Category Archives: U.K.

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”.

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

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

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.”

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

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.”

 

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