Labour MP Tom Watson spoke out at the Labour Conference to criticise Ed Miliband, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and the rest of Parliament for turning a blind eye to the explosive growth in the power of the surveillance state
Speaking in the light
of a summer of revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden about the Internet surveillance programmes of British and American intelligence, he said:
We're living in the most closed system of liberal democracy in the
Western world. We have the most unaccountable intelligence services.
Parliamentary scrutiny hasn't just failed. It doesn't exist.
I can't think what any party leader has said about this. That's an absolute
disgrace. This is a callous denial of our freedom.
I have no faith in the Intelligence and Security Committee [which is charged with overseeing the UK intelligence agencies]. I hope Parliamentarians say we're not going to take it
We have to say we're not going to put up with this and build a cross-party coalition to make the intelligence services accountable for once and for all and provide oversight of a surveillance state running amok.
He was speaking at a fringe event hosted by campaign groups Open Rights Group and Big Brother Watch.
Also speaking was Paul Johnson, the Deputy Editor of The Guardian who has orchestrated their coverage of the Edward Snowden
revelations. He talked about:
The most surreal 36 hours I've ever had as a journalist where, on the orders of GCHQ, we bought masks and anglegrinders...to destroy the material [that they had from Edward Snowden].
We told them two weeks earlier it was already in New York. The whole thing was surreal. It was an entirely bizarre moment. It illustrates at heart that the British Government doesn't believe this story should have been written.
Javier Ruiz, Campaigns Director of Open Rights Group called for the start of a movement against mass surveillance:
This isn't just the responsibility of political parties. We really need to look at a
political solution that involves citizens, government and private companies.
Nick Pickles - Director of Big Brother Watch, told the audience:
How we govern data isn't fit for the Internet age.
Parliament need to drag the intelligence agencies into the open. Secrecy cannot be justified to simply prevent embarrassment. We've been telling the world to do one thing while doing a completely different thing ourselves.
The US National Security Agency's mass tracking and collection of Americans' phone call data violates the constitution, has a chilling effect on first amendment rights and should be halted, accord to a court motion filed by the American Civil Liberties
The motion is part of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in June, one of several against the NSA following the Guardian's disclosures via whistleblower Edward Snowden, of the agency's mass surveillance of US citizens. Documents from Snowden
revealed a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order directing Verizon to give the NSA all call detail records or metadata relating to every domestic and international call for three months, in a court direction that is renewed on an
ongoing basis. The motion says:
The chilling effect of the mass call-tracking program is apparent: any person hoping to approach plaintiffs with proof of official misconduct would be understandably wary knowing that
the government receives, almost in real-time, a record of every telephone call.
A declaration in support of the motion by Edward Felten, a professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton, warns that even basic
inspection of the metadata on the calls made in the US each day allows the government to pry into the population's most intimate secrets. They include the rise and fall of intimate relationships the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease or
the identity of a prospective government whistleblower.
It can reveal, Felten wrote, when we are awake and asleep; our religion, if a person regularly makes no calls on the Sabbath, or makes a large number of calls on Christmas Day; our work
habits and our social aptitude; the number of friends we have; and even our civil and political affiliations . Calls to certain helplines, or support groups, for instance sexual assault, domestic violence or abortion clinics are all tracked by the
NSA, the motion says.
The ACLU's lawsuit says that the NSA's ongoing tracking of their phone calls exceeds statutory authority and violates the first and fourth amendments.
A new Dutch digital distribution agreement for eBook platforms will formalize a system for identifying customers whose purchases later appear on the Internet. The deal will see eBook sellers watermark digital downloads and log them against specific
customer accounts. That data will be kept for a minimum of two years just in case books appear on file-sharing sites. If they do, vendors will hand over customer details to rightsholders and anti-piracy outfit BREIN.
The new digital distribution deal
for eBook merchants will see them watermark unique codes into the digital eBooks they sell which will identify a specific transaction number. These transaction numbers will be linked directly to a specific customer account.
So far the
process isn't much out of the ordinary, but the new deal will also bridge the missing link between random-looking transaction numbers in a digital file on the Internet and a real person's identity.
The agreement will see vendors connected to the
eBoekhuis platform share previously-private customer data directly with copyright holders and anti-piracy group BREIN. This means that should digital books turn up on BitTorrent networks or Usenet for example, with a minimum of fuss BREIN will be able to
match the embedded watermarks with the customer who bought them.
According to the document seen by EReaders.nl, eBook vendors will be required to store customer transaction data and make it available to BREIN and rightsholders for a minimum of two
The problematic sharing of customer information with a third-party (who could potentially sue them) will be solved by informing customers at the point of sale that their details may be shared with outsiders if their account is linked to
Whether customers will read the terms and conditions is open to debate, but if brought specifically and clearly to their attention it's likely that many would think twice before parting with cash.
Deutsche Telekom and United Internet have launched a secure German email service that they claim defeats America's NSA snoopers.
Rene' Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, said in a statement:
Germans are deeply
unsettled by the latest reports on the potential interception of communication data.
Our initiative is designed to counteract this concern and make email communication throughout Germany more secure in general. Protection of the
private sphere is a valuable commodity.
German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that email traffic sent via the new system will be encrypted while in transit between the sender and receiver . Access to third parties is to
be granted only in compliance with German law .
The service will only apply to email travelling between German ISPs.
The City of London has demanded that an advertising firm stop using a network of hi-tech litter bins that can track people walking through London's financial district.
The City of London Corporation has now told Renew to pull the plug on the
programme, which captures smartphones' serial numbers and analyses signal strength to follow people up and down the street.
It is unclear how Renew had planned to use the data, gathered by its reinforced, shoulder-height bins stationed near St
Paul's Cathedral and Liverpool Street station.
The bins include a video display for advertising and it is speculated that adverts could be tailored to passers by eg for noting for example whether a phone is in roaming mode. Different adverts could
be shown to City workers and visitors.
A spokesman for the council said it had learned about the tests through the press only last week.
Nick Pickles of the privacy advocacy group Big Brother Watch said questions need to be asked about
how such a blatant attack on people's privacy was able to occur .
Lavabit has announced that it would shut down its encrypted email service rather than become complicit in crimes against the American people. Lavabit did not say what it had been asked to do, only that it was legally prohibited from sharing the
events leading to its decision.
Lavabit was an email provider, apparently used by Edward Snowden along with other privacy sensitive users, with an avowed mission to offer an e-mail service that never sacrifices privacy for profits and
promised to only release private information if legally compelled by the courts in accordance with the United States Constitution. It backed up this claim by encrypting all emails on Lavabit servers such that Lavabit did not have the ability to
access a user's email, at least without that user's passphrase, which the email provider did not store.
Already, Lavabit's action has led to another company, Silent Circle, dropping its email service , saying We see the writing [on] the wall,
and we have decided that it is best for us to shut down Silent Mail now. We have not received subpoenas, warrants, security letters, or anything else by any government, and this is why we are acting now.
Files leaked by Edward Snowden reveal how the NSA pays for and influences some of the UK's intelligence gathering programmes. The documents also give unique insights into the challenges faced by the agency
The US House of Representatives has narrowly voted to continue snooping on US phone calls, in the first legislative move on the programme.
In a 205-217 vote, lawmakers rejected an effort to restrict the National Security Agency's (NSA) ability to
collect electronic information.
The vote saw an unusual coalition of conservatives and liberal Democrats join forces against the programme.
The rejected amendment would have blocked funding for the NSA programme which gathers details of
every call made by or to a US phone, unless the records were part of a specific investigation.
It was introduced by Michigan Republican Justin Amash, who warned during the debate that the proposal's critics would:
Use the same tactic every government throughout history has used to justify its violation of rights: fear. They'll tell you that the government must violate the rights of the American people to protect us against those who hate our
If anyone still doubts that they're being watched online by the U.S. intelligence services, say hello to a 28-year-old German man named Daniel Bangert.
Bangert made a joke on Facebook , setting up an event for an NSA spy-spotting nature walk
around the so-called Dagger Complex, a U.S. military installation near Griesheim, south of Frankfurt.
Four days later, the German police showed up on Bangert's doorstep to question him about his demonstration and apparently non-existent
anarchist links. He denied having any such links or planning any kind of demonstration, but the police told him to get a permit nonetheless. They asked him not to tell anyone online about their visit.
That clearly didn't work. After the story got
reported by a local paper, it eventually made its way to Der Spiegel , which got confirmation from a police spokeswoman that the alarm had been raised by the U.S. Military Police. It seems the U.S. Military Police found Bangert's Facebook post and
alerted the local authorities --- hence the visits to his house.
It's a story that's both funny and disturbing. Bangert is not a terrorist --- he's just an ordinary chap who was being sarcastic online. And even if he was being serious, all he was
doing was threatening to go for a walk around the perimeter of a so-called top secret facility that's not actually top secret.
UK Border Agency staff use counter-terrorism laws to remove a mobile phone from any passenger they wish coming through UK air, sea and international rail ports and then scour their data.
The blanket power is so broad they do not even have to show
reasonable suspicion for seizing the device and can retain the information for as long as is necessary .
Data can include call history, contact books, photos and who the person is texting or emailing, although supposedly not the contents of
David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws, is expected to raise concerns over the power in his annual report this week. He will call for proper checks and balances to stop this power being abused. He said:
Information downloaded from mobile phones seized at ports has been very useful in disrupting terrorists and bringing them to justice. But ordinary travellers need to know that their private information will not be taken
without good reason, or retained by the police for any longer than is necessary.
It echoes concerns surrounding an almost identical power police can use on the streets of the UK, which is being reviewed by the Information
Commissioner. However, in those circumstances police must have grounds for suspicion and the phone can only be seized if the individual is arrested.
Around 60,000 people a year are stopped and examined as they enter or return to the UK
under powers contained in the Terrorism Act 2000. It is not known how many of those have their phone data taken.
As a result of revelations from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, there has been an intensive debate about government snooping and its legality. But there is at least one clause of law that makes Americans legally vulnerable to
unnecessary intrusions, is much more unsettling than a lot of the Snowden material and isn't getting much attention.
The Electronic Communications Privacy Act, is old, and technology has far surpassed the vision of the lawmakers who wrote and
passed it in 1986. Almost no one used e-mail then, the online cloud didn't really exist, and storing personal information for long periods of time with a third party such as Google didn't seem to make any sense. So, the law says, if users keep e-mail on
a third-party server for more than 180 days, they've abandoned the material and law enforcement can look at it armed merely with a subpoena, not a warrant from a judge.
Now Americans store years' worth of e-mail online, compose everything from
professional documents to love letters on cloud-based word processors and keep all sorts of other files on remote hard drives owned by communications companies and located far away from their homes. It's not just metadata that's vulnerable here, it's the
full contents of every stored e-mail and every cloud-based document.
The Newspaper Association of America is lobbying for a change to the law. For years, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has been trying to do that.
Though his updates would keep multiple exceptions for law enforcement, his reforms would at least require government investigators to obtain a search warrant when they want to obtain e-mail content of any vintage from third-party companies.
In the wake of revelations that the UK Government is accessing wide-ranging intelligence information from the US and is conducting mass surveillance on citizens across the UK, Privacy International has commenced legal action against the Government,
charging that the expansive spying regime is seemingly operated outside of the rule of law, lacks any accountability, and is neither necessary nor proportionate.
The claim, filed in the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), challenges the UK
Government on two fronts. Firstly, for the failure to have a publicly accessible legal framework in which communications data of those located in the UK is accessed after obtained and passed on by the US National Security Agency through the Prism
programme. Secondly, for the indiscriminate interception and storing of huge amounts of data via tapping undersea fibre optic cables through the Tempora programme.
Dinah Rose QC and Ben Jaffey from Blackstone Chambers and Dan Squires from Matrix
Chambers were instructed by Bhatt Murphy Solicitors who are acting for Privacy International.
Reports state that the UK had access to the Prism programme since at least June 2010, and has generated 197 intelligence reports from the system in 2012.
Without a legal framework, which would allow citizens to know the circumstances in which such spying would take place, the Government effectively runs a secret surveillance regime, making it nearly impossible to hold them accountable for any potential
abuses. The absence of this legal framework appears to be in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights, Article 8, which provides the right to privacy and personal communications, and Article 10, which provides the right to freedom of expression.
Eric King, Head of Research at Privacy International said:
One of the underlying tenets of law in a democratic society is the accessibility and foreseeability of a law. If there is no way for citizens to know of
the existence, interpretation, or execution of a law, then the law is effectively secret. And secret law is not law. It is a fundamental breach of the social contract if the Government can operate with unrestrained power in such an arbitrary fashion.
Mass, indiscriminate surveillance of this kind goes against the most basic fundamental human rights to privacy. The scope and scale of this program, which monitors the entire British public and much of the world, cannot be justified
as necessary and proportionate.
Additionally, Privacy International is challenging the Government's Tempora operation, a programme that reportedly secretly conducts mass surveillance by tapping fibre optic cables, giving the
Government access to huge amounts of data on both innocent citizens and targeted suspects. Tempora is the name of a core programme within Mastering the Internet, designed to intercept internet traffic that flows through the undersea fibre-optic cables
that land in the UK. It is reported that the GCHQ project has, since 2008, steadily been building capability and now claims to provide the biggest internet access of any intelligence agency in the Five Eyes alliance of eavesdropping agencies in
the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. According to the Guardian, in 2011 more than 39bn events in a 24-hour period were recorded producing larger amounts of metadata collection than the NSA .
Tempora programme by its very nature appears to violate the underlying requirement for interception, which requires that surveillance is both necessary and proportionate under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).
International intended to file the Prism claim in the Administrative Court, which would have made the proceedings public, Government lawyers, upon receiving notice of our intention, vociferously notified us that we could not bring such a claim in the
Administrative Court. Rather, the claim has been forced to be filed with the IPT, a secret tribunal that does not make its proceeding public or have to justify reasons for its decisions.
The European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee is to hold an inquiry into claims that the United States has been engaged in surveillance of European citizens and diplomats. The inquiry is to report by the end of 2013.
The parliament also
passed a resolution expressing serious concern over US surveillance programmes, and condemned spying on EU representations.
The parliament also declared its support for the rights of whistleblowers.
France's foreign intelligence service intercepts computer and telephone data on a vast scale, like the controversial US Prism programme, according to the French daily Le Monde.
It is not clear however whether the DGSE surveillance goes as far as
Prism. So far French officials have not commented on Le Monde's allegations.
The DGSE allegedly analyses the metadata - not the contents of e-mails and other communications, but the data revealing who is speaking to whom, when and where.
Other French intelligence agencies allegedly access the data secretly. Connections inside France and between France and other countries are all monitored, Le Monde reports.
The operation is outside the law, and beyond any proper supervision
, Le Monde says.
The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying
We write to express our concern
about recent reports published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, and acknowledged by the Obama Administration, which reveal secret spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on phone records and Internet activity of people in the United States.
The Washington Post and the Guardian recently published reports based on information provided by an intelligence contractor showing how the NSA and the FBI are gaining broad access to data collected by nine of the
leading U.S. Internet companies and sharing this information with foreign governments. As reported, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person's movements
and contacts over time. As a result, the contents of communications of people both abroad and in the U.S. can be swept in without any suspicion of crime or association with a terrorist organization.
Leaked reports also
published by the Guardian and confirmed by the Administration reveal that the NSA is also abusing a controversial section of the PATRIOT Act to collect the call records of millions of Verizon customers. The data collected by the NSA includes every call
made, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other "identifying information" for millions of Verizon customers, including entirely domestic calls, regardless of whether those customers have ever been suspected of a crime. The Wall
Street Journal has reported that other major carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, are subject to similar secret orders.
This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of
freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens' right to speak and associate anonymously, guard against unreasonable searches and seizures, and protect their right
We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA's and the FBI's data collection programs. We call on Congress to immediately and
Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing
in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;
Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this
domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;
Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for
this unconstitutional surveillance.