Home > All, General Rants > Who needs a judge and jury when we’ve got SOCA to save time and costs?

Who needs a judge and jury when we’ve got SOCA to save time and costs?

December 1, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA – it can’t spell: the word is ‘organized’, even in British English; but that’s the least of my worries about it) will morph into the National Crime Agency in 2013. If we are not careful, it will become as powerful and as fearful and as shadowy in the UK as the FBI is in the United States.

I first came across SOCA at a security conference some years ago. A senior policeman from the West Midlands police was speaking. He was describing a plan to put pentest software onto a memory stick so that the public could invite the local crime prevention officer to come along with his stick, stick it into the home computer, and test the security of the PC.

I got up and timorously suggested that while it sounded like a plan, did he not think that given the public perception of the West Midlands Police (Google it yourself: west midlands police corruption), it would be better operated by an independent third-party service. The policeman did not respond. But a gentleman sat just behind me leapt to his feet and castigated me for daring to suggest that the public perception of the police is anything but perfect. Actually, I agree: it is anything but perfect.

I later discovered that this gentleman, in plain clothes, was a member of SOCA.

click for full size

SOCA's image of itself (from its site): an anonymous policeman pointing a gun at you

SOCA comes back into view today. My concern was provoked when JustHosts took down the Fitwatch website for giving advice to revolting students:

The Metropolitan Police Central e-Crimes Unit then informed Fitwatch’s website hosting service, JustHost.com, that the blog was being used to attempt to pervert the course of justice.

Police ordered the suspension of the website for a minimum period of 12 months for providing explicit advice to offenders on the authority of the Met’s public order branch.
Computer Weekly: Police close down Fitwatch website for advice to student protestors

Think about this. Fitwatch was taken down not because it was proven to be acting illegally, but because the police (not the courts) “ordered the suspension of the website for a minimum period of 12 months”. That’s behaviour that is fundamental to a police state: the police not only declare who is guilty, but also decide on the punishment. I find that deeply, deeply disturbing.

According to El Reg

…the email asking for the site to be closed “came from DI Paul Hoare…

Paul Hoare, according to SOCA, is “SOCA e-Crime Senior Manager”.

Then I noticed this on Nominet’s website

Nominet does not currently have any clear obligation in its registrant Terms and Conditions that a domain name should not be used in connection with any activity that would constitute an offence under UK Criminal law. The group will discuss whether proposals should be put forward to change Nominet’s Terms and Conditions to give a contractual basis to suspend domains where Nominet has reasonable grounds to believe they are being used to commit a crime (e.g. a request from an identified UK Law Enforcement Agency).

Nominet has explained to me that ‘issues’ are proposed by interested parties (who are known as the ‘issue champion’), and are then up for discussion. After discussion, the Nominet board comes to a decision. At the moment, this is not Nominet’s policy. But guess who the ‘issue champion’ is. You’re right: it’s SOCA.

SOCA wishes to be able to tell Nominet to take down a website, and for Nominet to take down that website, simply on the say-so of SOCA. Who needs the Judiciary when we’ve got SOCA?

Scared for the future of freedom and liberty in the UK when we have organizations like SOCA looking after us? You should be. I most certainly am.

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