Couldn’t make it up: Tribunal dealing with complaints against MI5/GCHQ is housed in Home Office!

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, passed in 2000, one of the most insidious Acts of Parliament in modern times, set up a tribunal with the power to investigate any complaints against MI5, MI6 or GCHQ, including complaints about surveillance activities of the police or any other public bodies. Very little at first was heard about this Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), and it was only the Snowden revelations that have brought to light how farcical those arrangements are and how contemptuous the Establishment is about the independence, integrity and effectiveness of the system for holding to account one of the most secret and potentially wayward powers within the State. Continue reading

Bugging and surveillance – a cause for concern

Car bugBugging devices in all shapes and forms, tracking devices to monitor movement, and remote controlled surveillance cameras were all an integral part of the British government’s war in the north. Over the years they were found in the homes of republican activists, under floor boards and cabinets, attached to wooden beams in attics, and hidden in the insides of cars.

In the years since the war ended the surveillance war has continued. It has become ever more sophisticated. Now according to some reports they can even bug your clothes. The information released by whistleblower Edward Snowden is evidence of the extent to which states and their agencies will go to spy on their citizens and on their allies, as well as their enemies. It’s all about information and information is power. Continue reading

Outrage in the US and EU over total surveillance: why not in the UK?

The different reaction of politicians and public in the US and EU compared with the UK over the mass surveillance revelations is astonishing. Legislation is being drafted at this very moment in the US curtailing the powers of the NSA and the EU is already cracking down hard on US data surveillance.

In the UK, after a persistent and well-documented campaign by the Guardian, the only concession is a minuscule tweak in the work programme of the secret PM-appointed Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) to give an appearance of taking on board public concerns, but in reality offering a sop via a pre-cooked committee which will get nowhere. Continue reading

Time for a public inquiry into mass surveillance

Public InquiryThe role of Parliament is to hold the Executive (Government) to account and the role of the media is to prevent the abuse of power and to provide a mechanism of accountability where that fails. Are they at present fulfilling that role? Neither is. And both have failed at the critical point where today the development of extraordinarily powerful new communication technologies have far exceeded the capability of current instruments to apply effective oversight. The nursery story hitherto has been that for MI5/6 to target an individual or group, they had to get a warrant from the Home Secretary.

The truth is, and has been for some time already, that the NSA in the US via the Prism programme and GCHQ in the UK via the Tempora programme have mutually acquired the capability to hoover up untold vast quantities of personal data from the undersea cables that carry internet data in and out of the UK on a colossal scale, and without any check or accountability at all. Continue reading

Security services take big step closer to full State surveillance

The government has quietly agreed to European measures that will open the gates to full-scale surveillance by the State. The current Communications and Data Bill now going through Parliament won’t, according to the Home Office, allow access to the content of phone calls, emails, texts or social media, but the government has at the same time now accepted new procedures proposed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) which will enable MI5/MI6 to intercept online communications. Continue reading