“Vote Labour for war against Iran!” says Blair

January 30, 2010

Saturday 30 January 2010

Tony Blair has been accused of trying to make war with Iran an election issue, after he mentioned Iran and its evils 57 times during his evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry on Iraq yesterday (29 January 2010).

Blair claimed that western powers might soon have to invade Iran because its Islamic regime now poses the same threat to peace as Saddam’s Iraq did seven years ago. He warned that the international community must be prepapared to take “a very hard, tough line” with Iran, a country “linked up with terrorist groups”, to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. He even claimed that if he hadn’t toppled Saddam in 2003, Iraq and Iran would probably be locked in a race for nuclear power.

Sir Richard Dalton, a former British ambassador to Iran, said on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that Blair’s claims had put the issue on the electoral agenda, and that political parties now needed to make it clear that war was not an option. “We need to be much clearer, as voters, with our politicians and with our candidates that we expect a different behaviour and a greater integrity in our democracy next time.”

One of Blair’s complaints about Iran was that its government had fomented the insurgency in Iraq. He claimed that Iran, which follows Shia Islam, had supported al-Qaida, despite it following the rival Sunni branch of the faith, because they both had a common interest in destabilising Iraq. He is trying to put any blame for the failure of his policy on Iraq at Iran’s feet, as well as establishing some sort of non-existent link between Iran and Al-Qaeda to justify a new war. Dalton, a former employee of Blair and an expert on the region, has dismissed this as rubbish. Now we must hope that no one else listens to the former prime minister.

I saw an interesting question posted on the Guardian site by a reader called “Eleusis”: how can Blair continue in his role as UN peace envoy to the Palestinian Territories and Israel after his shocking public war mongering? Unfortunately, I don’t think Blair will have the slightest problem reconciling these conflicting ideas. Blair is two-faced and can perform amazing contortions. Should be in a bloody freak show…

Now is a good time to tell you about the campaign to arrest Blair for war crimes. George Monbiot, a journalist writing on British and international politics and current affairs, has set up the site www.arrestblair.org as a focal point for the campaign. In 2008 Monbiot attempted to make a citizen’s arrest of John Bolton for his role in planning the war against Iraq, and gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell tried to arrest Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe. Of course neither attempt came to anything; but the citizen’s arrests attracted a lot of media attention. This inspired Monbiot’s Arrest Blair campaign. Monbiot wrote in yesterday’s Guardian:

So today I am launching a website – http://www.arrestblair.org – whose purpose is to raise money as a reward for people attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest of the former prime minister. I have put up the first £100, and I encourage you to match it. Anyone meeting the rules I’ve laid down will be entitled to one quarter of the total pot: the bounties will remain available until Blair faces a court of law. The higher the ­reward, the greater the number of ­people who are likely to try.

At this stage the arrests will be largely symbolic, though they are likely to have great political resonance. But I hope that as pressure builds up and the crime of aggression is adopted by the courts, these attempts will help to press ­governments to prosecute. There must be no hiding place for those who have committed crimes against peace. No ­civilised country can allow mass ­murderers to move on.

There seems to be quite a bit of support for the idea: at the time of this writing, the bounty pot stands at £10,045.99. And that’s after just a couple of days. In time this pot will grow much bigger – especially after a few arrest attempts have been made and media coverage spreads the word. A fine idea!

There are a few rules – for instance the arrest attempt must be non-violent and it must be covered by a “mainstream” media outlet of some kind – and also a few tips on how to perform the citizen’s arrest. It’s very very important you don’t give the impression that you are trying to physically attack Blair in some way as he goes around with armed guards.

According to http://www.arrestblair.org there is a film crew who would like to follow someone planning to make the arrest. And the campaign also has a Facebook page. If anyone wants to give it a go, I support you wholeheartedly. And if you like the idea but (like me) don’t have the balls to actually do it, you could always donate some money to go into the bounty pool. Check the front page at www.arrestblair.org for details on how to donate. Good luck!

_gos=’c4.gostats.com’;_goa=354450;
_got=2;_goi=2;_goz=0;_gol=’Free hit counter’;_GoStatsRun();
Free hit counter
Free hit counter


UK tortures terror suspects – it’s official!

January 27, 2010

Wednesday 27 January 2010

United Nations human rights investigators have published a report that concludes the UK government has been “complicit in mistreatment and possible torture” of British citizens during the so-called “war on terror”, says the Guardian today.

This latest development follows a string of allegations about the United Kingdom’s own version of the infamous US practice of “extraordinary rendition”. Two months ago, the New York based Human Rights Watch reported that Pakistani intelligence officers admitted torturing British suspects on behalf of their UK counterparts. And there have been a number of allegations about MI5 (UK counter intelligence), MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service) and Greater Manchester Police officers involvement in torture at secret prisons abroad.

No doubt some people will argue that in the climate of terror that has existed since 2001, sometimes robust measures have to be taken to safeguard public safety. I would remind those people that the victims of this torture were terror suspects, not actual terrorists. Time and time again, men who have been investigated and subsequently cleared of any involvement in terrorism have claimed they were tortured. At times it has seemed that any British Muslim visiting relatives in Pakistan is fair game for arrest, secret imprisonment and torture. And many of them have been examined by doctors who have found injuries that could only have been caused by the infliction of repeated, brutal violence.

There is, for instance, the case of Binyam Mohamed. He was arrested in Pakistan and kept in a secret prison where he was tortured. During this time he was questioned by a MI5 officer who was aware of the torture. Then he was given to the CIA, who flew him secretly to Morocco, Afghanistan and finally Guantanamo Bay. He was kept there for 4 years before finally being released without charge.

Once he was back at home, Mohamed took the UK government to the High Court for its involvement in his secret imprisonment, extraordinary rendition and torture. It is useful to note that the British government did not deny his claims – David Miliband, then foreign secretary, just tried to cover it up. Miliband actually tried to censor the high court judges’ ruling, claiming it would hurt UK-USA relations if the truth about Mohamed’s treatment was made public. He actually got the CIA to write a letter to the judges saying the CIA would no longer share intelligence with the UK if Mohamed’s rendition and torture was revealed. Luckily the judges would have none of it and they published their ruling in full, criticising the government’s conduct in the matter.

Binyam Mohamed is just one example. UK agencies have repeatedly colluded with other countries to secretly imprison and torture British citizens. And who knows how many citizens of other countries have been tortured on behalf of the UK? It is a terrifying fact that absolutely anyone could fall victim to these barbaric practices.

Binyam Mohamed, tortured in Pakistan on orders of MI5

_gos=’c4.gostats.com’;_goa=354450;
_got=2;_goi=2;_goz=0;_gol=’Free hit counter’;_GoStatsRun();
Free hit counter
Free hit counter


“Microsoft is good on security” shock bonk

January 26, 2010

Tuesday 26 January 2010

I have listened to the IT security podcast Security Now for some time now, and on the whole I’ve considered the host, Steve Gibson, to be a fairly sensible fellow. But my faith in the guy has been shaken, big time, after he said some real crazy-assed shit in the latest show (episode 232).

Gibson and fellow host Leo Laporte were talking about how Microsoft have been making incremental improvements to the security profile of its infamous web browser Internet Explorer. IE8 is a lot more secure than IE6, they said. Which is a reasonable thing to say. But then Laporte uttered these incredible words: “”Microsoft doesn’t have the greatest track record but I don’t think they’re particularly worse than anyone else [on security].” And the alleged security expert Gibson agreed!

Now, Laporte has a bit of an excuse. He’s a tech head, not a security guy. Yes, his technical background should tell him that Microsoft is a train wreck security-wise. But he’s a Microsoft fan in general, so we shouldn’t expect too much from him. But Gibson is a security professional – his hard disk data recovery utility, Spinrite, gets a lot of plaudits (many of them on his own site), and through his company GRC he sells a bunch of other security products. And the podcast generally makes excellent listening. So how can he be so deluded about Microsoft?

Because Microsoft is a truly appalling company when it comes to the security of its products (Microsoft is appalling in a lot of other ways too, but let’s concentrate on security here). For years the Windows operating systems have been infested with spyware, viruses, trojans and other malware. It’s only since Vista that Windows has had any decent security model at all. The browser Internet Explorer has long been a joke to most security-conscious computer users, most of whom use Firefox or Google Chrome/Chromium instead. IE is probably the vector for most of the attacks that take place over the internet. So even if we disregard IE’s other shortcomings, like its disregard for open standards embraced by the rest of the industry, it fails miserably when it comes to its users’ security.

Even Patch Tuesday – Microsoft’s vaunted update cycle – is a dangerous joke. Microsoft releases its software updates on the second Tuesday of every month (“whether they need to or not”, LOL). There could be a major 0-day vulnerability in the world’s most widespread personal computer software, threatening millions of users right now – but the fix won’t be released until the second Tuesday in the month comes round. And the computer criminals know this. They can engineer their attacks to make the most of the period between one Patch Tuesday and the next. If Mozilla (for example) discover a vuln in Firefox (for example) they will release the fix as soon as they can – usually within a couple of days. Microsoft will very very rarely release a fix before Patch Tuesday. And Gibson agrees with Laporte that Microsoft are “no worse than anyone else”? Crazy…

Tell you what though, Security Now 232 is still worth a listen. I won’t list everything covered, I’ll just urge you all to check it out (download link here). My confidence in Gibson may have been shaken by his comments about Microsoft, but the fact remains that he knows a lot about his business. One thing I learned is that I’ve been pronouncing the word “kludge” incorrectly for years. “Kludge” is hacker-speak, meaning an inelegant solution to a problem. I’ve always pronounced it to rhyme with “budge”. But in the podcast Gibson and Laporte said it “klooj”. That bugged me, so I googled it. And Dictionary.com, Wikipedia, and Answers.com (as well as many more sources) all agree that “kludge” is indeed pronounced “klooj”. So Gibson and Laporte were right about that. But they are dead wrong about Microsoft.

_gos=’c4.gostats.com’;_goa=354450;
_got=2;_goi=2;_goz=0;_gol=’Free hit counter’;_GoStatsRun();
Free hit counter
Free hit counter


BNP membership list leaked again. Nazis worried.

January 25, 2010

Wikileaks.org released a membership list for the British National Party 2007-8. And they’ve done it again: a list of BNP members in 2009.

Unfortunately, Wikileaks.org is currently offline while its owners seek funds (please support generously) and the Wayback machine doesn’t have anything that recent from the site. But I can provide a Mediafire.com link to a .xls spreadsheet of the list (I checked the link today, 25 Jan 2010, and it appears to be okay. Though I cannot verify the accuracy of the info).

I also found a pretty map, courtesy of the Guardian, showing BNP membership in the UK. You can download the map here.

Oh yeah, and check out this:it’s a BNP member proximity search. You type in your postcode, and it gives you the names and postcodes of BNP members close to you. The site was originally created with the 2007-8 list, but it’s been updated to include data from the 2009 leak.  EDIT: the proximity search is no longer online. Just as well really, the info was 5 to 7 years out of date, many of the dweebs will have gone over to Ukip or something now. (24 May 2014).

Some people might say that some of the stuff I’ve linked to invades the privacy of innocent people. To which I reply: Bollocks! No members of the BNP deserve to be called innocent. Though of course I would try to discourage anyone from using the info to do anything illegal. Crime doesn’t pay!!

_gos=’c4.gostats.com’;_goa=354450;
_got=2;_goi=2;_goz=0;_gol=’Free hit counter’;_GoStatsRun();
Free hit counter
Free hit counter
<!– End GoStats JavaScript Based Code —


Countless Americans claim asylum in Britain from US government persecution

January 25, 2010

Monday 25 January 2010

Okay, so maybe I was exaggerating when I said “countless” Americans are claiming political asylum in the UK. Actually, between 2004 and 2008, 45 US citizens claimed asylum in Britain, claiming they were being persecuted by their government.

The UK Home Office released this info after a Freedom of Information request by the Guardian newspaper. Between 2004 and 2008 there were 132,640 asylum claims made in the UK, according to government statistics. 45 were made by Americans, and 15 came from Canadian citizens. The Home Office refused to reveal the reasons for asylum requests, but a source within the US government suggested that the US requests were made by self-declared “political refugees” claiming persecution by the Bush administration. Applications from the US peaked in 2008, the final year of George Bush’s presidency, when 15 Americans submitted asylum claims. All 60 North American claims were refused – again, the Home Office refused to divulge why they were refused, claiming that a manual search of records to collect the information would take too long.

Maybe you think 45 claims over 4 years isn’t a huge number. But remember: these are just the claims for asylum made in the UK. How many other US citizens have sought refuge in other countries? It would be extremely difficult to collate world-wide information. But I think it’s reasonable to assume that if the UK, America’s biggest ally, received 45 claims for asylum from Americans, other countries probably received many more.

Liza Schuster, an asylum expert from the department of sociology at City University in London, quoted in the Guardian article, suggested another reason to believe these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. She said:

“I don’t know the details of those cases, but assume the US citizens are deserting before being sent to somewhere like Afghanistan. With the Canadians I’m really not sure. It is, as is clear from the numbers, pretty unusual – if only because it is relatively easy for those people to leave their countries and settle elsewhere. Why not just apply for a work visa and renew and then apply for leave to remain?

“As someone who would not find admission to European countries too difficult, it would only make sense to claim asylum if you feared extradition back to Canada or the US, or if there was some reason you might be refused entry. It is interesting – I’d be curious to know more – not least because in spite of what the law books say, granting asylum is a criticism of the originating state.”

On various online forums, people claiming to be American refugees have outlined their cases. One Texan hoping to be allowed sanctuary in Scotland claimed he had been “persecuted as a political dissident against US government war-mongering”.

This really does raise some important questions. For one, there’s the question of how many Americans in total have felt the need to seek political asylum abroad. And why have they sought asylum? Why are citizens of “the land of the free” running away from a country whose constitution allegedly grants them “undeniable rights”? Is American democracy actually no better than the brand of “democracy” on offer in Russia, China, Saudi Arabia?

_gos=’c4.gostats.com’;_goa=354450;
_got=2;_goi=2;_goz=0;_gol=’Free hit counter’;_GoStatsRun();
Free hit counter
Free hit counter


“Stop and search” powers are illegal, rules European Court of Human Rights

January 12, 2010

It’s a victory for freedom! The European Court of human Rights ruled today that the British police’s powers to stop and search people whenever they feel like it are illegal.

Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 gives police the power to stop and search people in “designated areas” without needing any grounds for suspicion. Police officers have been using these powers routinely to harrass photographers all over Britain, often citing the possibility that the photographer might be a terrorist on a reconnaisance mission. You might think that’s quite reasonable – until you realise that officers have repeatedly stopped and searched professional photographers covering demonstrations and tourists caught taking pictures of tourist attractions like Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square. And countless amateur photographers have been detained and harrassed thanks to the far-reaching powers.

So, now these powers have been ruled unlawful, I suppose the government will immediately order the police to stop using them, and will redraft the Terrorism Act as a matter of urgency. Right? Well, actually no. The government intends to appeal against the ruling. And you can be damn sure that in the meantime the police will continue to use and abuse their illegal powers. This despite the fact that the Court said the stop and search powers amounted to a violation of article eight of the European Convention on human Rights – the right to respect for private and family life. The Court recognised that the power to search a person’s clothing and belongings in public included an element of humiliation and embarrassment which was a clear interference with the right to privacy. And they expressed concern over the arbitrary nature of the powers, under which a police officer needs to offer no justification for his decision to detain and search anyone he feels like harassing. So the UK government is basically saying: “We don’t care that our agents are detaining and humiliating innocent people as a matter of routine. We will continue to encourage our agents to abuse members of the public for as long as we can get away with it.”

I think that the judges were especially concerned that the powers are being used against demonstrators who are clearly not terrorists, and to block the work of journalists trying to cover demonstrations. The case was brought by Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinton, who were stopped by police while their way to a demonstration outside the annual arms fair at the Excel centre, in London’s Docklands, in September 2003. Gillan was stopped and detained for 20 minutes without good cause; Quinton, a journalist, was ordered to stop filming the protest even though she had shown her press card to officers. How can these police actions be justified? Remember, the police were using powers granted to them by the Terrorism Act, but there was no suggestion that Gillan or Quinton were in any way involved in terrorism. This is a clear example of the police abusing their powers. And there is also clear evidence that the police are going to continue abusing their powers, under government orders, for as long as they can get away with it.

The police are breaking the law. The police are the criminals. Let’s fight crime!

_gos=’c4.gostats.com’;_goa=354450;
_got=2;_goi=2;_goz=0;_gol=’Free hit counter’;_GoStatsRun();
Free hit counter
Free hit counter


Photography != Terrorism… no matter *what* they say!!

January 11, 2010


I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this before: but I’m a keen amateur photographer. In the olden days, when photographers still used film, I had a succession of Pentax cameras: an ME Super, a Program A, and I still have a SF7. But film is old hat nowadays, we all use digital; and I couldn’t afford a digital SLR, so for now I’m using a Fujifilm S5700 “bridge” camera. Still, it’s okay for my favourite types of photography: landscape, architectural, and its small size maks it grrreat for street photography.

Unfortunately, photography in general and street photography in particular are in real trouble here in the UK. Why? Because the police have got it into their heads that photographers are all potential terrorists!

I’m not sure, but I think this paranoid delusion first took hold when the police found photos of “potential targets” in the belongings of terror suspects. Individual officers were told to keep an eye out for photographers both overt and covert as they might be performing reconnaissance for an attack. This has resulted in street and architectural photographers being harrassed, searched and detained by police and community support officers, chiefly in London but also in other towns and cities.

The UK magazine Amateur Photographer has been running a campaign to defend our rights since 2005, when police persecution of photographers first became apparent. There’s a nice article on the AP website that runs through the campaign, starting with Roy Jhuboo who was stopped and searched by overzealous officers when he was out and about taking photos in Limehouse, East London. The police told Jhuboo that he’d been searched because “he could have been on a reconnaissance mission to launch a ‘rocket’ on nearby Canary Wharf.” Two police vans full of officers were sent to intercept him because he had been seen taking a photo of a house!

Since AP began their campaign in 2005, government figures have sought to reassure us that photographers in general are not being targetted. And both the government and ACPO (the Association of Chief Police Officers) have publicly issued advice saying that photographers should not be bothered unless there are good grounds for suspicion. Yet every week there are more stories in the magazine telling how photographers have been stopped, searched, even arrested by police for no more reason than taking photos in public places. The City of London Police even told AP that anyone taking photos in central London should expect searches and demands for identification, even though this directly goes against the guidance all forces have received from the government and ACPO on this subject.

Opposition to the police stance on photographers is wide-spread and growing. MPs who are also enthusiastic photographers have raised the subject in Parliament. Professional photographers working for the media have got the issue in the news. But the harrassment continues. I would ask all photographers to support Amateur Photographer in its campaign to defend our rights. It is gradually becoming acceptable in the eyes of the police and some members of the public. We need to stop this! We need to reinforce the fact that we have the right to take photos in public places. We must not allow the police and their political masters to create a climate in which innocent photography can be banned.

_gos=’c4.gostats.com’;_goa=354450;
_got=2;_goi=2;_goz=0;_gol=’Free hit counter’;_GoStatsRun();
Free hit counter
Free hit counter


%d bloggers like this: