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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