Tag Archives: Investigatory Powers Act

If the Snoopers’ Charter allows the state to lie in court, how can the innocent foil it?

161207-aav-snoopers-charter-lie-in-court

[Image: Another Angry Voice.]

I wonder if there is a simple way around this.

Under UK law, the prosecution must provide full disclosure of its evidence to the defence.

Why not simply ask prosecuting solicitors or barristers how they obtained it?

If s.56 of the Investigatory Powers Act demands that lawyers must lie about how they got it – or, alternatively, I suppose they could say they are not at liberty to divulge that information – then the defence may disprove the case by showing that it was impossible for the state to know what it claims except by spying.

There would be no need to make any suggestion that spying had happened; all the defence has to do is show that the information could not have been obtained any other way.

With no legal ability to reveal how the information came into its hands, the Prosecution would have no way to prove that the evidence was factually accurate.

Am I mistaken?

It turns out that the Snoopers’ Charter has enshrined Parallel Construction into UK law, which means that agents of the state will be allowed to tell lies in court in order to secure convictions, and furthermore it bans anyone from questioning those lies.

The relevant part of the Investigatory Powers Act is Section 56. The section is written in the usual kind of impenetrable language used in government legislation. I’m going to spell out in simple English what section 56 legislates. If you want to cross-reference my layman’s explanation with the actual wording of the act, click the green link above.

  • 56 (1) In British courtrooms and Inquiries it is now forbidden to make disclosures that would 

(a) reveal that evidence was obtained by spying.

(b) suggest that spying has ever been going on, may have been going on, or may go on in the future.

  • 56 (2) Details all of the actions that are defined as spying (“Interception-related content”)
  • 56 (3) A list of people who people who are able to act as spies, which includes police chiefs, spy chiefs, the head of HMRC, the head of the defence staff, the heads of non-British agencies with whom the British government is sharing information, any person holding office under the crown, anyone working for the police, anyone working for HMRC, anyone working for a postal service, anyone working for a telecommunications provider, anyone working as a subcontractor for a postal service or telecommunications company.
  • 56 (4) Retroactive clauses to prevent the prosecution of people who were doing this kind of spying unlawfully before the Snoopers’ Charter became law in November 2016.

Section 56 of the Snoopers’ Charter is really alarming stuff because it creates a legal obligation on prosecutors to lie in court about how their surveillance-related evidence was obtained, and it also prevents defence lawyers from presenting proof that evidence was obtained by spying, or even suggesting that the evidence might have been obtained by spying.

Some people have tried to suggest that this legislation weakens the prosecution position by creating doubts over whether they are telling the truth or not, but any defence lawyer who ever tried to even point out the section 56 legislation that obligates the prosecution to lie in court about the sources of their evidence would be in breech of section 56 (1) (b) for suggesting that spying could have been going on.

Aside from the Snoopers’ Charter creating legal obligations for witnesses to lie in court, and gagging defence lawyers, section 56 is also deeply concerning because of the retroactive clauses.

Source: The Snoopers’ Charter allows the state to lie in court

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If MPs exempted themselves from the Snoopers’ Charter, isn’t that corruption?

[Image: @richard_littler/Twitter.]

[Image: @richard_littler/Twitter.]

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” That was the mantra chanted by Theresa May and her followers as the Investigatory Powers Act (also known as the Snoopers’ Charter) made its way through Parliament.

The news article quoted below indicates that MPs clearly considered that they did have something to hide, as they clamoured to exempt themselves from scrutiny under the Act.

That indicates corrupt intentions, to This Writer at least.

I’ve been trying to find out whether this amendment was voted through, and which MPs supported it if it was.

Can anybody provide useful information?

The only amendment to the government’s sweeping new spying bill so far made by politicians is to stop them from being spied on.

The Investigatory Powers Bill – sometimes referred to as Snoopers’ Charter 2 – has been criticised by experts and tech companies, as well as by the government’s own watchdogs. But politicians have so far submitted only one amendment as it makes its way through parliament on its way into law, The Next Web reports.

As the law is currently written, it requires that the Prime Minister must be consulted if a warrant is to be issued allowing for the monitoring of an MP’s communications.

But the new amendment proposes that those requests must also go to the Speaker of the House of Commons, The Next Web points out. That is the only change so far submitted by politicians.

Source: Snoopers’ Charter: Only amendment politicians have submitted to controversial bill is to stop MPs being spied on | The Independent

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If you want to avoid Snoopers’ Charter scrutiny, look out; most VPN services are terrible

[Image: @richard_littler/Twitter.]

[Image: @richard_littler/Twitter.]

Typical.

Only days after I write an article saying Virtual Private Networks are the best way to avoid scrutiny by the government under its newly-approved Snoopers’ Charter, someone chimes in to say that they’re rubbish.

I’d normally say that is a business opportunity for someone, but in this case it seems they would need to be based outside the UK, in order to avoid falling under the jurisdiction of the Snoopers’ Charter themselves.

I don’t have anything against foreign nationals creating a decent service and offering it to UK citizens; it’s just that it won’t directly benefit the UK’s economy.

Anyway, you’d best read the information for yourself: Most VPN Services are Terrible · GitHub. The gist is:

My TL;DR advice: Roll your own and use Algo or Streisand. For messaging & voice, use Signal. For increasing anonymity, use Tor Browser for desktop, and Onion Browser for mobile.

Does anyone else have an opinion?

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It is still possible to protect your privacy from the government. Here’s how to do it

internet-surveillance

Do you have any idea who’ll be able to look at your browsing history soo?

After the Snoopers’ Charter – sorry, the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 – receives Royal Assent, your web history for up to a year will become available to almost 50 police forces and government departments. They’ll be able to see which sites and internet messaging apps you visited and used – but won’t know which pages you saw.

Police and intelligence agencies will be able to hack into your computer and access its data, and can order Communication Service Providers (CSPs) to help them with this – and it will be an offence for a CSP or an employee of one to reveal that your data has been requested.

Here’s the list of organisations that can view your history, courtesy of this site:

  • Metropolitan police force
  • City of London police force
  • Police forces maintained under section 2 of the Police Act 1996
  • Police Service of Scotland
  • Police Service of Northern Ireland
  • British Transport Police
  • Ministry of Defence Police
  • Royal Navy Police
  • Royal Military Police
  • Royal Air Force Police
  • Security Service
  • Secret Intelligence Service
  • GCHQ
  • Ministry of Defence
  • Department of Health
  • Home Office
  • Ministry of Justice
  • National Crime Agency
  • HM Revenue & Customs
  • Department for Transport
  • Department for Work and Pensions
  • NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England that provide ambulance services
  • Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service
  • Competition and Markets Authority
  • Criminal Cases Review Commission
  • Department for Communities in Northern Ireland
  • Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland
  • Department of Justice in Northern Ireland
  • Financial Conduct Authority
  • Fire and rescue authorities under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
  • Food Standards Agency
  • Food Standards Scotland
  • Gambling Commission
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
  • Health and Safety Executive
  • Independent Police Complaints Commissioner
  • Information Commissioner
  • NHS Business Services Authority
  • Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust
  • Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board
  • Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Regional Business Services Organisation
  • Office of Communications
  • Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
  • Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
  • Scottish Ambulance Service Board
  • Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission
  • Serious Fraud Office
  • Welsh Ambulance Services National Health Service Trust

The same site adds that bulk collection and storage will also create an irresistible target for malicious actors, massively increasing the risk that your personal data will end up in the hands of:

  • People able to hack / infiltrate your ISP
  • People able to hack / infiltrate your Wi-Fi hotspot provider
  • People able to hack / infiltrate your mobile network operator
  • People able to hack / infiltrate a government department or agency
  • People able to hack / infiltrate the government’s new multi-database request filter

None of the above are likely to have your best interests at heart, and experience indicates that a major security breach will happen sooner, rather than later, “assuming, of course, that the powers that be manage not to just lose all of our personal data in the post.”

What’s to be done about it?

Well, according to The Guardian, not an awful lot. For a start, you can’t hide from the security services, and if they want to hack your devices, they will. But then, if they’re not out to get you, there’s no reason to behave as though they should be. Inconspicuousness could become the order of the day.

The paper advocates Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which encrypt traffic between computers for a small monthly fee. Your service provider can’t see the final destination so its records should contain only the VPN company’s server addresses.

Apparently, when choosing a VPN, you should check the number of servers and where they are located, their privacy policies, the applications they support (Tor, BitTorrent etc), speed and price. Some have applications for different devices – Windows, MacOS, iPhone, iPad and Android.

If you are trying to avoid Snoopers’ Charter-related surveillance, choose a VPN that is not UK-based, and that does not keep any logs – because then they can’t hand them over to the government. TorrentFreak keeps an updated list of “which VPN services take your anonymity seriously”: The Best Anonymous VPN Services of 2016.

Some VPN providers accept payments by dozens of different methods including Bitcoin and anonymous gift cards – but a VPN cannot guarantee access to any particular website; Netflix has taken to blocking most VPN services, and problems may arise with Google’s geolocation, PayPal’s fraud detection software, and so on. And a VPN doesn’t protect you from phishing emails, keyloggers, and websites that try to install “drive by” malware.

Your web visits may still be logged – in your own web browser history and dozens of advertising services, including Google’s. You can block trackers with a browser extension such as Ghostery or the EFF’s Privacy Badger, but note that Privacy Badger only blocks trackers from third-party sites. GRC has a “forensics” page, which checks whether you are being tracked by cookies.According to the Graun: “For increased privacy, you could access the internet from a “virtual computer” loaded in your operating system, and then throw it away after use. VirtualBox is a good free example. VMware Workstation Player is also free for non-commercial use.

“This may be the only way to avoid being tracked by “browser fingerprinting”. This is when the tracking company (or government agency) gives your PC a unique identifier based on variables such as screen resolution, browser version, extensions, fonts, timezone and so on. If you use a virtual PC, every session starts with a more-or-less generic fingerprint. It may not be perfect, but it’s less identifiable than the alternative.”

Will This Writer be doing any of the above?

No. Or at least, probably not.

It’s a lot of hassle for someone who doesn’t actually break the law – even though I might say things the government would prefer people not to know.

But it’s good to know what the options are, just in case. Right?

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Catastrophic Coalition lies: Civil liberties

zcoalitionfailcivil

The title of this series of articles is supposed to be ‘Great Coalition Failures’ – but even a cursory examination of its record on today’s subject reveals that it is not adequate to the depth of the betrayal that is evident.

Considering the oppressive behaviour of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration in destroying British citizens’ freedoms, one can only conclude that David Cameron, Nick Clegg and all their representatives actively set out to deceive the British public on the subject of:

3. CIVIL LIBERTIES

We will be strong in defence of freedom. The Government believes that the British state has become too authoritarian, and that over the past decade it has abused and eroded fundamental human freedoms and historic civil liberties. We need to restore the rights of individuals in the face of encroaching state power, in keeping with Britain’s tradition of freedom and fairness [In the light of the Coalition’s record, this can only be seen as a very sick in-joke for the benefit of the writers].

  • We will implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties and roll back state intrusion [It seems state intrusion in our lives has never been higher].
  • We will introduce a Freedom Bill [This happened. It was a Nick Clegg idea and includes measures mentioned elsewhere on this list. Of the others, the proposed restrictions on police stop-and-search powers seem laughable, following the furore over the stopping and searching of people during the ‘racist advertising van’ debacle of 2013 – because they looked foreign].
  • We will scrap the ID card scheme, the National Identity register and the ContactPoint database, and halt the next generation of biometric passports.
  • We will outlaw the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission [This is in the Protection of Freedoms Act].
  • We will extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency [Attempts to secure up-to-date figures on the number of benefit claimants who have died as a result of government ‘reforms’ shows that the Coalition has made a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act. For a run-down of the ways in which government departments may dodge their responsibilities, see this article].
  • We will adopt the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database [DNA database protections are in the Protection of Freedoms Act].
  • We will protect historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury [A lie. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have started ‘secret’ trials, in which a person can be convicted without ever knowing the offence of which they are accused, seeing any evidence or having any chance to mount a defence against it].
  • We will restore rights to non-violent protest [This has not happened. It seems clear that the response to any such street protest that our current government dislikes will involve the employment of water cannons. Free speech is covered by changes in the libel laws that protect outsourced government services from criticism, and then there is the Gagging and Blacklisting Act, which was supposed to be about government lobbyists but became a tool of repression].
  • We will review libel laws to protect freedom of speech [Conservatives blocked changes that would force private companies to show financial damage before being able to sue others for libel. This means government-owned prisons may be criticised without fear of legal action but privately-run prisons cannot. With so many government services being outsourced or sold off, this effectively neuters any relaxation of libel law as far as criticism of the government itself is concerned].
  • We will introduce safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation [This is in the Protection of Freedoms Act].
  • We will further regulate CCTV [This is in the Protection of Freedoms Act].
  • We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason [Depending on your point of view, this is a lie. What constitutes “good reason”? The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act tramples all over any definition].
  • We will introduce a new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.
  • We will establish a Commission to investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, ensures that these rights continue to be enshrined in British law, and protects and extends British liberties. We will seek to promote a better understanding of the true scope of these obligations and liberties [This is an outright lie. The Bill of Rights, as proposed in recent weeks, will remove obligations that were placed on us by the ECHR, and lay the British people open to abuses of their civil liberties on a scale not seen for many years. The stated desire to promote a better understanding of civil obligations and liberties may be discounted as it is not in the government’s interest to tell people about freedoms that are being legislated away from them].

140129freespeech1

The verdict: The Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition has overseen the most oppressive clampdown on British citizens’ civil liberties for decades. Freedoms that we had four years ago are now distant memories. Freedom of speech – gone. Freedom of association – gone. Freedom to join a trade union – heavily monitored, with a threat of blacklisting. Our telephone conversations and Internet communications are monitored. We can be arrested, charged, tried and imprisoned without ever knowing why or seeing any evidence against us.

Meanwhile, the government has never been so well-protected against criticism. Government departments have an arsenal of excuses to protect themselves from having to answer Freedom of Information Requests, so you can’t find out what they are doing or the consequences of their actions. Privatised and outsourced government services are immune to criticism as they may sue any critic for libel.

Your freedoms have been removed and your government is more authoritarian than ever. If the Conservatives are elected next year, you are likely to lose the few human rights that remain.

You didn’t vote for any of this.

Does that offer you much consolation?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Politics – why can’t we admit mistakes? – Paul Bernal’s blog

Last night and this morning I had a somewhat extended argument on Twitter with someone who I assume is a Lib Dem activist, writes Paul Bernal in his blog.

The argument started off being about my frustration (and even anger) about the passing of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIP) in those few short days in the summer (see my blog post here – a shabby process for a shady law). I was annoyed, and said so, that the erstwhile champion of privacy, and key behind the defeat of the Snoopers’ Charter, my own MP Julian Huppert, had in effect helped push through the law in double-quick time without any chance for discussion. It was, in my view, a mistake on Julian’s part.

That just started the argument. By suggesting that Julian had made a mistake – and in my view a pretty egregious one – I was, according to my accuser, casting aspersions on Julian’s motivations and integrity. I wasn’t, in my opinion, doing that at all. I respect Julian very much, and know that he has great integrity and that his intentions are good. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t think he made a mistake over DRIP. I still do – and I have a feeling that he will come to realise that. I may well be wrong, of course – because even if it was a mistake, we seem to have come to a position in politics where we can’t really admit mistakes. At best, we can make half-hearted apologies, generally apologies that we were ‘misunderstood’. The ‘I’m sorry that you feel that way’ kind of apologies.

Following the Lib Dem conference brings this home in a big way. Nick Clegg’s famous ‘apology’ over tuition fees – immortalised in the Auto-tuned version here – was only an apology for a promise, not really an apology for any action at all. The mistake was the promise, not the real actions. The much bigger actions – the much bigger possible mistakes – are never acknowledged, let alone apologised for. The possibility, in particular, that it might have been a mistake for the Lib Dems to go into coalition with the Tories at all, is so dangerous as to be impossible to mention. And yet it might have been a mistake. Things might have been very different if they had not gone into coalition.

Read the rest of this article on Paul Bernal’s blog.

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