was followed by three more in 2001, 2005, 2006; these multiplied extra police powers (e.g. arbitrary stop-and-search), punishment without trial and treatment of ‘suspects’ as guilty, thus bypassing due process. Together these laws have normalised detention without trial under various guises, such as control orders and immigration rules, whereby the accused never see the evidence against them.

Below is the email I sent to my MP on 2007-09-13 and her reply (in italics) sent on 2007-10-26:

When we met at Portcullis House early December 2005, we discussed the compromises you find are necessary as part of our political system. One specific example we discussed was your support of the compromise to extend pre-charge detention of suspects from 14 up to 28 days hence successfully defeating the 90 days amendment.

You may remember that I found this difficult to understand as these are not abstract compromises, they deeply affect the lives of individuals who have not been charged, and hence by definition are innocent. Gareth Peirce and Louise Christian both wrote at the time about how even 14 days or less in Paddington Green affect the mental health of detainees.

Gordon Brown has stated that he intends to propose a further extension to the current 28 days pre-charge detention period, and the police, via the ACPO, has even suggested they are keen for indefinite detention.

28 days is already the longest period of pre-charge detention of any western country. The case has not been made to even justify keeping this period as long as 28 days nor for extending it further. Extending this period will further erode our civil liberties and increase the likelihood of innocent persons to be detained without charge for over a month.

I urge you to publicly reject calls for extension of the pre-charge detention and vote against any such proposal that may be included in forthcoming Bills.

As we discussed at the time, I feel the 28 day limit to the detention period prior to charging to be a necessary compromise. I was very vocal about this issue at the time, sponsoring an amendment to limit the period of detention to 28 days rather than 90 days. I can, furthermore, assure you that I feel no need to extend the period at this point in time.

I also call to your attention a different issue: the de Menezes family is currently represented in the UK by four of Jean's cousins and one of his friend. The procedures around Jean's killing are delayed. The inquest will not start until after the health and safety procedure, for instance. Justice4Jean has indicated that the Home Office may not renew the visas of these five individuals. Ensuring they are welcome in the UK for at least the full duration of all the procedures surrounding Jean's killing is a very small gesture that must be done towards this grieving family.

I would be grateful for you to make representation to the Home Office so that Jean's four cousins and one friend's visas are extended and they can represent his family in all these legal proceedings.

I was concerned to hear about the issue surrounding the visas of those representing Charles de Menezes in the UK but will write to the Home office to enquire about this situation. I will be back in touch when I receive a reply.

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Thu, 08 Nov 2007

Stockwell One report eventually published

Stockwell One – the report of the investigation into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes by the Indpendent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) – has eventually been published.

The report was introduced by a statement from NicK Hardwick, IPCC chair.

[...] There are two very stark images from the now infamous CCTV coverage of Stockwell Station.

The first is of Jean Charles de Menezes entering the station, wearing light summer clothing, picking up a paper and going to get his train.

The second, just over a minute later, shows police officers running down into the depths of the station, into what I am sure they believed was deadly peril, the first passengers, alarmed by the arrival of police officers, were hurrying to escape in the other direction.

Neither Mr de Menezes nor the police officers are diminished by us remembering the tragedy of one and the heroism of others on that day.

Let me be clear what the trial was not about. It was not about the split second decisions that the firearms officers had to make when they confronted Jean Charles de Menezes in that tube train - nor indeed just about the death of Jean Charles de Menezes himself, terrible though that was.

The questions the trial did address and indeed the ones the public were asking in the aftermath of the incident were these:

'If they thought he might have a bomb, why was he allowed twice to get on a bus and then on the tube?' 'If they thought he didn't have a bomb, why did they shoot him?'

Nor must there be any attempt to blame Jean Charles de Menezes himself for his fate.

He did nothing out of the ordinary.

He looked over his shoulder as he walked to catch his bus; he got back on his bus when he found Brixton tube station was closed; he texted his friend; he hurried down the final few steps of the escalator when he saw a train was already on the platform; and, like other passengers, he got to his feet when police officers burst onto the train. These actions may have been misinterpreted by police officers hunting a suicide bomber but they were entirely innocent.

The priority for the police service now, and those responsible for the police, is to do everything possible to ensure the mistakes made on 22 July 2005 are not repeated. [...]

The report Stockwell One – Investigation into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell underground station on 22 July 2005 is in three parts:

Some related posts:

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Sun, 04 Nov 2007

Record number of Section 44 stop and search by the Met in 2005/6, less than half a percent arrested in connection with terrorism

The Ministry of Justice has just published the Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2006 for the financial year 2005-2006. In addition to giving ‘statistical information on the representation of [Black and Minority Ethnic] BME groups as suspects, offenders and victims within the CJS’, this report always includes detailed data on stop and searches conducted that year.

This report is no longer published by the Home Office on a page dedicated to the Criminal Justice Act 1991 Section 95, it can now be found on the CJS website and seems to be linked only from the What's New page. It is still being published very late.

Excerpt from Main Findings - Terrorism Act 2000: Tables 4.6-4.8 (p.26):

The number of stop and searches of pedestrians under section 44(2) [for which no reasonable grounds for suspicion is needed] nearly doubled between 2004/5 and 2005/6 with 19,064 stop and searches recorded in 2005/6. This increase was accounted for by the increase in use of the power in London. Use of the power in areas outside of London decreased by 19% between 2004/5 and 2005/6. In 2005/6, 61% of people stopped under section 44(2) were White compared to 74% in 2004/5 and 72% in 2003/4. The proportions for Black and Asian people fell to 11% and 21% respectively in 2005/6. In 2005/6, 59 arrests in connection with terrorism resulted from section 44(2) searches compared to 24 in the previous year and 5 in 2003/4. Arrests under non-terrorist legislation rose from 153 in 2004/5 to 212 in 2005/6.

Excerpt from Table 4.8: ‘Stop and searches’ of pedestrians under s 44(2) of the Terrorism Act 2000 and resultant arrests by ethnicity, selected areas, 2005/6 (p. 36):

Searches Arrests in connection with terrorism Arrests for other reasons
City of London 3,149 n/a 23
Metropolitan Police 11,407 49 148
Other areas 4,508 10 41
England & Wales 19,064 59 212

Comparing this data, for the Metropolitan Police, to that of previous years (more analysis in A pawn in their propaganda machine), you'll notice that the number of searches under Section 44(2) of the Terrorism Act 2000 more than doubled in 2005/6 compared to the previous year, but the number of arrests in connection with terrorism at 49 remains less that half a percent. And of these 49, only a few will be charged and even less convicted. (The coloured table cells show how my arrest must have been counted in these stats.)

2003/4 2004/5 2005/6
S44(2) searches (Metropolitan Police) 5,245 4,206 11,407
Arrests in connection with terrorism 2 (0.04%) 15 (0.36%) 49 (0.43%)
Arrests for other reasons 57 (1.09%) 51 (1.21%) 148 (1.30%)

This data confirms the abuse of Section 44 stop and search. As recently as last May, the Metropolitan Police Service reiterated how keen they are to keep (over)using these powers.

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Fri, 02 Nov 2007

Health and Safety trial of the Police in the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes

Very good coverage by the UK Liberty blog of the Health and Safety trial of the Police in the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes:

Health and safety trial has begun
Health and Safety 2 - [armed officers point gun at policeman and tube driver after shooting de Menezes]
Health and Safety 3 - chaos in the control room
Health and Safety 4 - a question
Health and Safety 5 - the case for the defence
Health and Safety 6 - that defence opening statement in full
Health and Safety 7 - concealed explosives
Health and Safety 8 - officers changed their minds
Health and Safety 9 - surveillance officer Ivor was wearing a rucksack
Health and Safety 10 - bus users should not get back on the same bus
Health and Safety 11 - lethal force
Health and Safety 12 - more from the surveillance team
Health and Safety 13 - operation had “no structure”
Health and Safety 14 - blame the victim?
Health and Safety 15 - de Menezes was identified as not being Osman
Health and Safety 16 - blame the victim part II
Health and Safety 17 - alleged manipulation of composite photo
Health and Safety 18 - what does contain mean? shrug
Health and Safety 19 - control room wasn’t noisy
Health and Safety 20 - de Menezes had to be stopped
Health and Safety 21 - I told them to stop him, not kill him
Health and Safety 22 - “I didn’t expect a suicide bomber to emerge”
Health and Safety 23 - closing arguments
Health and Safety 24 - guilty as charged

Some of the allegations are recapped in the fourth post:

A few related posts:

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Thu, 11 Oct 2007

It is now clear that the regime was techno-savvy, patient and thorough

The Times' staff correspondent in Rangoon reports in Secret cremations hide Burma killings:
The systematic arrests have continued at night – a convoy of lorries and other vehicles rumbled past my hotel windows long after midnight – initially puzzling diplomats and activists, who wondered how military intelligence drew up its lists of those to be arrested.

The answer, it seems, was a grimly paradoxical use of the internet, whose liberating role in disseminating images and sound of the protests was prematurely celebrated by many as marking the world’s first globalised on-line revolt, instantly dubbed the Saffron revolution.

It is now clear that the regime was techno-savvy, patient and thorough. It kept the internet open long enough to allow its own cyber-operatives to down-load the images and recordings of street protests to identify the protesters. The internet is now shut down.
Also on Burma:

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Fri, 05 Oct 2007

Double standards

Gordon Brown condemns Burmese violence. Press release from 10 Downing Street dated 2007-09-28:
In a statement released by Downing Street today, Mr Brown said the protestors have been exercising "great bravery" by protesting peacefully.

"I had hoped that the Burmese regime would heed the calls for restraint from the international community.

"But once again they have responded with oppression and force. This must cease."

The democratic movement in Burma were praised for their "courage, moderation and dignity".

Anti-war demonstration in Parliament Square is banned by the Police. Press release from STWC dated 2007-10-05
Thousands of anti-war protestors are expected to march down Whitehall on Monday, 8 October, in defiance of a police ban. The police decision is an unprecedented attack on civil liberties.

LIBERTY have stated that this decision "interferes with the vital democratic rights of free expression and free assembly."

The Stop the War Coalition have sent a final appeal to the police to reverse their decision and have requested guarantees regarding the safety and security of all those who attend the demonstration. Among the marchers will be: Tony Benn, Walter Wolfgang, Brian Eno, Mark Thomas, Jenny Jones, Lindsey German, Ben Griffin and John McDonnell MP. (Statements of support included below)

Inspector Stuart Cornish
New Scotland Yard
05 October 2007

Dear Stuart,

Following the decision of the Metropolitan Police to agree to the banning of our long planned demonstration on October 8th we write to make our position as clear as possible and to ask for guarantees regarding the safety and security of those attending the event on the 8th October.

1] We met with you on four separate occasions to discuss the planning of the demonstration on the 8th October. In the first three meetings there was never any question of not being allowed to demonstrate. Only in the very last meeting did you say that you could no longer facilitate the demonstration.

2] The grounds on which you have made this decision is spurious. The sessional order, as you have admitted, is subject to different interpretation at different times but it should never be used to suppress the right to legitimate and peaceful protest.

The civil liberties organisation Liberty has written to Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison that, “this proposed restriction on peaceful protest is a disproportionate interference with the vital democratic rights of free expression and free assembly”.

3] Since 2001 we have arranged with the cooperation of your department 20 demonstrations. These have included the largest demonstration in British political history on February 15th 2003 and also the demonstration to protest at the visit of US president George Bush on November 20th 2003. On the latter nearly 400,000 people marched through Whitehall by the House of Commons on a weekday while parliament was sitting. There was no attempt to prevent this march using the sessional order. All our demonstrations have been peaceful.

4] On the 8th of October we intend to march to parliament. There will be a large number of elderly people and families with children attending our event. We strongly request that the Metropolitan Police do not endanger the safety of those attending, either by the use of riot police or through the use of mounted police. Our stewards will be working to facilitate a peaceful protest and we ask for that same cooperation from your officers.

5] We have no intention of disrupting parliament or preventing MPs from attending parliament. In fact the opposite is the case - our protest seeks to make parliament act in the interests of the vast majority of the people of this country who want British troops withdrawn from Iraq.

6] It is a matter of great concern to us that our previous good relations in regard to the planning of legitimate public protest have broken down. You will have received advice that your decision to ban our protest is of dubious legality and we ask you one more time to review your decision in respect of our march.

Andrew Burgin
Lindsey German
Chris Nineham
Stop the War Coalition


TONY BENN, in his letter to the Home Secretary
The authority for this march derives from our ancient right to free speech and assembly enshrined in our history. It is only fair to tell you that the march will go ahead, in any case, and I will be among those marching.

A protest demanding all the troops out now is of national significance. To try and stop that protest is a major interference with free speech. The march should go ahead whether it is formally permitted or not.

LINDSEY GERMAN, Convenor Stop the War Coalition
The government want to bury the issue of their disastrous war. They will not succeed. We will be marching in our thousands on Monday.

In a democracy we expect peaceful protest to be permitted. We are not yet in the kind of tyranny that the Burmese people have to suffer, I hope the authorities will reconsider.

BEN GRIFFIN (ex SAS trooper)
Gordon Brown cannot praise protesters in Burma and then ban a protest in London. I will be protesting on Monday, regardless of whether Police permission is granted.

MICHAEL KUSTOW, theatre director
If people aren't allowed to have their say on all our streets, what kind of Parliament are we meant to be defending?

BRIAN ENO, musician and producer
If they are planning an Iranian attack they will have a public even more upset and disgruntled than before. This is what this tightening up is about…Civil liberties never seem very important until you need them. At times like this we need to be re-enforcing them.

This is an outrageous attempt by the Government to block the democratic right to protest. This is a legitimate and important protest against an illegal war which Britain should never have been involved in. The Government should be listening to the people's protests not attempting to block them.

MARK THOMAS, comedian
This is rather a ham-fisted attempt to prevent us from demonstrating. What they (the government and police) do is up to them. We will just ignore them and we have the moral and logical high-ground. I will be marching on Monday 8 October.

The attempt to ban this demonstration is an unacceptable assault on our civil liberties and I will be joining the march to exercise my right to protest at the continuing presence of British troops in Iraq.

IAIN BANKS, author
It's becoming remarkably hard to escape the feeling we're ruled by people who are basically paranoid authoritarian incompetents.

It is depressing that our democratic rights are being whittled away bit by bit. We will look back and wonder how this happened. They wouldn't get away with this in one go. First an arrest for reading names, then a ban on marches. What will be next?

DAVID EDGAR, playwright
The stop the war demonstration on 15 February 2003 was arguably the most politically influential march in Britain since the 1970s, so it's no surprise that politicians are immobilising anti-war demonstrations now. At a time when the political debate at Westminster occupies ever narrower ground, it's vital that voices from outside are heard.

GORDON BROWN, 2007 Labour Party conference
Change to strengthen our liberties to uphold the freedom of speech, freedom of information and the freedom to protest.
I wish I could join this demonstration.

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Sun, 30 Sep 2007

It will never happen to you. Take 234

There's no need to commit a crime to have a brush with the law, and it seems to get easier every day. Please do take care to avoid train stations when using a Freedom Pass (free transport for over 60 and disable residents in London), avoid looking at the Police officers surrounding you when having a pint and of course do look at any officers by the entrance of a tube station straight in the eyes.

On 2007-09-13, Pacifist Gwyn Gwyntopher, 66 years old, was arrested by the British Transport Police at the Excel Centre Dockland Light Railway (DLR) station. She was wearing on her back a poster that said ‘Remember the victims of the arms trade’, and it was visible to the arm dealers selling their wares at the DSEi arms fair. Her husband Chris recounts (via Kathz blog):
She was then dragged along the ground to the lift. In considerable pain she appealed to the police to take the handcuffs off. They declined. When her husband Chris Gwyntopher came up the stairs to find out what had happened to her she appealed to him to get the police to remove the handcuffs. He tried to persuade the officers to do so, pointing out that she would not harm anybody and would not seek to run away. They refused and pulled him away from her.

She was charged with trespassing on DLR station and refusing to leave. She had her freedom pass on her and was ready to leave, in the direction of the Excel She was offered bail on the condition she did not go on the Docklands Light Railway until her court appearance. She refused to accept this condition. She was transferred to Forest Gate Police Station and held overnight to appear before Stratford Magistrates on Friday 14/9/07.

At about nearly midday Friday, the Magistrate heard her plea of not guilty. She was bailed to appear for trial on Monday November 5th at 9.30 am with a pre-trial review the afternoon of Thursday 4th October at the Magistrates Court, 389-397 High Street, Stratford E15. Supporters welcome The bail conditions were that she not go on DLR land or the Excel Centre until midday Saturday 15th September. She was not required to accept or sign to keep the conditions which would have prevented her communicating with the arms traders.
On 2007-09-26, Bob Hamlen, 47, and Michael Burbidge, 31 were stopped and searched as they sat on a bench outside the Westcliff Tavern in West Cliff Road, Bournemouth. The pub patio overlooks the security checkpoint at the entrance to the Highcliff Marriott Hotel where Labour politicians are staying during this week's party conference. Bob was interviewed by the Bournemouth Echo (via UK Liberty):
"I was carrying my disabled bus pass but it didn't make any difference. I needed to go to the toilet and an officer went with me in case I escaped. After radioing through the information, they asked us to accompany them, in separate police cars, to the police station.

"It was very embarrassing because some of our friends were sitting nearby. Michael suffers from stress and was getting very agitated.

"They said the reason I was being taken to the police station was because I had been seen passing a white envelope.

"But all I did was take my post out of my jacket pocket and open an electricity bill.

"On Michael's stop and search form they said they wanted to speak to him, under the Terrorism Act, because he had been looking at a police officer.
Act now. Refuse to be terrorised.

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Sat, 29 Sep 2007

Refuse to be terrorised

In his speech at the Ethics and Human Rights in the Information Society conference, Andreas Krisch, Member of the board of European Digital Rights (EDRI), Member of the Austrian Association for Internet users (Austria), considered whether anti terror measures in Europe are proportionate to the threat:
For several years discussions and measures aiming for enhancing security and fighting terrorism claimed that it was a necessity to balance individual rights and security, implicating that the freedom of individuals opposes the needs of combating terrorism and law enforcement.

A report submitted by Europol provides figures on terrorism in the EU. According to the “TE-SAT 2007, EU Terrorism and Trend Report 2007” a total of 498 attacks were carried out in 2006 in the EU, of which the vast majority were not intended to kill.

“There were no successful Islamist terrorist attacks in the EU in 2006. However, a coordinated but ultimately failed attack aimed at mass casualties took place in Germany. The vast majority of terrorist attacks were perpetrated by separatist terrorist groups targeting France and Spain. In France, 283 attacks took place in Corsica in 2006. In Spain, despite the truce declared by ETA in March 2006, separatist groups perpetrated 136 attacks, mainly in the Basque region. Only the attack at the Madrid airport on 30 December 2006 resulted in casualties.”

According to the report the remaining attacks were left- or right-wing-motivated or driven by other/not given motivation.

The number of arrested suspects differs from these figures. A total of 706 individuals suspected of terrorism offences were arrested, of which 257 arrested individuals were suspected of Islamist, 226 of separatist, 52 of left wing and 15 of right wing terror. With regard to the approximately 260 arrests related to Islamist terror “[l]ess than ten percent of the arrested individuals were suspected of preparation, planning or execution of terrorist attacks. [...] The vast majority of the arrested individuals were suspected of being members of a terrorist organisation. Other frequent criminal activities were financing of terrorism and facilitation.”

The figures of the Europol report make clear that terrorism in the EU is mainly driven by separatists in France and Spain and focussing on Corsica and the Basque region. Of the relatively large number of arrests related to Islamic terror only less than 26 individuals were suspected of preparation, planning or execution of terrorist attacks. On the other hand we had and still have to face a series of measures, limiting the freedom of individuals and infringing with human rights, arguing this to be necessary to fight terrorism.
The Economist this week published Learning to live with Big Brother, the second article in a series on surveillance and privacy (my emphasis):
Britain used to pride itself on respecting privacy more than most other democracies do. But there is not much objection among Britons as “talking” surveillance cameras, fitted with loudspeakers, are installed, enabling human monitors to shout rebukes at anyone spotted dropping litter, relieving themselves against a wall or engaging in other “anti-social” behaviour [...]

With an estimated 5m CCTV cameras in public places, nearly one for every ten inhabitants, England and Wales are among the most closely scrutinised countries in the world [...]  Few seem to mind, despite research suggesting that CCTV does little to deter overall crime. [...]

Britain has long permitted the “warrantless” eavesdropping of its citizens (only the home secretary's authorisation is required), and few people appear to mind [...]

Ross Anderson, a professor at Cambridge University in Britain, has compared the present situation to a “boiled frog”—which fails to jump out of the saucepan as the water gradually heats. If liberty is eroded slowly, people will get used to it. He added a caveat: it was possible the invasion of privacy would reach a critical mass and prompt a revolt.

If there is not much sign of that in Western democracies, this may be because most people rightly or wrongly trust their own authorities to fight the good fight against terrorism, and avoid abusing the data they possess. The prospect is much scarier in countries like Russia and China, which have embraced capitalist technology and the information revolution without entirely exorcising the ethos of an authoritarian state where dissent, however peaceful, is closely monitored.

On the face of things, the information age renders impossible an old-fashioned, file-collecting dictatorship, based on a state monopoly of communications. But imagine what sort of state may emerge as the best brains of a secret police force—a force whose house culture treats all dissent as dangerous—perfect the art of gathering and using information on massive computer banks, not yellowing paper.

Refuse the war against a noun and what is done in its name. Demand human rights. Refuse to be terrorised, and prevent the situation getting worse (block any further extension of the pre-charge detention period).

Amnesty International - Unsubscribe me

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Sun, 23 Sep 2007

A web of indifferent watching devices

Last April I discovered the manifesto for CCTV filmmakers, a proposal for a creative use of the Data Protection Act. I still haven't seen the movie Faceless. The DVD is not yet available but an excerpt and the trailer are on YouTube. Manu Luksch and Mukul Patel, the filmmakers, published their first-hand experience of the Data Protection Act in a very interesting essay titled Faceless: chasing the data shadow. This short essay (11 pages) runs through the many different types of replies they received to their subject access requests made under the Data Protection Act. It explains the general confusion of many data controllers, how so many CCTV systems are not functional and why the process of obtaining images became much more difficult from 2004.


Sound editor Walter Murch, in an interview published on BldBlog briefly mentions a different work also done one the principle of the manifesto for CCTV filmmakers:
Murch: Well, there was a short film made a few years ago where the filmmaker had worked out the location of all the surveillance cameras along a cross-section of London, and how many of those cameras were operated by the municipal authorities. If the cameras were operated by the city, then he could get access to the footage. So he mapped out a pedestrian trip for himself across town knowing that, at every moment he would be on CCTV: as soon as he was out of range of one camera, he would come into focus on another. So he walked the walk, wrote to all the relevant authorities, got the footage, and then edited it all together into a continuous narrative. It’s very amusing in a dystopian, Warholian kind of way. You only “get” the joke after a few minutes of watching.

But George Lucas’s THX-1138 was kind of like that, except it was made in 1971. Much of the action takes place on video surveillance cameras. In fact, the job of the girl in the film is to monitor banks of surveillance cameras. She eventually gets fed up, stops taking her Prozac, or whatever, and tries to escape this completely video-monitored world – which, it turns out, is completely underground because of some disaster that had happened on the surface many years earlier.
As for the efficacy of cameras making us more secure, This is London just reminded us that ‘a comparison of the number of cameras in each London borough with the proportion of crimes solved there found that police are no more likely to catch offenders in areas with hundreds of cameras than in those with hardly any.’

In Faceless: chasing the data shadow, the authors include a quote from Ian Sinclair's Lights out of for the territory that neatly sums up the situation with CCTVs:
Vague spectres of menace caught on time-coded surveillance cameras justify an entire network of peeping vulture lenses. A web of indifferent watching devices, sweeping every street, every building, to eliminate the possibility of a past tense, the freedom to forget. There can be no highlights, no special moments: a discreet tyranny of “now” has been established. “Real time” in its most pedantic form.

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Sat, 22 Sep 2007


Several political blogs have been taken down following legal threats. It's all that is required. Worrying trend, especially as there are plans for internet censorships in Europe.

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Thu, 20 Sep 2007

The forensic use of bioinformation: ethical issues

Below is the one page summary of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics' report on the forensic use of bioinformation: ethical issues.
Fingerprinting and DNA profiling are increasingly valuable tools in the detection and prosecution of offenders. However, the collection and storage of bioinformation by the police, and access to the resulting forensic databases, raise a number of ethical issues. This report considers whether current police powers to take and use bioinformation – powers that can affect the liberty and privacy of innocent people – are justified by the need to fight crime. The principle of proportionality is used as the basis for a number of recommendations to policy makers, summarised below.
The full 168-page report and presentations from the launch event are available on the Council's website. My response to the consultation and some further background on DNA matters are linked from the Should the Police keep your DNA forever? blog post.

It was made clear that there's stigma of being on the NDNAD as the government has portrayed it as containing ‘the whole of the active suspect criminal population’. As the report conclusions ask for many more removals from the NDNAD and I recently discovered that there's no documented detailed process for this, I asked about whether the team had looked at efficacy of monitoring the management of the DNA profiles and the NDNAD. What they're keen to happen is to develop protocols similar to those used in medical research.

During the Q&A, it was pointed out that data protection rules mean that when the Police take DNA samples, they have to inform the individual that the samples may be used for research purposes. At that point, it was asked if there was any Police officer in the room or if anyone knew if the Police do mention this. No officer was present or volunteered an answer. A couple of attendees volunteered that they had witnessed officers taking DNA. Eventually I got the microphone and mentioned that this had not been mentioned to me. It would appear that I may have been the only one in the room that had been arrested and had his DNA taken. Maybe there aren't many profiles of white suited Home Office staff (they were present in number) in the NDNAD? On the topic of data protection, someone from the Information Commissioner's Office mentioned that they had been keen for a long time for the Police to implement a step-out (deletion) procedure in addition to the existing step-down (access restrictions) one.

Professor Peter Hutton, Chair of the newly created Ethics Group, reacting to some criticism and to questions as to what is the remit of this group introduced himself and mentioned that it had had its first meeting earlier this month on 2007-09-03 and that the minutes will soon be published. This is something to look out for.

The conclusion of the report will put pressure to review the current situation and limit the uncontrolled expansion of the NDNAD. Creating such a debate is very positive. The report could have gone further in some aspects. For instance it doesn't consider there's a need to differentiate between the DNA samples and the DNA profiles in terms of retention. It also finds that so-called cold cases do justify keeping the DNA of convicted criminals forever.

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Sat, 15 Sep 2007

Innocents are exceptional

The Police have eventually considered my case exceptional and have destroyed my bio-information and deleted the associated database records (more details, in context, at the two links).

Here's a flow chart from Appendix 2 of the Management of Police Information (MoPI) Guidance - Step model - Retention Guidelines (also known as the Retention Guidelines for Nominal Records on the Police National Computer, incorporating the Step Down Model). It describes the procedure to decide whether a case is deemed to be exceptional:
Step model - Retention Guidelines flow chart
This document doesn't describe the process after the red circled box is reached. Hopefully there are processes to ensure that no database record or bio-information sample is missed in the destruction and deletion procedure. Last year 115 cases were considered exceptional.

Related news: on 2007-09-18, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics will be publishing its Report The Forensic Use of Bioinformation: Ethical Issues (agenda and registration). My response to the consultation and other background info can be found in Should the Police keep your DNA forever?. Last week, Lord Justice Sedley's said it would be fairer to expand the National DNA database to cover the whole population and all those who visited the UK, even for a weekend. Justified? Proportionate?

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Fri, 31 Aug 2007

Be very alert

This has been displayed on the LED sign in the entrance of the Crown Prosecution Service for several weeks. It can be seen from the pavement when walking on the Old Bailey (I will not take a picture). Not sure when they started having this message regularly flashing up. Is it related to the threat level, downgraded from critical to severe on 2007-07-04? Or is it another unrelated scale? Surely the CPS doesn't need its own security assessment distinct from that of the UK?

(Clarification: the title is meant to be ironic and not a reflection of any paranoid tendencies!)

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Thu, 30 Aug 2007

Detention without trial

The ACPO is asking for a form of internment, with the power to lock up terror suspects indefinitely without charge. Gordon Brown, Prime Minister, has stated his intentions:
One proposal we cite in the consultation document from Liberty - and we are grateful to them for engaging so constructively in the debate - is that if the risk materialises we should declare an emergency under the Civil Contingencies Act and allow for a period beyond the 28 day limit, for up a further 30 days.

But this would require the declaration of a state of emergency.

We are also proposing for consultation - and this would not require a state of emergency - an extension of the current limit for up to 28 days more or a lesser period --- but only if, in addition to the requirement that a judge must approve every single seven day extension, the case is itself is notified to Parliament and subject to a timely report to Parliament of all circumstances, with the option of a later parliamentary debate.
Justice succinctly and effectively explained that the case for an 28 days (or longer) pre-charge detention as not yet been made and the risks that it entails:
At 28 days, the UK already has the longest period of pre-charge detention of any western country. While we welcome the government’s continuing efforts to consult and seek consensus on this important matter, it should strive to work within existing limits instead of pushing to achieve ever-longer maximums.
In particular, the government should be under no illusions about the possibility of additional safeguards for those held beyond 28 days.
No amount of additional scrutiny by the courts and Parliament can hope to prevent the injustice of an innocent person detained without charge for over a month.
The Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), the Centre for the Study of Terrorism (CFSOT) and Cage Prisoners organised a public meeting on the topic of ‘Detention Without Trial: Lives in limbo in Britain’, which demonstrated many examples of some of the injustices happening in the UK. You can listen to a recording of highlights of the meeting made by the London Sound Posse or read the following report by Paul Donovan:
War on terror repeating the mistakes of past in Ireland, by Paul Donovan

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg has told how Sinn Fein Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness told him not to be dejected about the present situation with the Muslim community in the UK.

The incident came just a couple of weeks before McGuinness stood in the Stormont buildings with Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley and Tony Blair to recommence the Assembly. “Martin McGuinness said don’t feel dejected, I know what it is like to be part of a criminalised demonised community,” recalled Begg, who drew parallels with the way in which the present war on terror is being conducted against the Muslims and the Irish experience over 30 years.

Begg was one of a number of speakers from across communities to address a meeting on detention without trial held at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel on 11 July.

“I’ve met in person with people who did the bombing, shooting and fighting in Northern Ireland and in the end it was with these same people who took part in the negotiations that led to peace.”

“The Northern Ireland conflict was solved by politics, which is the only way that any conflict can be resolved,” said Begg, who criticised the knee jerk reaction to any terrorist incident today that saw politicians reaching for more draconian laws like 90 day detention without trial.

Begg recalled two words that were at the heart of the Northern Ireland conflict that resound down to the years today’s conflict – “troops out.” The people of Northern Ireland wanted troops out of Ireland and today people want troops out of Iraq, said Begg, who said that had the government listened to those millions who marched against the war in Iraq the threat of terrorism would not exist in this country today.

Solicitor Gareth Peirce picked up on the Irish theme, recalling how the mistakes of the past 30 years were now being repeated. “The British state acted in a way that caused and fuelled the conflict for 30 years. It was the actions of the state and delivery of injustice that caused the reaction,” said Mrs Peirce, who recalled how before Bloody Sunday the IRA had been struggling to recruit members but after it people were lining up to join. The actions of the British state then in sending Lord Chief Justice Widgery over to conduct a whitewash inquiry, vindicating the army and blaming the IRA, indicated only that the law had been subjugated and no longer offered a refuge. “That set the scene for the next 30 years of conflict,” said Peirce. “Evil flourished. People served time in prison for things they had not done. One woman served 18 years for something she hadn’t done. Then there was the Birmingham Six case – 25 high court judges played a role in keeping them in prison.”

Peirce recalled how today the Special Immigration Appeals Commission was being used to destroy the rule of law, with evidence heard in secret without those accused being party to it. Some of the evidence had also been obtained in breach of international obligations, sometimes under torture.

She recalled how the mistakes of the past in Northern Ireland were being repeated with internment without trial – the cause the march on Bloody Sunday – was being practiced again. “This is an experiment and all these people are guinea pigs. People are quick in Britain to object to experiments on animals but less concerned about this experiment on people and their human rights,” said Peirce.

Liberty director Shami Chakrabati said she sensed a change in public attitude on both sides of the Atlantic. “People have had enough,” said Chakrabati, who recalled the inalienability of human rights. “It is only tyrants and terrorists who believe in torturing and locking people up without trial.”

Solicitor Muddassar Arani raised the question as to whether Muslim prisoners should claim prisoner of war status.

Responding to the point, Begg told how in the early days of Guantanamo Bay the prisoners had been given prisoner of war status which brought them within the Geneva Conventions. When it was realised this gave them protections the status was withdrawn.
Another angle I found interesting, that is not already captured in Paul Donovan's very good notes, is an intervention by Frances Weber in which she commented ‘it's not about guilt and innocence anymore; it's about risk. Are you a risk?’ (I.e. if you are a risk then you can get a control order, an ASBO, etc. without the need and fairness of any trial.)

The Joint Committee on Human Rights looked into the pre-charge detention issue in its ‘Counter-Terrorism Policy and Human Rights: 28 days, intercept and post-charge questioning’ (in PDF) report. Here's its summary (the links are my additions):
The Committee has published several Reports dealing with human rights concerns raised by counter-terrorism policy. Although very critical in the past of aspects of Government policy, the Committee welcomes the recent significant change of approach and tone in Government pronouncements on counter-terrorism. This report focuses on the Government's main new proposals and a number of other issues (paragraphs 1- 13).

Recent Ministerial statements envisage an increase from 28 days in pre-trial detention limits. The Committee is not convinced of the need for this and recommends thorough scrutiny of the evidence, stronger judicial safeguards and improved parliamentary oversight. The Committee considers that there should be an upper limit on pre-charge detention and that Parliament, not the courts, should decide that limit after considering all the evidence (paragraphs 14 - 57).

The Committee recommends improved conditions of pre-charge detention, including a better-designed replacement for Paddington Green police station (paragraphs 58 - 98).

The Committee welcomes in principle the Government's review of the use of intercept as evidence. It remains convinced that the ability to use it would help bring more prosecutions against terrorists. It makes recommendations on implementation and considers that the law of public interest immunity would protect the public interest in non-disclosure (paragraphs 99 - 155).

The Committee makes recommendations on other alternatives to extending pre-charge detention, notably post-charge questioning (paragraphs 156 - 175).

The Committee believes that the Special Advocate system does not afford the individual a fair hearing and recommends changes (paragraphs 176 - 205).

The Committee may return to its concerns over control orders once the House of Lords gives judgment in cases pending. Following her predecessor's reference to the possibility of derogation from the right to liberty, the Committee awaits a response from the Home Secretary to its request for clarification of the Government's view of the level of threat from terrorism (paragraphs 206 - 210).

Any extension of pre-charge detention may apply only to individuals for whom the Police has strong presumption of terrorism... but we are all terror suspects in the eyes of the Police. A document, seen by the Guardian, produced by Met commander Peter Broadhurst during a legal hearing at the high court, when BAA attempted to prevent the Climate camp demonstration next to Heathrow, stated:
"Should individuals or small groups seek to take action outside of lawful protest they will be dealt with robustly using terrorism powers. This is because the presence of large numbers of protesters at or near the airport will reduce our ability to proactively counter the terrorist act [threat]," the document says.
Consider how you show your opposition to this further criminalisation of innocents and serious threat of further increase of the pre-charge detention period. If you want to demonstrate in front of the Parliament, if you just go there it's unlawful, if you request prior authorisation from the Police it is further distracting them from their ability to deal with threats. If you thought of arranging to meet your MP at Portcullis House, you can now be arrested for trespass. Just stay home and write - if you feel safe enough to do that.

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Wed, 29 Aug 2007


Jacqui Smith, Home Secretary, answered in a Written Answer last July:
It is currently estimated that 13.7 per cent. of profiles held on the NDNAD are replicates, i.e. that a profile for a person has been loaded on more than one occasion (one reason for this is that the person gave different names, or different versions of their name, on separate arrests). Thus, the number of individuals on the database is approximately 13.7 per cent. less than the number of subject profiles. The presence of these replicate profiles on the NDNAD does not impact on the effectiveness and integrity of the database. Nonetheless, a long-term exercise is under way to identify issues associated with the removal of all such redundant replicate profiles.
Marie Woolf reports in The Independent Meg Hillier quoting the same source: 
Meg Hillier, a Home Office minister, admitted that because of the bogus replica files [in the National DNA Database], "The number of individuals on the database is approximately 13.7 per cent less than the number of subject profiles."
Does that mean that in about 550,000 cases, DNA was taken from individuals, then attempts at matching the profile of this fresh DNA samples with existing DNA profiles in the NDNAD failed? That would be an admission of failure of the NDNAD to an unprecedented level! If that's really what these figures mean, it would say a lot about the effectiveness and integrity of the database.

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Jean Charles de Menezes, killed but not going away

Two years ago the Police shot and killed Jean Charles de Menezes. Since then the family has been looking for answers and justice. Justice 4 Jean organised en event to hear about the continuing struggle for Jean Charles de Menezes. London Sound Posse recorded the event: Two years on - Too long to wait for justice.

No police officer involved in his death has been charged, let alone convicted and sentenced. The family doesn't even know the names of the officers involved. The inquest into his death remains adjourned. There has been no clarification about the use of Operation Kratos and the police's shoot-to-kill policy (apart from adding ‘to protect’ after its name).

The Police tried to cover up immediately after the shooting by stating that Jean was wearing a bulky jacket, jumped over the gate, was acting suspiciously... All false accusations.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation report into the shooting (known as ‘Stockwell One’) has been shared with the Police but not with the family. One law for the de Menezes family, one law for the Police. That's the constant message given to the de Menezes family.

CCTV footage of Jean's last moments in the station is not available allegedly due to technical problems. Stockwell is a tube station that is a hub of the British Transport Police just a couple of weeks after 7/7. In the Every step you take documentary, Andy Trotter, Deputy Chief Constable, British Transport Police, keeps harping on about how CCTV is so essential for his work, but somehow CCTV footage that may have evidences unsympathetic to the Police keeps not being available or not being asked in time. How inconvenient.

The IPCC eventually published ‘Stockwell Two’. That's the investigation into complaints about the Metropolitan Police Service's handling of public statements following the shooting. Even though it's only about what police officers said in public and not about the killing, the IPCC backed down under legal threat from some officers, and limited its blame to Andy Hayman. The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) is taking its time deciding any ensuing disciplinary procedures (the MPA promoted earlier on Cressida Dick, the Officer in charge of the armed operation).

The trial against the Office of the Commissioner of Police for the offence under the Health And Safety At Work Act is scheduled for October at the Old Bailey. The issue of Jean's death is a fundamental issue. The right to life. The delay of the inquest into his death, delayed further until the unrelated health and safety matter is completed, is a continuing violation of his right to life.

In what looks like a sad and desperate further attempt to make it all go away, the Home Office may not renew the visas of the four cousins and one friend representing the family in the UK. You can ask your MP to intervene in their favour.

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Wed, 11 Jul 2007

Counter-terrorism: four Ps... and snitches

Our security minister, an appointed unelected Admiral, was interviewed in the Telegraph:
Britain faces a 15-year battle to end the threat posed by Islamist terrorists, the Government's new security supremo has admitted.

Admiral Sir Alan West, the former First Sea Lord, said the overall danger facing the country, from both home-grown and foreign terrorists, was at its greatest ever level and that a new approach was badly needed to tackle it.
If the danger is really at its greatest ever level then we should consider ourselves lucky as the recent terrorism attempts have been attempted by incompetents.
In his first interview since his surprise appointment by Gordon Brown as security minister, Sir Alan called on people to be "a little bit un-British" and even inform on each other in an attempt to trap those plotting to take innocent lives.

"Britishness does not normally involve snitching or talking about someone," he said. "I'm afraid, in this situation, anyone who's got any information should say something because the people we are talking about are trying to destroy our entire way of life."
Sir Alan used the word snitch to ‘get everyone rather excited and interested’. Advocating a policy that is commonly associated with Soviet Union, the Stasi and occupied Europe sounds more inconsiderate and insensitive than exciting and interesting. To get cooperation the authorities have to improve trust, the government must follow the law and respect human rights, and the Police have to behave fairly and in a proportionate manner.

The Rules of the Game: Terrorism, Community and Human Rights report for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust looked at why cooperating with the authorities over terrorism is an issue that creates confusion: ‘The main problem with going to the police was that none of them trusted the police to handle the information with care and sensitivity, and they were fearful that the police might over-react and misuse their considerable powers.’

Let's be clear, cooperation has nothing to do with Britishness or snitching. It has everything to do with having a government and Police enforcing human rights for all that protect us all and create a climate of trust.

(More snitching than I anticipated for July.)
He said he was determined to build on the Government's core anti-terrorism strategy of the "four Ps" - prepare, protect, pursue, prevent - but that the "prevent" side, dealing with the radicalisation of young Muslims, was the most important.

"This is not a quick thing," he said. "I believe it will take 10 to 15 years. But I think it can be done as long as we as a nation apply ourselves to it and it's done across the board."
The four Ps were explained in details in the Rules of the Game report. There are four or possibly five elements of the counter-terrorism strategy known as ‘CONTEST’:

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) expressed regret to the Home Affairs Committee that ‘Communities’ was not included as a fifth item in its own right in the strategy, stating ‘an opportunity was missed to ensure the elements of the strategy that involve communities had prominence and priority’. Of course, ‘Communities’ would not have fitted into the neat four Ps structure of the strategy; and we are informed that Muslim community leaders were against giving it too much prominence. Consequently ACPO’s missing ‘communities’ pillar is largely subsumed into Prevention where government sources argue it is at the heart of this strand of the strategy, as well as featuring in the others.’
Sir Alan gave his comprehensive assessment of the threat facing the country to The Sunday Telegraph following last weekend's car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow.

Yesterday, Bilal Abdullah, a 27-year-old doctor, was remanded in custody at Westminster magistrates' court on a charge of conspiring to cause explosions in connection with the Glasgow attack last Saturday.

At King's Cross, Mr Brown joined survivors and relatives of victims to commemorate the second anniversary of the July 7 bombings in London, while there were reports that up to eight police officers and civilian staff in Britain were suspected of having links to al-Qaeda.

The Sunday Telegraph can also reveal that Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former director general of MI5, has disclosed that there are now more than 100 suspects awaiting trial across the country in 40 terrorist-related cases and warned of the possibility of an imminent chemical or biological bomb attack.

Sir Alan said that, after little more than a week in the job, it was clear to him that the overall threat had increased since he left his Navy post 16 months ago. He said: "There is a greater threat than there was."
Further mentions of an increased threat and of the ‘possibility of an imminent chemical or biological bomb attack’. Why should we believe the threat is greater than what has been shown in past trials? Is it this time more than just propaganda? Known examples of recent terrorism attempts have shown that we have been saved not just by the quality of our intelligence and swift actions of the Police (ricin poison cell) but also possibly by the competence of the criminals (the chappatti flour gang).
Britain was now fighting "a disparate core of people - based abroad primarily - whom I'm afraid are racist, they're bigoted, they seek power, they're avaricious in money terms and they talk of the caliphate." He said that he had been asked by Mr Brown shortly before he took over from Tony Blair to "sort out" the Government's response to the terror threat. "We are not getting our message across properly," Sir Alan said.

The 59-year-old who was chosen by Mr Brown as a non-partisan figure, said he would work to achieve a political consensus "wherever" possible - but added that it was inevitable that "disagreements" between the parties and across Whitehall would cause difficulties.
One can hope that an essential reading is the most excellent and thorough Rules of the Game report.
The admiral, who has been given a far-reaching brief across all government departments, also launched an attack on the phrase "war on terror" - which has been abandoned by ministers since Mr Blair left office.

He said: "I hate that expression. When I first heard it - I think it came over from the States - I though it was totally the wrong thing. It's not like a war in that sense at all. It demeans the value of a war and it demeans the value of a lot of things.
It didn't start as ‘the war on terror’, it started as ‘the war against terror’ (I'm pretty sure I saw it spelled one word on each line behind the presenter on BBC News - I must have watched the one time it happened)! Is that the sign that several of the rushed out anti-terrorism laws of the previous government will be repealed and the existing body of criminal legislation used instead?
"I don't like the fact that we talk about 'the Muslim community' and this sort of thing. I have a lot of Muslim friends and they see themselves as British. We've got to be very careful. The threat is to our British way of life and all of our British people."

Of the terrorists, he said: "I think they have severely damaged one of the world's great religions - the one they purport to support." The claims that British foreign policy was solely to blame was an erroneous argument, he said.

"It's not something that has happened recently. Iraq, for example, they use that as an excuse. There's no doubt the Middle East peace process is an important issue but actually when we were having men killed fighting to look after Muslims in Bosnia and in Kosovo, these people even then were trying to undermine us and ... cause damage to us."
Our foreign policy may not be solely to blame but it is clearly a contributory factor. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed in Whose bombs? quotes a British Army officer as saying “Every civilian dead means five new Taliban”, and it has been reported that only a couple of weeks ago witnesses claim a village in British-run Helmand was bombed for three hours and that between 50 and 80 people, many of them women and children, had died.
He said he was in favour of giving the security services more money and staff "if there is a need for that".

Sir Alan, who will become a Labour life peer, was commander of the frigate Ardent in the Falklands in 1982. The ship was sunk with a loss of 22 crew. In 2002, he became First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff. While in the post he became a fierce critic of the Government's naval cutbacks.

Sir Alan said he had been "amazed" to be offered a ministerial job by Mr Brown and had taken a "considerable drop in money". When he marched out of No 10 alongside Jacqui Smith, the new Home Secretary, few if anybody knew who he was.

He said he had a text message from a Royal Marines general, a friend serving in Afghanistan and watching a television link, to ask if he had "become a bodyguard."
It is indeed unusual, in a democracy, to have an Admiral being offered a governement role looking after a security. Sir Alan appears to have great experience in war situations, but as he said ‘it's not like a war in that sense at all’.

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Tue, 26 Jun 2007

The Law Lords

Why do the Law Lords refused to hear Babar Ahmad's case? I don't understand.

The Law Lords decide that ‘That leave to appeal be refused’ in Ahmad (Petitioner) v Government of the United States of America and another (Respondents) As SACC expresses in very strong terms, the decision of the Law Lords is surprising. If there was nothing to this case, surely the Europen Court wouldn't have immediately asked the UK Government for a stay on the extradition. I asked the House of Lords for more information as to the reasons for this decision. The reply I received does not give much more information:
Please be advised the Law Lords refuse leave to appeal on the grounds that there is no point of law of public importance to hear the appeal at the House of Lords. Detailed decisions are not provided by the Appeal Committee and are not published on the website.

The House of Lords Appellate Committee rules that Iraqi detainees are protected by the Human Rights Act 1998

2007-06-26 UPDATED with further info from the House of Lords

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Sun, 24 Jun 2007

Cet emplacement est vers le bas pour l'entretien


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Sun, 17 Jun 2007

Copy of Stop and search form 5090 eventually given to me

Code of Practice A of the Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Act 1984 states:
4.    Recording requirements

4.1 An officer who has carried out a search in the exercise of any power to which this Code applies, must make a record of it at the time, unless there are exceptional circumstances which would make this wholly impracticable ( situations involving public disorder or when the officer’s presence is urgently required elsewhere). If a record is not made at the time, the officer must do so as soon as practicable afterwards. There may be situations in which it is not practicable to obtain the information necessary to complete a record, but the officer should make every reasonable effort to do so. [See Note 21.]

4.2 A copy of a record made at the time must be given immediately [my emphasis] to the person who has been searched. The officer must ask for the name, address and date of birth of the person searched, but there is no obligation on a person to provide these details and no power of detention if the person is unwilling to do so.
A form 5090 was completed during my stop and search back on 2005-07-28, but a copy was never given to me until a few days ago

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Sun, 10 Jun 2007

Slipping in Downing Street

A couple managed to wander in Downing Street, via the Cabinet Office building and got arrested. Downing Street is one of the sites newly designated under Section 128 (offence of trespassing on designated site) of SOCPA. The couple was let in, mistakenly by a security guard, and there are apparently no signs around Downing Street warning of trespass. Read more at Parliament Protest.

As mentioned earlier, the Palace of Westminster and Portcullis House are among the other sites newly designated under Section 128 of SOCPA. Since the beginning of the month, attending an event in a Committee Room or meeting your MP in Portcullis House can land in you in jail for up to 51 weeks. Signs have now been put up around (part of) the perimeter.

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Government Discussion Document Ahead of Proposed Counter Terror Bill 2007

The government published a Government Discussion Document Ahead of Proposed Counter Terror Bill 2007. Spy Blog has set up a sub-blog on these new counter terrorism proposals to make it easier for everyone to contribute analysis and comments.

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Fri, 08 Jun 2007

Go see Taking Liberties this week-end and take action


Taking Liberties
Read a short review.


At a cinema near you. Check the cinema listings.


It opens today. Why not go see it this week-end?


Check out my Is the UK a police state? page for highlights of some of our liberties this government has been taking away from us. Read the following press release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities, published today, for some of what Brown is promising us (note that I added the links in the release):
Brown stitched up the Labor leadership - now he wants to stitch up our liberty
Campaigners reject "sham" call for consensus over anti-terror measures

We don't need any more bells and whistles bolted on to Britain's anti-terror laws. We need fundamental change to our anti-terror policies. We need laws that target criminals, laws that protect the innocent, laws that encourage careful, rational police work, laws that discourage drag-net investigations, discourage prejudice, discourage racism, discourage panic. In other words we need the ordinary criminal law, not gimmicks invented to boost the discredited "war on terror."

Yesterday's official unwrapping of the government's long-trailed package of "anti-terror" measures makes it clear that New Labour's assault on civil liberties isn't about to end any time soon. SACC is opposed to the new measures and opposed to Gordon Brown's efforts to construct a sham "consensus."

Gordon Brown wants to prove his mastery over the Labour Party by extending police powers to hold "terror" suspects without charge beyond the current limit of 28 days - already far too long. Blair couldn't get Parliament to accept this even in the aftermath of 7/7.

Brown also wants to allow police to question people even after they have been charged. To give police this kind of power over people in the most vulnerable situation imaginable guarantees miscarriages of justice. He's even floating the idea of withdrawing the right to silence of ordinary members of the public by giving police powers to stop and question us. To refuse to talk would be a criminal offence. And he wants to give police still greater powers to bully and harass the men held under control orders - men who have never been charged with any offence and seem to have been selected for persecution mainly on the basis of grudges held by members of the intelligence services.

The government wants to conduct a review into allowing intercept evidence to be used in terrorism court cases. But the key issue concerning communications intercepts in Britain isn't whether or not the evidence should be allowed into court. The problem is that Britain lacks any effective procedure for holding communications-tappers to account. Figures provided in this year's annual report from the Interception of Telecommunications Commissioner (covering 2005 and the first three months of 2006) show (when adjustments are made for reporting methods) that interception warrants have reached a new annual high of 5,723. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The total number of requests by "public authorities" (the nine agencies, 52 police forces, 139 prisons, 124 local authorities and 26 other public authorities) for communications data from service providers has reached a staggering 439,054. The Commissioner says that, of all these public authorities, it is the law enforcement agencies that are the principal users and that they have "acquired fully automated systems."

The Intelligence Commissioner says, in a report covering the same period "I do not propose to disclose publicly the number of warrants or authorisations issued to the agencies."

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect to all this is Brown's obvious wish to put these issues - some of the key issues facing Britain today - beyond the reach of politics. The man who became Prime Minister without a vote or even a debate wants "cross party agreement" for his attack on freedom before he puts it before Parliament.

We've been here before. For thirty years, successive British governments demanded - and got - a "bipartisan" approach to politics and policing in Northern Ireland. It alienated a generation of Irish people, stifled intelligent debate, guaranteed a compliant media and prolonged the "troubles." And it meant that rumours about state crimes in Northern Ireland's dirty war remained just rumours - mentioned in eccentric corners of the media but never brought to centre-stage and never publicly addressed by anyone holding political power. Brown's push for a consensus will come as a great relief to the murderers of Jean Charles de Menezes, to the spooks who stitched up the men held under control orders and the men being deported to torture in Algeria and Jordan, and to the officials who managed not to notice rendition flights calling at British airports.

Spin-poodle Lord Carlile is already at work promoting Brown's new vision. The Liberal Democrat peer and "independent" reviewer of the working of the terrorism laws has done as much as anyone to paint an acceptable face onto New Labour's machinery of repression. His methodology is to criticise some details, give his backing to whatever New Labour wants most, and steer the debate well away from fundamentals. So it's no surprise to find him expressing support for plans to extend pre-charge detention beyond 28 days.

Brown wants us all to agree on some sensible measures to do something about terrorism. Anyone can see that the proposed legislation goes far beyond that. But the problem is even deeper. The new measures, like previous initiatives, are built on the wide-ranging and politicised definition of terrorism contained in the Terrorism Act 2000. The definition includes acts that don't involve personal violence. And it outlaws support for overseas political movements engaged in almost any kind of serious opposition to tyranny.

Any anti-terrorist measure, however modest, that is build on such a definition is guaranteed to create injustice. Anyone who watches the new film "Taking Liberties", released today, will come away understanding that legislation like this is a threat to everyone.

We don't need any more bells and whistles bolted on to Britain's anti-terror laws. We need fundamental change to our anti-terror policies. We need laws that target criminals, laws that protect the innocent, laws that encourage careful, rational police work, laws that discourage drag-net investigations, discourage prejudice, discourage racism, discourage panic. In other words we need the ordinary criminal law, not gimmicks invented to boost the discredited "war on terror."

John Reid said he is "committed to discussing the issue with interested organisations, including police, the judiciary, civil liberties groups and communities."

We've seen this kind of consultation before. Lord Carlile conducted a lengthy review of the definition of terrorism and published his findings in March this year. He invited contributions from civil liberties groups and communities. Many groups, including SACC, made substantial submissions to the review. But few of the submissions found their way into Lord Carlile's report. It contains hardly a hint of the concerns expressed by many groups in their written submissions. And it doesn't mention the widespread opposition to the legislation Lord Carlile encountered in consultation sessions held around the UK. It certainly doesn't reflect the views expressed at the Lord Carlile held in Glasgow last July. Everyone attending the meeting - including police officers - was critical of the current legislation. Instead, Lord Carlile concluded the definition of terrorism was "useful and broadly fit for purpose."

The current definition of terrorism means that Britain's anti-terrorism laws are instruments of foreign policy at least as much as they are instruments of domestic policy. Everyone knows that it is Britain's support for US aggression in the Middle East that has made Britain a target for terrorists. Even those who believe that western intelligence agencies could be behind some terrorist incidents would agree that the Blair-Bush wars are at the heart of the problem. It's only the lunatics in the Cabinet that deny the link.

SACC will be insisting that any consultation over the government's new proposals must deal with the core issues of Britain's policy on terrorism. The Home Office appears to think that Lord Carlile has kicked this debate into the long grass. It is mistaken.

Richard Haley
On behalf of Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC)


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Wed, 30 May 2007

The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) are jointly making it very clear that they don't like at all the ‘stop and question’ powers that the government is proposing. Len Duvall, chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said:
If we want to set back community-police relations and return to the bad old days of the ‘sus’ laws of the ‘70s and ‘80s, when levels of mistrust between police and public were at record highs and had drastic consequences, then the introduction of a new blank cheque power to stop and question anyone, anywhere, anytime without reasonable grounds for suspicion, is a very quick way of achieving this.

Neither the Metropolitan Police Authority nor the Metropolitan Police Service have called for this power because we understand the serious damage it could cause to the police’s relationship with London’s communities.
However, they do like the existing ‘stop and search’ powers they already have. He added:
Section 44 stop and search powers already give police the power to stop someone without having reasonable grounds, just by virtue of the fact they are in a specified geographical area at a time when police have satisfied the Home Secretary that there is a heightened risk.
Tomorrow the MPS will present its Review of police use of counter-terrorism Stop and Search powers in London at the MPA monthly meeting. The recommendations are:
  1. the MPS continues to appropriately apply to the Secretary of State for authority to use Section 44 Terrorism Act 2000 (Section 44) powers (currently pan – London);
  2. the MPS continues to constantly review the appropriateness of a pan London authority and based upon the threat, intelligence and operational requirements continue to only apply for pan-London authority when it is needed to support tactics to prevent terrorism. However this recommendation is subject to the further recommendations made throughout this report;
  3. the MPS revisits and updates the Section 44 Standing Operating Procedure (SOP), and ensures that staff receive adequate briefing for the appropriate and legitimate use of Section 44 powers. Thorough post event de-briefing will be conducted to ensure effectiveness and highlight opportunities for improvement;
  4. the MPS provides sufficient training to enable staff confidently and properly to exercise their powers under all stop / search provisions;
  5. the MPS nominates a strategic lead officer for the tactical pan-London use of Section 44, to co-ordinate activity from the receipt of Section 44 authority through deployment and post deployment monitoring;
  6. as with the exercise of all other stop and search powers, the MPS promotes the tactical option of ‘stop and account’ within a revised SOP (See Recommendation Three);
  7. the MPS maximise opportunities to engage public awareness in the use across London of Section 44 by using appropriate high visibility signs / other equipment, where appropriate;
  8. the MPS develop a comprehensive communication strategy and engagement plan to ensure Londoners receive a consistent level of accurate information pertaining to police use of Section 44; and
  9. the MPS should conduct an annual MPS Equality Impact Assessment in respect to Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
These recommendations are in response to the MPA report Counter-terrorism: the London debate. The first recommendation of this report is: ‘Present an urgent review of the use of Section 44 Terrorism Act 2000 stop and search to the full Metropolitan Police Authority. Include in this review a clear rationale explaining why a given individual is stopped and searched rather than another. If unable to demonstrate to the Metropolitan Police Authority’s satisfaction through this review that the power is sufficiently effective in countering terrorism to outweigh the damage it does to community relations, stop using it, other than in exceptional circumstances, such as where there is a specific threat to a particular location.’

Will the MPA object to the MPS' recommendations? Unlikely as Len Duvall adds today: “While the MPA recognises the need to use all available tools to prevent terrorism, we are determined these tools should be as transparent and publicly accountable as possible.” Len Duvall appears not to fully endorse the conclusions of the MPA report (the foreword is signed by Reshard Auladin, Lord Toby Harris and Cindy Butts) that take the MPS to task. From my very limited experience of asking one question to the MPA, I found Len Duvall very much on the defensive protecting the MPS while other members offered more balanced views. Here are further, very similar, comments Len Duvall made in answer to my question: ‘The Chair [...] reiterates that stop and search is just one of tactics at the disposal of the police and that 'we can't rule out any tactic'. The Chair also refutes my argument that stop and searches happen on the basis of a stereotypical profiling, arguing that there's no profiling: all races are likely to be stopped and searched (but possibly one faith).’

From the MPS review:
55. ACPO have released advice in relation to Section 44 which also deals with the issue of selection for searching, emphasising that the power can be used in both a targeted and non-targeted way but should never be based on stereotypical views of terrorists. In the absence of specific intelligence, search activity may be on a more random basis, with a wide range of people being stopped.
This was of course not what happened in my case and the ACPO interim practice advice on stop of search does recommend behavioural profiling that is dangerously close to stereotyping.
61. There have been 19 complaints made in the MPS since Section 44 came into force in 2000, none of which were substantiated. In 2006 0.22% of Stop and Search activity (excluding Section 44) resulted in complaint. For Section 44, the figure was 0.01%. No formal disciplinary proceedings have resulted from complaints in relation to Section 44. However, 5 cases resulted in local resolution and the remainder were classified as unsubstantiated or withdrawn. All the locally resolved complaints related to incivility.
This data has been selectively compiled. Following my complaint to the IPCC, several officers involved received disciplinary sanctions so my complaint cannot be counted in these ‘19 complaints’. The stop and search was found to be lawful and hence was not the direct cause of the sanctions, it is the ensuing arrest and search of my flat which were found to be unlawful and the general poor conduct of the investigation that were the justification for the sanctions. This likely explains why it is not counted in the figure mentioned. If I hadn't been stopped and searched none of the rest would have happened. There's likely a large number of similar cases where complaints that could and should be attributed to stop and search will be counted only in some other category.

Note: Thanks to DW for pointing out the MPA press release in the comments of the excellent Police not consulted post by UK Liberty.

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Mon, 28 May 2007

Questioning the extension of stop and search to stop and question

Yesterday in a leaked letter to the Prime Minister, Tony McNulty, the Counter-Terrorism Minister, outlines the Home Office proposal to give powers to the police to stop and question people. People refusing to give their names or explain what they were doing could be charged with obstructing the police and fined up to £5,000.

A year ago nearly to the day, I asked a question at the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) about the stop and searches conducted in London under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. And only a few months ago, the MPA issued recommendations asking to ‘stop using it, other than in exceptional circumstances’.

If this terrible proposal still goes forward after Tony Blair and John Reid leave office, how many more of us will become ‘suspect’ or future ‘former suspect’?

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Sun, 27 May 2007

Arrest innocent and guilty alike, get their DNA swabs, create their entire genome sequence

Michael Ashburner, a geneticist Professor of Biology at Cambridge University and former joint-head of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), points out:
'Anyone who commits relatively minor offences can have their DNA taken and analysed. At present, the main use of this process is to create a DNA fingerprint that can be used to identify that individual. But soon we will be able to create an entire genome sequence of that individual from a swab or blood sample. We will end up knowing everything about their genes. In the end, we could have millions of people on a database and know every single genetic secret of each person. That has to be a very worrying prospect.'

Some related links:

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Thu, 24 May 2007

State of emergency, derogation from Article 5 of the ECHR and a further extension to the pre-charge detention period considered

Three suspects subject to control orders have disappeared.

The debate in the Commons is well worth reading in full. Here are a few extracts:

John Reid answering Dominic Grieve:
Unfortunately, within the limits of the existing legal framework, it is very difficult to prevent determined individuals from absconding. Nevertheless, I intend to do several things. First, I am already appealing to the House of Lords in several other control order cases about the interpretation of article 5 of the European convention on human rights on deprivation of liberty. We will consider other options—including derogation—if we have exhausted ways of overturning previous judgments on the issue.
Dominic Grieve:
The Home Secretary has hinted that draconian new powers are needed, yet the existing powers extend to house arrest, if the Government decide that there is such an emergency that that is justified. It is for the Government to determine whether there is a state of emergency. Is the Home Secretary saying that he will come to the House and say that there is an emergency in which the state is threatened? If so, when will he do that? Is it not the case that unless he does that, there is no possibility whatever of imposing derogating control orders, as they would simply be in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European convention on human rights?
In an earlier analysis Justice reminds us that:
The United Kingdom may derogate from Article 5 of the European Convention of Human Rights (“ECHR”) only:
(a) in time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation; and
(b) to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation; and
(c) to the extent that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law
(ECHR Article 15; cf. Human Rights Act 1998, section 14).
John Reid answering Jeremy Browne:
Let me deal first with the question of intercept evidence in court. We have been looking at that for a considerable time, and both Opposition Front-Bench teams know that the disadvantages so far outweigh the advantages that what they are suggesting meets with complete opposition from our security and intelligence services.
Andrew Dismore:
I have great sympathy with my right hon. Friend, because the control order regime is clearly a very imperfect way of trying to deal with the problem, but I hope that he will not adopt the route of derogation. He said that he saw control orders as not even the second-best option. Perhaps he will tell us what he thinks is the best option. Does he agree with the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which I chair, that the best option is prosecution? We are concerned about the fact that the existing control order detainees are not subject to continual review to establish whether there is enough evidence to prosecute them. Last summer we recommended a series of ways of making make prosecution easier, one of which was the conversion of intelligence into evidence through the use of intercept. I heard what my right hon. Friend had to say about that, but the police, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General have said that they consider it an important weapon that would significantly strengthen their ability to prosecute. I hope that before my right hon. Friend presents his proposals he will give serious consideration to the Committee’s recommendations, including that one.
John Reid answering Andrew Dismore:
I repeat that we always want to prosecute when there is a level of evidence that is sufficient to reach the threshold for prosecution. That is self-evident, but it is not the question. The question is: how do we tackle terrorist suspects when we do not have a sufficient threshold of evidence to charge, but have sufficient information to be alerted, through the intelligence and other services, to the fact that they may be preparing to commit an act of wholesale human destruction?
The Government is not asking for the tools that it needs to build a case strong enough to bring to trial suspects—and intercept evidence is used in other countries—but it is using its own failure to deal with three individuals it claims are a serious threat to justify removing some of our essential human rights. Act now to ensure the UK doesn't derogate from Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to liberty and security.

The UK Liberty blog has a good analysis at Three control order subjects have absconded and Reid calls for more power.
Note also that all the mentions about the Chahal case are completely irrelevant as it applies to foreign nationals and the three individuals at large are British.

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Thu, 17 May 2007

NDNAD - one annual report and 162,200 duff records

The Home Office published the Annual Report for 2005-06 of the National DNA Database (NDNAD) Board and ElReg reveals that between 1995 and 2005 approximately the NDNAD unit tried to load 126,200 erroneous records onto the database, of which only 26,200 were stopped by the system.

Some related links:

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We do not find that it would be conducive to the public good that the appellant should be deported on the grounds that it would be in the interests of national security so to do

Statement from three jurors in Mouloud Sihali’s trial:
14th May 2004

Today is a great day for Mouloud Sihali, his supporters and for justice.

As a jury, we sat through an incredibly lengthy and expensive trial, assessed all the evidence and came back with a verdict of Not Guilty on all the charges levelled against Mouloud Sihali. After the trial, several of the jury were shocked when the government proposed the deportation of all the cleared defendants in the Ricin Trial back to Algeria, to face an unknown and potentially dangerous fate. However, we were absolutely appalled when Mouloud Sihali was re-arrested and thrown into jail, without any charges proffered against him. His treatment since his release from jail has angered and dismayed us; under a strict bail regime he has been robbed of his freedom, treated unfairly and held under draconian conditions that shame us as a nation. Only his immense inner strength, the support of his friends and, ultimately, the belief in his innocence has seen Mouloud through dark days of what amounts to psychological torture

Although we do not approve of the SIAC system, with its shadowy policy of closed court sessions and secret evidence, which the defendant and even his lawyers are not allowed to see, we are grateful that Justice Mitting and his colleagues have reached a sensible conclusion. Mouloud Sihali is judged not to be a threat to national security; something that we jurors have always firmly believed.

We hope now that Mouloud Sihali can be left to live his life in peace and at last has the freedom to make a choice as to what he does with his future, without the damning label of “terrorist” or “threat to national security” hung around his neck.
Mouloud features in Taking liberties. In this movie, you will see the very sordid life that was imposed on him by this Government. I briefly met him after the preview showing. My very best wishes to him especially as, according to the BBC, Home Office minister Tony McNulty is considering persecuting him further: ‘We are disappointed, however, that the SIAC has determined that Sihali does not pose a threat to our national security. The government's highest priority is to protect public. We will be examining the determination closely to establish whether we have an avenue to appeal to the Court of Appeal and, if so, we will seek to overturn the decision.

Note: there has never been any Ricin involved in the so-called Ricin trial (recap from ElReg)

Recent rulings by the Special Immigrations Appeals Commission (SIAC) - thanks to the excellent British and Irish Legal Information Institute BAILII database:

May 2007

April 2007

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Fri, 11 May 2007

One hundred and fifteen exceptional cases last year

In a written answer, John Reid gave detailed historical data on DNA subject sample profiles added to and removed from the National DNA Database (NDNAD). Removal of the DNA profile as explained in the ACPO's Retention Guidelines for Nominal Records on the Police National Computer is done only in exceptional cases.

2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07
DNA profiles added to the NDNAD 444,394 431,723 480,286 625,797 667,737
DNA profiles removed from the NDNAD 256 45 53 165 115

My DNA profile was added in 2005-06, I look forward to increasing the number of DNA profiles removed in the current financial year. The relevant Chief Police Officer has to authorise the removal of my bioinformation and the destruction of the samples.

On a partially related note, I have just received from the IPCC its final decision in my appeal against the outcome of the police complaints investigation.

Some related links:

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Thu, 10 May 2007

Taking liberties

Taking liberties is a documentary to be released in the UK on June 8th. Through stories of people from all walks of life intermingled with soundbites from Blair and his government, this movie tackles what's happening in the UK to the right to protest, the right to freedom of speech, the right to privacy, the right not to be detained without charge, to be innocent until proven guilty and to the prohibition of torture.

Just ten hours after having finished the production and with very little sleep, Chris Atkins, the film director, did a preview screening and Q&A at Amnesty International. The film was very well received but then most attending were already sensitive to the issues presented, if not activists.

‘This story is not told by celebrities or politicians, but by ordinary people whose lives have been turned upside down by injustice. What is probably most fascinating is to see how these people – whether they have been arrested for a peaceful protest or tortured in Guantanamo Bay – have reacted to their injustices in startling and uplifting ways.’ - Chris Atkins

This rich mix of stories means, that when the documentary is released to a wider audience, there's a chance for everyone to identify with one of the characters; this is the path to realisation that these liberties can be taken away from you. This is not the story of some remote dictatorship, this is happening to many here in the UK. The film includes footage rarely seen before (such as how the Police literally pushed the door on one the Fairford coaches to prevent the passengers to get out of the coach) making these episodes all the more immediate. And the animations are fantastic.

For now watch the trailer, on June 8th go see the full movie. I found it very effective, sometimes moving and with a few funny moments.

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Mon, 07 May 2007

Forensic use of bioinformation and human rights

Justice's response to the consultation on the ethical issues in the forensic use of bioinformation conducted by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics provides some interesting insights regarding the compatibility of current policies with human rights laws.


The current criteria for the collection and retention of bioinformation by police are wholly disproportionate to the needs of law enforcement. In particular, the retention of DNA samples of persons either not charged or subsequently acquitted appears to us a gross interference with the right to personal privacy. We note that this view is at odds with the 2004 judgement of the House of Lords in R v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire (ex parte S and Marper),[2004] UKHL 39. in which the House concluded that the retention of DNA samples of persons arrested but not subsequently convicted did not interfere with the right to respect for personal privacy under Article 8(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and – even if it did – was a legitimate restriction under Article 8(2). With respect, however, we consider the decision of the House in Marper to be deeply flawed. We further predict that it is unlikely to be upheld by the European Court of Human Rights on appeal for the following reasons.

Here's Article 8 of the ECHR:
Right to respect for private and family life

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Justice's response highlights the amount of medical information contained in an individual DNA sample as opposed in fingerprints and photographs. That recent case law from the European Court shows that retention by the police of personal information can plainly amount to an interference with the right to respect for personal privacy under Article 8(1), and this should apply to Police retention of DNA samples. And, that retention of DNA samples of persons suspected, but not subsequently convicted, of an offence to breach Article 8(2) on the basis that such retention is unnecessary and disproportionate.

Justice also points out a potential breach of Article 6(2), the right to a fair trial.

Thus, while the legitimate interest in the prevention and detection of crime may justify the retention of DNA profiles of those proven guilty and charged, it cannot serve as a justification of the indefinite retention of DNA of individuals who are by law presumed to be innocent.Article 6(2) ECHR.

Here's Article 6:

Right to a fair trial


2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.


A legal challenge which will determine whether fingerprints and DNA samples taken from people who have been acquitted of crimes can be kept by the police has been given the go ahead for consideration in the European Court of Human Rights.

Michael Marper and S (a juvenile), the two cases included in the challenge, requested their fingerprints and DNA samples to be destroyed – but the requests were refused by South Yorkshire police. They both argued that the retention of fingerprints and especially DNA samples amounts to an unjustified breach of their right to respect for private life protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The applicants also submitted they were subject to discriminatory treatment (Article 14) as compared to others in an analogous situation, namely other unconvicted persons and those whose samples had still to be destroyed under the legislation. ([2007] EHCR 110)

You have until 2007-05-31 to sign the petition asking the Prime Minister to legislate to require all UK Police forces to delete DNA data from persons not convicted of an offence.

Links to my response to the consultation and other useful resources on the NDNAD can be found in Should the Police keep your DNA forever?

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I fought the law by Dan Kieran

I fought the law Dan Kieran's book I fought the law is available at a bookshop near you - in the humour section. The choice of section likely comes from Dan's approach:

My approach has always been to do funny books about serious issues because I think you can reach more people by being entertaining as well as informing.

I fought the law ended up being a very different book from the one Dan initially intended:

My original idea was to write a guide to some of the most absurd ancient legislation still on the statute book. I’d had this great idea to go round the country on a crime spree, breaking as many silly old laws as I could find: imagine if Fred Dibnah met Bonnie and Clyde.

However, in the process of researching these laws I couldn’t help noticing another glut of legislation that seemed even more ludicrous. Most of our silly laws have trickled onto the statute book over centuries, but this particular set had all come from our current government. And when you meet a man who got arrested after eating a cake with “Freedom of speech” written on it in icing, and someone else who has a criminal record for holding a banner made of fridge packing in Parliament Square that had “Freedom of speech” written on it in Biro, the idea of breaking the Adulteration of Tea Act of 1776 starts to seem a little frivolous.

Dan had already rescoped his book when I met him one evening in November 2005 at the offices of the Idler. He recorded an interview about what happend when the Police found my behaviour suspicious when going in a tube station and the subsequent stop and search, arrest, detainment, flat search, etc. This was the context for the interview:

This book is about my journey to break the strangest law in Britain. Now people will expect it to be all the odd and eccentric laws of the past but because I'm writing it in the current climate, I want to highlight how our freedom is being eroded. An interview with you to tell your story would point out that you can now be arrested for literally doing nothing.

The chapter called Britain's Ten Worst Laws which Dan wrote in conjunction with civil rights campaign group Liberty opens with this interview.

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Sun, 22 Apr 2007

More mass lone demonstrations in one day than in 18 months

Lone demonstration As mentioned previously, following the initiative of comedian Mark Thomas to demonstrate the dangerous absurdity of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA), in particular of its Section 132, many had requested prior authorisation from the Police to hold lone demonstrations this past Saturday. Section 132 outlaws protests without police permission in a designated area within a 1 km straight line from the central part of Parliament Square.

According to the Home Office, ‘during the period 1 August 2005 to December 2006 1,379 demonstrations have taken place [in the SOCPA zone] with an authorisation’. The aim was to have 2,000 mass lone demonstrations. The demo-ometer on Mark Thomas' website shows that 2,294 applications to demonstrate on Saturday 2007-04-21 were handed in.

My own demonstrations was to ‘call for the police to consider other options than to arrest innocents (and keep their DNA) or to shoot them’. This is one of the issues I raised in my appeal to the outcome of the IPCC-supervised enquiry (I called the IPCC earlier in the week and apparently my appeal was to be reviewed the the IPCC legal team during the week). I demonstrated on the very same issue, a month ago.

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Wed, 18 Apr 2007

Creative use of the Data Protection Act - literally

The UK 2005 version of the manifesto for CCTV filmakers is described as:
MANIFESTO FOR CCTV FILMMAKERS declares a set of rules, establishes effective procedures, and identifies further issues for filmmakers using pre-existing CCTV (surveillance) systems as a medium in the UK. The manifesto is constructed with reference to the Data Protection Act 1988 and related privacy legislation that gives the subjects of data records (including CCTV footage) access to copies of the data. The filmmaker's standard equipment is thus redundant; indeed, its use is prohibited. The manifesto can easily be adapted for different jurisdictions.
Manu Luksch and Mukul Patel created the movie Faceless under the rules of the 'Manifesto for CCTV Filmmakers'.

(Discovered via the billblog. Bill will chair a session titled ‘Control Technology: Knowing Me, Knowing You – Ah ha! –’ at the Enter_ conference in Cambridge on 2007-04-27 to which Manu Luksch will participate.)

See also:
2007-04-18 EDITED TO ADD reference to SpyBlog

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Tue, 10 Apr 2007

At the end of March, I wrote, for The Register, Fighting torture with copyright - Moral musos work to rule about the idea first expressed by Clive Stafford Smith for musicians to use copyright law to possibly achieve more for the human rights of many than human right laws have so far. The story has been picked up by others with a couple interesting twists.

Roger Parloff in the Legal Pad at CNN Money investigates whether torture is fair use in the context of copyright law. He takes at heart whether songwriters and music publishers can increase their income thanks to the US army as ‘[m]usic-as-torture seems to offer rare growth potential in an industry otherwise in distress’. Issues being explored include whether use of music in torture constitutes a public performance. For this entry, Parloff consulted William Patry, Senior Copyright Counsel at Google and the author of a treatise on copyright law (and of the The Patry Copyright Blog), professor Jane Ginsburg of Columbia Law School, and Fred Koenigsberg of White & Case and ASCAP's general counsel.

Guillaume Champeau on French site Ratiatum asks what if the US army was to buy the music labels? It would solve the copyright infringement issue (and the financial difficulties of some labels). If music is a weapon for war, then maybe it should belong to the army.

So far I haven't heard of any concerned musician starting a legal action against the US Government, but I did discover that the Society for Ethnomusicology issued a Position Statement on Torture in which it ‘calls for full disclosure of U.S. government-sanctioned and funded programs that design the means of delivering music as torture; condemns the use of music as an instrument of torture; and demands that the United States government and its agencies cease using music as an instrument of physical and psychological torture.’

In the same article, I also wrote about Mark Thomas' mass lone demonstrations (MLD) to undermine Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) that outlaws protests without police permission in a designated area within a 1 km straight line from the central part of Parliament Square. The day it was published happened to be the third Wednesday of March and that evening I was in Parliament Square. ‘We understand from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police that during the period 1 August 2005 to December 2006 1,379 demonstrations have taken place [in the SOCPA zone] with an authorisation’ according to the Home Office. On 2007-04-05, Mark Thomas and a group of regulars at the MLD brought 1,184 requests for demonstrations to Charing Cross police station; the demos will take place on Saturday 2007-04-21. The aim is for people to carry out 20 demos each in the SOCPA zone in one day and to get as many people as possible to do so. To participate, you have until 2007-04-15 10.30am to get your forms in. The regular MLD scheduled for the third Wednesday of the month, is on 2007-04-18 this month.

As if Section 132 was not enough of a threat to anyone who wants to be heard by his or her Member of Parliament and Lords, on 2007-05-012007-06-01 the Palace of Westminster and Portcullis House Site will be added among the new sites designated under Section 128 (offence of trespassing on designated site) of the same SOCPA. Come MayJune, attending an event in a Committee Room or meeting your MP in Portcullis House can land in you in jail for up to 51 weeks.

Morning Star

2007-04-28 EDITED TO ADD: The Morning Star picks up on the story and Michal Boncza writes The new torture, published in the 2007-04-28 edition.

2007-04-10 EDITED TO CORRECT: different documents have different start dates for the additions to S.128. It seems that June is the correct commencement date.


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Sat, 07 Apr 2007

Turning Britain into a nation of suspects - 3

At the House of Lords debate on Police: DNA Database on the 2007-03-08, Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Minister of State, Home Office) stated that “[t]here were nearly 3.8 million persons on the DNA database as at the end of January 2007”, confirmed that “each sample is kept on the database indefinitely” and explained “we should be clear that negotiations on the Prum treaty have not been completed” (the Prum treaty is a European treaty, which gives European member states direct access to national DNA records).

In other news last month, we learn that “five civil servants who help run the national DNA database have been suspended after being accused of industrial espionage” but don't worry as “[t]he Home Office insisted there was no question information held on the database had been 'compromised'”

The Home Office published a consultation on Modernising Police Powers: Review of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 (closing date for responses: 2007-05-31) in which it suggests the creation of short term holding facilities (STHF) in shopping centres: “The function of the STHF would be to confirm the identity of the suspect and process the person by reporting for summons/charging by post, a penalty notice or other disposal. Persons detained would be subject to detention up to a maximum period of 4 hours to enable fingerprinting, photographing and DNA sampling. The STHF would not be used in cases where the arresting officer considers that an investigation was required and authority to transfer a person from a STHF to a designated police station would require the authority of an Inspector.” The document goes as far as suggesting to remove all exisiting limitations on taking DNA samples: “Is there scope to populate identification databases and remove unnecessary operational constraints on the extent to which police are able to use fingerprints etc. to prevent, detect and investigate crime?”

(Background information on DNA: Should the Police keep your DNA forever?)

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Spying on its customers is ok... as long as you can lie about it

Sir Swinton Thomas, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, authored the Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner for 2005-2006 in February 2007:
vi. The Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are very important in this process and their staff do essential work. They are very co-operative and dedicated. I talk to them regularly and they are totally opposed to the concept of intercept being admissible in Court. The present regime provides a high degree of protection to the CSPs and particularly to those members of their staff who work in this sensitive field, and their strong co-operation referred to could easily be undermined. Here again, I think that it is essential for people holding views on this subject to talk to the CSPs, and to listen to what they say, and understand the basis of their strong opposition to any change in the present law.
From the minutes of evidence taken before the joint committee on human rights on 2007-03-12 (uncorrected transcript of oral evidence to be published as HC 394-i)
Q21 Nia Griffith: You mention in your annual report that communication service providers are strongly opposed to intercept being admissible in court. Can you tell us why that is and should their agreement be a precondition to relaxing the ban?

Sir Swinton Thomas: I visited all the major telephone companies and internet companies at least once a year and more often with some of them, as was necessary. There are two aspects. The companies themselves who are extremely co-operative in providing the material which is needed for the intercept are very concerned about their capacity and the way in which they go about dealing with these issues being made public. There is probably a commercial aspect to that which is difficult for me to deal with in public. I dare say that if you have a chairman of a company dealing in communications, he would say, "Quite frankly, we would prefer that our customers did not know that we were passing all your calls across to a government agency" [my emphasis], which is a fairly natural response. A more important one is that they think - and I think they are right - that if there was a change in the law all the ways in which they go about providing material would be open to examination and cross-examination, which is something they do not want to happen. Members of the general public probably know very little about it. [...]
Is the main issue regarding use of intercepts in court really that it's not good for business if we, the public, know that our calls are passed to NTAC, GCHQ or a similar agency?

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Sun, 25 Mar 2007


Today, the UK switched to Summer time - from GMT to BST. This was advertised at 01:00 UTC by the MSF signal, the principal means of disseminating the UK national standards of time and frequency.

This is the last such switch signaled from Rugby, Warwickshire. In a few days, on 2007-04-01 the MSF service broadcast will transfer to Anthorn, Cumbria. Rugby MSF started transmitting standard time in 1950 with announcements every 15 minutes. Time signals were first broadcast from Rugby on 19 December 1927, from the Rugby GBR which continued transmitting time signals until the end of November 1986.

How do all the acronyms in the title of this post relate to each other? They all have something to do with time. See the Soapflake Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late! I wrote a decade ago.

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Wed, 21 Mar 2007

Published in El Reg

Column For the French, the business of exploiting available laws, directives and other rules is an art form. One such inventive use of the constraints is the 'greve du zele' ('working to rules' strike action) where those on strike work more, not less.

When on greve du zele workers observe all rules - however archaic or unsuitable they may be - to the letter with such minutiae that their productivity becomes virtually nil. Greve du zele gives employees who are by law forbidden to go on strike, the ability to protest, making the interdiction moot.

It is most popular with airport staff.

Similar techniques are being applied in the UK. Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) outlaws protests without police permission in a designated area within a 1km straight line from the central part of Parliament Square. Several individuals involved in peaceful protests have already been arrested under this law. Comedian and human rights activist Mark Thomas calls it a "mass lone demonstration", and describes how to participate

But one of the most intriguing suggestions has come from British lawyer Clive Stafford Smith.

Stafford Smith suggests that musicians use copyright law to hold the American government to account for its use of music to torture detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo.

Music as torture / Music as weapon

Suzanne G Cusick in her article entitled "Music as torture / Music as weapon", describes the history of sound as an instrument of torture. The military has a long history of developing sound itself as a well, using infrasound, or subsonic frequencies, to disorientate battlefield opponents.

Writes Cusick:

"As early as May 2003 the BBC reported that the US Army had used Metallica's Enter Sandman and Barney the Purple Dinosaur's I Love You in the interrogation of Iraqi detainees, playing the songs repeatedly at high volume inside of shipping containers."

She also finds mentions that the US Army used music by Christina Aguilera, Eminem (Slim Shady, White America) and Dr Dre. Stafford Smith adds to this list Aerosmith, Don McLean and Bruce Springsteen (Born in the USA).

Bruce Springsteen has already shown a willingness to defend his 'brand': he fought and lost a trademark dispute involving a cybersquatter.

According to Stafford Smith, he has the opportunity, with other musicians, not to have their music used by US government to torture unlawful enemy combatants, to sue under copyright law.

Moral rights

Musicians can use their moral rights (Article 6bis of the Berne Convention) to object to the derogatory treatment of their work to prevent any similar further use and claim compensation for the damage to their honour and reputation.

This aspect of copyright law is not fully recognised by the USA; it is not referenced in the EU-US-Japan-led Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement. The USA has historically been fully behind the economic rights and even extended the copyright legislation with the so called Mickey Mouse Act giving more commercial benefits to the industry. Europe has traditionally been more balanced, recognising both moral and economic rights as fundamental. Closely related to the right of integrity is the right of identification, which when implemented let creators refuse to be identified if their work has been edited in a way they object to.

Ironically, moral rights have been under by the Creative Commons utopians. By wanting to liberalise copyright to allow all remixes, they need to get rid of the right of integrity.

The BBC's Bill Thompson notes that Lawrence Lessig dismisses moral rights as "a French idea" that has no real usefulness.

This isn't so. Artists could work with their labels to sue for copyright infringement and demand detailed information as to when and where their music has been played so that they can calculate how much royalties they are owed.

Copyright law, which has been extended for the sole benefit of media corporations, could possibly achieve more for the human rights of many where human right laws have mostly failed. ®

Bootnote Last week, I went to Charing Cross police station and got my Application for Demonstration approved. I'll be demonstrating on my own to call for the 'Police to consider other options than to arrest innocents (and keep their DNA) or shoot them'. I won't tell you where or when I'll demonstrate as this is a lone event. Go organise your own demonstration next month.

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

Follow-up posts:

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Authorised demonstration in Parliament Square

Lone demonstration With my Application for Demonstration (approved last week) in hand, after work, I went to Parliament Square to join thirty or forty other lone demonstrators - and Brian Haw. The placard was made with two printouts, a large envelope, two rulers and some tape! We may have to do many more such demonstrations for Parliament to strike down the worst sections of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

Radio 4 recorded some of the demonstators for a programme that will air Thursday 2007-03-29 at 18:30.

The 'reason for event', i.e., what's on the placard, is a call I made earlier in my appeal to the outcome of the IPCC-supervised enquiry.

Many thanks to El Reg for publishing Fighting torture with copyright - Moral musos work to rule.

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Mon, 19 Mar 2007

Terrorism definition, plus ca change

Lord Carlile of Berriew Q.C. Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has published a 52-page report titled The Definition of Terrorism (Crown copyright). Here are his conclusions:
86. My main conclusions are as follows:
(1) There is no single definition of terrorism that commands full international approval.
(2) The risks posed by terrorism and its nature as crime are sufficient to necessitate proportional special laws to assist prevention, disruption and detection.
(3) A definition of terrorism is useful as part of such laws.
(4) The current definition in the Terrorism Act 2000 is consistent with international comparators and treaties, and is useful and broadly fit for purpose, subject to some alteration.
(5) Idiosyncratic terrorism imitators should generally be dealt with under non-terrorism criminal law.
(6) The discretion vested in the authorities to use or not to use the special laws is a real and significant element of protection against abuse of rights.
(7) The exercise of such discretion requires especial care by those in whom the discretion is vested.
(8) New sentencing powers should be introduced to enable an additional sentence for ordinary criminal offences, if aggravated by the intention to facilitate or assist a terrorist, a terrorist group or a terrorist purpose.
(9) Offences against property should continue to fall within the definition of terrorist acts.
(10) Religious causes should continue to fall within the definition of terrorist designs.
(11) The existing law should be amended so that actions cease to fall within the definition of terrorism if intended only to influence the target audience; for terrorism to arise there should be the intention to intimidate the target audience.
(12) The existing definition should be amended to ensure that it is clear from the statutory language that terrorism motivated by a racial or ethnic cause is included.
(13) Extra-territoriality should remain within the definition in accordance with international obligations.
(14) A specific statutory defence of support for a just cause is not practicable.
(15) A new statutory obligation should require that the exercise of the discretion to use special counter-terrorism laws in relation to extra-territorial matters should be subject to the approval of the Attorney-General having regard to (a) the nature of the action or the threat of action under investigation, (b) the target of the action or threat, and (c) international legal obligations.
(16) The law should not be amended to enable the use in the United Kingdom of the special laws against persons subject to diplomatic immunity.
With the possible exception of (11), Lord Carlile adopts a very prudent approach and dismisses, sometimes even abruptly, the issues he is aware of.
62. The fundamental tests applied are to be found in the 24 pages of the Code of Practice for Crown Prosecutors. It is possible, though far from easy, to challenge some prosecutorial decisions by judicial review. The continuation of jury trial provides an important protection against prosecutions the public find unreasonable or arbitrary. Current dilution of jury trial is understandable where there is a real risk of the jury process being contaminated by corruption or intimidation, infection of the jury process itself. Otherwise the jury remains the jewel in our criminal justice system. Mistakes will occur from time to time in that system, including decisions to prosecute. However, the discretion exercised by the prosecutor should not be discarded lightly on the basis that one day a seriously malign government may come to power and arbitrariness will become the order of the day. That view, expressed to me occasionally by sophisticated commentators, is one I reject.
Let's pass on how mistakes can seriously adversely affect the life of individuals. It would have been welcome to discover the rationales by which Lord Carlile rejects that view. My understanding of the legal system is that most laws survive the government that introduces them, so having a set of over broad laws being passed by a government considered benign can create just the tools needed by a seriously malign government. The Terrorism Act in itself, even with too broad definitions, is possibly not a major risk in and of itself, but combine it with, for instance, the National Identity Register that will be build as a result of the Id Card Act, and the National DNA Database, and you can see how the risks are magnified.

I also find this report disappointing in how it explains that basically we can't improve much as we're bound by international treaties that are possibly as bad but that we can't change. There's a bit of a circular logic which feels like an easy excuse. This is used for the 'Nelson Mandela test' and for ensuring that state sponsored terrorism remains safe.

(I noticed the publication of this report via SpyBlog's analysis of it.)

At the same time the Islamic Human Rights Commission points out:
The Islamic Human Rights Commission is very concerned by the latest terror statistics published by the Home Office according to which, of 1126 arrests made under the Terrorism Act 2000, only 211 have been charged with terrorism offences with only 40 of those convicted.

IHRC notes that the anti-terror laws are so broad that what would normally be considered as relatively minor offences have been included in the 40 successful terror convictions. For example, the statistics include convictions of individuals for wearing badges bearing the logo of proscribed organisations related to the conflict in Northern Ireland, such as the UVF.
I briefly commented on these statistics in Not enough innocents arrested, let's do an ad campaign.

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Wed, 14 Mar 2007

Creative use of the law as a form of protest

The French have perfected the art of using the law and other rules as a form of a protest culminating in the regular ‘grèves du zèle’. Those on grève du zèle do their work but observe all rules to the letter with such minutiae that their productivity is virtually nil. This is a form of protest that is accessible to those that are by law forbidden to go on strike. It is most popular with airport staff.

This same spirit is gaining traction in the UK.

Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (SOCPA) outlaws protests without police permission within 1 km of the Parliament. Several individuals involved in peaceful protests have been arrested under this law. Last year, Mark Thomas spotted a way to use the SOCPA law itself as a way to undermine it: ‘for people to apply for mass lone demonstrations and in doing so highlight the danger and stupidity of having this law in a democracy’. Mark provides all the practical details you need to participate.

Earlier today, I went to Charing Cross police station and got my Application for Demonstration approved. I'll be demonstrating on my own to call for the ‘Police to consider other options than to arrest innocents (and keep their DNA) or shoot them’. I won't tell you where or when I'll demonstrate as this is a lone event, go organise your own.

From Charing Cross I rushed to attend a debate on the death penalty organised by Reprieve with human right lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, Nick Yarris who spent 23 years on Pennsylvania’s death row before DNA evidence exonerated him in 2004, journalists Mark Dowd and (as the dissenting voice) Peter Hitchens, and chaired by broadcaster Charles Wheeler.

Nick Yarris' way forward to end capital punishment in the USA is through economic pressure. He is determined to convince European governments to bring about trade sanctions against the five US states who hold most of the death row population: California, Florida, Pennsylvania Texas and Virginia. Nick claims the UK is the largest overall foreign investor in Pennsylvania, a reason he moved to the UK from Pennsylvania. Trade sanctions or the prospect of bank loans have been effective means of enforcing so called intellectual property rights (IPR). A common way to impose sanctions is to have them voluntarily accepted as a condition to join a club, that's how the World Trade Organization has foisted on many nations the EU-US-Japan-led Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). And the USA can impose economic sanctions, under the Special 301 legislation of the Trade Act of 1974, on countries it deems not effective in protecting IPR.

From reading and watching presentations by Clive Stafford Smith, he always seems ready to share interesting anecdotes in how he constructively used US laws. (In a lecture to Glaswegian law students, unfortunately not online anymore, he recounted how he got Georgia's court to overturn the five years jail sentence for his client having committed the crime of oral sex with his consenting wife; his legal arguments included demanding assurances from prosecution lawyers that they were not guilty of the same offense.) Last week's debate was not the place for too many anecdotes, but he did offer one of his more off-the-wall suggestion: for someone to provide ‘death row insurance’ alongside travel insurance for those flying to the US. You may want to check the available videos of him as his enthusiasm and pragmatism are contagious. In the latest Reprieve newsletter, Clive Stafford Smith suggests for musicians to use Copyright law to hold the American government to account for its use of music to torture detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo.

In the latest Reprieve newsletter, Clive Stafford Smith suggests for musicians to use Copyright law to hold the American government to account on its use of torture. The US military is known to have used music to torture detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo. Music from Aerosmith, Eminem, Don Mclean, Bruce Springsteen, Tupac, and Meatloaf as well as the theme tune of the TV show Barney have been used to torture. All the artists involved can sue the US government for copyright infringement and request detailed information as to when and where their music has been played so that they can calculate how much royalties they are owed. Copyright law, which has been extended for the sole benefit of media corporations, could possibly achieve more for the human rights of many where human right laws have mostly failed!

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Wed, 07 Mar 2007

The Met is still registered with the Information Commissioner, and the entry is public... again

Sometime last year when updating the Innocent in London page I realised the link to the registration entry of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in the register of data controllers maintained by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) was not working anymore. I looked for an updated entry and none were to be found. I simply updated the page with the annotation: ‘[update: the link to the entry – – is now dead and I cannot find the new DPR entry for the Met]’.

In January, SpyBlog also looked for the MPS entry in the register and couldn't find it either. SpyBlog called the staff at the Information Commissioner's Office but they ‘could not seem to find any current or pending Data Protection Register entries on their internal systems either’. (I commented on this in an earlier entry: Where is the Metropolitan Police entry in the data protection public register?)

Early February, as I had to contact the Public Access Office of the MPS, I took this opportunity to ask ‘for the registration number(s) or name(s) under which the MPS data controller(s) is registered under the Data Protection Act as I can't find any entry for it any more in the ICO's register of data controllers’. First time I asked, this query was ignored. Second time I asked, it was ignored again.

Later that month the Mayor of London (MOL) blog raised this issue as well.

Last week, I emailed the Metropolitan Police Authority asking whether they could find out whether the MPS is registered under the Data Protection Act or whether I should ask a question to the Clerk to the Authority (I had used this procedure last year). They ‘asked the MPS to provide [them] with the information that [I] have requested’ and today I got the following reply:
The MPS is registered under the Data Protection Act with the Information Commissioner. The Data Protection Registration No. is Z4888193, the entry expires on 8/9/07.
You can verify this for yourself by searching for the registration number at the ICO's register of data controllers search page. (Permalinks to the register don't tend to be permanent, but here's one to the entry itself). I can't reproduce the full entry here for copyright reasons (the copyright is listed at the bottom of the entry).

This is a positive development as if the MPS had not been registered it would have meant that all the police databases such as the Police National Computer, the National DNA Database, IDENT1, the National Automatic Number Plate Recognition Database, etc. would have been unlawful. That being the case, it would have been likely for some trials to be dismissed on pure technicality. We are all safer with police databases being operated lawfully.

What is curious is that this entry, originally registered on 09 September 2000, suddenly reappears today after multiple enquiries by SpyBlog and myself to the ICO, the Public Access Office of the MPS and to the Metropolitan Police Authority. The data controller is listed as COMMISSIONER FOR THE METROPOLIS. The searches done by SpyBlog, MOL and myself would have found this entry if it had been present.

Through the independent efforts of SpyBlog and myself, both the MPS and the ICO have been aware that the MPS entry in the data controler register could not be found. (Visitors from the MPS are regulars to the Innocent in London page and they are also likely to have noticed the update note there.) Only a nudge from the MPA, it seems, made it reappear as if by magic. Why it disappeared from the public register for several months, in the first place, remains a mystery.

2007-03-07 EDITED TO ADD: SpyBlog posted this news on its sister FOIA blog. An earlier post is about SpyBlog's FOIA request to the ICO.

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Not enough innocents arrested, let's do an ad campaign

In the same week, the Met launched a counter-terrorism ad campaign calling Londoners to report anything they suspect, and announced some terrorism arrest statistics showing that more than half of arrested terrorist suspects since 2001-09-11 have been released without charges.

From September 2001-09-11 upto 2006-12-31, more than half of the 1,166 persons arrested by the UK Police as part of a terrorist investigation were released without charge (652 out of 1166); and as of 2007-03-05, only 40 were convicted for terrorism related offences. (The original statistics are currently available on the Home Office website. Some other analysis include the BBC, the Guardian and Jurist.)

Read Techie and terrorist behavioural profiles are the same to realise that we're all suspects, then go browse the Met's ‘if you suspect it, report it’ ad campaign and be scared. When will they learn from their past mistakes?

Do whatever you can to reclaim your civil liberties before you get denounced for having a non conforming behaviour and are arrested.
Some suggestions.

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Tue, 06 Mar 2007

Chris Lightfoot 1978-2007

A post on Chris Lightfoot's blog announced his death last month. Chris has done much more than most to prevent the further erosion of our civil liberties in making politicians accessible and accountable. You may not know his name, but you're likely to have benefitted from some of the projects he contributed to such as WriteToThem, HearFromYourMP, PledgeBank and No2ID. These tools and campaigns have become indispensable to our democratic activism.

Tributes from his colleagues and friends at MySociety, No2ID and SpyBlog.

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Sun, 04 Mar 2007

No record found

'I can find no record to confirm that Southwark Police did submit a report to the NJU about your arrest.'

Details on Innocent in London

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Sat, 24 Feb 2007

Brent Concil calls on the Police to destroy DNA records of innocents

In January, the Brent Council unanimously passed a motion calling for:
This is a very positive news and I hope other councils will follow, to increase the pressure on the ACPO. The Voice published an article explaining that the motion was motivated by the personal experience of Liberal Democrat councillor James Allie.

Background on the issue can be found in the Should the Police keep your DNA forever? post.

(Via Genewatch's Briefing for Councillors and Police Authorities: Police retention of DNA)

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Thu, 22 Feb 2007

The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) just published the draft of a report titled Counter-Terrorism: The London Debate. It is 73 pages long and I've only had time to have a very quick browse through it, but as articles are appearing commenting on it, a link to the document may be helpful to others.

Here are the top three recommendations:

In response to these findings, the Metropolitan Police Authority makes the following recommendations for the Metropolitan Police Service, and offers the advice which follows to other bodies. For ease of reference, the items on these lists appear here in decreasing order of priority, rather than in the thematic order in which they appear later in this report.

Complete list of Recommendations and Advice

Recommendations for the Metropolitan Police Service:

1. Metropolitan Police Service: Present an urgent review of the use of Section 44 Terrorism Act 2000 stop and search to the full Metropolitan Police Authority. Include in this review a clear rationale explaining why a given individual is stopped and searched rather than another. If unable to demonstrate to the Metropolitan Police Authority’s satisfaction through this review that the power is sufficiently effective in countering terrorism to outweigh the damage it does to community relations, stop using it, other than in exceptional circumstances, such as where there is a specific threat to a particular location.

2. Metropolitan Police Service: Publish an explanation of Operation Kratos (the generic title for a series of Metropolitan Police Service standard operating procedures and tactical responses to the threat posed by suicide terrorism), setting out clearly the learning that has taken place since 22 July 2005.

3. Metropolitan Police Service: Accept and apply to current counter-terrorist activity the learning from previous terrorist campaigns.

The top recommendation is very good news. The abuse of Stop and Search under Section 44 is an issue I raised with the MPA when I went to ask a question and when I met its Chair of the Stop & Search Scrutiny Board.

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Wed, 21 Feb 2007

Id cards - bioinformation open for fishing?

Along with 27,977 other UK residents I signed a petition demanding 'the Prime Minister to scrap the proposed introduction of ID cards'. The petition closed on February 15th and on the 19th we all received a response, by email, from the Prime Minister.

Tony Blair attempts to justify the Government's position by quoting unsubstantiated statistics and anecdotal data (e.g., terrorists use up to 50 multiple identities at a time and a quarter of criminals also use a false identity). Most of the arguments in the letter are not new and have already been debunked by NO2ID. UK Liberty does a good recap of the many issues of this letter.

What did surprise me was this paragraph:
I also believe that the National Identity Register will help police bring those guilty of serious crimes to justice. They will be able, for example, to compare the fingerprints found at the scene of some 900,000 unsolved crimes against the information held on the register. Another benefit from biometric technology will be to improve the flow of information between countries on the identity of offenders.
It would appear from this that all the bioinformation held on the NIR will be wide open for fishing expeditions by the British Police and Police forces from other countries (Europe? USA? others?). This is not something I had understood to be the case and as NO2ID points out, it contradicts what Tony McNulty, then Home Office minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality, stated in Standing Committee D on 6 July 2005:
Again, the police, like other public bodies, even though there is that exemption under the DPA, need to substantiate why they would want to go through somebody's record in detail. They are allowed to, but not on a fishing expedition. The form of that is elaborated on later in the Bill—in clauses 19 to 23, I am told, as if by magic. There are safeguards not only against state agencies, for want of a better phrase, going fishing in the database but against misbehaviour and abuse of the database by those who manage the system.
Tony McNulty made an earlier reply in this Standing Committee D that highlights another issue I hadn't grasped:
By the bye, I want to explore one point further, and perhaps return to it later in our deliberations. It might be the one about which the hon. and learned Member for Harborough was getting agitated. It is simply this: the existence of a PNC number for an individual implies a criminal record. If the PNC number is recorded in the public domain in the sense of the verification process, one does not have access to the substance about a criminal record and the offences that a person has committed. In such circumstances, people who perhaps should not could have access to the fact that someone has a PNC number and therefore a record. It does not follow that even if someone captures the PNC number on the verifiable end of the database, it allows them to unlock the door and see what is on a person's record. The existence of the PNC implies that there is a record. I need to consider that in more detail and will come back to the Committee.
That means that all those arrested - including the many innocents - will end up with a PNC number in the NIR that may be communicated during the verification process. Looks like this may become one more long time effect of my arrest.

UPDATE 2007-02-21: The Reg has a good piece as well, which reveals that this email from Tony Blair is a rehash of an opinion piece he wrote last November for the Telegraph piece

UPDATE 2007-02-21: Andy Burnham has since said on 18 April 2006:
The Identity Cards Act ensures that personal reference numbers which would tend to reveal sensitive personal data cannot be held on the register. The PNC number for example, could not be added to the register as this could suggest that the individual had been of interest to the police, or that the individual had a criminal record.

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Sun, 18 Feb 2007

Institutionalised snooping and hostile reconnaissance

I'm always shocked when going to the movies to have to sit through a call for informers to rat on whoever may be illegally recording the movie. I generally boo when this anti-piracy campaign ad is shown (the ones promoting the cinema experience are more to the point)! Come July and, thanks to the smoking ban, we'll have moved from a call to snitching to institutionalised snooping. The BBC reports:
Thousands of council staff are being trained to police the smoking ban in bars, restaurants and shops in England.

Ministers have given councils £29.5m to pay for staff, who will be able to give on-the-spot £50 fines to individuals and take court action against premises.

They will have the power to enter premises undercover, allowing them to sit among drinkers, and will even be able to photograph and film people.


Ian Gray, policy officer for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and chief trainer for the government course, said he expected most councils would take a "softly, softly approach" at first.

"But there will be some occasions where action has to be taken and I am sure the compliance officers will not shy away from that," he added.

"These officers do not have to identify themselves when they go into premises and they can even film and photograph people to gather evidence although this may not be appropriate in many cases.

"There will be two ways of doing this, either staff can go in and identify themselves to the landlord, but they don't have to."

SpyBlog has, as usual, a very detailed and insightful analysis of this news item. Go read it in full. It points out among other things that such surveillance may be unlawful under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 section 28 (b), that the 'authorised enforcement officers' do not have any power of arrest, and that Police Constables do not have the power to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice under the Health Act 2006, since the Police are not designated Enforcement Authorities.

Pubs are among potential terrorist targets as reminds the Publican:
During the current terrorist threat, pubs have not been targeted as they were in the 1970s by the Provisional IRA and in 1999, when the Admiral Duncan in Soho was hit by a lone neo-Nazi bomber. But, especially since the July bombings last year, pubs have been included among the possible “soft targets” identified by the security services.


His [Jim Maietta from the National Counter Terrorism Security Office] advice on protective security ranged from simple good housekeeping to prevent packages being planted on or near the premises, to being aware that terrorists need to plan their attacks – what’s known as “hostile reconnaissance”.

“The Al-Qaeda training manual talks about getting information, maps and plans and so on. That helps them determine how much explosive they will need, and they will also look at levels of security.”

'Hostile reconnaissance' is the justification the Police has used to stop and arrest innocents taking pictures, filming or even just drawing sketches of buildings.

This Summer, coinciding with the two-year anniversary of the July 2005 London bombings, Council staff will go undercover taking pictures and photographs in pubs, restaurants and shops, while the Police will continue to train the staff working with the public about hostile reconnaissance, and stop and arrest people taking pictures and photographs - especially doing so sneakily - in pubs, restaurants and shops among other places.

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Sun, 11 Feb 2007

I appeal to the IPCC the outcome of the investigation

appeal received

You can read the cover letter from the Misconduct Office. I have not published any content of the investigation report itself as it is protectively marked Restricted and I have no idea if I'm allowed to do so. All the information I could find about the restrictions on protectively marked documents seem to be only about restrictions that apply to the organisation issuing the documents. If you know what condition this protective mark imposes on me, please email me.

After many readings of the report and the cover letter and much thinking, I concluded that I had no option but to appeal. I published the appeal letter I wrote to the IPCC.

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Thu, 08 Feb 2007

Joining the dots - Department of potential evidences

Joining the dots is a game for children. And the Police doesn't seem to like children, dots or games.

Abu Bakr about his questionning during his detention following his arrest:

It was farcical. I was questioned for seven days but not once did they put these allegations about a plot to kidnap and behead a soldier to me. They were doing things like putting a piece of paper in front of me - a note, a scribble by one of my children, a jacket, a hat - and asking me about it. My solicitor advised me to make no comment so that's what I did. It felt a bit amateurish like they didn't really know what they were doing.

About one of the defendent in the alleged liquid bomb plot:

The box, Peirce said, also contained another of the items listed in the charge against her client, a crude map of Afghanistan--drawn years ago, Peirce says, by the boy's younger brother: "It's a child's map!"

During my Police interview:

It could be doodles but is it a plan of the station or anything like that?

Maybe it is the fear of the unknown, of the potential hidden meaning behind scribles and doodles? Is anything the Police doesn't understand, whether a behaviour, a scrawl, an item, a language, a drawing, a religion, an origin, etc. something to be afraid of, something to threaten someone's liberty with? Must we all conform and be rationale at all times?

Police paranoia is not a new phenomenon. Some sixty years ago:

Planned as a series of texts which would summarize the surrealist position at the end of the war, Free Unions was published 2 years after its conception, due to the arrest of the editors and the seizure of the proofs - thought to be coded messages of anarchists.

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Wed, 07 Feb 2007

Reason of arrest is no reason for questioning - is this reasonable?

Last week, nine men were arrested during anti-terrorism raids in Birmingham. It has been widely reported that, according to senior sources in the police and intelligence services, the motivation for these arrests is that the Police suspected these men to be involved in an alleged plot to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier here in the UK.

Today, two of the men were released without charge. Gareth Peirce who is defending them, said:
They have left the police station without any better understanding of why they were there than when they first arrived seven days ago.

Not a word was ever mentioned to either of them about a plot to kidnap, or the grisly suggestion of a beheading, or even of a soldier at all.

Both have been met with a consistent refusal over seven days for any explanation for their arrest. They are convinced that others in the police station must be as innocent as they, and urge that they also be swiftly released.
Last June, Mohammed Abdul Kahar and Abul Koyair were released without charge after their dramatic arrest in Forest Gate for their suspected involvement in an alleged biological terror plot. 250 officers participated in the arrest, some of them wearing full chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological (CBNR) suits and respirators. There were widespread press reports of police looking for chemical factory and suicide chemical vests. Police claimed to be acting on 'specific intelligence'.

Gareth Pierce also represented this family. Here's a transcript from an interview:
It's a very odd thing, the whole enormity of a massive armed raid and immediate publicity put out by the police, that this was suspected chemical warfare, a suicide operation about to be mounted on specific intelligence. [...]

However, within the police station, a man who had been shot through the chest was discharged from the hospital, wholly prematurely, and the hospital bed taken to a cell in Paddington Green police station. It was grotesque, a grotesque experience, in which the police never once asked either of the brothers about chemical weapons, about suicide attempts, about anything that they might have been suspected of having. The police were begged, for heaven sake, "tell us why we were in the police station?" "Why did you arrest us?" "Who was it who said this?" And an answer came there none. They were just suddenly released.
There's clearly propaganda, and likely poor intelligence, at play, but what I find very curious is why when the Police arrest someone for a very serious offence that is leaked all over the press, they don't ask, during the formal interview, any question about how those under arrest may be involved in what is said to be the cause of the arrests.

Such theatrical arrests distract from other current events. They show the Government and the Police are tackling terrorism head on. With longer and longer pre-charge detention, there's a chance of finding something to prosecute the arrestees for while they're being held. What rarely makes headlines and is too soon forgotten is how much impact such arrests have on the life of those that have had to go through all this nonsense. The effects last much longer than the time in the station's cell or the bullet wound recovery (such as for Mohammed Abdul Kahar).

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Wed, 31 Jan 2007

Interviewed for the Greek TV news programme The Files

Earlier today, I was interviewed for The Files, a Greek television programme. I got contacted out of the blue last week.
"The Files" is among the most highly esteemed news programs in Greece and has received for the past three consecutive years the award of the "Best Newsprogram in Greek Television." "The Files" presents a different outlook on all major national and international news stories with its in-depth investigative reporting and high level of journalistic integrity and it is aired by one of Greece's major satellite networks, MEGA TV.

"The Files" have had the privilege of broadcasting interviews of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, U.S. Presidents George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton, former U.S. Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, current Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and chairman of Microsoft Bill Gates.
Will the next version of this list include my name :-)
Recently there has been a big debate in Greece around the issue of surveillance cameras and if they should be used for protection purposes. During the Olympic Games of 2004 many surveillance cameras had been placed in different areas of Athens that after the Olympics were not used anymore. Now the current government wants to bring them back in use. We want to do a story about the public cameras in Great Britain, how efffective they are in reducing terrorism and crime in general, and what are the ethical constrains.
The use of surveillance camera footage by the Greek Police, especially after the attack on the US embassy is currently a controversial topic in Greece. Hence this trip to London, the surveillance capital of the world, which included visiting the Trocadero CCTV control room, Scotland Yard and interviewing Henry Porter. Sophia Papaioannou, the reporter asked me to describe the arrest, its long lasting effects and then whether I consider CCTV useful.

If you have access to Mega TV, the show will be aired on Tuesday 2007-02-06.

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Tue, 30 Jan 2007

Lasso of truth to be used first on sex offenders

UK Home Secretary John Reid is to introduce compulsory lie detector tests for the first time in Britain with compulsory polygraph tests of monitor sex offenders after their release from jail - reports the Sunday Times.

When will this scheme be extended, first to other criminals and then to anyone arrested or travelling? (It has already been suggested that ‘passengers flying from international hubs such as Heathrow and Gatwick could even face a lie-detector test before they board’.)

For more information, ie debunking of the polygraph, look no further than the excellent Deception blog. Also recommended is The truth about the lie detector article published in the New Statesman.

Did you know that the polygraph was invented by William Moulton Marston, who under the pen name Charles Moulton also created the comic book character Wonder Woman and its magical Lasso of Truth?

The FBI file William Moulton Marston has been published by AntiPolygraph as a PDF and is worth skimming. The file includes characterisations of Marson, by the FBI, such as 'I always thought this fellow Marston was a phoney & this proves it' and 'He is a crackpot'. To work at the FBI today, one must undergo a lie-detector test!

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I had heard about Q, but I just stumbled upon his open letter written at the end of last year. Here it is in its entirety.

Reda Dendani
HMP Long Lartin

I shall start this letter by announcing that I refuse to be called “Q” any more. I am Reda Dendani, 31, Algerian national, married and have a step daughter of 7. I've been living in the UK since 1998 as an asylum seeker. Calling me “Q” was not designed by the Home Office to protect me from the public. It was the opposite in fact. Labelling me like an object concealed the human being I am and facilitated the grip of allegations from the Home Office in the media.

The Home Office issued me with a deportation order 16 months ago on 11.8.05. This was after I had spent 2 and a half years in Woodhill and Belmarsh prisons, then freed on control orders after the House of Lords made my detention illegal under the Anti Terrorism Act 2001 on December 2004.

Basically the Home Office regards me as a suspected terrorist, a threat to national security, a dangerous man - my presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good... These are big words, very shocking and frightening – well designed for the media but not supported by any proof or evidence – just allegations! This has destroyed my life. I would have been prosecuted if a fraction of what was alleged was true, as I was for a far lesser offence on which I pleaded guilty. This is to say there are enough laws to face any criminal in the UK but if you cannot prosecute someone it is simply because he is innocent and as such must be free to go.

I've paid for the offence enough; it hurts when you read on the bottom of the Home Office letters “Building Safe, Just and Tolerant Society” or under the logo of the Treasury Solicitors, “Law at the Heart of Government”.

The Home Office has forgotten these guidelines and trespassed its limits by ordering my detention in a high security prison against my will without any charge. This illegal detention has been a problem and still is for the prison because of no clear status where all other prisoners are convicted and me and other foreigners are not.

The Home Office, in a move which is the mother of all hypocrisy, is offering me a way to appeal against its decision through a special court called SIAC. It is enough to read what Amnesty International's 2006 report has said about the UK and it human rights in this SIAC. I'm not allowed to know and therefore to cross examine what is held against me. A madness – a crazy situation. I'm fighting a ghost. Whatever I say there is always closed sessions where I'm not allowed in nor my solicitor. This is an affront to the fundamental justice system. Because of this, I've stopped resisting my deportation. Better for me to face Algerian authorities – more straightforward than this Chinese torture made in UK. I've signed all the necessary papers for this deportation.

I've seen both the UK representative and his Algerian counterpart in the prison I'm held in. This was 9 months ago on 24.3.06. The new crazy thing is I'm still in prison in the UK. It is such nonsense that I've taken the Home Office to court to force it to proceed with the deportation. I thought because it was High Court not “SIAC” I will see justice done.

My problem is now very simple. The Home Office wants to deport me to Algeria and I accept to be deported to Algeria. My case was dismissed on 3.10.06 and the court reserved its reasons for the decision.

What is going on? If this is not a Police State, what is one? A foreigner in this country is a synonym for a criminal; a second class citizen. The facts speak for themselves and changing the name of things or giving them the cover of the law doesn't changes their reality. That is: I'm a HOSTAGE in this country. I'm held against my will. I'm in UK's version of Guantanamo.

Prove me wrong!

Mr Reda Dendani
(On 12 January, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), will hear from the lawyers for Reda Dendani.)

UPDATE 2007-01-30:

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Thu, 25 Jan 2007

There's no such thing as a war on terror in the UK streets... but send in the army just in case

Ken Macdonald QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, gave a surprisingly refreshing and positive speech on ‘Security and Rights’ to the Criminal Bar Association on 23rd January 2007. Several similar extracts have been published, but its worth reading it in its entirety. It encouraging to hear a person in such a position expressing the view that we can't give up our freedom and that some fundamental principles ensuring due process and the rule of law are not negotiable. Some specific points of the speech do not convince me, such as that the safeguards in the pre-charge detention of 28 days are sufficient, but the thesis is remarkable. Here are a few brief extracts that should convince you to read the whole speech:

Terrorism is designed to put pressure on some of our most cherished beliefs and institutions. So it demands a proactive and comprehensive response on the part of law enforcement agencies. But this should be a response whose fundamental effect is to protect those beliefs and institutions. Not to undermine them.

So, although a development in the role of the security services and the police is essential and desirable in this context, I believe an abandonment of Article 6 fair trial protections in the face of terrorism would represent an abject surrender to nihilism. It would represent defeat.

And that is the point I want to emphasise this evening. Our criminal justice response to terrorism must be proportionate and grounded in due process and the rule of law.

We must protect ourselves from these atrocious crimes without abandoning our traditions of freedom.


London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on 7 July 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers'. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists.

We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a 'war on terror', just as there can be no such thing as a 'war on drugs'.

The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement.

Acts of unlawful violence are proscribed by the criminal law. They are criminal offences. We should hold it as an article of faith that crimes of terrorism are dealt with by criminal justice.

And we should start by acknowledging the view that a culture of legislative restraint in the area of terrorist crime is central to the existence of an efficient and human rights compatible process.


But more generally, I want to emphasise that we need to avoid a response to terrorism which is based only on fear and suspicion. This kind of climate has no room for the rule of law. Indeed it encourages the opposite.


Critical to [fighting terrorism] is that individual rights and national security are not seen as being mutually exclusive. This is not a zero-sum game. Improvements to national security do not have to come at the expense of rights. As the title of this lecture has it: security and rights. Not security or rights.

So what are the fundamental principles? What is the essence of fairness? I think we need to start with a clear understanding that certain principles are absolutely not negotiable, whatever the pressure.

It seems quite appropriate that as head of the prosecuting authority I should state these plainly and clearly, even though they are mainly obvious.

First, trials should be routinely open and reported before independent and impartial tribunals.

So we can't have secret courts, we can't have vetted judges, and we can't have secret justice.

This cuts both ways. Defendants have a fundamental right to transparency of proceedings. But the public also have a fundamental right to know. This is especially true in cases of terrorist crime, where rumour and unease are endemic and very dangerous.


Secondly, equality of arms - the right to call and cross-examine witnesses under equal conditions. Equal access to the court.

This is not negotiable. Fairness between prosecution and defence is an inalienable aspect of fair trial. A level playing field.

The third principle is closely linked to this. Defendants are entitled to know the case is against them. They must have full access to the State's case in all circumstances. Without that, there can be no fair trial.

And they are entitled to have any material in the State's possession which either undermines the prosecution's case or assists the defence case.

Fourthly, a protected right of appeal is not negotiable.

And finally, the most important of all: the presumption of innocence. The criminal standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt, with the burden resting squarely on the Crown's shoulders, cannot be compromised. It is not negotiable.


Even if it is true that victory against terrorism is unlikely ever to be final, the protection of fair trial rights, which is central to the legitimacy of all forms of social control, can always be achieved- given the political will.


We have a great responsibility to make sure that entire communities are not stigmatised by the law or by the general public.


It is absolutely essential that terrorism legislation is capable of upholding the law and securing public safety, without threatening different communities in a way that undermines their freedom. Without creating unjustifiable discrimination.
And two days later, The Times reveals that:
an SAS unit is now for the first time permanently based in London on 24-hour standby for counter-terrorist operations. [...] Although the Metropolitan Police has its own substantial firearms capability, the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician who was mistakenly identified as a terrorist bomber on the run, has underlined the need to have military expertise on tap.
So one one hand we witness an elite army surveillance unit being involved in the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the officer in charge of the operation that lead to the killing being promoted, one of the police marksmen that shot him shooting another person, no officer prosecution, and now bringing in the SAS on a permanent basis, and on the other hand we hear the head of the Crown Prosecution Service state that we need to avoid a response to terrorism which is based only on fear and suspicion, and that our criminal justice response to terrorism must be proportionate and grounded in due process and the rule of law. Will it get worse, will the government order mistakes so that there's no opportunity for fair trial and the rule of law; or will it get better, will the rule of law and due process apply to all and we'll see Tony Blair in the International Criminal Court?

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Tue, 23 Jan 2007

Police sends report and outcome

The Police sent a copy of the Investigation Officer's Report and its outcome.


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Where is the Metropolitan Police entry in the data protection public register?

At some point, either when searching the Data Protection register for some other entry (LGC) or checking for dead links I couldn't find the entry for the Metropolitan Police Service anymore.

I did find it curious but after being frustrated in my searches, I recorded the fact and then just moved on. Wtwu noticed this remark and followed it up, and it appears that the MPS may not be currently registered under the Data Protection Act. (Thanks for the attentive reading of and your fantastic work with Spyblog.)

If that's really the case, then the databases such as the PNC would likely be illegal!

(It is ennoying that it is not possible to give permalinks to entries in the data protection public register)

If you need to do a data subject access for information held on an MPS computer, use the forms linked from here.

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Sun, 21 Jan 2007

Should the Police keep your DNA forever?

Since January 2006, you can be arrested for any offence no matter how trivial (thanks to Section 110 of SOCPA). When that happens, the Police officers will bring you to a station where they will take your fingerprints, palm prints and two DNA samples. The DNA sample and the derived profile (stored in the NDNAD) will be kept for eternity.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is conducting a consultation on the ethical issues in the forensic use of bioinformation, such as DNA sampling by the Police. This is a way you can express your concerns. I have just finished a first draft of my answers. The website allows you to revise your answers until the deadline of 30th January 2007.

Spend the time to make your opinion and concerns known. Respond to the consultation. Here's the response I submitted.

On this blog:
On Innocent in London: Further links:
UPDATE 2007-01-14: Added link to Helen Wallace's slides and to another article.
UPDATE 2007-01-21: Added link to my response to the consultation.

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Lock'em up

I relunctantly updated the Is the UK a police state? page with mentions of the Serious Crime and Mental Health Bills.

The Serious Crime Bill will, if passed as is, gives the Home Office further leeway to punish individuals that have not committed any crime and have not been tried. There's an excellent summary at MagnaCartaPlus. Breach of the proposed Serious Crime Prevention Order, would be a criminal offense (up to five years in jail) in a similar way as for the breach of an ASBO.

The Mental Health Bill, which fortunately is encountering some opposition, would allow ministers to force the detention of those they consider mentally ill (and dangerous).

These bills, if passed, will give even more powers to the Government to lock up individuals that are so calm, well-behaved and law-abiding that they can't be tried and convicted in a court of Law.

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Tue, 16 Jan 2007

You're so September 10

A few late notes about some of the events I attended and mentioned previously. In chronological order:

Racism, liberty and the war on terror

Civil liberty vs. the database state

Ross Anderson launched The Big Opt Out campaign to ensure your medical record doesn't end up on the NHS central computer system (NHS Data Spine) accessible to too many civil servants.

I raised the issue of the Police and Government building a massive DNA database today where there's no opt out (and a large number of innocents) versus the future risk of the Spine.

Reclaiming our rights

One of the, if not the, person who did most to fight for our civil rights, Gareth Peirce summed up the current situation when saying ‘the title of this conference is a bit optimistic’. The situation is dire. ‘It isn't the threat of terrorism we should fear but that of laws’ like the ones I list on this page. Others pointed out how the definition of terrorism carefully excludes one of the most patent one: state terrorism (Craig Murray pointed out the recent case of the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko as an example.)

It's hard to effect positive change with the ‘passive unquestioning population in this country’. The situation improved in Northern Ireland when grass root community reaction increased. This is what forced the British government to change its stance. There are very uncomfortable parallels with the situation then when many should still be able to clearly remember this period. (‘Has nobody learned?’)

I was indeed amazed by the small number of individuals interested in civil rights issues affecting all of us. This was a conference that included some very high profile speakers such as Gareth Peirce, Mark Thomas and Brian Haw. Entry was free (donations welcomed of course). I didn't count, but there must have been about 100 attendees, I would have hoped for thousands. (In contrast Mark Thomas' show at the Soho Theatre a few weeks earlier was fully booked several weeks in advance and I couldn't get a ticket when I tried to.)

A positive aspect of being a smaller event that I had anticipated was that in most workshops everyone had a chance to actively participate. We heard of the extraordinary work done by many to support those affected by the repressive laws currently in place. The numbers of those affected is growing. We also heard of how terrible some of their lives are. Follow up on the ideas that came out of the discussions will be needed.

The Terrorist Threat and Freedoms Today - Learning from the US and UK experience

David Cole explained how much of what's happening in the US is based on what John Ashcroft termed the ‘preventive paradigm’. So many are detained (more than 5,000 in the aftermath of 9/11) and so few are convicted for terrorism (0). One effect of this preventive paradigm is sacrificing the US international legitimacy. He was (surprisingly) optimistic as there's more grass root reaction than ever (especially in comparison with what happened during McCarthyism) such as the work of the ACLU.
I learnt a new American expression – once, when David Cole was talking about all this security theatre, a friend of his exclaimed: ‘You're so September 10’.

Louise Christian showed that the situation in the UK is not much better and sometimes worse than in the US; in particular the Terrorism Act 2006 amendments in the definition of terrorism, guilt by association and encouragement of terrorism. She echoed David Cole in that ‘We [the UK] don't have authority [in the world] any more. No legitimacy.’ An important reminder is that terrorism is not a war, it's a crime. Treating it as such would be a progress. Again the message is clear: it is important that we all, each individual, fight as the legal framework that has recently and continue to be put in place will last and continue to affect us all.

I posted some suggestions in how you can act to help halt and reverse the erosion of our civil liberties.

UPDATE 2006-01-15: added links to videos

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Thu, 11 Jan 2007

Guantanamo must be closed

Five years ago Guantanamo was opened, not one detainee has since been brought to trial.

(Numbers are approximate. Source: Amnesty International)

Clive Stafford Smith, legal director of the British group Reprieve, which represents three dozen inmates, reminds us that Guantanamo is only the most visible of such detention centres:

‘It is remarkable that Guantanamo still exists five years on, but what is also remarkable is that Guantanamo has distracted attention from other secret prisons the US has. As of August last year we know there are 14,000 prisoners in US custody around the world.’

This is not about statistics, lives are detroyed. The life of many innocent (that is if you accept the old principle that one is innoncent until proven guilty) individuals have been and continue to be ruined. American Lawyer G Brent Mickum representing detained British residents Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna, writes about the treatment of Guantanamo's prisoners:

‘What the British government knows and the British public needs to know is that Bisher's treatment is designed to achieve a single objective: causing an individual to lose his psychological balance and, ultimately, his mind. Every aspect of Bisher's prison environment is controlled and manipulated to create constant mental instability.’

And if you are still under the impression that those detained are, as Rumsfeld once called them, the ‘worst of the worst’ – this is a myth; that all the Guantanamo detainees are combatants who fought against the United States is more propaganda.

Guantanamo must be closed. Torture, under any name, makes us all less safe. Those responsible for Guantanamo should be brought to trial in an international court of justice.

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Sat, 06 Jan 2007

All your base are belong to US

Every time you fly from Europe to the USA, in addition to agree for the US Department of Homeland Security to receive a long list of your passenger information, you also accept that it may access your credit card records and all your emails!

Following a Freedom of Information request, the Department for Transport published in December the Undertakings of the Department of Homeland and Security Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to provide adequate protection for the purposes of air carrier transfers of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data which may fall within the scope of the European Commission Directive.

The ‘data requirements’ include:
‘Additional personal information sought as a direct result of PNR data will be obtained from sources outside the government only through lawful channels, including through the use of mutual legal assistance channels where appropriate, and only for the purposes set forth in paragraph 3 hereof. For example, if a credit card number is listed in a PNR, transaction information linked to that account may be sought, pursuant to lawful process, such as a subpoena issued by a grand jury or a court order, or as otherwise authorized by law. In addition, access to records related to e-mail accounts derived from a PNR will follow U.S. statutory requirements for subpoenas, court orders, warrants, and other processes as authorized by law, depending on the type of information being sought;’
And here's the list of ‘PNR data elements required by CBP from air carriers’:
  1. PNR record locator code
  2. Date of reservation
  3. Date(s) of intended travel
  4. Name
  5. Other names on PNR
  6. Address
  7. All forms of payment information
  8. Billing address
  9. Contact telephone numbers
  10. All travel itinerary for specific PNR
  11. Frequent flyer information (limited to miles flown and address(es))
  12. Travel agency
  13. Travel agent
  14. Code share PNR information
  15. Travel status of passenger
  16. Split/Divided PNR information
  17. Email address
  18. Ticketing field information
  19. General remarks
  20. Ticket number
  21. Seat number
  22. Date of ticket issuance
  23. No show history
  24. Bag tag numbers
  25. Go show information
  26. OSI information
  27. SSI/SSR information
  28. Received from information
  29. All historical changes to the PNR
  30. Number of travelers on PNR
  31. Seat information
  32. One-way tickets
  33. Any collected APIS information
  34. ATFQ fields
This document is dated from May 2004; ‘these Undertakings shall apply for a term of three years and six months (3.5 years), beginning on the date upon which an agreement enters into force between the United States and the European Community’.

I am thankful to the Metropolitan Police and the US Department of State to prevent me from going back to the USA. Unfortunately, it has been shown that PNR data for flights between Europe and non USA destinations have been transferred to the USA.

(via US 'licence to snoop' on British air travellers via "phantoms of lost liberty"?)

EDITED TO ADD (Jan 4): 27B Stroke 6 points out in A Media Fight Over What Does and What Could Happen At The Border that a draft of these Undertakings had been published in February 2004 (by Statewatch) and analysed in detail by the Practical Nomad in "Undertakings" by the USA on use of reservation data

EDITED TO ADD (Jan 7): The Observer reveals the DHS is moving to fingerprint all ten fingers of visitors to the USA, so the information is compatible wiht the FBI database: ‘The information will be shared with intelligence agencies, including the FBI, with no restrictions on their international use.

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Mon, 01 Jan 2007

The Christmas repeal

The BBC Today programme called for a vote on 'Which law should be tossed into the dustbin of British history?' There were two rounds. The first one was open to any suggestion, the second round was limited to the Acts that had received most votes. I voted initially for the Terrorism Act, and then for the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

Here are the results:
  1. Hunting Act 2004: 52.8%
  2. European Communities Act 1972: 29.7%
  3. Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005: 6.2%
  4. Human Rights Act 1998: 6.1%
  5. Act of Settlement 1700: 3.6%
  6. Dangerous Dogs Act 1991: 1.6%
This is a sorry result. Apparently the Countryside Alliance has done an effective but futile lobbying. Pro-hunt activists are affected as well by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA). Section 110 enables the Police to arrest anyone for the most minor offence and Section 132 outlaws protests without police permission within 1 km of the Parliament.

More communication and education is desperately needed. Be pro-active. Act to reclaim some of our civil rights.

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