It usually gives me great and smug pleasure to be able to say, “I told you so”; and this blog has done that on a few occasions. This time it gives me no pleasure – and I’ll come to that later.
David Miranda was detained at Heathrow airport for 9 hours, and his computer equipment confiscated by the Metropolitan Police. There was huge concern voiced by civil liberties groups; and a judicial review was launched.
At the time I said that all the police had to do was justify the suspicion that Miranda was a terrorist as defined in the Terrorism Act; which would be easy. I was taken to task on Twitter by bmaz:
What I said was this:
…and assuming that his laptop contained Snowden documents (which would be reasonable suspicion),
- the stated purpose of the leaks is to influence government
- the stated purpose could be described as both ‘political’ and ‘ideological’
- the effect, according to government, could result in increased terrorist attacks against the UK (that is, “a serious risk to the health or safety of the public”) and is also designed “to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system” (that is, GCHQ’s Tempora surveillance system).
I think it is quite clear that under the Terrorism Act, David Miranda is a terrorist.
Yesterday, Saturday, the Guardian quoted from the police documents referred to in the judicial review. The final Port Circular Notice – the document used by the police to justify Miranda’s detention – includes the following paragraph:
We assess that Miranda is knowingly carrying material, the release of which would endanger people’s lives. Additionally the disclosure or threat of disclosure is designed to influence a government, and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause. This therefore falls within the definition of terrorism and as such we request that the subject is examined under schedule 7.
Well, I told you so. But this time it gives me no pleasure to say so, because it confirms my final statement in that post:
“This is a police state in action; and the Terrorism Act is one of its tools.”
I sometimes wonder what is the purpose of the police: is it to protect the public or to catch criminals. The problem is that these two functions are often mutually exclusive — definitely in the short-term.
You could argue that by catching criminals you are protecting the public from their potential future crimes. You could also argue that catching this actual criminal might deter that potential criminal — and that again you are protecting the public from potential future crimes.
The weakness in this argument is that a criminal doesn’t become a criminal until after the crime is committed. By definition, catching a criminal means that you have failed to protect the public.
A clear definition of primary purpose will therefore affect basic police operations, and have a fundamental effect on the public.
Here’s an example; but it will involve a small leap of faith to begin with — I forget the precise source. I hope, however, you can trust my memory. It was a chat between two very successful hackers. One of them said words to the effect, “I watch the news because that’s how I learn when my hack has been discovered.”
Basically, that’s the time for him to get out, cover his tracks and lie low.
It follows that if there is no news of the breach, law enforcement has a greater opportunity to apprehend the criminal who might just hang around on the network long enough for the forensic investigators to gather incriminating evidence.
But at what potential cost to the public? Bill Snyder got caught up in the Vendini breach earlier this year, and wrote about it on CIO:
I got an email from Vendini on May 23 that says: “We regret to inform you that on April 25, 2013, Vendini, Inc. detected an unauthorized intrusion into its systems.” Excuse me? April 25? That’s nearly a month between the discovery of the hack and the arrival of that email, which means the bad guys had weeks to pillage my accounts, and hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people who have used the service. (Vendini also posted the message online.)
Why didn’t the company notify us? Says Vendini: “We are actively cooperating with federal law enforcement, and this notification to you was delayed specifically to support law enforcement’s investigation.”
Online Ticketer Vendini Hit by Hack, Warns Customers a Month Later
If this is true, it is an example of police action that prioritizes apprehension of the criminal over protection of the public. Had protection been the priority, then the breach notification would have been instant, regardless of making the potential apprehension potentially more difficult.
It’s a difficult one.
Well, actually, for me — no it is not. The absolutely prime, overriding, fundamental purpose of the police should be to protect the public. I would suggest that the loss of focus by the police — where success is now viewed as a league table of people locked up rather than the fulfillment of protecting and serving the public — is key to the increasingly macho and manipulative law enforcement agencies we now have.
When I was young we lived by the belief and principle that an Englishman in England is free to do anything he wishes provided that there is no law to the contrary. In those days it was true and meaningful. These days it is true and meaningless. The number of new statutes and limitations passed by parliament since my youth now makes it safer to simply assume it is illegal.
The principle has just been reiterated. In 2011 Susannah Mengehsa took part in a protest. She was caught in a police kettle operation. Before being released (without charge over anything), she had to identify herself with name address and date of birth, and submit to a search and filming. In other words, the police were building a database of protesters for no reason other than they were protesters.
The court has now decided that the kettling was lawful, but the information gathering and filming was not. Lord Justices Moses and Mr Justice Wyn Williams have ruled:
The absence of any statutory power to obtain identification in the circumstances in this case establishes conclusively the unlawfulness of the police action in requiring the claimant to be filmed and give her name and address and date of birth before she was released from containment.
In other words she was free to decline to provide information because there is no law saying she has to do so. The optimists among us are delighted, “The question must now be what action will be taken by the Metropolitan police to ensure this kind of issue does not continue to arise and this must involve meaningful sanctions for officers who act unlawfully,” said Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch.
There will be no sanctions and the police need do nothing at all – just wait for the muppets of parliament to pass a new law saying they were right all along; and that they are entitled to gather personal information from uncharged innocent citizens.
I live in Devon. Devon police aren’t like the Met. They’re nice down here.
Take Sarah Giles.
Terribly nice. Exactly the sort of community policing you’d want. But obviously a bit much for the Seniors.
Nevermind. According to the Guardian, “the assistant chief constable of the force, Chris Boarland, said the officer was now undergoing training,” and that it is “entirely possible in the relatively near future” that she would be allowed to tweet about her work again.
Muzzled staff? Undergoing training? I seem to recall that being a favourite phrase of other regimes. When did we start re-educating people who don’t say what we want? The spirit of Stalin lives on in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.
And anyway, could some kind PR agency explain what a gem Topsham has, and is likely to lose, in Sarah Giles?
…and she’s back.
Coooeeee!!!! I’m back!!!! *does weird little celebratory dance*
A welcome breath of fresh – and human – air in a profession that struggles to be relevant to ordinary people.
AnonCentral has issued a warning to Anons:
WARNING! All Anons be aware that there is a UK wide Section 60 in place for the duration of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Section 60 (of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994), is the police stop-and-search-without-suspicion power. That is, if they don’t like the look of you, that’s all that is needed to stop and search you.
A person in that area can be searched to see if they are in possession of weapons or dangerous instruments (being anything that has a blade or sharp point). Arrests have already been made using these powers in the last 24hrs in London and Glasgow.
So, says AnonCentral,
…be EXTREMELY CAREFUL with what you are carrying on your person. DO NOT wear your Mask, if heading to a protest action Avoid taking Mobile Phones and anything that may Identify you.
This follows the wider, more general, post from Liberty. Liberty is concerned about all of the liberty-invading precautions being put in place for the Games – such as the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act (2006), which
…allows for the banning of advertising of a “non-commercial nature, and […] announcements of notices of any kind”. Section 22 of the Act allows a “constable or enforcement officer” to “enter land or premises” where they believe a prohibited advert is being shown or produced and destroy the materials.
And then there’s the potential use of LRADs (Long Range Acoustic Devices) as offensive weapons against crowds (which, in the context of dispersal powers available to the police, could be considered “children and adults in groups of two or more”).
The big concern is that these Games-specific restrictions and powers do an income tax – a law that was specifically brought in to fight Napoleon and has stayed ever since.
Kudos to the first person managing to film an unmanned spy drone flying over the capital…
I guess the Japanese police have decided that their public image is too harsh. They seem to have adopted Yogi Bear for their future logo.
Here’s the real Yogi Bear.
I wonder how long it will be before Hanna-Barbera Productions issues a takedown notice on the Tokyo Metropolitan Police?
Or me for that matter.
It is human nature to want a quiet life. I would certainly like a quiet life. But when you choose a career in the police force, and especially if you rise to the rank of Borough Commander, you are paid by the people to protect the people – and you absent the right to a quiet life. And when you choose the career of a politician, and especially if you enter Parliament, you are paid by the people to protect and support and defend the people, and especially your own constituents – and you absent the right to a quiet life.
Faced with a claim that his station officers had not adequately investigated an instance of possible criminal behaviour over an alteration to and unauthorised release of personal medical records, Chief Inspector Burton of Lewisham Borough Police wrote to Dame Joan Ruddock, member of parliament for Lewisham Deptford, “The General Medical Council conducted their own investigation. I am informed that they concluded that Dr xxx’s actions did fall below the required standards but did not amount to criminality.”
This is not true. The GMC confirmed to the person concerned, “Please note that it is not the GMC’s role to judge whether a criminal act has occurred. I can also confirm that I have not sent any correspondence to the Met Police nor have I informed the Met Police that ‘Dr xxx’s conduct did not fall below criminality’.”
Borough Commander Burton has left himself some wriggle room. He doesn’t say who ‘informed’ him. It could have been the station janitor or a man in the street. But he has no right to imply, when this is clearly not the case, that he has received advice from the GMC. If he is being 100% honest, then the police response needs to be revisited because it was at least partly based on misinformation (and there is more not discussed here, yet). If he is not being honest, and was never so informed, then that has other implications that need to be aired.
Proof that these comments were at the very least misleading if not a simple lie was sent to the local member of parliament, Dame Joan Ruddock. An audience was requested and granted. It was recorded and published on SoundCloud.
The MP responds thus:
As a member of parliament I am in no position whatsoever to investigate anything that purports to be of this magnitude. It is not possible. It is not my job… I am powerless to tackle these issues… this is something I cannot undertake on your behalf… I’ve got absolutely no evidence of lying, as you put it… I think there may be a misunderstanding… I can’t look at this detail… here at this moment… I will look at [everything on Tuesday] but at the end of the day the chances are still very high that I will be saying to you that I don’t have any power to deal with this… there are real limits to what MPs can do, and my expectation is that I am still going to conclude that I can’t change these things for you… I will consider everything you have said about the inconsistencies with a view to seeing if there is any reason why I should reconsider my position… I will get back to you in due course…
Here is someone who doesn’t want to get involved; would rather abandon her own constituent – for the sake of an easy life – even when the evidence is in front of her (as it was). I am just a blogger, so obviously I am in no position whatsoever to investigate anything that purports to be of this magnitude. But I can write this. And a member of parliament can surely do much more, for the sake of the people who pay her wages.
It is profoundly disturbing that a senior police officer has not checked his facts and has misled a member of parliament for the sake of a quiet life. It is equally disturbing that the member of parliament then tries to ignore the situation for the sake of a quiet life. If senior police officers will not defend the law, why do we have them? And if members of parliament will not defend the people, why do we have them? And where, in the final analysis, does the man in the street go for justice?
There is more to this story. Its basis is, after all, a breach of the Data Protection Act. It will not go away; and there is more to come out.
I have a copy of a letter from a senior policeman to a senior member of parliament. The names are not important to this story so I shall replace them with [policeman] and [MP]; and the subject with [John Jones]. The letter is genuine and dated April 2012. It responds to a letter from [MP] concerning [John Jones] that was sent to [policeman] in November 2011. For starters, let’s just point out that that’s more than 4 months to reply to a letter.
[John Jones] made a complaint to the police that his private medical records had been altered and illegally made available to a third-party. “His allegations were investigated by xxx CID,” writes [policeman] to [MP], “with assistance sought from the CPS. The CPS concluded that the allegations were not capable of being dealt with criminally.”
[John Jones] made a formal complaint against the CID officers “alleging a failure to investigate properly. This was investigated by the Professional Standards Unit at [the same police unit].” This too was dismissed.
[John Jones] then appealed this decision to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, who subsequently wrote to [John Jones], “I consider that the police have investigated your complaint appropriately and your case will now be closed.”
“I trust I have answered your concerns,” concludes [policeman] to [MP]. And that would appear to be that. Clearly this incident has been thoroughly and independently investigated and found to be without merit.
But is that true, and is it without merit? That is certainly what we are meant to believe. But [John Jones] has taken independent legal counsel which has advised him that the case does have merit. So what’s going on?
Turn now to an article in This is Kent, 5 June 2012: Call for better probes into police corruption. In answer to an FoI request, the paper learnt that of 204 complaints of corruption, only 3 were investigated by the IPCC. “The rest were handed back to be investigated internally by the force itself after the IPCC deemed they were not serious enough to justify its time,” writes the newspaper. Think about that – more than 98% of complaints about police corruption are not independently investigated. Even where a complaint is made, and Joe Public is told it is being referred to the IPCC, the overwhelming likelihood is that the complaint will be handed back to the police station he is complaining about.
Is that corruption in itself? You bet it is. Asking officers to investigate the station, and at least by implication its senior officers, can never get an unbiased result. Who is going to implicate the people who control their own professional future, and by association their mortgage, family and most certainly pension? Are the individual investigating officers corrupt? Possibly, but probably not. It is the system that is corrupt.
And it is a corrupt system that is telling [John Jones] and his [MP] that he has no case, despite independent legal counsel saying he has.
Back in February I commented on David Harley’s blogs on the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) National Cyber Crime Conference. David attended as a speaker. He blogged afterwards, “The constantly recurring conference theme of working with other sectors rather than using them purely as an information feed into a black box, seems a more positive approach.”
At the end of my post I said:
Incidentally, I have asked for reports from the conference, but been told that “There will not be an output report from this event but a brief summary will be available in the next week or so.” Well that’s a good start for a two-way information exchange.
I finally received the brief summary today, more than two months later. Here it is in full:
Due to the confidential nature of the discussions which took place as part of this conference, Forum members have made the decision not to publish this to a wider audience.
Well, I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. The police have no right to be secretive about how they police. They should be more open – they are, after all, our servants. I am a firm supporter of elected chiefs of police and the abolition of this unaccountable, self-fulfilling, private company funded by private donations and public money that is known as ACPO. It’s time they went.
No, no, a thousand times no. A private organization, in this case Sky News, must never be allowed to justify breaking the law for any reason whatsoever. The case in point involved hacking private emails. Yesterday, John Ryley, head of Sky News, reiterated:
To be absolutely clear, we stand by these actions as editorially justified. As the Crown Prosecution Service itself acknowledges, there are rare occasions where it is justified for a journalist to commit an offence in the public interest. The Director of Public Prosecutions Kier Starmer told the Leveson inquiry that “considerable public interest weight” is given to journalistic conduct which discloses that a criminal offence has been committed and/or concealed.
But we must not allow this and we must not allow Sky to get away with it. This defence of ‘public interest’ has far-reaching implications. Who defines ‘public interest’? A journalist in pursuit of a story? Can I justify hacking your emails because I suspect that you’ve been visiting illegal websites, and it would be in the public interest for it to be made public? How about a policeman beating hell out of a suspect he ‘knows’ to be guilty in order to gain a confession that will implicate the gang leader? How about our men in black waterboarding muslims because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and might be terrorists or know terrorists?
Public interest does not justify breaking the law. Sky will get away with it because the authorities will allow it – it lessens any restrictions on law enforcement and security forces doing the same ‘in the public interest’. That is dangerous.
But consider this. If Sky News can justify its illegal hacking in the public interest, then many of the Anonymous hacks can be, and probably more easily, justified in the public interest.
Prosecute Sky News.