Category Archives: Security

No prosecutions over Hancock kiss photo leak – because someone wanted him out?

You go for Klimt but you get Munch: Matt Hancock’s social distance-breaking kiss was compared to Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ but apparently the colour makes it more reminiscent of Munch’s ‘The Scream’. Many women may understand that sensation.

Isn’t it odd that arrangements can be made to leak images of an embarrassing Cabinet minister in a compromising situation – but it’s impossible to find the culprit(s)?

Someone apparently used a mobile phone to take images of then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock kissing his long-time friend and then-aide Gina Coladangelo, from CCTV camera images taken at the Department of Health on May 6, 2021.

It has been alleged that the camera had to be moved in order to be able to take the image, although it would be beyond This Writer’s powers to secure proof of whether that was true.

The images were handed to The Sun the following month and Hancock resigned as Health Secretary on June 27. He subsequently separated from his wife, with whom he has three children, and moved in with Ms Coladangelo.

It was one of those instances in which the end justified the means; Hancock was a disgrace as Health Secretary, presiding over many tens of thousands of preventable Covid-19 deaths because he was more interested in handing huge contracts to Tory cronies for equipment they were never going to supply. And did the government ever get any of that money back?

But it is also true that someone breached the security of a government department, and it was right that a criminal investigation should have been launched – although I question why the Information Commissioner’s Office carried it out and not the police.

Logically, the location of the security office to which the CCTV cameras feed was sent would have been known. And the names of personnel staffing that office would also have been known. So only a small number of people could have been suspects.

I wonder whether they were employed by a private security firm? If so, that’s another black mark against the privatisation that the Tories love so much.

The ICO said checks of mobile phones owned by the suspects revealed no evidence of relevant CCTV footage. Did they contain other footage, then? What are these security people doing with images taken from cameras – and is taking images off camera footage a widespread practice?

This Writer’s experience suggests law enforcement agencies are able to find evidence, even if it has been erased from a mobile phone’s memory, so I wonder whether any of the suspects had a new phone? Wouldn’t that be suspicious? It’s possible the phone used to take the image(s) was left with The Sun, isn’t it?

It seems there were a few avenues of investigation to explore – but it also seems that the political will to find the culprits simply wasn’t there.

Maybe I’m doing the ICO a disservice. Maybe we simply haven’t been told about every stage of the investigation.

Or maybe those responsible for leaking the image(s) served their purpose and that’s why they have been able to disappear without a trace? Nothing would surprise This Writer, as far as Boris Johnson’s government is concerned.

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Boris Johnson accused – again – of being a national security risk

Bunga bunga? Boris Johnson – at a party – with a Russian oligarch (this one is industrialist Alexander Temerko). At the time, Johnson didn’t think there was any reason to investigate Russian influence in UK politics. Now, he simply won’t answer questions about these associations.

Here’s a welcome humorous interlude before we all try to get to grips with Rishi Sunak’s rubbish spring statement.

After Labour’s Matt Western scored a hit last week, asking what attracted Boris Johnson to billionaire Russian oligarchs, he returned to ask why MI6 considers Johnson such a security risk.

The prime ministers response was… well, see for yourself. It wasn’t an answer!

Is this really the ‘skeleton’ in Johnson’s closet that Williamson is being knighted to hide?

‘Keep your mouth shut and there’ll be a knighthood in it for you,’ Johnson could be saying here. But it seems Gavin Williamson couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Did he say anything worth knowing?

The announcement that Boris Johnson was giving double Cabinet failure Gavin Williamson a knighthood has prompted a wave of speculation about what the real reason for it might be.

This Site has already published an article about it. Nobody believes the award is for “services to the public and to politics”.

Now it seems that investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr may have uncovered at least one reason for it – and it refers to Johnson’s links with Russia.

She has published her evidence in a Twitter thread that you can find here. For brevity, I’ll refer to a summary from Yorkshire Bylines, which states:

Cadwalladr explains as follows:

Williamson was appointed secretary of state for defence on 2 November 2017, shortly after the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed it was investigating suspected Russian assets/agents operating in London, some of whom had met with Foreign Office officials, including Boris Johnson, then foreign secretary, and Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud, who had been accused of being the link between Russia and the Trump campaign. Johnson subsequently denied meeting Mifsud, until a photograph emerged.

Cadwalladr had previously been writing about Russian connections to Brexit and the Conservative Party. On 4 November 2017, she reported that the Observer had been told by a British intelligence officer that “The entire city (of London) is a nest of spies … There’s more espionage activity here now than there was even at the height of the cold war”.

She maintains that she subsequently received information that a person “high up in government” rang Richard Tice, founder of the Vote Leave Campaign and director of the Brexit (now Reform) Party, with some information to pass onto his political journalist partner, Isabel Oakeshott.

Oakeshott’s statement was that “I am in no doubt that [Leave.EU campaigners] [Arron] Banks and [Andy] Wigmore have been acting as agents of influence for the Russian state… The material clearly shows that they discussed Brexit and personal enrichment opportunities with senior Russian officials. They met several times with men they knew to be members of Russian intelligence services and passed them sensitive documents. They claim to be patriots, but when the UK and Russia had a political dispute, they publicly and privately supported the Russian position.”

Ms Cadwalladr then tweeted that the “source believed that person who tipped off Tice about Banks’s Russian connections was…drum roll…Gavin Williamson, then sec of defence”.

She explains that there are still areas of this situation that are opaque to the British people, but what we do know is that the FBI’s investigation came to London, that key individuals and organisations were based here, and that one of these individuals was Johnson “knee deep in Russian connections and money”. And indeed, May seems to have responded directly to this information with her ‘we know what you are doing, Russia’ speech.

The article concludes:

Williamson appears to be in possession of information that the prime minister does not want to appear in the press at the time the western world sits aghast with horror at the actions of the Russian state. If he will not answer questions on this point, the question for the British people is clear: do we really want a government that works in this clearly corrupt manner? And if we don’t, what are we going to do about it?

This Writer has not seen the documents that apparently induced Ms Oakeshott to say that Arron Banks and Andy Wigmore were working for Russia.

And there is no readily-apparent connection between the claims about them and any Russian influence on Johnson.

But there is enough here to justify an investigation into whether these named people were connected with – or influenced by – Russian agents (or were agents of Russia themselves).

What does Williamson know? And does it in fact relate to Boris Johnson?

What about Banks and Wigmore? Are the allegations correct? If not, then why were lies released to a journalist, and what made her believe them? If so, then it is important for their involvement to be revealed, along with the names of anybody they know to be part of this apparent web of intrigue.

Did Russia hijack the UK’s referendum on membership of the EU in order to weaken this country and Europe?

And if Boris Johnson is one of those involved, it is vital that we know the facts.

Because – if true – then this is potentially treason.

Source: The Russia connection: defying gravity, reality … and treason?

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Raab was wrong: process that made Lebedev a peer can be easily perverted

Dominic Raab: as Foreign Secretary, he refused to return from a foreign holiday when the Taliban took over Afghanistan – and the public reacted appropriately. Should we really expect his comments on Lord Lebedev to be any more reliable than his reaction to that crisis?

We should not be surprised that Dominic Raab has emitted a flurry of falsehoods in defence of Evgeny Lebedev’s elevation to the House of Lords.

His prime minister, Boris Johnson, has been accused of creating a security risk to the UK by letting the son of a former Russian KGB agent have access to Parliamentary documents via the front door.

So Raab appeared on the BBC’s Sunday Morning Programme spouting a lot of nonsense that “There is a very strict and stringent process when anyone is granted a peerage” and that the rules around the honours process were “applied very rigorously in this case. This was done properly and correctly and we have procedures and systems in place to make sure it is.”

It is possible that he was right in all these statements but they are nonsense because the procedures he described do not prevent people who are a huge security risk from being granted a peerage.

We know about this because The Guardian told us, back in October 2020 [boldings mine]:

Two days before Johnson met Lebedev in March [he did this on March 19, right after telling us all to stay in our homes because of Covid-19, so this happened on March 17], the House of Lords appointments commission (Holac), which scrutinises all nominations, wrote to the prime minister. It is understood to have expressed concerns about Lebedev’s proposed peerage and asked Downing Street to reconsider.

The commission, made up of cross-party peers, carries out “propriety checks” on candidates. It does not have the power of veto. But it can suggest that a party come up with an alternative, which is what is understood to have happened in Lebedev’s case.

Peers were apparently alarmed following a confidential briefing from the UK security services. They told the commission Lebedev was viewed as a potential security risk because of his father, Alexander Lebedev, a one-time Moscow spy. During the late cold war period, Lebedev Sr worked undercover at the Soviet embassy in London. His real employer was KGB foreign intelligence.

In reality, the security risk has been defined as low – because peers do not see classified documents.

But in reluctantly accepting Johnson’s insistence on ennobling the Russian-born son of a spy, Holac allegedly called on Johnson to examine Russian influence in the House of Lords, something highlighted by parliament’s intelligence and security committee in its Russia Report.

And the security services said Lebedev’s “family links” meant he was still regarded as a potential concern.

So Keir Starmer’s call for Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee to review all the reports on Lord Lebedev that Holac saw seemed entirely reasonable and proportionate.

Downing Street’s claim that “all peerages are vetted by the House of Lords Appointments Commission” fails to acknowledge that Holac can’t veto an appointment, which always remains within the gift of the prime minister. Neither does Raab’s.

So these government representatives, it seems, are deceiving us about their treatment of a potential Russian security risk at a time of high international tensions between the UK and Russia. Fit to lead?

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If this is true, why are we sending a known security risk to negotiate with the Russian premier?

Boris Johnson: he’s wondering what he did with those pretty pink ‘Top Secret’ documents. He knows he had them out, but then everybody came round to the flat for some drinkies and now… (possibly).

Apparently Boris Johnson is hoping to salvage his reputation by trying to be the peacemaker between Russia and Ukraine.

He’s going to call Russian President Vladimir Putin, then visit the disputed region over the next few days, according to the mass media (this is from Sky News).

Some are saying this is an attempt to escape the stigma of Partygate and its allegations of irresponsible behaviour in Downing Street.

But Partygate is casting a very long shadow, it seems. Consider the following thread from Tim Shipman of The Times:

If this is right, then we’re sending, as negotiator, a man who habitually leaves the UK’s most important secrets lying around in full view of his wife’s friends and anybody else who happens to be around at the time.

For this reason (among many others, but this alone should be enough) I think Clare Hepworth is right to address Johnson as follows:

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‘Chinese agent’ dead cat falls flat for Tories as it turns out she has donated to them

Political influence: Christine Lee has been donating money to the Conservatives for many years, and has been seen with David Cameron (pictured), Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

Remember this sideshow from last week?

The claim was that Christine Lee had been influencing Labour MP Barry Gardiner with donations, while her son was working in his office – but Mr Gardiner swiftly and efficiently killed the allegation:

So all the donations were legitimate, MI5 knew about Lee and was kept informed about her by Mr Gardiner’s office, and there is no evidence to suggest that her son had anything to do with the matter.

MI5 appears to have confirmed this:

More concerning is Ms Lee’s connection with another political organisation… The Conservative Party.

Here she is in close contact with former prime minister David Cameron:

And now here’s a tweet that proved prophetic:

This is the reason:

Apparently she has been backing the Tories for quite a while too. That’s probably the reason the amount she has handed them seems to fluctuate.

Yes indeed:

Possibly the funniest observation of all (although not from the Tory point of view) is this:

And, in the name of political balance, the sharpest comment is this:

So we see that a tactic intended to smear the Labour Party with allegations of corruption and possible treason, to distract from the Downing Street parties scandal, has backfired in Boris Johnson’s face – and now it is his Tories who must face the same claims.

I look forward to seeing them explain their way out of this one.

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‘WHAT?’ Even Theresa May is shocked by Gove’s flapdoodle about post-Brexit security

Bewilderment: Theresa May actually said, “What?” in the middle of Michael Gove’s answer to her question, it made so little sense.

If you saw Theresa May’s reaction to Michael Gove in Parliament this afternoon (October 19), you might have had a lot of sympathy for her.

The former prime minister spent her entire term in office wrestling with the problems raised by Brexit, so when Gove’s responded to a serious question about security with a mouthful of bafflegab, it’s no wonder she did what she did.

She had asked: “The government appears resigned to the prospect of no deal, yet one area in which they should not be resigned to the prospect of no deal is in security. I note that my Right Honourable friend made no mention of security in his statement this afternoon, and the prime minister made no reference to security in his letter to Parliamentarians on 16th October. So will my Rt Hon friend confirm that if the UK walks away with no deal, then our police and other law enforcement agencies will no longer have the necessary access to databases such as PNR, in order to be able to continue to identify and catch criminals and potential terrorists in order to keep us safe?”

Here’s the response – and her reaction:

Let’s have that reaction again:

Gove had not answered her question so she was right to react in that way – and it’s reasonable for you to sympathise with that reaction…

… as long as you remember everything Owen Jones mentions here:

Some people have taken to criticising him lately but when he’s right, he’s right.

The message is right – shame about the messenger.

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UK’s coronavirus ‘test and trace’ system is as much a shambles as previous measures

Test and trace: testing can’t be done everywhere in the UK yet, and the information from those tests, along with that for contact tracing, is not secure.

There’s an old adage: “start as you mean to go on”. It seems with Covid-19 that the Tory government has taken it to heart – it started badly, and has got worse.

Plans to trace people who have been in contact with others who have caught the disease have been in disarray since February, when initial attempts to trace Covid-19 contacts were called off.

The Johnson administration tried resorting to technology, with a contact-tracing app for mobile phones that it has been testing on the Isle of Wight.

But the system, developed in co-operation with private contractors, has caused such controversy that many have refused to have anything to do with it.

It has wide-ranging security flaws that allow the data collected by the app to be used for purposes other than those for which it was collected.

The researchers detail seven different problems they found with the app.

They include:

  • weaknesses in the registration process that could allow attackers to steal encryption keys, which would allow them to prevent users being notified if a contact tested positive for Covid-19 and/or generate spoof transmissions to create logs of bogus contact events
  • storing unencrypted data on handsets that could potentially be used by law enforcement agencies to determine when two or more people met
  • generating a new random ID code for users once a day rather than once every 15 minutes as is the case in a rival model developed by Google and Apple. The longer gap theoretically makes it possible to determine if a user is having an affair with a work colleague or meeting someone after work, it is suggested

Apparently the information is currently downloaded to a centralised database, where it could be leaked or otherwise abused.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said on Monday a new law to protect people “is not needed because the Data Protection Act will do the job” and NHSX – the health service’s digital innovation unit – has said using the centralised model will both make it easier to improve the app over time and trigger alerts based on people’s self-diagnosed symptoms rather than just medical test results.

They don’t seem to have our interests at heart, really, do they?

Management of the app is planned to be outsourced to a private firm in the middle of June, according to contract details released by NHSX, and computer engineers working in other European countries and the Far East will have access to the app as part of a troubleshooting role agreed between the NHS and the Swiss firm.

A new, manual test-and-trace regime was introduced across the UK on May 28 but it, too, has problems.

For a start, it has been revealed that personal information collected by both the manual system and the app will be kept for 20 years.

We can ask for it to be deleted, but we are not being given the right to demand it.

And the website explaining what will happen to our data seems to have been either rushed out so that it is riddled with mistakes, or deliberately written to contain terminology that has no legal meaning in the UK.

So, for example, it states that our “personal identifiable information” (a US legal concept) is “governed by the GDPR” (a UK / European law). The phrase is therefore meaningless.

And This Writer has heard that the manual system is not running in some parts of the UK, where the NHS was not ready to roll it out.

So if anybody caught it in London and then travelled to a part of the country that isn’t running test-and-trace (let’s suggest purely for the sake of example, Durham) then the information would be lost and it is possible that infected people would be missed.

These problems are not going to go away.

We have a flawed system that does not cover the whole nation and that seems designed to create problems going forward for years to come. It is typical of the Tories cack-handed attitude to the whole Covid-19 crisis.

Source: Coronavirus: Test and trace system will start on Thursday – BBC News

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Grayling put in charge of intelligence committee – we live in an age of Orwellian doublespeak

Chris Grayling: He’s as clever as he looks.

This announcement makes it extremely unlikely that we’ll ever see the so-called ‘Russia report’ on interference by that country’s government in UK politics:

Chris Grayling has been named as Downing Street’s choice to head the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), that is responsible for publishing the report.

It’s further proof that the Conservative government has adopted George Orwell’s concept of “doublethink” – the acceptance of two diametrically-opposed concepts at the same time.

Why else would they put a dimwit of Grayling’s magnitude in charge of an intelligence committee?

The Russian interference report has been ready to be published since the end of October 2019, but was delayed when the election was called, and then subsequently delayed again until the ISC reconvened.

So it’s already five months late.

With Grayling in charge, that report may never see the light of day.

The choice has provoked fury, even from Conservative MPs.

But here’s a thing: If they kick up a fuss that delays the committee from reconvening, won’t that set publication of the ‘Russia report’ back even further? Is that what Boris Johnson wants?

Source: Chris Grayling set to head up committee in charge of releasing Russian intelligence report | Latest Brexit news and top stories | The New European

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