Category Archives: By country

Secret industry databank in U.K. on militant trade unionists

Six years and still waiting: the legal implications of blacklisting

Blacklisted 2http://thejusticegap.com/2015/02/six-years-still-waiting-legal-implications-blacklisting/

by Dave Smith, The Justice Gap, March 6, 2015

The construction industry blacklist has appeared regularly in the media since it was discovered in 2009 following a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Over 40 of the UK’s largest contractors held a covert database of trade unionists who had complained about unpaid wages or safety on building sites through an organisation called The Consulting Association.The database was used to check whenever workers applied to work on major projects and resulted in sackings and repeated refusals of employment over a period of decades. All this was meticulously recorded on 3,213 files using secret codes for the companies and the senior directors who oversaw he operation, with invoices sent for usage. You might have thought, that with mountains of documents, the individuals who had suffered would easily find a legal remedy to achieve some kind of justice. If only.

Initially hundreds of blacklisted workers applied for their files from the ICO and were supplied with what appeared to be prima facie evidence of unfair dismissal and various other forms of victimisation and discrimination. In the summer of 2009, there were a flurry of Employment Tribunal claims submitted and by November that year, when a collective case management discussion was held in Manchester, the blacklisted workers and their lawyers were optimistic of their prospects.

 Demo outside parliament, TUC Day of Action on Blacklisting in 2012

That optimism didn’t last very long. Within months, virtually every ET claim had been thrown out without the evidence even being heard in open court. The reason relates to time-limits.

Every ET claim needs to be submitted within three months of the incident taking place. This is a very strict rule and only in exceptional circumstances will the three months be extended (for instance if someone has been hospitalised for the entire period). In the blacklisting cases, the acts of discrimination or unfair dismissals complained about had not taken place three months earlier but sometimes three decades ago.

The claimants argued that deliberate deception by the blacklisting firms meant that it was not ‘reasonably practicable’ for them to claim at the time of the incident. The courts accepted this but the law does not state how long an extension should be granted for.

In every case, the claimants completed their applications within a few weeks of receiving their file and in most cases well within the three months allowed in normal circumstances. But when Judge Brain sitting alone in Manchester heard the cases, he dismissed every single claim based upon the time-limit rule. The written judgements claim that even though he was willing to grant an extension, this should amount to only a few days. The decision as to how long an extension to grant is entirely in the hands of the judge. It was within his power to allow some leniency to ex-construction workers with no legal training who had completed the tribunal forms themselves. But he decided not to and only five cases ever made it to a full hearing.

'Blacklisted' book cover - more www.newint.org/books/politics/blacklisted-secret-war

Of these, three cases supported by the UNITE union were successful and the workers won compensation of a few thousand pounds because of a specific incidence of unfair dismissal or failure to appoint due to union membership. Sometimes the workers had suffered years of unemployment due to the blacklist, yet the compensation equated to no more than a few weeks lost wages.

The remaining two cases both lost because of ‘employee status’. In both cases, Dooley v Balfour Beatty and Smith v Carillion the companies admitted using the Consulting Association database to blacklist the union activists but won the court case because neither worker was directly employed by the main contractor that carried out the blacklisting. Dooley worked for a brickwork sub-contractor and Smith for an employment agency. In UK employment law, legal rights such as redundancy, unfair dismissal and victimisation for raising safety concerns only apply to direct employees. The impact for millions of casualised agency workers or those on zero hours contracts effectively have little or no employment rights – even where they have documentary evidence and when employers admit the victimisation.

Dave Smith (second from right) with legal team from Smith v Carillion test case.  (L-R) Declan Owens, David Renton, Smith, and John Hendy QC   (all acting pro-bono via the Free Representation Unit)

The Smith v Carillion case has been appealed using the Human Rights Act, all the way to the Court of Appeal. The legal argument being that blacklisting is a breach of Article 8 (privacy) and Article 11 (freedom of association) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Human rights are supposed to apply to everyone not just a particular category of employee. So either the agency worker should be protected or else UK employment law does not comply with the ECHR, and should therefore be amended. In February 2015, the UK government even intervened in the case against Smith. The reserved judgement is expected within the next few months. There are currently two cases submitted to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg, the judgements in these cases are not expected for several years.

The Smith v Carillion test case has taken six years and had nearly 20 days in court, with QCs representing on both sides. The legal fees alone would financially ruin most and are another very real barrier to justice for working people.

The final throw of the legal dice is the ‘group litigation’ currently at the High Court. This is equivalent to a US style class action and is arguing that the Consulting Association was an unlawful conspiracy and claiming damages for loss of earnings and defamation. Around 500 workers are up against all the major blacklisting companies. The legal bills have already exceeded £10million and the trial date is not even confirmed yet but is likely to be in the summer of 2016.

Six years of legal battle and no real end in sight. Many have passed away in the process. Whatever the legal outcome, it will not be real justice.

U.K. Supreme Court grants “judicial approval for the mass surveillance of UK protest movements”

Supreme Court grants “judicial approval for the mass surveillance of UK protest movements”

Surveillance at June 2014 London austerity march

This morning the UK Supreme Court delivered a ruling that amounts to what Netpol describes as “judicial approval for the mass surveillance of UK protest movements”.

This decision is the result of an appeal by the Metropolitan Police against a decision in March 2013 that its secretive ‘domestic extremist’ surveillance unit had unlawfully recorded the political activities of Brighton peace campaigner John Catt.

Back in December last year, when Netpol was granted the right to intervene in the Supreme Court hearing, we warned that a victory for the Metropolitan police would “make it significantly easier for intelligence-gathering officers to continue to obtain and retain data about protesters on an almost industrial scale.”

Today’s ruling does exactly this: it allows the police extraordinary discretion to obtain and retain the personal information of protesters whenever they consider it useful for purposes that are never fully defined, but that include investigating the ‘links between protest groups’ and their ‘organisation and leadership’. The Supreme Court has accepted that no further justification is apparently required.

We believe their judgement amounts to judicial approval for the mass surveillance of UK protest movements. It affirms the Metropolitan Police’s stated belief that anyone taking part in a public protest has no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The Supreme Court appears to view the deletion of John Catt’s ‘nominal’ records from the domestic extremism database as a significant indication of an “intensive regime of statutory and administrative regulation”. However, his data was erased long after he stumbled upon evidence that he had been targeted for surveillance and and only after he submitted a request for the specific information held on him. The judgment fails to understand that whilst the Data Protection Act 1998 does, in theory, allow individuals to obtain information held about them by the police, intelligence-gathering itself remains highly secretive and the process for challenging it is deeply flawed.

The Supreme Court says that overt intelligence-gathering “has never been concealed from those who wish to know about these matters”. Netpol’s experience working with campaigners to obtain alleged ‘domestic extremist’ data suggests the exact opposite. It is normal for a request for personal information to take months longer than the statutory maximum of 40 days and if it is eventually provided, any detail is often partial and incomplete.

This Court’s ruling means many activists must repeatedly resubmit requests if they want to check that any new data about them on police files is not, as we have often seen, either inaccurate or misleading. It is extremely unlikely that most have the time or patience to keep doing so.

This case also demonstrates the limits of relying on the courts to protect against unwarranted police surveillance. It reinforces our belief that activists must take their own steps to prevent the gathering of so-called ‘intelligence’ in the first place.

A copy of the Supreme Court judgement is available here.

UPDATE

In a press release issued by his solicitors Bhatt Murphy, John Catt has confirmed his intention to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. He said:

“Four senior judges have found that my rights have been violated unlawfully, whilst four others have disagreed.  I cannot agree that the police in this country should be trusted with information about innocent people’s lawful political activities. In my view, without a new system of rules governing police surveillance, there is too much scope for the police to abuse their powers.  I am therefore left with no option but to take this matter to the European Court of Human Rights for the sake of other innocent people whose lawful political activities are being monitored by the state.

John’s solicitor Shamik Dutta said:

“Mr Catt has instructed me to seek a ruling from the European Court that by monitoring and retaining information about people’s lawful political activities the UK is violating the privacy rights of its citizens”.

Who really bombed the Paris metro in 1995?

Who really bombed the Paris metro in 1995?

Naima Bouteldja, The Guardian, Thursday 8 September 2005 00.02 BST

The evidence is that the 1995 Islamist attacks on the French metro were in fact carried out by the Algerian secret service

Ever since the 1995 bombing of the Paris metro by the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) made France the first western European country to suffer so-called radical Islamist terrorism, its politicians and “terror experts” have consistently warned Britain to the dangers of welcoming Islamist political dissidents and radical preachers to her shores.

In the aftermath of the July London attacks, commentators were quick to argue that France’s “zero tolerance” policy and campaign of “integration” in the name of republican values – embodied in the 2004 ban on the display of all religious symbols in schools – has spared the country from terror attacks, while Britain’s failure to follow Spain and Germany in adopting the French model has proved a spectacular own-goal. However, as Tony Blair made clear in unveiling his government’s proposed legislation on August 5, “the rules of the game have changed”. Suddenly, the French recipe for dealing with Islamist terror has become feted by British politicians and media alike.

But how would we regard the virtue of the French model if, a decade after bombs ripped through the metro, enough evidence had been gathered to demonstrate that the attacks allegedly carried out by Islamist militants were not fuelled by fundamentalism, but instead were dreamt up and overseen by the Algerian secret service as part of a domestic political struggle that spilled over into Algeria’s former colonial master? The most comprehensive studies – including Lounis Aggoun and Jean-Baptiste Rivoire’s Françalgérie: Crimes and Lies of the State – argue that this is exactly what happened.

In 1991 Algeria’s main Islamic party, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), won a first-round victory in the country’s inaugural multiparty general elections, which threatened to strip away the power of the generals who had controlled the state from the shadows.

Exploiting Europe’s fear of an Islamic government, the Algerian army intervened to halt the second round of voting, forcing the president to step down and a temporary commission to rule the country. But the legitimacy of this new arrangement could only be assured if the Islamic opposition could be discredited and crushed.

The DRS – the Algerian secret service – systematically infiltrated insurrectionary Islamist groups such as the GIA and from 1992 onwards launched its own fake guerrilla groups, including death squads disguised as Islamists. In 1994, the DRS managed to place Jamel Zitouni, one of the Islamists it controlled, at the head of the GIA.

“It became impossible to distinguish the genuine Islamists from those controlled by the regime,” says Salima Mellah, of the NGO Algeria Watch. “Each time the generals came under pressure from the international community, the terror intensified”. By January 1995, however, Algeria’s dirty war began to falter. The Italian government hosted a meeting in Rome of Algerian political parties, including the FIS. The participants agreed a common platform, calling for an inquiry into the violence in Algeria, the end of the army’s involvement in political affairs and the return of constitutional rule.

This left the generals in an untenable position. In their desperation, and with the help of the DRS, they hatched a plot to prevent French politicians from ever again withdrawing support for the military junta. As Aggoun and Rivoire recount, French-based Algerian spies initially given the task of infiltrating Islamist networks were transformed into agent provocateurs. In spring 1995, Ali Touchent, an Algerian agent, began to gather and incite a network of disaffected young men from north African backgrounds to commit terrorist attacks in France. The DRS’s infiltrators, led by Zitouni, also pushed the GIA to eliminate some of the FIS’s leaders living in Europe.

On July 11 1995 Abdelbaki Sahraoui, a FIS leader in France, was assassinated. The GIA claimed responsibility. Two weeks later the metro was hit by bombs, killing eight. After a further attack, Zitouni called on President Jacques Chirac to “convert to Islam to be saved”. The resulting public hysteria against Islam and Islamism saw the French government abandon its support for the Rome accord.

So what happened to the perpetrators? The masterminds of the main attack were never caught. Despite being publicly identified by the Algerian authorities as the European ringleader of the GIA and by French investigators as the key organiser, Touchent evaded capture, returned to Algeria and settled in a secure police quarter of Algiers.

France’s inability to bring to justice those genuinely responsible for the 1995 attacks was evidently more than an accident. According to Mohamed Samraoui, a former colonel in the Algerian secret service: “French intelligence knew that Ali Touchent was a DRS operative charged with infiltrating pro-Islamist cells in foreign countries.” It has never been officially denied that in return for supplying the French authorities with valuable information, Touchent was granted protection.

This is not the only explanation for French collaboration with the Algerian government. Algeria is one of the main suppliers of gas and oil to France, and an important client. François Gèze of La Decouverte, a French publisher which exposed the involvement of the Algerian secret services in the dirty war, argues that at the heart of this economic relationship is a web of political corruption. “French exporters generally pay a 10 to 15% commission on their goods. Part of this revenue is then ‘repaid’ by the Algerians as finance for the electoral campaigns of French political parties.”

What the true story of France’s 1995 brush with “Islamic terror” reveals is that the attacks, while probably executed by a small number of Muslim extremists, were conceived and manipulated by vested interests. British policymakers would do well to understand the specific context and complex colonial legacy of French-Algerian relations before they go looking for direct comparisons. The 1995 case is also a warning against blaming “Islamists” for terror, while turning a blind eye to repressive actions of governments in the Arab world when they suit western governments’ agenda.

· Naima Bouteldja is a French journalist and researcher for the Transnational Institute

Book Review of B. Raman’s “Mumbai 26/11: A day of infamy”

Book Review of Bahukutumbi Raman’s “Mumbai 26/11: A day of infamy”

By Elias Davidsson, December 23, 2013

Naive attempt to understand 26/11

The author unquestionably attributes the events of 26/11 to the Pakistani organization LeT and also suggests ISI responsibility. The book does not dwell on details and does not contain references to sources. It contains affirmation upon affirmation that the author does not bother to substantiate.

The author does not attempt to hide his admiration for Israel and the United States and his hatred for Pakistan (He often refers to “The Pakistanis” as evil). This does not mean that what he presents as facts is false (or true), but indicates his partiality.

A few observations by Raman indicate that his book was not conceived as official propaganda, but was written by a person who believed what he wrote, but appears to lack the rigour of an investigator or that of a scholar.

(a) Taking a cue from Samuel Huntington’s thesis, he refers expressly to the “war of civilization between the Muslims and the infidels” that had allegedly begun in Indian territory. He suggests that this statement was issued in the name of the so-called Indian Mujahideen (IM) in November, 2007, “after three orchestrated explosions in three towns of Uttar Pradesh.”

(b) A revealing observation by the author is that 26/11 was “conceived, planned and executed by a mix of military and terrorist brains.” (p. 18) The key word here is “military”, for a military mind is trained to reflect upon the tactical or strategical utility of a particular operation. If those who planned 26/11 had a “military brain”, it must be presumed that they considered the costs/benefits of the operation. Which benefits? For Pakistan or even for the LeT, there was nothing to gain from 26/11.

(c) The author notes that the alleged attackers “were not worried over the dangers of their communications being intercepted.” (p. 22). Assuming that this had been the case, he does not explain why they would be so casual about such interception.

(d) The author tells readers about his participation in a conference at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, in 2005, where he relished listening to Dr. Bruce Hoffman, “who is considered the world’s leading authority on Al Qaeda” (p. 25). Someone who looks upon Dr. Hoffman as an authority on terrorism, has either not read his writings, lacks critical faculties or engages in deception. In a detailed study of Dr. Hoffman’s book on terrorism – unfortunately still only available in German – I demonstrate that his book does not fulfill even minimal criteria of academic standards and objectivity (see […] ). Dr. Hoffman is a charlatan.

(e) In a brief attempt to explain the motives of the alleged attackers, he wrote: “The grievances of the Indian Muslims were not the cause of the terrorist attack. Pakistan’s strategic objectives against India, such as forcing a change in the status quo in J&K and disrupting India’s economic progress and strategic relations with the West and Israel were the principal motive.” (p. 74-5) “Reprisal against the US-led coalition in Afghanistan for its war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban was another motive.” (p. 75)

(f) In order to lend weight to his theories, the author claims that “available reports indicated that the terrorists were looking for American, British and Israeli nationals – particularly visiting public servants among them with official or diplomatic passports.” (p. 82) This claim is based on the first part of an interview with Alex Chamberlen, who escaped from the Oberoi/Trident Hotel. Chamberlen mentioned that the gunmen asked who, among the hostages, were American and British nationals (he did not mention Israelis). What the author suppressed was the second part of Chamberlen’s testimony, namely that after a mobile phone of one of the hostages rang, the gunmen got distracted and thereafter forgot to follow-up their demand for Americans and British nationals. See transcript of the documentary film “Secrets of the Dead – Mumbai Massacre” for Alex Chamberlen’s comments […]

(g) The author contends that the “terrorists” did not have any utilitarian purpose with their attacks: “The terrorists did not appear to have been interested in taking the Jewish people [at Nariman] as hostages and using them to achieve any demand. They just wanted to torture and kill all those found in the premises.” (p. 84) Disregarding the author’s attempt to mind-read the alleged attackers, his facts are also incorrect. They indeed did not attempt to kill all those found in the premises, as eyewitnesses testified. And we do not actually know who killed the Jewish residents. Indian authorities have denied commandos the right to testify and the Israeli government denied investigators the right to conduct autopsies, invoking religious sensibilities.

(h) According to the author Tzipi Livni, then Israeli Foreign Minister, said: “There is no doubt, we know, that the targets the terrorists singled out were Jewish, Israeli targets and targets identified with the West, Americans and Britons. Our world is under attack, it doesn’t matter whether it happens in India or somewhere else. There are Islamic extremists who don’t accept our existence or Western values.” (p. 85-6) Are statements by politicians a proof for anything?

(i) Turning again to the objectives of the alleged attacks, the author writes: “It was evident the terrorist strike had three strategic objectives: firstly, to discredit the Indian political leadership and counter-terrorism apparatus. Secondly, to damage our tourist economy and to create nervousness in the minds of foreign investors about the security of life and property in India. Thirdly, to disrupt the strategic co-operation between India and Israel.” (p. 88) Turning these explanations on their head might be a better answer, for the events of 26/11 created a rally behind the flag in India, gave corporate India a boost, including in the security sector, and strengthened Israeli-Indian security cooperation.

(j) At one point the author acknowledges in passing that reconstructing the entire strike, as part of the investigation “did not receive the immediate attention it deserved. Without a satisfactory reconstruction [of the events], our ability to prevent a repetition of Mumbai – November 26 in other cities would be weak.” (p. 88). On p. 92, the author surprisingly mentions what few had done: “In one’s anxiety to get as much information as possible from the captured terrorist, one did not seem to have paid attention to the important aspect of debriefing all the foreign survivors in the two hotels attacked as to what exactly happened. All of them, after their release, immediately went back to their respective countries. We do not have their version of what happened inside the hotels.” (p. 92). This observation is well grounded, although the author did not attempt to find out why no attempt was to depose the majority of eyewitnesses, including people who told media that they actually observed the killings.

(k) The author devotes an entire chapter to “the need for a comprehensive enquiry” into 26/11. He writes: “One would have expected the Governments of India and Maharashtra to order a joint comprehensive and independent enquiry similar to the enquiries held in our own country in the past and similar to those held in other countries since 2000 to identify the sins of commission and omission and the weak points in our counter-terrorism management and to take follow-up action. Unfortunately, the Government of India focused largely on Pakistan’s involvement in the strike and avoided any independent enquiry into its own responsibility and that of the Government of Maharashtra, which enabled the ISI and the Let to succeed in such a spectacular manner.” (p. 154-5)

He adds: “The GOI was successful in avoiding a comprehensive enquiry because the BJP leadership and the other opposition parties, whose responsibility was to see that there was no cover-up, failed to exercise this responsibility. By their confused inaction, the BJP and other opposition parties played into the hands of the Government and unwittingly facilitated its cover-up exercise. Nobody asked searching questions about our own failures at New Delhi as well as in Mumbai.” (p. 155)

The author acknowledges the set-up of the two-member Pradhan Committee by the Government of Maharashtra, but laments that a “suitably edited version” of its final report was not released to the public. (p. 156) He insists that “the public of this country and its legislators have a right to know what went wrong and why. The national security management system is funded by the tax-payers’ money… The successful functioning of the national security management system depends not only on the quality of the various components of the system, but also on the co-operation which it is able to get from the public…If the public is kept in the dark, how can it have the required confidence in the system?” (p. 157-8)

He furnishes an interesting detail on the grounds for refusing an investigation, suggesting that both sides were posturing: “One was surprised to note that Chidambaram firmly rejected on June 5, 2009, the demand of LK Advani, the leader of the opposition, for such an enquiry. In an interview to some journalists, he gave the following reasons for his rejecting the demand: Firstly, the demand was belated as it came six months after the terrorist attack. Secondly, the Vajpayee Government did not hold an enquiry into the hijacking of an aircraft of the Indian Airlines by some terrorists to Kandahar in December 1999 and into the attempted attack on the Indian Parliament in December, 2001.” The author then chides these reasons. (p. 158)

The author mentions particularly the “lack of activism by the relatives of the victims of terrorist strikes” in India, and compared that lack of activism to the alleged activism of relatives of such victims in the UK and US. (p. 159). His sweeping allegation aside (Karkare’s widow and Kamte did engage in substantial efforts), he did not take into account that relatives, particularly vulnerable individuals, can be easily intimidated by police to refrain from asking probing questions.

Those interested in the nuts and bolts of 26/11 will find little of value in this book. On the positive side, the author voices a healthy suspicion about the reasons for the Indian government to resist a public investigation. It is to be hoped that the author will feel compelled to probe more deeply into the events themselves before speculating on the motives of the alleged perpetrators.

Aborted babies incinerated to heat UK hospitals

Aborted babies incinerated to heat UK hospitals

The remains of more than 15,000 babies were incinerated as ‘clinical waste’ by hospitals in Britain with some used in ‘waste to energy’ plants

By Sarah Knapton, Science Correspondent (sic)
The Telegraph 24 Mar 2014 [The article elicitied 1837 comments within 3 days]

The bodies of thousands of aborted and miscarried babies were incinerated as clinical waste, with some even used to heat hospitals, an investigation has found.

Ten NHS trusts have admitted burning foetal remains alongside other rubbish while two others used the bodies in ‘waste-to-energy’ plants which generate power for heat.

Last night the Department of Health issued an instant ban on the practice which health minister Dr Dan Poulter branded ‘totally unacceptable.’

At least 15,500 foetal remains were incinerated by 27 NHS trusts over the last two years alone, Channel 4’s Dispatches discovered.

The programme, which will air tonight, found that parents who lose children in early pregnancy were often treated without compassion and were not consulted about what they wanted to happen to the remains.

One of the country’s leading hospitals, Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, incinerated 797 babies below 13 weeks gestation at their own ‘waste to energy’ plant. The mothers were told the remains had been ‘cremated.’

Another ‘waste to energy’ facility at Ipswich Hospital, operated by a private contractor, incinerated 1,101 foetal remains between 2011 and 2013.

They were brought in from another hospital before being burned, generating energy for the hospital site. Ipswich Hospital itself disposes of remains by cremation.

“This practice is totally unacceptable,” said Dr Poulter.

“While the vast majority of hospitals are acting in the appropriate way, that must be the case for all hospitals and the Human Tissue Authority has now been asked to ensure that it acts on this issue without delay.”

Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS Medical Director, has written to all NHS trusts to tell them the practice must stop.
The Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, has also written to the Human Tissue Authority to ask them make sure that guidance is clear.

And the Care Quality Commission said it would investigate the programme’s findings.
Prof Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said: “I am disappointed trusts may not be informing or consulting women and their families.

“This breaches our standard on respecting and involving people who use services and I’m keen for Dispatches to share their evidence with us.

“We scrutinise information of concern and can inspect unannounced, if required.”

A total of one in seven pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, while NHS figures show there are around 4,000 stillbirths each year in the UK, or 11 each day.

Ipswich Hospital Trust said it was concerned to discover that foetal remains from another hospital had been incinerated on its site.

A spokeswoman said: “The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust does not incinerate foetal remains.”
She added that the trust “takes great care over foetal remains”

A spokesman for the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said that trained health professionals discuss the options with parents ‘both verbally and in writing.’

“The parents are given exactly the same choice on the disposal of foetal remains as for a stillborn child and their personal wishes are respected,” they added.

Channel 4 Dispatches, Amanda Holden: Exposing Hospital Heartache, airs tonight (Monday March 24) at 8pm

Constructing the secret EU state: “Restricted” and “Limite” documents hidden from view by the Council

Constructing the secret EU state: “Restricted” and “Limite” documents hidden from view by the Council
http://www.statewatch.org/analyses/no-240-restricted-documents.pdf

– Over 117,000 “RESTRICTED” documents produced or handled by the Council since 2001 but only 13,184 are listed in its public register of documents

– 103,839 “RESTRICTED” documents not listed in the Council’s public register due to the “originators” right of veto?

– The Council seeks to stop the publication of unreleased “LIMITE” documents, which are defined as “sensitive unclassified documents”

– The Commission has failed to implement the Lisbon Treaty to ensure that all legislative documents are made public as they are produced  – this means that 60% of Council documents relating to legislative decision-making  are made public after “the final adoption” of measures

– The Council uses Article 4.3, the “space to think”, to refuse access to 50% of requests for access to legislative documents under discussion

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director, comments:

“The Council have constructed a two-tier system of secrecy to keep from public view thousands and thousands of documents. This has been compounded by the failure of the European Commission to put forward proposals to implement the provision in the Lisbon Treaty to make all documents concerning the legislative procedure public.

In place of the need to deepen democratic openness and accountability in EU the Council has entrenched a system of secrecy based on its discretion to decide whether and when to make documents public.

The result is that the European legislature – the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament – meet in secret trilogues to decide over 80% of new laws going through the EU.”

NeoConOpticon: The EU Security-Industrial Complex

NeoConOpticon: The EU Security-Industrial Complex

Transnational Institute in Association with Statewatch, 2006

This report was produced by Ben Hayes for Statewatch and the Transnational Institute. Additional research was conducted by Max Rowlands and Fiona O’Malley of Statewatch, while Tony Bunyan and Trevor Hemmings (also Statewatch) provided a constant stream of invaluable comments, information and guidance (several sections also draw heavily on Tony Bunyan’s columns for the Guardian newspaper’s ‘Liberty Central’ website). The information and analysis provided by Frank Slijper (Dutch Campaign Against the Arms Trade and TNI), Matthias (from Gipfelsoli), and Kamil Mraijcek (ECCHR) was also invaluable, as was Thomas Mathiesen’s advice in respect to the variations on the ‘Panopticon’ discussed in this report.

In 2006, Statewatch and the Transnational Institute published Arming Big Brother, a briefing paper examining the development of the European Union’s Security Research Programme (ESRP). The ESRP is a seven year, €1.4 billion programme predicated on the need to deliver new security enhancing technologies to the Union’s member states in order to protect EU citizens from every conceivable threat to their security (understood here purely in terms of bodily safety).

The ESRP also has the explicit aim of fostering the growth of a lucrative and globally competitive ‘homeland security’ industry in Europe. To this end, a number of prominent European corporations from the defence and IT sectors have enjoyed unprecedented involvement in the development of the security ‘research’ agenda.

Arming Big Brother set out a number of concerns about the pending ESRP, including the implicit threat posed to civil liberties and fundamental rights by EU ‘research’ into surveillance and other security technologies. The report was also highly critical of the corporate influence on the EU security research programme and warned of various dangers in actively pursuing a ‘security-industrial complex’ in Europe.

This follow-up report contains new research showing how the European Security Research Programme continues to be shaped by prominent transnational defence and security corporations and other vested interests. Though technically a Research and Development (R&D) programme, the ESRP is heavily focused on the application of security technologies (rather than objective research per se ), and is increasingly aligned with EU policy in the fields of justice and home affairs (JHA, the ‘third pillar’), security and external defence (CFSP, the ‘second pillar’).

Governmental spending on products and services for homeland security should reach $141.6bn worldwide in 2009… The high priority given to homeland security has made that market one of the few recession-resistant sectors of the defence industry, some experts believe. (Visiongain Market Research, 2009 Global Homeland Security 2009-2019, ASD reports, see: http://www.asdreports.com/shopexd.asp?ID=1442)

Read the entire report:

2794_neoconopticon-report

Surveilling UK Muslims ‘cradle to grave’

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/02/surveilling-uk-muslims-cradle-grave-201422575943406757.html

Surveilling UK Muslims ‘cradle to grave’

New report details ‘McCarthy-like’ police surveillance and discrimination against the Muslim community
Simon Hooper – 26 Feb 2014 12:21
 
London, United Kingdom – Muhammad still does not know for sure why British counter-terrorism police came to the door of his east London home shortly before dawn one morning in March 2012.

It was 5:30am on the day of Muhammad and his wife’s third wedding anniversary. The couple’s two young children were sleeping in their cots, and his elderly parents were also visiting.

“My mum woke me up, saying: ‘There are police at the door. Get up! Get up!’ My wife grabbed her headscarf and we all went into the living room,” Muhammad told Al Jazeera, requesting only his first name be used for legal reasons.

“I counted 12 police officers in there and there were others lurking in the other rooms. They said they had a warrant to raid my house and my car.”

As police searched the property, Muhammad’s father suffered a heart attack. An ambulance was called to take him to hospital. The police eventually left at 2am the following morning, taking with them money, documents, electrical equipment, phones and Muhammad’s passport.

Muhammad, a British-born Muslim of Bangladeshi origin in his late 20s, was not arrested, detained or questioned as a result of the raid. His father made a full recovery. But the incident has turned his life upside down.

He has subsequently been routinely stopped and questioned at airports under Schedule Seven counter-terrorism powers, making his work as a guide escorting British pilgrims to Saudi Arabia on Hajj increasingly untenable. In October last year he said he was held for 26 hours at Riyadh airport before being deported back to the UK without explanation.

Pressure to inform

Last August, he was invited to visit a London police station to collect the belongings and money seized from his house almost a year and a half earlier.

“Two officers from SO15 [the London Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism unit] were waiting for me. You know they play good cop, bad cop? Well, that day they were both playing good cop, just chatting about stuff. As I was going to walk out they said: ‘Hold on, there’s someone that quickly needs to speak to you.'”

Muhammad was shown into a room where two men he said he believes worked for MI5, the UK’s internal security service, were waiting. He said they put him under pressure and offered him incentives to inform for them.

“They asked me about my friends, about Syria, stuff like that. They said they believed there were people who wanted to come back and cause mayhem in the UK. I said I had no intention of going to Syria. They gave me a phone number and told me to call if I heard anything.”

Muhammad’s story, according to the civil liberties group CAGE, is merely one case demonstrating how many British Muslims are becoming ensnared by increasingly intrusive and illiberal counter-terrorism policies targeting those deemed to be “extreme” in their faith.

In a report published this month into the UK government’s Prevent counter-terrorism strategy, CAGE warned that Muslim communities were being subjected to “cradle-to-grave” levels of surveillance and discrimination that go beyond the policies used against suspected communist sympathisers in the United States at the height of the Cold War.

It highlighted how Prevent had put mosques, Muslim institutions and charities under scrutiny and how public officials, including teachers, lecturers, chaplains and healthcare workers, were being urged to inform on schoolchildren, students and patients deemed to be at risk of radicalisation.

CAGE’s director is Moazzam Begg, who was arrested on Tuesday for alleged terrorism offences related to Syria.

The former Guantanamo Bay detainee was captured in Pakistan in 2002 by US forces. He was released from the American prison camp in Cuba in 2005 without ever being charged.

In December Begg wrote about how he had been continually harassed by the British government and members of its security services and had his passport confiscated because of his investigations into British complicity in rendition, and because of his work supporting humanitarian-aid efforts for Syria.

In a statement CAGE said it was “outraged” by the detention.

“We do not accept involvement by Moazzam Begg in any form of terrorism,” it said. “He is simply one of many individuals and charities involved in Syria being viewed with suspicion in an effort to send a message to the wider Muslim community that working in Syria is no go area for them.”

‘Deprogramming’

The CAGE report highlighted the case of a nine-year-old boy alleged to have shown signs of extremism who was referred to authorities for “deprogramming”. Police figures show a steady increase in referrals among young people, with 748 referred for assessment in 2012-2013, compared with 580 a year earlier and more than 2,600 in total since 2006.

In other cases, youth groups and mental health projects aimed at Muslim communities found that access to public funding was conditional on sharing data and information with law enforcement agencies, while university Islamic societies have faced pressure to hand over membership lists and other data to counter-terrorism police.

“There has been nothing like the Prevent policy since the McCarthy era, but Prevent goes a lot further; it goes into every aspect of Muslim life,” Jahangir Mohammad, the co-author of the report, told Al Jazeera. “Prevent has created a climate of fear and alienation in the Muslim community. People feel they can’t challenge this stuff and they don’t have any rights.”

Yet recent proposals to further toughen the UK’s counter-terrorism laws in the aftermath of the killing of British soldier Lee Rigby last May, and amid current concerns over the security risk posed by British Muslims travelling to Syria, could make Prevent even more draconian.

In December, Theresa May, the British home secretary, announced plans to introduce legislation that would place the policy on a statutory footing. While local authorities, mosques, universities and other institutions are currently under no legal obligation to cooperate with Prevent, such a move would force them to do so by law.

Critics argue the government’s efforts to enshrine Prevent in law are driven by a neo-conservative ideology that conflates conservative interpretations of Islam with a heightened risk of violent radicalisation.

“Teachers, doctors, police officers, civil servants and local government officers are effectively being trained and indoctrinated with a politicised understanding of Islam,” the CAGE report states. “It is a policy to silence Muslims and pacify/de-politicise their faith. In short, it criminalises political dissent or alternative political thought.”

Alienation

Many of those on the sharp end of Prevent measures believe the policy has already proved counter-productive by alienating, rather than engaging, Muslim communities.

Shakur Rahman, an imam at the Redbridge Islamic Centre in east London, told Al Jazeera that he and other mosque officials had been regularly visited by Prevent officers voicing concerns about invited speakers and other events.

“We have people claiming to be Special Branch [SO15] coming in and demanding a meeting with the imam and saying: ‘If you do not comply we are going to make your life difficult,'” Rahman said.

“The implication is: ‘We are watching you. We have got our eye on you and we are going to be keeping our ears to the ground.’ Then you find certain people coming along to the community and asking strange questions. They turn up every now and then and then they disappear.

“We know, as every imam knows, that if you say something which they do not like you could be raided that night. They are creating that fear so that we are afraid to speak about fundamental issues that pertain to our community. If the whole strategy of Prevent is to minimise problems in the community then it is doing the exact opposite.”

Al Jazeera contacted the London Borough of Redbridge’s Prevent officer but she declined to comment. A spokesperson for the council said queries regarding Prevent should be directed to the Home Office.

A Home Office spokesperson told Al Jazeera: “Our Prevent strategy challenges extremist ideology, helps protect institutions from extremists, and tackles the radicalisation of vulnerable people.

“We work closely with local authorities to engage with faith institutions, civil society groups and other organisations and ensure they have the support and advice they need. We are also giving additional support to local communities on the frontline of tackling extremism by supporting integration projects and setting up a dedicated public communications platform.”

It’s UK government policy for spokespeople not to be named.

Under watch

The only reason that Muhammad can think of to explain why the police raided his home is that he had been collecting money for a Syrian aid appeal outside his local mosque the previous Friday.

“There was a group of brothers and they asked me to hold a tin for them,” he recalled. “Maybe MI5 was watching someone at the mosque and I was with that person and that’s how I got dragged in. The raid has made me fearful of going to mosques. I think, what if I go and it makes the situation worse?”

Muhammad is convinced he is still under surveillance. He has started wearing casual clothes rather than traditional Islamic dress to avoid drawing attention to himself. He often gets unknown calls on his phone, but the line is silent when he answers.

“Even when I came here tonight [for the interview] I saw a car parked up. You can tell what police look like when they are undercover. I have MI5 on my back, I have SO15 taking my stuff, and I am fearful. There is a question mark at the end of this because I don’t know what is going to happen to me.”

Follow Simon Hooper on Twitter: @simonbhooper

Political and Ideological Crisis in an Increasingly More Authoritarian European Union

Asbjørn Wahl is Adviser to the Norwegian Union of Municipal Employees, Vice Chair of the Road Transport Workers’ Section of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), and Director of the Campaign for the Welfare State, a trade-union-based national alliance fighting privatization and liberalization. His most recent book is The Rise and Fall of the Welfare State (Pluto Press, 2011).

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​http://monthlyreview.org/2014/01/01/european-labor

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Monthly Review
2014, Volume 65, Issue 08 (January)

European Labor

Political and Ideological Crisis in an Increasingly More Authoritarian European Union

Asbjørn Wahl

Acute economic and political drama mark contemporary Europe. The terrible trauma of the financial crisis has been followed by a sovereign-debt disaster. In the countries most deeply affected, the people have been faced with massive attacks on public services, wages, pensions, trade unions, and social rights. The draconian austerity policies have pushed the situation in those countries from bad to worse, leading them into a deep depression. The result is an ever more serious social and political crisis. Mass unemployment is growing, and both in Greece and Spain youth unemployment has now passed 50 percent. In the European Union this is leading to more intense internal confrontations, both social and political.

Confronted with these multiple crises, the traditional labor movements appear perplexed and partly paralyzed. Social democracy is in political and ideological disarray and confusion, reflecting a deep crisis in these movements. On the one hand, social democrats have played a leading role in fierce attacks on trade unions and the welfare state in countries where they have been in power. On the other hand, other social democrats adopt statements and support appeals that sharply condemn the political course now followed by the European Union. The trade unions have also been stricken by the multiple crises, and have been unable to curb the attacks made on them. Of course, mass unemployment is also weakening their power and influence at the negotiating table. Extensive restructuring of industries, privatization of public services, and increased use of temporary workers have contributed to the unions’ loss of power.

This paralysis of the political left was illustrated in 2011 when huge masses of young people protested in countries like Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Italy. The protest movements were inspired more by what happened at Tahrir Square in Cairo than by political parties or trade unions in their own home countries. The latter were hardly present to build alliances, to politicize, or to contribute to giving direction and content to the struggle. Instead, big parts of the trade-union bureaucracy have stagnated in a social-partnership ideology that no longer has any meaning, since capitalist forces have withdrawn from the historic post-Second World War compromise between labor and capital, and gone on the offensive to defeat the trade-union movement and get rid of the best parts of the welfare state.

While the deepest and most serious economic crisis since the depression of the 1930s is unfolding, criticism of capitalism has more or less fallen silent. The trade union and labor movements no longer represent a general, credible alternative to a crisis-ridden capitalism generating mass unemployment, poverty, suffering, and misery in great parts of the European continent. To the degree unions have put forward alternative proposals, they have ignored strategies and shown neither the ability nor willingness to put to use the means of struggle necessary to gain ground. Trade unions at the European level have sharpened their rhetoric, but they have hesitated when it comes to the necessary mobilization to resist the attacks.

How has this been possible in a part of the world that has hosted some of the strongest and most militant trade unions and labor movements in the world? Why have opposition and resistance not been stronger? And how did we come to the point where social-democratic governments in Greece, Spain, and Portugal have accounted for some of the most serious attacks on unions and the welfare state—until resistance from the population and frustrated voters ousted them from office and replaced them with right-wing governments even more faithful to financial capital?

This article deals with the challenges and barriers that trade unions now face in the European Union. There are a number of structural barriers that the European Union as a supranational institution represents, as well as internal political-ideological barriers that prevent unions from fulfilling their role in the current situation. The most important developments that are challenging, as well as threatening, what many people call Social Europe will be described: attacks on public services, pensions, wages, and working conditions, as well as strong anti-democratic tendencies. But first, it is necessary briefly to address the role of social democracy in Europe today in light of its history.

The Historical Role of Social Democracy

Much now suggests that the historical era of social democracy is over. This does not mean that political parties that call themselves Social Democratic (or Socialist, as they call themselves in southern Europe) will not be able to win elections and form governments, alone or with other parties. However, the role social democracy has played historically, as a political-party structure with a certain progressive social project, now seems to be irrevocably over. The original goals of social democracy—to develop democratic socialism through gradual reforms, place the economy under political control, and meet the economic and social needs of the great majority of the population—were given up a long time ago. Instead, what will be focused on is the role it played during its golden age—the age of welfare capitalism—as an intra-capitalist political party with a social project.

The change of the character of the social-democratic parties has developed over a long time, but today’s more intensified social contradictions help reveal what is hiding beneath the thin veil of political rhetoric. Where social democracy has been in power in EU countries in recent years, its leaders have been loyal executioners of brutal austerity policies, overseeing massive attacks on the welfare state and trade unions. In turn this has, among other things, led to dramatically reduced support for social democrats; with few exceptions, today they are hardly represented in European governments.

The role of social democracy in its golden age was to administer the class compromise—not to represent workers against capital, but to mediate between the classes within the framework of a regulated capitalist economy. As a result, the parties (especially where they were in power over long periods) changed from mass organizations of workers into bureaucratic organizations strongly integrated into the state apparatus, with dramatic losses in membership, and with their organizations increasingly converted into instruments for political careerists, and campaign machinery for a new political elite.

Based as it was on the class compromise, social democracy sank into an ever deeper political and ideological crisis as capital owners, responding to their own need to accumulate capital, gradually began to withdraw from the historic compromise around 1980. The social-democratic parties were so deeply integrated in the state apparatus that they changed alongside the state as it became strongly influenced by the emerging neoliberal hegemony. Social democratic parties have thus contributed greatly to deregulation, privatization, and the attacks on public welfare of the last few decades. This has been true whether it happened under the label of “the third way,” as in the United Kingdom; Die neue Mitte, as it was called in Germany under Gerhard Schröder; or even under the fluttering banner of folkhemmet (“the people’s home”) in Sweden. In fact, when social-democratic governments were in a majority in the late 1990s, for the first and only time in EU history, no change in the EU’s neoliberal policies took place. This led one commentator at the time to conclude that “There’s not much left of the left.”1

The political-ideological decay on the left was well illustrated by the many meaningless statements that came in the wake of the financial crisis in relation to the government emergency measures. Many social democrats in Europe stated that the big government bailouts to the banks and financial institutions were proof that the politics of the left were on their way back. State regulation and Keynesianism had once again come to honor and dignity, it was said. Even Newsweek’s front page proclaimed, “We are all socialists now.”2 The moderate, now retired, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), John Monks, said it this way: “All over Europe, everybody is a social democrat or a socialist now—Merkel, Sarkozy, Gordon Brown…. The wind is in our sails.”3

However, there is a difference between Keynesian social reform policies and desperate government bailouts to save the speculators, financial institutions, and perhaps capitalism itself. That it was the latter was realized by many only as the financial crisis changed into a sovereign debt crisis, and the stimulus packages were replaced by reactionary and anti-social austerity policies, in which banks and financial institutions were saved at the expense of ordinary people’s living standard, welfare, and jobs.

Social democracy has, without exception, supported all of the neoliberal treaties and important austerity legislation in the European Union. Social-democratic parties have fully supported the establishment of the single market, which in reality has been a systematic project of deregulation, privatization, and undermining of public services and trade unions. The problem the social-democratic parties now face is that the demands for Keynesian stimulus policies, which some of them advocate, are in violation of the same treaties and laws which they were instrumental in passing. The social democrats have painted themselves into a corner and are increasingly squeezed between growing social rebellion and their loyalty to the neoliberal European Union.

The political crisis also affects parties to the left of social democracy. In countries where such parties have been in coalition governments with social democrats—France, Italy, Norway, and Denmark—the consequences have ranged from merely negative, to disastrous. To a large degree, the small left parties have been made hostage to neoliberal policies, including support for privatization and the U.S. war machine, such as its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan.4 They have not been able to be consistent critics of the system, let alone offer a credible alternative. This means that there is hardly any political or social force with strength and legitimacy in Europe today which is in a position to take the lead in organizing and coordinating the social resistance that regularly breaks out across Europe against the policies of austerity and rapidly rising inequality of income and wealth.
One of the most dramatic and dangerous consequences of this development, where the traditional labor parties pursue various degrees of neoliberal policies, is that confidence in the political left has broken down, while right-wing populism and extremism have gained ground. Parties representing these politics have now entered the stage—and parliaments—in most European countries. The indications are that a political restructuring of the left will be necessary for the labor movement once again to be able to go on the offensive and establish a wider, alternative social project.

Massive Attacks on Public Services, Wages, and Pensions

Many expected that the financial crisis, with its devastating consequences, would mean the final goodbye to neoliberalism, the speculation economy, and the hegemony of free market forces. These policies had led to a dramatic redistribution of social wealth from labor to capital, from public to private, and from the poor to the rich. The system was discredited, and surely the politicians would now realize that systematic deregulation, privatization, and free-flow capitalism had failed disastrously. The casino economy had to be stopped. In Iceland thousands of jobs, and the entire national economy, were turned into a gambling casino, where a small group of speculators enriched themselves beyond our comprehension at the expense of the country’s population. It was intolerable; the time was ripe for control and regulation.

That was not what happened. The neoliberals and the speculators, who strongly contributed to causing the crisis, remained in the driver’s seat, even when emergency measures were designed and the bills settled. Of course, what happened up until the crisis, as well as what has happened since, reflect power relations in society. It is not pure reason but the prevailing power relations that determine which “solution” is selected. Had reason prevailed—if the interests of the majority of the people had been paramount—the destructive speculation economy would have been stopped. This could have been achieved by regulation, by gaining increased democratic control of banks and other financial institutions, and by banning short selling, hedge funds, and trading in a variety of high-risk (so-called) financial instruments. This would have limited the power of the banks, restricted the free movement of capital, and reformed a tax system that now unburdens the rich and encourages unfettered speculation.

Deregulation of markets, greater inequalities in society, and extensive speculation were key factors that helped create the 2008 financial meltdown. In response, a number of governments ran up public debt to save their banks, financial institutions, and speculators. The effects were disastrous, and in many countries so many people were so strongly affected that neoliberals and speculators probably feared social unrest. Time showed, however, that there was no reason for this; popular revolt against the speculation economy failed to materialize. Trade unions in some EU countries mobilized, but a joint-European-offensive struggle never materialized. Thus, the neoliberals could continue their project of changing Europe according to their own economic and political interests.

The first thing neoliberalism’s champions and beneficiaries did was disclaim responsibility. While their unrestrained speculation and the formidable redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top had helped trigger the crisis, they now said that the problem was that people had “lived beyond their means.” Myths were and are still being spread that pensions and welfare services are gilt-edged and that these are the real causes of the crisis. In particular, the social elite and the dominant media portrayed working people in Greece as having granted themselves privileges without any real economic basis. This is being used as propaganda to legitimize widespread attack on the welfare state, while financial capital is protected.

The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) quickly documented that these allegations were just myths with little connection to reality. For example, labor productivity increased twice as fast in Greece as in Germany from 1999 to 2009. According to OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) statistics, on average Greeks work many more hours per year (2,152) than Norwegians (1,422) or Germans (1,430). While a few occupational groups have a low retirement age, pensions at early retirement are so low that hardly anyone is able to make use of them. For example, only thirty or forty of Athens’s 20,000 bus drivers have used the theoretical option of early retirement at age fifty-three. The real average retirement age in Greece is 60.9 years for women and 62.4 for men, which is higher than in Germany, where right-wing politicians played on these myths. These falsehoods still dominate in mainstream media and the political life in Europe, something that tells us a lot about the existing power relations, the media’s servility to the elite, and the political and ideological crisis of the left.

While the bailouts saved the speculators, governments did not use the opportunity to take increased democratic control or ownership of financial institutions. Of course, this would have been a challenging project given the enormous power capitalist forces have achieved in our societies through deregulation and accumulation of wealth over the last decades. The final communiqué of the G20 meeting in Toronto, Canada in June 2010 gave us an excellent example of this. It contained little but the well-known, neoliberal proposals to remove even more barriers to the free movement of capital, goods, services, and labor. There was nothing left of all the proposals that had circulated about the need for regulation of financial markets and to raise more funds from banks and financial institutions. The losses are therefore socialized while profits are privatized—once again.

Governments, the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—the three latter (un)popularly called the Troika—have not reinstated Keynesian policies and re-regulated finance. Instead, they have used the crisis as an excuse to further transform society to meet the needs of finance capital. Thus the Troika now prescribes the same policy in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy as the IMF previously imposed upon developing countries and Eastern European nations through the so-called structural adjustment programs, namely massive privatizations. In Greece, for example, the railways, the water supply of Athens and Thessaloniki, utilities, ports, airports, and the remaining public ownership of the national telecommunications company have been privatized. Cuts, privatizations, and widespread attacks on public services are the order of the day in country after country. This is a recipe for depression and social crisis.

In several EU countries—the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Hungary—wages, working conditions, and pensions have been severely weakened. Pensions have been cut 15–20 percent in many countries, while wages in the public sector have been reduced from 5 percent in Spain to over 40 percent in the Baltic. In Greece, the number of public employees has already been reduced by more than 20 percent. And still more is demanded: in Spain only one in every ten vacant positions in the public sector is filled, one in every five in Italy, and one in every two in France. In Germany 10,000 public-sector jobs have already been cut, and in the United Kingdom it has been decided to cut close to half a million jobs, which in effect will involve about the same number of jobs in the private sector.

The Value Added Tax (VAT) has been increased dramatically in several countries; social benefits have been slashed, particularly for the unemployed and disabled; budgets have been cut; the labor laws have been weakened (especially employment protection); minimum wages have been reduced; universal welfare schemes have been converted to programs that are means-tested (as is the case with the British child benefit). Meanwhile, the tax on capital has been held constant—or even decreased. Collective agreements and labor rights have been set aside, not through negotiations with the unions, but by government decrees and/or political decisions. Increased competitiveness of European businesses is raised as the main aim, to which all social concerns are subordinated. This represents a new and dramatic situation in Europe. The massive austerity policy and attacks on trade unions constitute, socially and politically, a deadly mix, and the historical experiences in Europe make them particularly frightening. If the trade unions are not able to curb these developments, we face a defeat of historical dimensions for the labor movement in Europe, with enormous consequences for the development of our societies.

Michael Hudson, a former Wall Street economist and now professor at the University of Missouri, notes that there is a massive fight against workers taking place:

The EC [European Community] is using the mortgage banking crisis—and the needless prohibition against central banks monetizing public budget deficits—as an opportunity to fine governments and even drive them bankrupt if they do not agree [to] roll back salaries…. “Join the fight against labour, or we will destroy you,” the EC is telling governments. This requires dictatorship, and the European Central Bank (ECB) has taken over this power from elected governments. Its “independence” from political control is celebrated as the “hallmark of democracy” by today’s new financial oligarchy…. Europe is ushering in an era of totalitarian neoliberal rule.5

Towards an Authoritarian Europe

The European Union’s role has been crucial for what is now taking place in Europe. In addition to the democratic deficit that is embedded in EU institutions, these institutions have been formed and shaped during the neoliberal era. They are dominated by the interests of capital to an extraordinarily high degree. The crisis has been used to wage a massive battle from the heights of the European Union’s governance institutions to further transform Europe in the image of capital.

More and more political power is being transferred to the unelected EU institutions in Brussels. The European Union’s only elected body, the European Parliament, has been sidelined from much of the process. The European Union therefore now moves in the direction of further de-democratisation, at a speed and in a manner with frightening possibilities.

Currently this development is carried out through a number of political innovations:

The European semester, which means that national governments each year will have to submit their proposals for state budgets and structural changes to Brussels for “approval.”
The Euro Plus Pact, a deregulation and austerity pact that includes all Euro countries and other EU nations that have decided to join (the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Sweden have remained outside of it). Attacks on working hours, wages, and pensions are part of the pact.
New economic governance, with six new laws, also called the “six-pack.” The package is intended to provide the legal basis for the implementation of the dramatic austerity policies, including enforcement rules.
The Fiscal Pact, which, according to the German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, should be irreversible, and which will centralize and further de-democratize the economic power of the European Union, through (among other things) the introduction of financial and other sanctions against member states that do not comply with the requirements. It is an intergovernmental agreement, and therefore formally not a part of the EU institutional framework.
Several of these pacts and agreements overlap, but with an increasing degree of centralization and authoritarian top-down policy instruments, including the transfer of power from nation states to Brussels, and from the European Parliament to the Commission. At the same time, we see a more and more open division between some core countries, centered around Germany and France, and a periphery of weaker states, particularly in the east and south of Europe.

The most crisis-ridden countries, like Greece, Ireland, and Portugal, have more or less been put under the administration of bodies still further away from democratic legitimacy: the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission. The European employers’ association, the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe (UNICE), and the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) exult over the new economic governance model for the European Union.

The ongoing de-democratisation of the economic politics, as well as the attacks on the trade-union movement undertaken in order to prepare the ground for the anti-social, austerity policies, represent developments that we have hardly seen since fascism was defeated in Europe. Four previous judgments (see below) of the European Court of Justice have all contributed to the restriction of trade-union rights in the European Union, including the legal right to take industrial action. Add to this that the political authorities in at least ten EU member states already have implemented pay cuts in the public sector by setting aside collective agreements without negotiating with the unions, and the gravity of the situation becomes clear. An increasingly authoritarian Europe is emerging.

The European Union as a Barrier

Can this development be stopped? Is it possible to save Social Europe from the ongoing massive attacks on welfare and workers’ rights? Is it possible to mobilize social forces across Europe which can curb the massive attacks of capitalist forces and their political servants, with the aim of shifting power relations, and eventually creating the basis for a social offensive?

To say something concrete about this, we will have to look more closely at the challenges and barriers facing trade unions in the social struggle. What is it that restrains them from moving in a strong and coordinated manner into the fight to at least defend the social achievements that were won through the welfare state? It is necessary then to look at some important external barriers, as well as at weaknesses, within the movement itself.

There is a growing realization that the European Union itself creates a number of impediments, not only for economic and social development in Europe, but also for the social struggle. We will consider six such barriers:

Democratic Deficit

The first barrier is the democratic deficit, which has been there from the very beginning but has increased in recent years. Officially, the message from the European Union and its member states’ governments, with the support of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and other parts of the European trade-union movement, is the opposite. They claim that the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 took an important step towards increasing democracy in that the elected European Parliament had its authority widened in a number of areas.

In the opposite direction, however, some member states were more or less put under administration of the European Central Bank and the European Commission, with support from the IMF, in the wake of the financial crisis. Furthermore, the Parliament has been sidelined in much of the process to develop the new pacts and institutions described above. Finally, the new authority granted to the Commission to impose economic sanctions on member states that do not follow the strict (and financially and politically damaging) stability criteria will transfer power from democratically elected parliaments at the national level to the non-elected Commission, and thus further de-democratize the decision-making process in Europe.

Constitutionalized Neoliberalism

Second, neoliberalism has been constitutionalized as the economic system of the European Union through the Treaty of Lisbon and former treaties. Capital’s freedom of movement and right of establishment are carved in stone, and all other considerations are subordinated to this principle, which we clearly have seen in the labor market (see below). Free competition is another basic principle in the EU treaties. In recent years this has also increasingly been applied to the services market, which differs from the commodity market in the way that trade in services mainly deals with the buying and selling of mobile labor power.

It has long been a common saying on the European political left that socialism is prohibited by the EU treaties. With the stability criteria, and the new sanction regime to force member states’ structural budget deficit below 0.5 percent and government debt below 60 percent of GDP, we can conclude that traditional Keynesianism, or what we may call traditional social-democratic economic policy of the post-war period, is not allowed. This represents a dramatic curtailment of democracy in the EU member states and represents a major step towards a more authoritarian, neoliberal European Union.

Irreversible Legislation

Third, the European Union decision-making process makes the above principles and decisions virtually irreversible. While all member states have some institutionalised protection for their own constitutions—for example by requiring qualified majority (either two-thirds or three-fourths) to change the constitution—in the European Union it has to be full agreement (e.g., 100 percent of the twenty-eight member states) to change it. This means the possibility of changing any of the EU treaties in a progressive direction through ordinary political processes is virtually nonexistent. One right-wing government in one member state can prevent this.

The Euro as an Economic Straitjacket

Fourth, the existence of the euro, currently in seventeen of the twenty-eight member states, puts many of the countries into an economic straitjacket. As long as the economy and productivity develop differently in member states in the Euro Zone, and there is no large common budget to reduce economic inequalities, countries will need quite different monetary policies. Today it is Germany, Europe’s “economic locomotive,” which benefits most from this, with its strategy of exporting its way out of the crisis; meanwhile the most crisis- and debt-ridden countries—such as Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Cyprus—are the losers. The latter have no domestic currency to devalue and thereby make their exports cheaper and imports more expensive. Those countries with higher domestic consumption and weaker competitiveness are forced to conduct a so-called internal devaluation, that is, to increase competitiveness through wage cuts and cuts in public expenditure. This is certainly in line with the EU neoliberal project, but it is devastating to the countries’ economic and social development. This economic straitjacket can also contribute to the development of contradictions between workers in countries in need of very different policies.

Lack of Simultaneousness in the Decision-Making and Implementation Processes

Fifth, the lack of simultaneousness in the decision-making process between the EU member states constitutes a barrier to developing cross-national mobilizations of trade union and social movements against many of the neoliberal and reactionary policies. Although much of the policy within the European Union is adopted by EU institutions, it is carried out in such a way that implementation is made at different times in different member states. The attacks and weakening of the pension systems, for instance, occurred over time and in different forms from country to country, based on recommendations from the European Union, but not through direct legislation. This makes it impossible to create a single European mobilization against these attacks.

The same applies to much of the European Union’s privatization policy. The European Union seldom makes decisions on direct privatization; it decides to liberalize, or to apply its competition rules to ever more areas of society. One of the effects is privatization, as we have seen in energy, transport, and telecommunications. Further, the implementation of these policies takes place at different times and ways in different states, thus making it difficult to mobilize coordinated resistance across Europe.

The very special legislation process constitutes further problems. Directives are not applied in the member states directly; rather, the content of the directives has to be transposed into the laws of each member state. As if this is not enough, EU legislation is written in an almost impenetrable bureaucratic language. This reality is often exploited by national governments and politicians, who play down the effects of various legal proposals, which later turn out to have widespread negative effects.

The Extended Role of the European Court of Justice

Sixth, the European Court of Justice has recently taken on a more extensive role in reinterpreting and effectively expanding the scope of some EU treaties and legislation, particularly regarding trade in services, that is, trade in mobile labor power. In this context, it is important to understand the application of the four judgments that were made between December 2007 and the summer 2008—the Viking, Laval, Rüffert, and Luxemburg cases—all of which contributed to limiting trade-union rights, including the right to strike.

Before these judgments, the dominant view was that labor laws and regulations lay outside the EU domain. They belonged to the jurisdiction of the nation states. Through the four judgments, the opposite has clearly been established: labor market regulations are subordinate to EU competition law and to capital’s free movement and right of establishment. The judgments have also had the effect of transforming the so-called Posting of Workers Directive from a minimum to a maximum directive regarding the wages and working conditions that will apply to workers in companies established in one member state while they carry out work in another.

This directive prescribes that wages and working conditions of the host country should apply. However, according to the above mentioned judgments, this has now changed to include only some of the minimum conditions regarding wages and working conditions, thus contributing to social dumping in Western Europe—undermining both wage levels and labor protection laws which have been achieved through trade union struggle over many decades. This has first and foremost been the case in the construction industry as well as in service sectors such as hotels, restaurants, and transport.

The enormous wage gap between countries in a now single European labor market is what really spurs this development—to a considerable degree protected by EU legislation. ILO Convention 94, which intends to secure wages and working conditions in similar cases, was simply ignored by the European Court of Justice. Add to this the high level of unemployment and the extreme exploitation that many individual workers from Eastern Europe are exposed to in Western Europe, both legally and illegally, and we can easily understand how trade unions are being weakened and social regression has become the order of the day in ever more European countries.

The European Union Is Threatening the Unity of Europe

Taken all together, we now see an extremely dramatic and serious situation in Europe. While the establishment of the European Union’s predecessors, the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community, were based partly on the desire for peace in Europe in the wake of the two world wars, the EU project of the European elites today is bringing about a formidable economic, social, and political polarization. The so-called European Social Model is breaking down. We are thus faced with the paradoxical situation that the “peace project EU” is currently the greatest threat to Europe’s unity, not on a national, but on a social, basis. However, we cannot ignore the possibility that, in certain situations, the result will be rising national antagonisms. Given the history of Europe, the European economic and political elites are playing with fire.

With all the barriers summarized above, it is also an open question whether or not it is realistic to believe that the European Union as a whole can be changed from within through a broad pan-European mobilization. Maybe it will be necessary for individual countries to leave not only the euro but the European Union itself in order to save their economies and their people’s welfare. If so, it will be essential that trade unions and popular forces massively mobilize for a Europe based on democracy, unity, solidarity, and cohesion, and thereby counteract the possibility of total European disintegration.

Internal Political-Ideological Barriers

Although the European Union presents important external barriers to the social struggle, there are also internal barriers that prevent trade unions from fulfilling their historic tasks. This is not just on the political-ideological level, but also concerns the traditions and organizational structures that are no longer as effective in meeting the new challenges under the global neoliberal offensive: the international restructuring of production, the increase in precarious work and migration, and the deregulation of labor markets.

On the political-ideological level, the situation is strongly affected by the crisis on the left, including the fact that social partnership and social dialogue have largely been developed into an overall ideology in dominant parts of the labor movement at both the European and national level. This means that social dialogue has been given an exalted position as the way to promote workers’ interests, completely decoupled from an analysis of specific power relations and how they can promote or prevent the possibilities of workers gaining ground. Thus, the social-partnership ideology is also to a high degree unlinked from the recognition that social progress in the current situation can only be achieved through extensive social mobilization.

The criticism of social dialogue and the social-partnership ideology is, of course, not a criticism of unions discussing and negotiating with employers. These things they have always done, and they must continue. The criticism concerns the fact that social dialogue, always one of many tools in the labor movement’s toolbox, has been turned into the main strategy. And, in effect, labor has taken very specific historical experiences and behaved as if these were true for all time in terms of ideological guidance. When social dialogue produced results in many countries, especially in the first decades after the Second World War, it was precisely because of the power shift that had taken place in favor of the working class and the trade-union movement in the period before.

The class compromise and social dialogue were, in other words, the results of mobilization, harsh confrontations, and considerable shifts in the balance of power. However, in the current ideological version labor leaders portray them as the causes of increasing influence for workers and trade unions. This analytical mismatch creates ideological confusion in the trade-union movement, as, for example, in this statement of the ETUC: “The EU is built on the principle of social partnership; a compromise between different interests in society—to the benefit of all” (emphasis added).6

In face of the massive attacks that employers and governments are now waging against unions and social rights, such ideological claims are being put under increasing pressure. There is little doubt that the capitalist forces in Europe have withdrawn from the historic compromise with the working class, as they are now attacking agreements and institutions that they previously accepted in the name of the compromise. Nevertheless, the social partnership ideology is still deeply rooted in wide circles of the European trade-union movement, as the following remarks by (the now-retired) ETUC General Secretary, John Monks, so well illustrate. The starting point was a reference to some tendencies of the U.S. labor movement, where activists were campaigning for wider social goals:

There may be similar opportunities in Europe, says Mr Monks, if unions can move beyond their old-fashioned enthusiasm for street protests to campaign for policy changes that broadly benefit workers. “Given the tough labor market, and desperate employers, this is not a time for huge militancy,” he says. Instead, “it is a time to demand frameworks of welfare benefits, training, consultation and to put in place fairer pay systems, so that when the economy does recover there is no repeat of the surge in inequality that took place in the past decade.”7

Remarkably, Monks’s comments were made long after the financial crisis had led to an intensified level of conflict in several European countries. How Monks thought to achieve better social benefits and fairer pay systems without the need for old-fashioned street protests, militancy, and the like, is not clearly evident from the interview. Maybe he meant that this could be achieved by offering additional concessions to employers? In any case, the ETUC went so far, even for them, as to sign an extraordinarily weak joint statement with the various employers’ organisations in Europe in connection with the preparation of the EU 2020 strategy. This happened in the summer of 2010, after the Greek unions had carried out several general strikes, as the Spanish unions prepared their general strike, and while the preparations of the French unions for their fight against a pension reform were in full swing. The statement called for:

An optimal balance between flexibility and security…. Flexicurity policies must be accompanied by sound macroeconomic policies, favourable business environment, adequate financial resources and the provision of good working conditions. In particular, wage policies, autonomously set by social partners, should ensure that real wage developments are consistent with productivity trends, while non-wage labor costs are restrained where appropriate in order to support labor demand…. [Regarding public services,] accessibility, quality, efficiency and effectiveness must be enhanced, including by taking greater benefit from well balanced public-private partnerships and by modernising public administration systems.8

To demand that non-wage labor costs are restrained and to legitimize privatization through public-private partnerships in this way—in a situation characterized by crisis, increased class confrontations, and massive assaults on public services—confirms that submission to social dialogue as a main strategy in the current situation can have nothing but demoralizing effects on those who want to fight against social regression.

Another internal barrier for many trade unions is their attachment to the traditional labor parties. The move by these parties to the right, as well as the general political and ideological crisis of the left described above, also affect the trade unions. They have reacted differently to these developments, however. In many countries (like Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom), the loyalty between the national trade union confederations and the social democratic parties is still solid, while in others it is weaker.

Alone among the Nordic nations, the Danish Trade Union Confederation has declared itself formally independent of the Social Democratic party, but without adopting more radical positions. In the United Kingdom, some unions, like the British National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, have broken with social democracy and established themselves in a clearly more leftist and militant position. In Germany, the Schröder (so-called red-green) government (1998–2005) carried out comprehensive attacks on the social-welfare system, and this has led to a deep breach of trust between the Confederation of Trade Unions (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, the DGB) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). While the party was in opposition it tried to approach the trade-union movement again, which is not an unusual strategy, but it received a rather cool reception from the DGB’s leader, Michael Sommer: “The problem for the SPD is unfortunately that they suffer from a lack of credibility. They were in power until September last year and were involved in many of the decisions we feel are wrong. They still have a long way to go before they have restored confidence.”9

The most extreme experiences with social democratic parties in government, however, have been in Greece, Spain, and Portugal. Considering how those parties so easily could implement their massive attacks on the welfare state and the trade-union movement, it might be time for broader sections of the labor movement to reconsider their strong ties to social democracy. At least, it is difficult to imagine that the close relationship between the trade-union movement and social democracy can be the same in Europe after these experiences, despite having lived down many deep conflicts in the past.

Increased Resistance

Widespread deregulation, the free movement of capital, and the crucial role played by global and regional institutions in the neoliberal offensive necessitate a global perspective and coordination of resistance across borders. Only in this way can we prevent workers in one country from being played against those in another, groups against groups, and welfare levels against welfare levels. Coordination of resistance across borders, however, requires strong and active movements at the local and national level. There is no abstract global fight against crisis and neoliberalism. Social struggles are internationalized only when local and national movements realize the need for coordination across borders in order to strengthen the fight against international and well-coordinated counter-forces. But international coordination presupposes that there is something to coordinate. In other words, organizing resistance and building the necessary alliances locally are decisive as a first step.

The social struggle in Europe is in the process of moving into a new phase. The crisis sharpens the contradictions and provokes confrontations. General strikes have again been put on the agenda in many countries, especially in Greece, where the population has been subjected to draconian attacks that threaten their basic living conditions. In Portugal, Italy, Spain, France, Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom, general strikes and/or massive demonstrations have been carried out. The most promising development so far was the general strike that was carried out simultaneously by trade unions in six EU countries (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, and Malta) on November 14, 2011, while unions in other countries also held demonstrations or more limited strikes.

Although so far the outcome of these battles is pretty vague, it is in these struggles that we find hope for another development: alliances with other new and unconventional social movements, especially among young people, as we have seen with Spain’s Los Indignados and in Portugal. One thing has at least become clear: the European social model, as we know it from its heyday, has been abandoned by the European elites, even if some of them are still paying lip service to the trade-union movement.

Even if there are many barriers to a Europeanization of the social struggle, there have been some examples of all-European campaigns organized by trade unions and social movements across national borders. One example was the fight against the EU Port Directive, which was voted down in the European Parliament in 2003 and in 2006, after pressure from below in strikes and demonstrations. Another was the struggle against the Services Directive, which, while not rejected, was modified as a result. The fight against the EU Constitution (later the Lisbon Treaty) also faced a certain Europe-wide resistance, although mobilization was largely based where it ultimately prevailed, first in France and the Netherlands, and later in Ireland.

The dramatic attacks on trade unions and welfare now taking place actually contribute to strengthening the voice of a number of European trade union leaders. The Deputy General Secretary of the European Public Services Unions, Willem Goudriaan states that the Euro Plus Pact represents “an interference in collective bargaining which we have never before seen in the EU.” Even the cautious ETUC General Secretary, John Monks, who in 2009 said that all had “become social democrats or socialists now,” changed his tune shortly before his retirement in 2011 and characterized the Euro Plus Pact in this way: “EU is on a collision course with Social Europe…. This is not a pact for competitiveness. It is a perverse pact for lower living standards, more inequality and more precarious work.”10

That in 2011 the ETUC, which has always been very European Union-friendly, for the first time in the history of the European Union urged the European Parliament to reject a proposed treaty change, is a further indication that a change is underway. This could contribute to a questioning of the legitimacy of the European Union among European workers. The actual treaty amendment concerned the setting up of the European Union’s emergency fund (European Stability Mechanism), whose task is to lend money to member countries in crisis. There was no such mechanism in place when the Greek crisis unfolded, and instead the European Union improvised. The ETUC rejected the proposal because this pact contained nothing in the direction of what might be called a Social Europe, which is becoming an increasingly distant goal.

With continued draconian austerity policies and deeper economic, social, and political crises, there is a possibility of growing contradictions within social democracy, as well as within the trade-union movement in Europe. We perhaps got a taste of this during the ETUC Congress in Athens in May 2011, when the most militant sections of the trade-union movement demonstrated in front of the Congress building, accusing the ETUC of betraying the fight and asking them to go home.

On the political-rhetorical level, there is an ongoing radicalization of the messages from the European trade unions in response to the economic crisis, backed up with some symbolic demonstrations, organized by the ETUC in Brussels on September 29, 2010, in Budapest on April 9, 2011, and in Wroclaw on September 19, 2011. Much remains to be done, however, before this is followed by a more committed and widespread social mobilization, where trade unions put to use their most effective methods of struggle to enforce their claims.

This lack of trade union action is not, of course, only the responsibility of individuals in the leadership of the international trade union organizations. The ETUC board consists of representatives from a number of national trade unions, and the decisions have broad support among them.11 The new situation is a result of enormous shifts in the balance of power in society, the crisis, and intensified class contradictions that have removed the basis for a continuation of the policy of the social pact in the post-Second World War period. The capitalists have changed strategy, but the trade-union movement has not. To acknowledge this and take into account the consequences of it is one of the main challenges of the trade-union movement today.

What Has to be Done?

The political shift towards the right and the political-ideological crisis on the left mean that the trade-union movement itself has to play a more central, independent, and more offensive political role—political not in the party sense, but in the sense that it assumes a broader political perspective in the social struggle. The greater part of the trade-union movement is not prepared to take on such a role today, but it holds the potential. A development in this direction requires that the trade-union movement go through a process of change, not least because of the new conditions for struggle created by global restructuring, neoliberalism, and crisis. In the medium term a reorganization of the political left will also have to be put on the agenda.

If social progress and democratization are our goals, the ongoing economic and social crises have opened the door wide. As the crisis unfolds, the need for a new and radical political course is actually growing day by day. It assumes, however, that trade unions are able to recreate themselves politically and organizationally. The immediate task is to meet the confrontational attacks from capitalists and their political servants, to wage the defensive fight against the massive attacks on wages, pensions, and public services. In the long term, however, this will not be enough, as the Scottish Socialist Murray Smith so rightly points out:

In whatever scenario there is a structural weakness of the workers’ movement, which gives the advantage to the government and the ruling class. The weakness is political and lies in the absence of a credible, visible political alternative to neo-liberalism. Such a political alternative is not a pre-condition for resisting attacks in the short term, perhaps even winning battles. But at a certain point the absence of a coherent alternative has a demobilizing effect. This problem predates the present crisis, but the crisis has made it a much more urgent question. What is necessary is the perspective of a governmental alternative incarnated by political forces that have a credible possibility of winning the support of the majority of the population, not necessarily immediately, but as a perspective. Such a political programme would involve organizing the production of goods and services to meet the needs of the population, democratically decided. That means breaking the stranglehold of finance on the economy, creating a publicly owned financial sector, re-nationalizing public services, a progressive taxation system, measures that challenge property rights.12

The vision of an alternative development of society is important, then, to provide inspiration and direction for the ongoing struggle against the crisis and social regression. It is uncertain, however, that a lack of alternatives is the main problem. There are a great many elements for an alternative developmental model. The alternative to privatization is not to privatize. The alternative to increased competition is more collaboration. The alternative to bureaucracy and control from above is democratization and participation from below. Alternatives to increasing inequalities and poverty are redistribution, progressive taxation, and free, universal welfare benefits. The alternative to the destructive speculation economy is socialization of the bank and credit institutions, the introduction of capital controls, and the prohibition of dealing with suspect financial instruments. The list can be made much longer than this.

Rather than a lack of alternatives, it may also be a question of the ability and will to carry out the mobilization and make use of the resources that are necessary to enforce them. Here, it is important for there to be a political showdown with the ideological legacy of the social pact—that deep-rooted social partnership ideology and belief in social dialogue as the best way of resolving social problems for the benefit of all, as the expression goes.

The working class, the trade unions, and other popular forces are now facing a brutal power struggle, which was started from above. The constant tendencies to canalize the response of the unions to these attacks into the political power vacuum that the social dialogue at present represents at a European level, does little else than weaken the capacity of the unions to mobilize. From this angle, there is much to suggest that it is the ability, rather than the possibility, that is the most important challenge the trade unions now face. The time has come, in other words, to stake out a new course for the trade-unions’ struggle, as was suggested by the Basque trade union organizations on January 27, 2011, when they carried out their second general strike in less than one year:

We have come out to the streets, have gone on strike twice and will continue mobilising. Because we do not want the future of poverty they have prepared for us. They threatened us by saying after the crisis nothing would be the same again. So making things different is in our hands. It is necessary to continue fighting for a real change, for a different economic and social model in which [the] economy works in favour of the society.13

We have seen before that social struggles develop new leadership and new organizations. Although right-wing populists and authoritarian tendencies predominate in the European Union today, the anti-social policies of the elites can also provoke social explosions, especially in southern Europe. It can open the possibility for other developments, where the goals are more fundamental changes of power and property relations and a deepening democratization of the society. The battle is between a more authoritarian and a more democratic Europe. For the time being, the authoritarian tendencies have the upper hand, but power relations can change again.

Notes

↩John Vinocur, “On the New European Economic Road Map, There’s Not Much Left of the Left,” New York Times, November 24, 1998, http://nytimes.com.
↩“NEWSWEEK Cover: We Are All Socialists Now,” February 8, 2009, http://prnewswire.com. The cover appeared on the February 16, 2009 Newsweek.
↩“In From the Cold?,” Economist, March 12, 2009, http://economist.com.
↩For a more comprehensive discussion of this phenomenon, see Asbjørn Wahl, “To Be in Office, But Not in Power: Left Parties in the Squeeze Between People’s Expectations and an Unfavourable Balance of Power,” in Birgit Daiber, ed., The Left in Government: Latin-America and Europe Compared (Brussels: Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, 2010).
↩Michael Hudson, “A Financial Coup d’Etat,” Counterpunch, October 1–3, 2010, http://counterpunch.org.
↩“ETUC: The European Social Model,” http://etuc.org.
↩“In From the Cold?“
↩European Social Partners, “Joint Statement on the EU 2020 Strategy,” June 3, 2010, http://etuc.org.
↩Quoted in Terje I. Olsson, “Mer lønn og forbruk skal løse krisa” [Higher Wages and Consumption Are Going to Solve the Crisis], Fri Fagbevegelse, October 8, 2010. Originally http://frifagbevegelse.no; available via http://archive.org/.
↩ETUC press release, “EU on a ‘Collision Course’ with Social Europe and the Autonomy of Collective Bargaining,” February 4, 2011, http://etuc.org.
↩There are also those who argue for more offensive positions, as, for example, the General Secretary of the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), Eduardo Chagas, has been taking inside the ETUC board over the last few years. Lately, some of the south European trade unions also have pushed for an all-European general strike. It is worth noticing that the Nordic trade-union confederations have brought up the rear in these discussions.
↩Murray Smith, “Den europæiske arbejderbevægelse under angreb!” [The European Labor Movement Under Attack!], Kritisk Debat, no. 56, June, 2010, http:// kritiskdebat.dk. [my translation]
↩Joint leaflet from the Basque trade unions ELA, LAB, STEE/EILAS, EHNE and HIRU, which carried out a one-day general strike against pension cuts and attacks on the welfare state. See http://labournet.de.

Police State USA and the NDAA: Creating American Terrorists

Police State USA and the NDAA: Creating American Terrorists

by Philip Giraldi

Global Research, Council of the National Interest, January 22, 2012

Defenders of the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, which declares the entire world to be a “battlefield” against terrorism and authorizes the U.S. military to detain indefinitely anyone suspected of being a terrorism supporter, have claimed that the White House will only use its new power carefully and with due process. Opponents note that the White House has never hesitated to use any new authority, no matter how outrageous, and that the trend of law enforcement and security agencies is to expand on powers granted, not to rein them in or limit them.

The track record of the Obama administration on civil liberties is particularly bad, as it has broadened its definition of war powers, reneged on its promise to close Guantanamo Prison, and supported numerous dubious terrorism prosecutions. It has also become adept at silencing critics through the repeated exploitation of the state-secrets privilege, which effectively dismisses any case accusing the government of abuse or malfeasance.

So let us accept that the government now has the power to send a team of military police to anyone’s home in any state in the Union and can demand that that person surrender without any recourse to a lawyer or judicial due process. The military can then detain the individual incommunicado for any length of time and can presumably send him to Guantanamo for special confinement, claiming that the reason for the detention is support of terrorism, which can be almost anything, including a letter to the editor of the local paper complaining about the goonery of the Transportation Security Administration. Once in detention, the suspect only has such options as are granted to him by the military. He cannot see a lawyer, cannot invoke habeas corpus or other constitutional privileges, cannot confront any witnesses against him, and cannot challenge any information prejudicial to him even if it is hearsay or fabricated. In other words, the accused can be arrested for no reason and held indefinitely without any protections that enable him to push back against being detained. Most people would consider a criminal justice system that permits such detention ipso facto a police state.

Now let us accept for a moment that the White House and Justice Department are well-intentioned and will not use their newfound authority to detain anyone in a questionable fashion. The expanded powers will only be used to detain foreign terrorists who are caught in flagrante, more or less. That would be fine, perhaps, but for one small problem. Because the definition of a terrorism supporter has become enormously elastic, it can be stretched to include anything. If the whole world has become a battlefield, speaking out or acting against powerful vested interests can be dangerous because those interests can turn around and exploit the system to label one a terrorist. And once you are labeled a terrorist, your constitutional rights vanish and you might as well sit around and wait for that knock on the door — or, rather, for the door to be kicked in.

That is what House Resolution 3131 is all about. It is titled, in part, “To direct the secretary of state to submit a report on whether any support organization that participated in the planning or execution of the recent Gaza flotilla attempt should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization….” The bill then goes on to assert that the two flotillas in 2010 and 2011 opposing Israel’s blockade of Gaza were terrorist actions. But the only problem is that it relies on information from the Israeli Intelligence and Information Center to do so, meaning that Congress is deferring to a foreign government organization to make a judgment that directly impacts that selfsame government. And the Israelis are not shy about calling someone a terrorist, if it suits the narrative they are trying to present. They describe a Turkish organization involved in the first flotilla in 2010, known by its acronym IHH, as linked to al-Qaeda and Hamas based on evidence that no one else in the world accepts, apart from Congress, that is. The Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara was clearly aiming to take on the Israeli navy, armed to the teeth with “100 metal rods, 200 knives, 50 wooden clubs, and a telescopic sight for a gun.” In reality, the rods were torn from the ships rails when the heavily armed Israeli commandos boarded at night from helicopters. The knives were pocket knives and utility knives from the vessel’s galley, and the clubs were broken from deck chairs to repel the attackers. I will not speculate on the telescopic sight, but there was not a real weapon anywhere on board. The Israelis killed nine Turks, shooting several in the head at close range, including an American citizen. Congress has yet to express its outrage at the Israeli action — quite the contrary — and Hillary Clinton’s State Department has been silent, apart from warning the subsequent 2011 flotilla that the American embassy would do nothing to protect U.S. citizens aboard.

Regarding the second flotilla of July 2011, HR 3131 goes on to state that “Greek authorities boarded ships and took into custody several individuals, including Captain John Klusmire of the ship Audacity of Hope as it violated Greek Coast Guard orders by setting sail without permission.” Klusmire is a U.S. citizen who was not breaking any American law, it should be noted. He was later released by the Greek authorities.

The bill concludes with its “Sense of Congress,” surely an oxymoron if there ever was one: “the secretary of state shall submit … a report on whether any support organization that participated in the planning or execution of the recent Gaza flotilla attempt should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization … [to] include information on … the sources of any logistical, technical, or financial support for the Gaza flotilla ships, including the Audacity of Hope, that were to set sail from Greece on July 1, 2011.”

I personally know a number of organizations that provided material or financial support to one or both of the Gaza flotillas. I also personally know that none of those organizations support violence against the state of Israel and that the people behind them believed then and now that they were exercising their constitutional rights in speaking out and acting nonviolently against what they and most of the world regard as an illegal and immoral blockade of Gaza. But, if the bill passes in Congress, a bureaucrat in the U.S. Department of State will now be able to call those people and their associated groups “terrorists,” and Hillary Clinton will be able to confirm that judgment to Congress. Next step is the MPs at the door.

If people cannot see what a slippery slope all of this is, they not thinking very clearly. HR 3131 is admittedly still sitting in congressional committee, but it has some very powerful sponsors, including Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who heads the Foreign Affairs Committee and is a rabid supporter of Israel. The bill not only indicts whole groups of people exercising their constitutional rights and labels them “terrorists,” it even names one American who was, at the time, breaking no U.S. law. Klusmire’s only crime was to “set sail without permission” — in Greece. It was clearly a bogus charge manufactured to suit by a vulnerable Greek government desperately needing international loans and under pressure from the United States and Israel.

Klusmire’s real crime was to oppose a powerful interest group, the Israel Lobby. To do so these days is to invite a charge of terrorism support with the option of being arrested by the Pentagon and locked up somewhere at the pleasure of the president of the United States. How low have we sunk, Mr. Obama? You portray yourself as a man of honor and a defender of constitutionalism, but you have opened the gates to lawlessness and authoritarian rule. And even if you are as benign as you depict yourself, you have provided the legal tools for those who might follow you — the Gingriches, the Perrys, the Bachmanns, and the Santorums — to possibly do much, much worse.

Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues. He is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served eighteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was Chief of Base in Barcelona from 1989 to 1992 designated as the Agency’s senior officer for Olympic Games support.

GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians’ communications at G20 summits

GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians’ communications at G20 summits
Exclusive: phones were monitored and fake internet cafes set up
to gather information from allies in London in 2009

Ewen MacAskill, Nick Davies, Nick Hopkins, Julian Borger and James Ball
The Guardian, Monday 17 June 2013
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jun/16/gchq-intercepted-communications-g20-summits

Documents uncovered by the NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, reveal surveillance of G20 delegates’ emails and BlackBerrys. Photograph: Guardian

Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic.

The revelation comes as Britain prepares to host another summit on Monday – for the G8 nations, all of whom attended the 2009 meetings which were the object of the systematic spying. It is likely to lead to some tension among visiting delegates who will want the prime minister to explain whether they were targets in 2009 and whether the exercise is to be repeated this week.

The disclosure raises new questions about the boundaries of surveillance by GCHQ and its American sister organisation, the National Security Agency, whose access to phone records and internet data has been defended as necessary in the fight against terrorism and serious crime. The G20 spying appears to have been organised for the more mundane purpose of securing an advantage in meetings. Named targets include long-standing allies such as South Africa and Turkey.

There have often been rumours of this kind of espionage at international conferences, but it is highly unusual for hard evidence to confirm it and spell out the detail. The evidence is contained in documents – classified as top secret – which were uncovered by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by the Guardian. They reveal that during G20 meetings in April and September 2009 GCHQ used what one document calls “ground-breaking intelligence capabilities” to intercept the communications of visiting delegations.

This included:

•  Setting up internet cafes where they used an email interception programme and key-logging software to spy on delegates’ use of computers;

• Penetrating the security on delegates’ BlackBerrys to monitor their email messages and phone calls;

• Supplying 45 analysts with a live round-the-clock summary of who was phoning who at the summit;

• Targeting the Turkish finance minister and possibly 15 others in his party;

•  Receiving reports from an NSA attempt to eavesdrop on the Russian leader, Dmitry Medvedev, as his phone calls passed through satellite links to Moscow.

The documents suggest that the operation was sanctioned in principle at a senior level in the government of the then prime minister, Gordon Brown, and that intelligence, including briefings for visiting delegates, was passed to British ministers.

A briefing paper dated 20 January 2009 records advice given by GCHQ officials to their director, Sir Iain Lobban, who was planning to meet the then foreign secretary, David Miliband. The officials summarised Brown’s aims for the meeting of G20 heads of state due to begin on 2 April, which was attempting to deal with the economic aftermath of the 2008 banking crisis.
The briefing paper added:


“The GCHQ intent is to ensure that intelligence relevant to HMG’s desired outcomes for its presidency of the G20 reaches customers at the right time and in a form which allows them to make full use of it.” Two documents explicitly refer to the intelligence product being passed to “ministers”.

One of the GCHQ documents. Photograph: Guardian

According to the material seen by the Guardian, GCHQ generated this product by attacking both the computers and the telephones of delegates.

One document refers to a tactic which was “used a lot in recent UK conference, eg G20”. The tactic, which is identified by an internal codeword which the Guardian is not revealing, is defined in an internal glossary as “active collection against an email account that acquires mail messages without removing them from the remote server”. A PowerPoint slide explains that this means “reading people’s email before/as they do”.

The same document also refers to GCHQ, MI6 and others setting up internet cafes which “were able to extract key logging info, providing creds for delegates, meaning we have sustained intelligence options against them even after conference has finished”. This appears to be a reference to acquiring delegates’ online login details.

Another document summarises a sustained campaign to penetrate South African computers, recording that they gained access to the network of their foreign ministry, “investigated phone lines used by High Commission in London” and “retrieved documents including briefings for South African delegates to G20 and G8 meetings”. (South Africa is a member of the G20 group and has observer status at G8 meetings.)

Another excerpt from the GCHQ documents. Photograph: Guardian

A detailed report records the efforts of the NSA’s intercept specialists at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire to target and decode encrypted phone calls from London to Moscow which were made by the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, and other Russian delegates.

Other documents record apparently successful efforts to penetrate the security of BlackBerry smartphones: “New converged events capabilities against BlackBerry provided advance copies of G20 briefings to ministers … Diplomatic targets from all nations have an MO of using smartphones. Exploited this use at the G20 meetings last year.”

The operation appears to have run for at least six months. One document records that in March 2009 – the month before the heads of state meeting – GCHQ was working on an official requirement to “deliver a live dynamically updating graph of telephony call records for target G20 delegates … and continuing until G20 (2 April).”

Another document records that when G20 finance ministers met in London in September, GCHQ again took advantage of the occasion to spy on delegates, identifying the Turkish finance minister, Mehmet Simsek, as a target and listing 15 other junior ministers and officials in his delegation as “possible targets”. As with the other G20 spying, there is no suggestion that Simsek and his party were involved in any kind of criminal offence. The document explicitly records a political objective – “to establish Turkey’s position on agreements from the April London summit” and their “willingness (or not) to co-operate with the rest of the G20 nations”.

The September meeting of finance ministers was also the subject of a new technique to provide a live report on any telephone call made by delegates and to display all of the activity on a graphic which was projected on to the 15-sq-metre video wall of GCHQ’s operations centre as well as on to the screens of 45 specialist analysts who were monitoring the delegates.

“For the first time, analysts had a live picture of who was talking to who that updated constantly and automatically,” according to an internal review.

A second review implies that the analysts’ findings were being relayed rapidly to British representatives in the G20 meetings, a negotiating advantage of which their allies and opposite numbers may not have been aware: “In a live situation such as this, intelligence received may be used to influence events on the ground taking place just minutes or hours later. This means that it is not sufficient to mine call records afterwards – real-time tip-off is essential.”

In the week after the September meeting, a group of analysts sent an internal message to the GCHQ section which had organised this live monitoring: “Thank you very much for getting the application ready for the G20 finance meeting last weekend … The call records activity pilot was very successful and was well received as a current indicator of delegate activity …

“It proved useful to note which nation delegation was active during the moments before, during and after the summit. All in all, a very successful weekend with the delegation telephony plot.”

The Suicide of Liberty : The Transformation of the US into a Police State

The Suicide of Liberty : The Transformation of the US into a Police State

Review of Pat Buchanan’s latest book

By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Global Research, October 12, 2011

Pat Buchanan’s latest book, Suicide of a Superpower, raises the question whether America will survive to 2025. The question might strike some readers as unduly pessimistic and others as optimistic. It is unclear whether the US, as we have known it, will survive its next presidential election.

Consider the candidates. Liberal law professor Jonathan Turley, who was likely to have been an early Obama supporter, now wonders if Obama is “the most disastrous president in our history.” Despite Obama’s failure, the Republicans can’t come up with anyone any better. One Republican candidate admires Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman who gave us financial deregulation and the financial crisis. Another is ready for a preemptive strike on Iran. Yet another thinks the Soviet Union is a grave threat to the United States. None of these clueless dopes are capable of presiding over a government.

Anyone who has been paying attention knows that the “superpower” is over-extended financially and militarily. The US is currently involved in six conflicts with Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and Pakistan on the waiting list for full fledged military attacks and perhaps invasions. Russia is being encircled with missile bases, and war plans are being drawn up for China.

Where is the money going to come from when the country’s debt is bursting at the seams, the economy is in decline, and unemployment on the rise?

Washington thinks that the money can simply be printed. However, enough has already been printed that the rest of the world is already suspicious of the dollar and its role as reserve currency.

As John Williams has said, the world could begin dumping dollar assets at any time.

I don’t think we can dismiss Buchanan’s concern as pessimistic.

Buchanan documents his concern across a wide front. For example, the combination of mass immigration and its consequent demographics together with the “diversity cult” means the end of “white America” and the transformation of what once was the dominant population into a disadvantaged underclass.

Buchanan cites a Wall Street Journal article by Ron Unz published 12 years ago. Unz found that white American gentiles who would be considered Christian are dramatically under-represented in America’s elite universities, which provide the elites who dominate government, business, and the professions.

Unz reported that white Americans who comprised 70% of the US population made up only 25% of Harvard’s enrollment and that the composition of the student bodies at Yale Princeton Columbia, Berkeley, and Stanford was much the same.

Asians who comprised 3% of the US population comprised one-fifth of Harvard’s enrollment, and Jews, who comprised 2.5% of the population comprised between one-fourth and one-third of Harvard’s student body.

As Buchanan puts it, the country’s native-born majority has relegated its own progeny to the trash bin of history.

Buchanan doesn’t address the question whether the rest of the world will miss white America. Considering the endless wars and astounding hypocrisy and immorality associated with white America since the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago, the world is likely to cheer when power slips from the hands of what Leonard Jeffries termed the “ice people,” that is, people without souls or feelings for others. Americans are so wrapped up in the myth of their “exceptionalism” that they are oblivious to the world’s opinion. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/11/the_myth_of_american_exceptionalism

American soft power, once a foundation of US influence, has been squandered, another reason the “superpower” status is crumbling.

Financial deregulation and the consequent financial crisis, collapse of the real estate market, and evictions of millions of Americans from their homes have greatly dimmed America’s economic prospects. However, as Buchanan points out, the offshoring of US jobs and industry under the guise of “free trade” has damaged the middle class, halted the growth in consumer purchasing power and left many college graduates without careers.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the Bush/Cheney years, America lost one-third of its manufacturing jobs. During this decade, Michigan lost 48% of its manufacturing jobs, New Jersey lost 39%, and New York and Ohio lost 38%.

During this decade, the US incurred trade deficits totaling $6.2 trillion, of which $3.8 trillion is in manufactured goods. In other words, imports of manufactured goods are a larger cause of the trade deficit than oil imports. Early in the decade the US lost its trade surplus in advanced technology products. In recent years the US has run up $300 billion in trade deficits in advanced technology products with China alone. As Macy Block’s site, Economy in Crisis, documents, foreigners have used their huge dollar earnings to buy up American companies, with the consequence that foreign earnings on US investments now exceed US earnings abroad, thus worsening the current account deficit.

Although Buchanan makes many points, this is not his best book. He becomes lost in old arguments that no longer make sense, such as the claim that the poor vote away the property of the rich, and he ignores the destruction of the US Constitution in the name of “the war on terror,” which has transformed the US into a police state.

Conservatives are stuck in the canard that democracy is a tool used by the poor to provide themselves with benefits at the expense of the rich. Buchanan cites statistics of those on welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and so on as evidence that the rich are being plundered. Yet, the facts are the opposite. The distribution of income has completely reversed since the 1960s.

In the 1960s, the top 1 percent received 11% of the income gains, and the bottom 90% received 65%, leaving 24% of income gains for the 9% of richest Americans just below the top 1%. In the first decade of the 21st century, these figures have reversed. The top 1% receive 65% of the income gains and the bottom 90% receive 12%, leaving 23% for those rich Americans in the 91-99 percentile.
http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=2908

If recent history (Yugoslavia, Soviet Empire) is a guide, Buchanan is probably correct that a country whose population consists of diverse ethnic and racial groups is less likely to share a common interest and enjoy political stability. However real this threat, it is not comparable to the threat to American identity of a destroyed Constitution.

The Bush/Cheney/Obama regimes have shredded the constitutional protections that gave American citizens their liberty. By dictate alone, the executive branch has acquired the power, prohibited by the Constitution, to incarcerate citizens indefinitely without presenting evidence and obtaining conviction. According to the US government, a secret executive branch panel now exists that has acquired from somewhere the unaccountable power to put citizens on a list to be assassinated without due process of law merely on the basis of an unproven government assertion. How does this differ from Stalinist Russia and Gestapo Germany?

The transformation of the US into a police state has been achieved quickly and with scant protest. Congress and the courts are silent. The media is silent, as are the law schools and bar associations. Out of 535 US Senators and Representatives, only Ron Paul has protested the destruction of liberty.

Buchanan is concerned that America might not survive until 2025. Instead, shouldn’t we be concerned that the American police state could last that long? Shouldn’t we be worried that the police state will survive yet another presidential election, or even one more day?

Police surveillance of Muslims set up with ‘no regard for law’

Police surveillance of Muslims set up with ‘no regard for law’

Police covered up counter-terrorism unit’s £3m camera operation which spied on Muslims in Birmingham

Paul Lewis

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 30 September 2010 21.54 BST

A secret police operation to place thousands of Muslims living in Birmingham under permanent surveillance was implemented with virtually no consultation, oversight or regard for the law, a report found today.

Project Champion was abandoned in June after an investigation by the Guardian revealed police had misled residents into believing that hundreds of counter-terrorism cameras installed in streets around Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath were to be used to combat vehicle crime and antisocial behaviour.

In fact, the £3m project was being run from the West Midlands police counter-terrorism unit with the consent of security officials at the Home Office and MI5.

The network of CCTV and automatic number plate reading (ANPR) cameras, which were weeks away from being switched on, were intended to monitor people entering and leaving the predominantly Muslim suburbs.

Revealing the findings of her damning report into the project, Sara Thornton, chief constable of Thames Valley police, revealed how:

• Police devised a “storyline” that concealed the true purpose of the cameras. Counter-terrorism insignia was removed from paperwork as part of a deliberate strategy to “market” the surveillance operation as a local policing scheme to improve community safety.

• Top police officers failed to ask questions about the operation’s “proportionality, legitimacy, authority, necessity, and the ethical values inherent in the proposed course of action”. The report documented 11 instances when “oversight” mechanisms offered limited or no scrutiny.

• Police assurances that security cameras would be used for local policing were highly misleading. Although ANPR data was to be shared on regional and national databases, the network was controlled by the counter-terrorism unit. There was “no local facility to view the cameras” and “nobody in place to monitor them”.

• Attempts by police to conceal the true purpose of the project caused “significant damage to community relations” in the West Midlands. One community leader was quoted as saying the project had “set relations back a decade”.

• Officers failed to comply with national CCTV regulations or conduct proper consultation. They did not obtain statutory clearance for the use of covert cameras and, Thornton said, there was “very little evidence” that police had even considered their legal obligations.

Sir Christopher Rose, the chief surveillance commissioner, confirmed in a statement that 29 covert cameras had been removed. Police had planned a total of 218 cameras in the area, 72 of which would be covert.

The West Midlands chief constable, Chris Simms, said in a statement that he fully accepted Thornton’s findings. “I am sorry that we got such an important issue so wrong and that it has had such a negative impact on our communities.”

His force has declined repeated requests for an interview with a senior officer since June. Today the force again declined to provide a senior officer to answer the Guardian’s questions.

There have been no resignations or disciplinary action over Project Champion. The West Midlands police authority, the force watchdog, is considering complaints from councillors who say they were misled by senior police officers.

Assistant chief constable Anil Patani, who had overall responsibility for Project Champion, is not known to have made any public statement about the fiasco. The project was removed from his command in July.

Thornton said the scheme was funded out of a counter-terrorism fund administered by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) as a direct response to the perceived concentration of terrorist threats in 2007. In their proposal police said they intended to place a surveillance “net” around two Birmingham neighbourhoods identified as containing a high proportion of terror suspects.

The bid for the funding was submitted in January 2008 and the following month the project received the backing of the police authority, which Thornton said failed to ask the obvious question: “Is this the right thing to do?”

In January 2009 the project was well underway and senior officers turned to public relations. Minutes from meetings chaired by Patani reveal officers decided to “formulate a narrative” that concentrated on tackling crime.

Seeking to find “a storyline on which to hang the project”, it was decided to remove the counter-terrorism “badge” from documentation. The logos were replaced with a new brand – the Safer Birmingham Parternship (SBP) – which was given nominal responsibility for the cameras.

Senior officers were aware of the dangers. “We are not going to install 150 plus cameras without questions being asked,” the officers noted.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity

White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 29, 2010; A01

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

The administration wants to add just four words — “electronic communication transactional records” — to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge’s approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user’s browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the “content” of e-mail or other Internet communication.

But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.

Stewart A. Baker, a former senior Bush administration Homeland Security official, said the proposed change would broaden the bureau’s authority. “It’ll be faster and easier to get the data,” said Baker, who practices national security and surveillance law. “And for some Internet providers, it’ll mean giving a lot more information to the FBI in response to an NSL.”

Many Internet service providers have resisted the government’s demands to turn over electronic records, arguing that surveillance law as written does not allow them to do so, industry lawyers say. One senior administration government official, who would discuss the proposed change only on condition of anonymity, countered that “most” Internet or e-mail providers do turn over such data.

To critics, the move is another example of an administration retreating from campaign pledges to enhance civil liberties in relation to national security. The proposal is “incredibly bold, given the amount of electronic data the government is already getting,” said Michelle Richardson, American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel.

The critics say its effect would be to greatly expand the amount and type of personal data the government can obtain without a court order. “You’re bringing a big category of data — records reflecting who someone is communicating with in the digital world, Web browsing history and potentially location information — outside of judicial review,” said Michael Sussmann, a Justice Department lawyer under President Bill Clinton who now represents Internet and other firms.

Privacy concerns
The use of the national security letters to obtain personal data on Americans has prompted concern. The Justice Department issued 192,500 national security letters from 2003 to 2006, according to a 2008 inspector general report, which did not indicate how many were demands for Internet records. A 2007 IG report found numerous possible violations of FBI regulations, including the issuance of NSLs without having an approved investigation to justify the request. In two cases, the report found, agents used NSLs to request content information “not permitted by the [surveillance] statute.”

One issue with both the proposal and the current law is that the phrase “electronic communication transactional records” is not defined anywhere in statute. “Our biggest concern is that an expanded NSL power might be used to obtain Internet search queries and Web histories detailing every Web site visited and every file downloaded,” said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has sued AT&T for assisting the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program.

He said he does not object to the government obtaining access to electronic records, provided it has a judge’s approval.

Senior administration officials said the proposal was prompted by a desire to overcome concerns and resistance from Internet and other companies that the existing statute did not allow them to provide such data without a court-approved order. “The statute as written causes confusion and the potential for unnecessary litigation,” Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said. “This clarification will not allow the government to obtain or collect new categories of information, but it seeks to clarify what Congress intended when the statute was amended in 1993.”

The administration has asked Congress to amend the statute, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, in the fiscal year that begins in October.

Administration officials noted that the act specifies in one clause that Internet and other companies have a duty to provide electronic communication transactional records to the FBI in response to a national security letter.

But the next clause specifies only four categories of basic subscriber data that the FBI may seek: name, address, length of service and toll billing records. There is no reference to electronic communication transactional records.

Same as phone records?

U.K. to monitor, store all social-network traffic?

U.K. to monitor, store all social-network traffic?

by Tom Espiner, 18 March 2009, CNET

The U.K. government is considering the mass surveillance and retention of all user communications on social-networking sites, including Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo.

Vernon Coaker the U.K. Home Office security minister, on Monday said the EU Data Retention Directive, under which Internet service providers must store communications data for 12 months, does not go far enough. Communications such as those on social-networking sites and via instant-messaging services could also be monitored, he said.

“Social-networking sites such as MySpace or Bebo are not covered by the directive,” said Coaker, speaking at a meeting of the House of CommonsFourth Delegated Legislation Committee. “That is one reason why the government (is) looking at what we should do about the Intercept(ion) Modernisation Programme, because there are certain aspects of communications which are not covered by the directive.”

Under the EU Data Retention Directive, from March 15, 2009, all U.K. ISPs are required to store customer traffic data for a year. The Interception Modernisation Programme, or IMP, is a government proposal, introduced last year, for legislation to use mass monitoring of traffic data as an antiterrorism tool.

The IMP has two objectives: that the government use deep-packet inspection to monitor the Web communications of all U.K. citizens; and that all of the traffic data relating to those communications are stored in a centralized government database.

The U.K. government has previously said communications interception is “vital” and has hinted that social-networking sites may be put under surveillance. And responding to a question from Liberal Democrat Parliament member Tom Brake, Coaker said all traffic data on social-networking sites and through instant-messaging services may be harvested and stored.

 

 

ID cards could be used for mass surveillance system

ID cards could be used for mass surveillance system

By Marie Woolf, Chief Political Correspondent
The Independent, 18 August 2005

The Government is creating a system of “mass public surveillance” capable of tracking every adult in Britain without their consent, MPs say. They warn that people who have never committed a crime can be “electronically monitored” without their knowledge.

Biometric facial scans, which will be compulsory with ID cards, are to be put on a national database which can then be matched with images from CCTV. The database of faces will enable police and security services to track individuals regardless of whether they have broken the law.

CCTV surveillance footage from streets, shops and even shopping centres could be cross-referenced with photographs of every adult in the UK once the ID cards Bill becomes law. Biometric facial scans, iris scans and fingerprints of all adults in the UK will be stored on a national database. Civil liberties groups say the plans are a “dangerous” threat to people’s privacy.

Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said the plans were being brought in by the Government without informing the public. “A new system capable of mass public surveillance is being created with no public debate. The arrival of CCTV cameras which can recognise you and track you without your knowledge means we are stepping into an unknown future,” he said.

The monitoring will be possible using the country’s four million CCTV cameras – more than any country in the world. Images could be swiftly cross-referenced with the database.

Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, has said that the “facial images national database should be operational by December 2006”.

The technology is already used by the police to check for offenders, and for football hooligans. Casinos use it to spot VIPs and to check for gamblers they have barred.

The Home Office said the police would only check a person against the National Identity Register to investigate a specific crime. “The police may request information from the National Identity Register without an individual’s consent [or knowledge] if it is necessary for the prevention of further offences or establishing who committed the crime they are investigating,” said a spokeswoman. “An internal authorisation process would operate … so that only officers of a specified rank could apply for information.”

 

Canadian Muslims harassed and intimidated by security forces

CAIR-CAN (Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations)

Presumption of Guilt: A National Survey on Security Visitations of Canadian Muslims

Executive Summary

Since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the Canadian Muslim community has been placed under a national security spotlight. Many Canadian Muslims have been visited by security officials – the RCMP, CSIS and police – and some reports indicate troubling tactics being used. To document those tactics, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) has conducted a national survey on the issue.

(…)

Troubling Tactics

Many of the narratives of those who were contacted indicate a trend of troubling tactics on the part of security officials.

Such tactics include discouraging legal representation, aggressive and threatening behaviour, threats of arrest pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism Act, visits at work, intrusive and irrelevant questioning, improper identification, informant solicitation and the interrogation of a minor.

The whole report is posted on:
http://www.caircan.ca/downloads/POG-08062005.pdf

Draconian New Police Powers

Draconian New Police Powers

MEDIA RELEASE
13 November 2009

The PILCH Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic (HPLC) has slammed the introduction of legislation that will give police the power to conduct random strip searches in the street and may be used to prevent people from spending time with friends and family in public spaces.

Yesterday, Victorian Minister Peter Batchelor introduced legislation to the parliament that:

  • provides police with random search powers (including strip searches) in designated areas;
  • gives police the power to direct people to move-on from a certain area;
  • includes a new offence of disorderly conduct; and
  • increases penalties for the new offence of disorderly conduct and for existing offences of ‘drunk and disorderly’ and ‘drunk’.

‘The government’s laws are a serious breach of Victorians’ human rights, and the evidence shows that similar laws just don’t work to prevent crime,’ said James Farrell, Manager/Principal Lawyer of the HPLC.

There is no empirical evidence to show that ‘move-on’ legislation does actually result in reductions in crime rates in Australia or internationally. However, evidence suggests that zero tolerance policing methods such as ‘move-on’ powers tend to either divert people to other geographical locations with a lesser police presence, or divert them into the commission of more serious criminal activity.

‘Rather than pretending to be tough on crime by introducing ineffective measures, government should base policies on sound evidence that will improve community safety and outcomes for individuals,’ said Mr Farrell.

Similar laws have been introduced in NSW and Queensland. Police use of these powers in these states has been largely ineffectual in preventing and targeting crime. A 1999 NSW Ombudsman’s report found that the laws were largely misunderstood by police, who consistently went beyond the scope of the laws.

Mr Farrell also warned that the experience elsewhere shows that the powers have been applied in a discriminatory way to some of our most vulnerable community members, including people who are homeless, young people and people suffering from mental illness and indigenous people. ‘Homeless people occupy public spaces out of necessity and will be disproportionately impacted by move-on powers due to their lack of secure housing,’ Mr Farrell said.

Mr Farrell also criticized the government’s failure to release a statement of compatibility of the new legislation– a requirement under the Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights. This statement would advise parliament of potential human rights breaches in the legislation. ‘Victoria is the first Australian state to introduce legislative protections for human rights, and this legislation clearly breaches those rights,’ said Mr Farrell. ‘We have a right to movement, to freedom of association, to freedom of expression. These rights will be severely curtailed by this legislation, and the measures can’t be justified. Experience shows that they just won’t work.’

‘The Brumby Government wants to be seen to be tough on crime, but these new measures are weak on protecting our community. The government should adopt smart justice approaches that recognise genuine community safety is really about education, health, housing and human rights.’

Ends.

Contact

James Farrell
Manager/Principal Lawyer, HPLC
(03) 8636 4408
James.farrell@pilch.org.au 

Anger over broadened police powers to search people

Anger over broadened police powers to search people

Jessica Craven
http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/article/2009/12/18/132511_news.html 

A GEELONG lawyer has slammed new laws that allow police to search people in designated public areas as an “outrageous breach of human rights”.

The laws, which came into effect on Wednesday, give police sweeping powers to search people at random, including strip searches.

James Farrell, who works for pro-bono legal organisation PILCH, said evidence showed such laws did nothing to prevent crime.

“Rather than pretending to be tough on crime by introducing ineffective measures, government should base policies on sound evidence that will improve community safety and outcomes for individuals,” he said.

Under the legislation:

POLICE can search anybody in a “designated area” even if officers do not have any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing and can proceed to a strip search if the circumstances warrant it.

ANY area where there has been an incident of violence involving a weapon in the past year can be deemed a designated area; as can any place where police suspect there may be trouble; or any major event precinct.

A NEW offence of disorderly conduct has been created, with $234 on-the-spot fines.

Mr Farrell said the legislation included provisions to strip search minors in “mystery” designated areas.

“There was a bit of a misconception around that these places were going to be advertised and seven days notice given, but there is provision in the legislation that they do not have to be advertised,” he said. “So you can be walking down the street in front of your house and be asked to undergo a search.”

Police and Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron said laws enabling searches for weapons had been strengthened to help protect police.

“All these new laws provide the police with pre-emptive tools designed to diffuse situations and deter unacceptable behaviour so Victorians can safely enjoy public places in peace,” he said.

“These critical new reforms will boost Victoria Police’s ability to deal with drunkenness, disorder in public places and violence.”

Mr Farrell said the legislation included hefty new fines for the “vague” new offence of disorderly conduct and for existing offences of drunk and disorderly and drunk.

“We can now be slogged $234 for walking home from the pub,” he said.

“The new offence of disorderly conduct is not defined and relies upon the subjective and arbitrary judgment of individual police officers.”

Increased police powers in Australia

Increased police powers in Australia

http://www.pilch.org.au/Page.aspx”ID=353

PILCH is a leading Victorian (Australia), not-for-profit organisation which is committed to furthering the public interest, improving access to justice and protecting human rights. PILCH does this by facilitating the provision of pro bono legal services and undertaking law reform, policy work and legal education.

On 12 November 2009, the Victorian government introduced new legislation which drastically increases police powers to deal with public space ‘offenders’. 

The Summary Offences and Control of Weapons Acts Amendment Bill will:

  • provide police with random search powers (including strip searches) in designated areas;
  • give police the power to direct people to move-on from a certain area;
  • create a new offence of ‘disorderly conduct’; and
  • give police power to impose fines and issue arrests for drunk or disorderly conduct.

These powers do not contain sufficient protections to ensure that the powers are exercised appropriately. Such broad police power have been introduced in other Australian states, and a 1999 NSW Ombudsman’s report found such laws to be largely misunderstood by police, who would often acted beyond the scope of the laws.

Additionally, there is a complete lack of empirical evidence, both domestically and internationally, demonstrating any correlation between the granting of these draconian police powers and reducing crime rates. In fact, available evidence suggests that such ‘zero tolerance’ policing methods tend to divert people to places without police presence or divert them into the commission of more serious crimes.

The HPLC warns that such policy will also prove to be discriminatory in effect. In particular, people experiencing homelessness will be targeted by this legislation since, without secure housing, many are forced to carry out basic daily living activities in public spaces. However, young community members, those suffering mental illness and indigenous people will also be disproportionately affected by this legislation.

The legislation threatens to contravene the human rights laid out in the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (Charter) and international law, including freedom of movement, association and expression. Whilst the Charter permits human rights violations where it is proportionate and justified, the Government has conceded that the discretionary nature of the police powers granted and the severity of proposed penalties cannot be justified.

The HPLC proposes an alternative plan of action in order to responsibly respond to criminal activity within the community that focuses on education, health and housing approaches.

Truth – Justice – Peace