Even those yanks with their Gitmo crap can get it right now and then… so how come us Brits consistently get it so wrong?

29/02/2012

I got my monthly EFF newsletter email earlier today, and a couple of things caught my eye. Some pretty important stuff, so I’m gonna tell you about it here:

1. Appeals Court Upholds Constitutional Right Against Forced Decryption. Basically, the FBI seized laptops and disk drives of this guy, but couldn’t access the data thereon because it was encrypted with Truecrypt. A grand jury ordered the man to produce the unencrypted contents of the drives, but he refused, invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The court held him in contempt and sent him to jail. But the EFF filed an amicus brief, arguing that the man had a valid Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and that the government’s attempt to force him to decrypt the data was unconstitutional. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that the act of decrypting data is testimonial and therefore protected by the Fifth Amendment. Score one for Freedom, right? Well, it’s good for the Americanos: but unfortunately, since 2007, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act in the UK (RIPA) has allowed a person to be compelled to reveal a decryption key. Refusal can earn someone a five-year jail term. How in hell can a country that keeps uncharged prisoners in Gitmo for over 10 years and gasses its own citizens on a regular basis embrace liberty better than us Brits? Please, answer me in Comments. It’s like that film Brazil, or a Franz Kafka story.

2. This one paints us Europeans in a better light (I say us Europeans, because unfortunately us Brits will do whatever America and the rich want us to do, including embarking on illegal wars that lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and leave Middle East countries unbelievably unstable and wrought with sickening sectarian violence). This particular happy story is about the European Court of Justice’s decision that

social networks cannot be required to monitor and filter their users’ communications to prevent copyright infringement of music and movies. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that imposing a broad filtering obligation on social networks would require active monitoring of users’ files in violation of EU law and could undermine citizens’ freedom of expression.

The ECJ found that forcing an ISP to install a filtering system that would identify and prevent its users from making available any potentially copyright infringing files would require “active observation” of the ISP’s users. Implementing such a system would fall afoul of the key principle in Article 15 of the EU e-Commerce Directive, which prohibits EU member states from imposing a general obligation on ISPs and hosting services to monitor information they transmit or store, or to actively seek facts or circumstances that indicate illegal activity.

The EFF note that the dreadfully-nigh ACTA, a wide-ranging treaty that will force laws on us in a backroom-dealing way that bypasses democracy, also seeks to make Article 15 meaningless. Will the ECJ decision affect at all the approaching behemoth? Or will our governments, all round the world, continue to obey the dictates of commerce rather than the wishes of their electorates? I think I know the answer already; but your Comments are, again, truly welcome.

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Wikileaks.org is back up! Not a *huge* victory for freedom and common sense – but a victory nevertheless

15/12/2010

On 3 December, we reported that you could no longer reach the Wikileaks site by using the wikileaks.org URL. Well, that is no longer the case: aim your browser at “http://wikileaks.org” and you get rerouted to http://mirror.wikileaks.info/ – one of the many, many mirrors that sprouted after the USA’s clumsy efforts to limit free speech. Not a major victory by any means. But a victory nevertheless.

In other (Wikileaks/Assange-related) news: Julian Assange is still in prison even though he was granted bail yesterday. The Swedish prosecutors have appealed against the bail ruling, claiming that he would pose a major flight risk. I’m not sure how the Swedes think he’ll flee: Assange’s face must be one of the best known in border security circles, plus they have his passport… but as things stand, he must remain in HMP Wandsworth for at leat another couple of days while this judicial circus runs its course.

This case is highlighting the problems with the new European arrest warrant system. Usually, it is only possible to extradite someone if the crime he’s accused of is also a crime in the country he’s “hiding” in. As far as I can tell, Assange’s alleged crimes are not illegal in Britain (what the Swedes call “rape” and “sexual molestation” are very different to the UK’s definitions – I believe one of the charges relates to Assange refusing to use a condom; the complainant admits that the sex was consensual, so how in hell can this be called a crime? He didn’t force her to have unprotected sex).

Anyway, a blog like this one is not really a good place to discuss the intricacies of Swedish law. But what I will say is this: Sweden has got very accommodating rendition agreements with the USA. If Assange is extradited to Sweden, it won’t be long before he ends up in America. And if you look at what politicians are saying about Assange it’s pretty clear he won’t receive a free trial and he’ll end up on a slab.

But do these people really believe that Assange is Wikileaks? The leaks will continue, regardless of his fate. All that will happen is that Assange’s colleagues will improve their security and anonymity. Killing (or imprisoning) Assange will not kill Wikileaks. And all politicians need to beware: if they treat Assange like a piece of shit, the leaks will become more and more damaging to the so-called “liberal” European “democracies” who are currently baying for his blood. So watch out, fools: the day of reckoning is nearly upon us… and you.

UPDATE: I just noticed this, a page that lists the very many sites that are mirroring Wikileaks in an attempt to stop the authorities ever again closing them down. Well, when I say “stop”, I actually mean “make it very difficult”. The USA has already demonstrated the length of its reach. But when Wikileaks is mirrored in a huge number of countries, some of whom dislike America intensely, the job of censorship becomes much more difficult.

There’s also info on the page about how you too can mirror Wikileaks on your web server. I say go for it! I think it’s about time that the USA learned what “democracy” actually means: rule by the people for the people; not rule by a bunch of rich geezers on behalf of their billionaire buddies. Or is my dictionary out of date?

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

12/01/2010

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!

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Gary McKinnon will go to jail for 70 years!

19/10/2008

I read today on the Free Gary website that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has made the final order for Gary McKinnon’s extradition to the USA, where he faces prosecution for hacking into defence computer systems.  I’m not going to go into the whole story now – if you want to read about it, freegary.org.uk tells it all far better than I could. But I will tell you this: he’s facing 7 counts of “causing malicious damage to computer equipment”.  The maximum he could get for that is 10 years on each charge.  In other words, 70 years.  When he was first arrested, the US authorities said if he didn’t cooperate they would push for the maximum sentence.  So, when he is shipped out to America, it will be to face a possible sentence of 70 years imprisonment.  And for what?  For “hacking” into a computer network that wasn’t even password-protected!  Madness!

Something else about this case that I think is dodgy: in this interview, Gary tells how he found on a US computer a list of “non-terrestrial officers”.  There’s been a lot of speculation since about what this could mean.  I’ve seen people claim that “non-terrestrial officers” means US servicemen who are not land-based.  “It doesn’t mean little green men,” the doubters chortle.

Well, if it means so little, if it’s so damn innocent, then tell me this: how come, when I do a google search for “non terrestrial officers”, the only results are in articles about Gary McKinnon?  If the US armed forces use the expression “non-terrestrial officers” to mean non-land based servicemen, why doesn’t that expression appear anywhere on the internet in that context?

Gary McKinnon is going to die in American prison because someone thinks he knows too much.  And the UK government is sending him there – they may as well put a noose around his neck!

McKinnon knows too much... so he must die!

McKinnon knows too much... so he must die!


UFO hacker McKinnon loses final appeal against extradition

28/08/2008

Oh dear… today, Gary McKinnon lost his appeal against extradition to the USA on hacking charges.

He appealed to the European Court of Human Rights,  saying he faced inhumane treatment if sent to America.  He claims that he might get a jail term of 70 years, and that he’ll be held in Guantanamo Bay type conditions.  The court gave him a temporary stay, but today turned him down without stating any reasons.

McKinnon broke into Pentagon computer systems and left messages saying “Your security is crap!”  So yeah, they’ll probably throw the key away.


Brit hacker McKinnon appeals to Europe against US extradition

25/08/2008

Gary McKinnon, aka “Solo”, is to be extradited to the USA to face charges that he broke into computer systems belonging to the US Department of Defence and NASA.  The US authorities have dubbed him “the world’s most dangerous hacker”, faces up to 70 years in prison and his solicitors say he could even be given “enemy combatant” status, the same as that applied to terrorist suspects held at Guantánamo Bay.

But he still has has a chance to escape extradition – when the House of Lords turned down his appeal they ruled that he could take it to the European Court of Human Rights.  So that’s what he’s doing.  And you can help him!

If you go to this link, you can join in Human Rights Defence’s petition to the European Court that the extradition order be overturned.  It’ll take you a couple of minutes to register your support… and it could make all the difference! The Court takes notice of petitions.  Help make this petition so huge that they can’t help but take notice!

Gary McKinnon needs you! Sign the petition today!

Gary McKinnon needs you! Sign the petition today!

Unfortunately, the House of Lords gave McKinnon only til the 28 August before he is extradited.  So we all need to make our voices heard now!  We can’t let him be dragged off to face whatever justice the USA doles out for “enemy combatants”.  We already know he could get 70 years in prison.  We also know the USA approve “robust interrogation” techniques including waterboarding!  If McKinnon were a US citizen wanted in the UK, no way would the American government extradite him under these circumstances.  So why should they get to torture him?

SIGN THE PETITION!  FREE GARY!


Bradford 5 win appeal against thought crime conviction

13/02/2008

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from left to right: Awaab Iqbal, Aitzaz Zafar, Usman Malik, Mohammed Irfan Raja and Akbar ButtAt last the UK Appeal Court has ruled against Britain’s inequitable anti-terrorism law. The so-called “Bradford 5” – Awaab Iqbal, Aitzaz Zafar, Usman Malik, Mohammed Irfan Raja and Akbar Butt – were jailed last year for possessing and sharing extremist terror-related material, such as jihadi handbooks and guides to the manufacture of explosives. But 3 appeals court judges, including the Lord Chief Justice, ruled that mere possession of such materials is not illegal and quashed the convictions.

This action has dealt a serious blow to a major aspect of the UK’s anti-terror laws. Under the Terrorism Act (2000), “a person commits an offence if he possesses an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.” Prosecution lawyers have argued that simply obtaining and sharing extremist literature was an offence under the law.

However, Lord Phillips, the Lord Chief Justice, has now ruled against this interpretation and said there must be “a direct connection between the object possessed and the act of terrorism.”

The government are not happy about this – they were very keen on having legislation that banned certain types of literature – and it’s possible the prosecution will appeal against this ruling. But human rights organisations, and freedom-loving people everywhere, are rejoicing. The Terrorism Act’s provisions against the possession of extremist material has been called a “thought crime”.

Imran Khan, solicitor for Mr Zafar, said: “My client is over the moon. He says it is surreal and he cannot see why he has spent the last two years in prison for looking at material which he had no intention of using for terrorism.

“Young people should not be frightened of exploring their world. There will always be people out there with wrong intentions, but we must not criminalise people for simply looking at material, whether it is good or bad.”

The conviction of the five young Muslim men was regarded as a test case, and is now set to lead to prosecutions against others being dropped. These include the conviction of 23-year-old Samina Malik – the so-called “lyrical terrorist”. She was the first woman to be convicted under the Terrorism Act and was given a nine months suspended sentence in December after being found guilty of possessing terrorist manuals.


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