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Posts Tagged ‘Snoopers Charter’

This snooper’s charter makes George Orwell look lacking in vision.

By Heather Brooke – Sunday 8th November 2015.

Find Article Here:-

When the Home Office and intelligence agencies began promoting the idea that the new investigatory powers bill was a “climbdown”, I grew suspicious. If the powerful are forced to compromise they don’t crow about it or send out press releases – or, in the case of intelligence agencies, make off-the-record briefings outlining how they failed to get what they wanted. That could mean only one thing: they had got what they wanted.

So why were they trying to fool the press and the public that they had lost? Simply because they had won.

I never thought I’d say it, but George Orwell lacked vision. The spies have gone further than he could have imagined, creating in secret and without democratic authorisation the ultimate panopticon. Now they hope the British public will make it legitimate.

This bill is characterised by a clear anti-democratic attitude. Those in power are deemed to be good, and are therefore given the benefit of the doubt. “Conduct is lawful for all purposes if …” and “A person (whether or not the person so authorised or required) is not to be subject to any civil liability in respect of conduct that …”: these are sections granting immunity to the spies and cops.

The spies’ surveillance activities are also exempt from legal due process. No questions can be asked that might indicate in any legal proceeding that surveillance or interception has occurred. This is to ensure the general public never learn how real people are affected by surveillance. The cost of this exemption is great. It means British prosecutors can’t prosecute terrorists on the best evidence available – the intercepts – which are a key part of any prosecution in serious crime cases worldwide.

Those without power – eg citizens (or the more accurately named subjects) – are potentially bad, and therefore must be watched and monitored closely and constantly. The safeguards mentioned in the bill are there to benefit the state not the citizen. The criminal sanctions aren’t so much to stop spies or police abusing their powers, but rather to silence critics or potential whistleblowers. That’s clear because there is no public interest exemption in the sweeping gagging orders littered throughout the bill. The safeguards for keeping secure the massive troves of personal data aren’t there so much to protect the public but to stop anyone finding out exactly how big or invasive these troves are or how they were acquired. Again, we know this because there is no public interest exemption.

While the concerns of the state dominate, those of the citizen are nowhere to be seen. There is almost no mention in the bill of the privacy and democratic costs of mass surveillance, nor of seriously holding the state to account for the use and abuse of its sweeping powers.

The adjectives used to describe the “stringent application process” (for warrants) or the “robust safeguards” and “world class scrutiny” are doing the heavy lifting of conveying the robustness of the regime. The reality is quite different.

Not everything needs a warrant. Our digital lives can be accessed after authorisation within the agency itself. No judicial approval necessary.

In addition, business owners would have to contend with the man from MI5 ordering that they create new databases or monitoring tools. If companies don’t keep these, they’ll have to create them and face a criminal offence if they fail to put in place security measures to “protect against unlawful disclosure”. Possibly the state may compensate them for all this, possibly not. It’s up to a minister.

While the concerns of the state dominate, those of the citizen are nowhere to be seen. There is almost no mention in the bill of the privacy and democratic costs of mass surveillance, nor of seriously holding the state to account for the use and abuse of its sweeping powers.

The adjectives used to describe the “stringent application process” (for warrants) or the “robust safeguards” and “world class scrutiny” are doing the heavy lifting of conveying the robustness of the regime. The reality is quite different.

Not everything needs a warrant. Our digital lives can be accessed after authorisation within the agency itself. No judicial approval necessary.

In addition, business owners would have to contend with the man from MI5 ordering that they create new databases or monitoring tools. If companies don’t keep these, they’ll have to create them and face a criminal offence if they fail to put in place security measures to “protect against unlawful disclosure”. Possibly the state may compensate them for all this, possibly not. It’s up to a minister.

Business owners will not be able to speak out about this to anyone, even their employees, or appeal to any court or legal authority. Their only recourse appears to be to appeal to the secretary of state: what sort of independent adjudication will they get from that office?

Companies can be legally compelled by the security services to hack their customers’ equipment. The immensely worrying power to acquire bulk personal datasets, means there’s nothing to stop the entire NHS being used in service of spying. After all, why not? I’m sure there are useful leads that could be mined from our health records. If avoiding risk at all costs is the goal then why allow any personal freedom or privacy at all? The reason we do is because the concentration of power in the state is the most dangerous threat of all.

There are two types of transparency: downwards – where the ruled can observe their rulers, as codified in Freedom of Information Acts – and upwards, where those at the bottom are made transparent to those at the top, such as by state surveillance. Democracy is characterised by transparency downwards, tyranny by the opposite. It is telling that at the same time this government is seeking to undermine the Freedom of Information Act, it has introduced an investigatory powers bill that puts us all under the spotlight of suspicion.

GCHQ captured emails of journalists from top international media.

By   19th January 2015.    Find Article Here:-

• Snowden files reveal emails of BBC, NY Times and more
• Agency includes investigative journalists on ‘threat’ list
• Editors call on Cameron to act against snooping on media

GCHQ
The journalists’ communications were among 70,000 emails harvested in less than 10 minutes on one day in November 2008 by GCHQ. Photograph: GCHQ/EPA

GCHQ’s bulk surveillance of electronic communications has scooped up emails to and from journalists working for some of the US and UK’s largest media organisations, analysis of documents released by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Emails from the BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, the Sun, NBC and the Washington Post were saved by GCHQ and shared on the agency’s intranet as part of a test exercise by the signals intelligence agency.

The disclosure comes as the British government faces intense pressure to protect the confidential communications of reporters, MPs and lawyers from snooping.

The journalists’ communications were among 70,000 emails harvested in the space of less than 10 minutes on one day in November 2008 by one of GCHQ’s numerous taps on the fibre-optic cables that make up the backbone of the internet.

The communications, which were sometimes simple mass-PR emails sent to dozens of journalists but also included correspondence between reporters and editors discussing stories, were retained by GCHQ and were available to all cleared staff on the agency intranet. There is nothing to indicate whether or not the journalists were intentionally targeted.

The mails appeared to have been captured and stored as the output of a then-new tool being used to strip irrelevant data out of the agency’s tapping process.

New evidence from other UK intelligence documents revealed by Snowden also shows that a GCHQ information security assessment listed “investigative journalists” as a threat in a hierarchy alongside terrorists or hackers.

Senior editors and lawyers in the UK have called for the urgent introduction of a freedom of expression law amid growing concern over safeguards proposed by ministers to meet concerns over the police use of surveillance powers linked to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa).

More than 100 editors, including those from all the national newspapers, have signed a letter, coordinated by the Society of Editors and Press Gazette, to the UK prime minister, David Cameron, protesting at snooping on journalists’ communications.

In the wake of terror attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices and a Jewish grocer in Paris, Cameron has renewed calls for further bulk-surveillance powers, such as those which netted these journalistic communications.

Ripa has been used to access journalists’ communications without a warrrant, with recent cases including police accessing the phone records of Tom Newton-Dunn, the Sun’s political editor, over the Plebgate investigation. The call records of Mail on Sunday reporters involved in the paper’s coverage of Chris Huhne’s speeding row were also accessed in this fashion.

Under Ripa, neither the police nor the security services need to seek the permission of a judge to investigate any UK national’s phone records – instead, they must obtain permission from an appointed staff member from the same organisation, not involved in their investigation.

However, there are some suggestions in the documents that the collection of billing data by GCHQ under Ripa goes wider – and that it may not be confined to specific target individuals.

A top secret document discussing Ripa initially explains the fact that billing records captured under Ripa are available to any government agency is “unclassified” provided that there is “no mention of bulk”.

The GCHQ document goes on to warn that the fact that billing records “kept under Ripa are not limited to warranted targets” must be kept as one of the agency’s most tightly guarded secrets, at a classification known as “Top secret strap 2”.

That is two levels higher than a normal top secret classification – as it refers to “HMG [Her Majesty’s government] relationships with industry that have areas of extreme sensitivity”.

Internal security advice shared among the intelligence agencies was often as preoccupied with the activities of journalists as with more conventional threats such as foreign intelligence, hackers or criminals.

One restricted document intended for those in army intelligence warned that “journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security”.

It continued: “Of specific concern are ‘investigative journalists’ who specialise in defence-related exposés either for profit or what they deem to be of the public interest.

“All classes of journalists and reporters may try either a formal approach or an informal approach, possibly with off-duty personnel, in their attempts to gain official information to which they are not entitled.”

It goes on to caution “such approaches pose a real threat”, and tells staff they must be “immediately reported” to the chain-of-command.

GCHQ information security assessments, meanwhile, routinely list journalists between “terrorism” and “hackers” as “influencing threat sources”, with one matrix scoring journalists as having a “capability” score of two out of five, and a “priority” of three out of five, scoring an overall “low” information security risk.

Terrorists, listed immediately above investigative journalists on the document, were given a much higher “capability” score of four out of five, but a lower “priority” of two. The matrix concluded terrorists were therefore a “moderate” information security risk.

A spokesman for GCHQ said: “It is longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the parliamentary intelligence and security committee.

“All our operational processes rigorously support this position. In addition, the UK’s interception regime is entirely compatible with the European convention on human rights.”