Photographs like this may soon become illegal!

05/11/2008 — 0 comment(s)
Sack Parliament Protest, London, 2006

Yep! According to some proposed legislation currently "going through the process" apparently I could get up to ten years in jail for taking a photograph like the above and publishing it in future!

Read Terror Law and Photography on photojournalist Marc Vallee's blog.

Worrying implications indeed!

As an article on Indymedia so succinctly puts it:
"If a police officer behaves badly and oppressively we [activists] have been known to criticise them on the internet. Furthermore it has always been commonsense to jot down police collar numbers on demos and take photos a) for legal reasons to identify police breaking the law, to identify police behaving well, to help clarify matters in both criminal and civil courts. Intelligence on police gathered by activists has helped to acquit innocent activists, enabled activists to sue police and correctly identify the culprits. None of this has ever been used in order to use violence against the police let alone terrorism but we can hazard a guess that they might use this proposed legislation against us. What if MI5 infiltrate a group and that agent is discovered? Will it become an offence to warn other activists? Will it be an offence to after having suspicions raised about a fellow activist to make a few enquiries if the “activist” is an undercover cop?"

And there's some related info on Indymedia here.

At the very least this proposed legislation will constitute yet another encroachment on individual freedoms in this country whilst at the same time giving even greater power and freedom from accountability to the cops, thereby edging us one step closer to becoming a true Police State.

As well as making the job of the photojournalist that much more difficult than it already is.

Also posted at yet another blog

Britain... the Surveillance State

15/09/2008 — 0 comment(s)
From The Guardian website, by Henry Porter...

The police ANPR database, which the Guardian today reveals will retain information from 50 million road journeys a day for five years, is a system that was never sanctioned or debated in parliament and which threatens the freedom of movement, assembly and protest.

Presented simply as a tool to fight crime and terror by the police, it will become one of the cornerstones of the surveillance state, and will give the police far too much power to track, in real time, the movement of people who may be bound for legitimate demonstrations and protest rallies.

Linked with the government's proposals to seize all our communications data to be announced in the Queen's speech this autumn, this move signifies a profound change in our society and an irreversible transfer of power from free individuals to the state.

It is not difficult to imagine how the system will be used in times of industrial and political strife. We have already seen how police prevented legitimate demonstration during the first years of the Iraq war and have illegally obstructed protests against the arms trade, and are currently harassing accredited press photographers going about their legitimate business. These are hints of what will come when the police can track the movement of all vehicles, particularly if harsher economic times are accompanied by unrest.

The revelations in the Guardian today come from freedom of information requests made to the Home Office. In this context it is important to know that the dealings and discussions in Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which has been largely responsible for pushing the ANPR system, remain hidden from public scrutiny. Because Acpo has limited company status and is not a public body, it does not have to comply with freedom of information laws.

Police officers keep on insisting that these powers will not be abused, but revelations made by another FOI request last week show that the police use surveillance techniques to bully and harass citizens. In Wales, a team of 11 officers took part in a surveillance operation against a 49-year-old police dog handler who claimed he was suffering from depression, a fact established by the Police Medical Appeal Board. Officers from two forces watched his home for months and filmed him at a cost of £100,000.

If the police have such little regard for the rights and privacy of one of their own, it's difficult to imagine that they will treat the public with any more respect.

The surveillance of all journeys is a very serious move indeed and it tells us a lot about how far Labour has advanced a state of total and unwavering surveillance; and also how little parliament has done to protect our rights. It seems incredible that the great issues of control and privacy that are obviously involved in the ANPR system were never discussed in parliament. That a secretive and unaccountable organisation like ACPO can press ahead behind parliament's back is a measure of our failed politics, at the very least of the failure of mechanisms of restraint and scrutiny.

In these days of enormous daily distractions – of freakish weather, banks failing and general economic turbulence – it is difficult to concentrate on the programme to convert Britain into a totally controlled and watched state. But we can all be sure that it is happening under our noses.

The penny has dropped with the Trades Union Congress, which will surely have much to say about the possibility of police watching and intercepting those on their way to take part in legitimate industrial action and protest.

Last week the TUC voted to resist the ID card scheme and consider legal action to uphold civil liberties. The move came after aviation workers – among the first group to be compelled to register for ID cards – placed a motion before congress. The motion states:

Congress sees absolutely no value in the scheme or in improvements to security that might flow from this exercise and feels that aviation workers are being used as pawns in a politically led process which might lead to individuals being denied the right to work because they are not registered or chose not to register in the scheme.

This represents a considerable victory for reason and democracy, and the important part is that the vote was not carried simply because the ID card might deny people the right to work. Broader civil liberties considerations were at the heart of this debate.

With parliament dead from the neck up when it comes to issues of liberty, it is difficult to know how the ANPR surveillance and the equally important proposal to seize data concerning all phone calls, text messages and internet connections, can be resisted. But resist we must if we are to save our free society.

The deadliest terrorists

14/06/2008 — 0 comment(s)
The deadliest terrorists
The real trade of the CIA and Mossad

By Paul J. Balles*

Paul J. Balles argues that intelligence agencies, like the CIA in America and Mossad in Israel, "should have been prize winners as terrorists" because "in dozens of situations around the world, they have indulged their love of instilling fear in innocent people".
The USA and Israel both have bad habits of labelling anyone they don't like as terrorists, when the governments of both countries are the greatest terrorists on the planet.

If the bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq weren't terrorism at its worst, it's only because the deaths of 4098 Americans is a more important statistic than the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians...

The designation of resistance groups in occupied Iraq as terrorists and then calling a murder campaign a surge for the good of Iraq is nothing more than continuing acts of terrorism...

Intelligence agencies, like the CIA in America and Mossad in Israel, should have been prize winners as terrorists. In dozens of situations around the world, they have indulged their love of instilling fear in innocent people, especially if those people have little support or know too much...

Let's get this straight: resistance to occupation or bullying is not terrorism. It's resistance. Resistance doesn't become terrorism because the real terrorists continue their brutal attacks and propaganda campaigns against the resistance. Resistance is resistance. Thank God that some people have the courage to resist.

Read the full article here

It has to be said that the UK's not far behind either!

Cops Cover Climate Campers!

11/03/2008 — 0 comment(s)

Climate Change is an issue that's affecting us all (whether we acknowledge it or not) and one about which we should all, rightly, be concerned.
Increasingly we are seeing the effects of climate change impacting peoples' lives all over the world and, unless something dramatic is done, this situation will only get worse. Nor is this something that we can afford to simply put on the back burner for future generations to deal with.

Ultimately it may prove that to alleviate the more serious effects of climate change the measures that have so far been introduced in terms of reducing carbon emissions, "saving energy" and seeking alternative energy sources etc are insufficient... too little, too late.
The measures that government and the corporate world are introducing, or have planned to introduce, are neither enough or go far enough (or even quickly enough), and in some cases may actually be counter-productive by creating worse problems than they're intended to solve (one classic example being the development of "biofuels"). There is also a very real concern that climate change issues are simply being used as another angle to generate yet more massive profits for "big business" (and by the political parties purely to gain popular support) with little genuine interest in what's really at stake.

In reality our current lifestyle, certainly in the "developed world", is likely to prove unsustainable and we shall all be forced into a far-reaching reappraisal.
Of course, this is not a "popular" message for politicians to have to convey, nor is there much prospect in it of endlessly increasing profits for the commercial world. A return to a simpler, more sustainable and less energy-intensive lifestyle would almost certainly impact the world economy in an unprecedented manner and therefore, for the "movers and shakers", is a message to be avoided at any cost.
So it may prove that the initiative for real change will have to come from the grassroots level, with the ordinary general public driving forward demands to tackle climate change as a matter of extreme urgency.

And indeed this is already happening with initiatives such as the Camp for Climate Action (aka Climate Camp).

Climate Camp is an event organised by ordinary people at an extreme grassroots level that has occurred for the past two years and provides a space (for about a week or so) where people can come together and experience sustainable living for themselves, learning more about the issues involved, skill-sharing, and participating in activities that help to increase awareness amongst the population at large of the issues surrounding climate change.

In 2006 the first Climate Camp was located near Drax in Yorkshire, the largest coal-fired power station in the UK. 2007, and Climate Camp was to be found near Heathrow, where there are plans afoot to ravage an entire swathe of countryside and displace local communities to expand the runways, opening the way for ever more pollution-producing flights.

And its just been announced (last Monday, 3rd March) that this year's Climate Camp will be at Kingsnorth in Kent, site of a proposed new coal-fired power station.

The Climate Camp itself (finding the space and creating the infrastructure of a large campsite to support hundreds of "Campers" for just over a week or so) is a tremendous undertaking in terms of planning, organisation, and actually "making it happen"... given that its an entirely volunteer effort with no corporate or institutional support. The entire event relies exclusively on ordinary people from vastly different backgrounds and viewpoints working together over a considerable period. The fact that it happens at all is little short of a miracle, and a huge testament to what is achievable when folk put their minds to it.

The first Camp saw 600+ people converging on a field in Yorkshire, the second witnessed well over double that number at a campsite established near Heathrow airport.

A significant amount of planning and prior preparation (and indeed the continual need to find "accords" and "compromises" that must inevitably occur when large numbers of people, each with their own particular viewpoint and way of doing things, come together to achieve a common objective within a non-hierarchical framework) obviously occur in the months leading up to the Camp itself.

Weekend-long meetings (or "gatherings" to use the terminology of the Campers) are hosted at different venues throughout the country, from as far afield as Scotland to the South of England, on a monthly cycle where everyone's welcome to attend and participate in the process of making the Camp happen. And of course all the relevant details of these gatherings (time, date, venue etc) are published beforehand.

The first one I managed to attend this year was at the SUMAC centre in Nottingham which, coincidentally, was the gathering at which the Kingsnorth location for the Camp proved to be the concensus.

However, for me something of a sour note crept into this most recent gathering in the shape of the presence of a police surveillance team!
I can't speak of the previous gatherings this year, but certainly I'd not noticed such a presence at any of the gatherings of the past two years (of which I attended quite a few), and I find this escalation of police monitoring of public assemblies to be quite disturbing in its implications.

In this post I've deliberately spent some time providing a context for these gatherings... they're the manifestation of the extreme concern felt by large numbers of ordinary people about an issue of fundamental importance to society as a whole. They're also a positive manifestaton of the preparedness of ordinary members of the public to acknowledge a personal responsibility to act when government fails to perform, and when the corporate world places profit above more pressing needs.
These gatherings are public; they are announced beforehand; they are peaceful, they are legal. They're well-structured and represent no threat to public order or safety.

Why then the monitoring thereof by police camera teams? And indeed does such monitoring even fall within the remit of the police force?

The first meeting of the weekend started at 1100 on the Saturday (1st March). I arrived (in company of a friend) a few minutes late and immediately observed three uniformed police officers (one of whom was equipped with a camera) loitering outside the front entrance of the SUMAC centre.
Whilst they made no attempt to prevent us entering the centre we were photographed as we approached (note... even before we'd actually entered the premises!).
Conferring with some of the people inside we learned that the police had been present before the announced start time of the first meeting, obviously with the intent of photographing everyone attending. (This raises the interesting question of how, and whether, they would differentiate between those attending the Climate Camp gathering and those visiting SUMAC for purely social purposes?)

IMG_4427 IMG_4432 IMG_4430

At some stage during the course of the day that particular team disappeared. However, when the gathering adjourned for lunch on the Saturday I observed another couple of police (one of whom was equipped with a camera) in an unmarked car parked outside the rear entrance to the centre, again photographing the comings and goings therefrom.
When approached and challenged they denied they were acting in a "covert" manner... clearly forgetting the fact that they were in an unmarked car!


It seems to me that the presence of such police surveillance at public assemblies etc is becoming far more prevalent, and it appears to be almost standard practise now at virtually any demonstration or protest where the policies of the government of the day are being challenged or questioned.
I'm not entirely certain that this is acceptable. As I'm not entirely certain that any legitimate "law & order" interest is being served thereby. It seems to me rather that it is some sort of political agenda that is being served, and the deployment of police resources in such manner is far too redolent of the sort of activity that one would expect to find in a fascist or "police state".

Serious questions need to be asked. Such as, for example, what is the intended use of such photographs? Is it to build up profiles of individuals, their movements, their friends and contacts? And why? As some sort of "evidence" in the event that such people may, at some indeterminate point in the future, possibly participate in an as yet undefined "illegal act"?
Or is it to compile a database of people that may be likely to resist the introduction of some unpopular legislation in the future, or may oppose some future government policy?

Ok, call me paranoid if you wish, but think on this... what if such a "surveillance database" were integrated with the database that will inevitably be created from the ID card scheme that the government is still determined to introduce, albeit by the back door?
Its not too difficult to visualise a situation where, at some point in the not-too-distant future, ID card-related benefits (education, health, welfare, housing, travel etc) will be withheld if you just happen to associate with the wrong people, or just happen to go to the wrong meeting.

This is all just one step too close to the thought police as far as I'm concerned.

Article also posted at:

Fitwatch at Tilting at Windmills

'' taken off line in many areas after fire, court injunction

18/02/2008 — 0 comment(s)
February 18, 2008

The website has been taken off line in many parts of the world. Wikileaks is a website dedicated to leaking documents that are "anonymous, untraceable, uncensorable."

Several factors have taken the site off line including DDoS attacks, which was followed by a fire which took out the main servers hosting the site in Sweden, and a restraining order on the domain name '' issued in the United States.

According to the website, Wikileaks experienced "a 500Mbps distributed denial of service attack" before the fire, but it is not known if the DDoS attack is connected to it.

After the attack, a fire was reported in the Uninterruptible Power Supply of the servers which host the site.

The third and final factor taking the site off line is a permanent injunction granted in the California Northern District Court in San Francisco, California to Bank Julius Baer, a Swiss Bank, which has caused the domain to be taken off line in the U.S.. Wikileaks previously published hundreds of documents obtained from a whistleblower of the Swiss Bank, "purportedly showing offshore tax evasion and money laundering by extremely wealthy and in some cases, politically sensitive, clients from the US, Europe, China and Peru."

According to a Wikileaks press release received by e-mail, the injunction issued by the court states, "Dynadot [Wikileaks host] shall immediately clear and remove all DNS hosting records for the domain name and prevent the domain name from resolving to the

"The order was entirely written by Cayman Island's Bank Julius Baer lawyers and was accepted by judge White without amendment, or representations by Wikileaks or amicus. The case is over several Wikileaks articles, public commentary and documents dating prior to 2003. The documents allegedly reveal secret Julius Baer trust structures used for asset hiding, money laundering and tax evasion. The bank alleges the documents were disclosed to Wikileaks by offshore banking whistleblower and former Vice President the Cayman Island's operation, Rudolf Elmer. Unable to lawfully attack Wikileaks servers which are based in several countries, the order was served on Wikileaks's California registrar Dynadot ("the power company"). The order also enjoins every person who has heard about the order from from even linking to the documents," said Wikileaks in the release.

Despite the injunction, Wikileaks states that they will "keep on publishing, in-fact, given the level of suppression involved in this case, Wikileaks will step up publication of documents pertaining to illegal or unethical banking practices."

website or any other website or server other than a blank park page, until further order of this Court."

US court attacks web freedom; enjoins out of existence

Prof. Stephen Soldz (Boston University)
Link (see this for the document links)

One of the most important web sites in recent months has been Created by several brave journalists committed to transparency, Wikieaks has published important leaked documents, such as the Rules of Engagement for Iraq [see my The Secret Rules of Engagement in Iraq], the 2003 and 2004 Guantanamo Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures, and evidence of major bank fraud in Kenya [see also here] that apparently affected the Kenyan elections. Wikileaks has upset the Chinese government enough that they are attempting to censor it, as is the Thai military junta.

Now censorship has extended to the United States of America, land of the first amendment. As of Friday, February 15, those going to have gotten Server not found messages. Today I received an message explaining that a California court has granted an injunction written and requested by Cayman Island’s Bank Julius Baer lawyers. It seems that the bank is trying to keep the public from accessing documents that may reveal shady dealings. Wikileaks was only given a couple of hours notice "by email" and was not even represented at the hearing where a U.S. judge took such a drastic step attempting to totally shut down an important information outlet. The result was this totally unprecedented attempt to totally wipe out the existence of Wikileaks:

"Dynadot shall immediately clear and remove all DNS hosting records for the domain name and prevent the domain name from resolving to the website or any other website or server other than a blank park page, until further order of this Court."

If this injunction stands, it will set an incredible precedent for all of us who use the web to unveil misbehavior by the rich and powerful. Fortunately, Wikileaks is fighting this unconstitutional attack on press freedom, aided by six pro bono attorneys in San Francisco. While Wikileaks has so far not issued any particular call for support, all who value freedom should stand ready to issue whatever support they need.

Meanwhile, Wikileaks still exists. Its founders, knowing that governments and institutions will go to extreme lengths to censor the truth, have created an extensive network of cover names from which one can access their materials or continue leaking the secrets of governments and the corrupt rich and powerful. Thus, everything is available at, among other names. Let the leaks continue!

Also posted at TawNews (with updates)