UK Government Goes Full Orwell: Snooper’s Charter, Encryption Backdoors, Free Speech Suppression

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Courtesy of Techdirt and from the 1984-wasn’t-a-manual dept:

The old joke goes “George Orwell’s 1984 was a warning, not a ‘how to’ manual.” But that joke is increasingly less funny as the UK really seems to be doing everything it can to put in place Orwell’s fictitious vision — just a few decades later. Right after the election a few weeks ago, we noted the government’s plan to push forward with its “extremist disruption orders” (as had been promised). The basic idea is that if the government doesn’t like what you’re saying, it can define your statements as “extremist” and make them criminal. Prime Minister David Cameron did his best Orwell in flat out stating that the idea was to use these to go after people who were obeying the law and then arguing that the UK needed to suppress free speech… in the name of protecting free speech. Really.

For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.

This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values.

Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society.

It’s a fairly amazing speech where Cameron can — within just a few sentences — both argue for the rule of law and that obeying the rule of law should not keep you out of trouble. Continue reading

UK Government Quietly Rewrites Hacking Laws to Give GCHQ Immunity

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GCHQ’s main building in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
GCHQ/Crown Copyright

If you can be held to account by a ‘law’, well just change the ‘law’ and hey presto it’s ‘legal’ though statutes are not lawful but the actions of psychopaths entrenching in for the long haul. Expect more ‘laws’ to give legitimacy to unlawful acts committed by the government against the citizenry but we are far from the nadir of where totalitarianism will take us.

Courtesy of Sebastian Anthony @ Ars technica UK:

The UK government has quietly passed new legislation that exempts GCHQ, police, and other intelligence officers from prosecution for hacking into computers and mobile phones.

While major or controversial legislative changes usually go through normal parliamentary process (i.e. democratic debate) before being passed into law, in this case an amendment to the Computer Misuse Act was snuck in under the radar as secondary legislation. According to Privacy International, “It appears no regulators, commissioners responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, the Information Commissioner’s Office, industry, NGOs or the public were notified or consulted about the proposed legislative changes… There was no public debate.”

Privacy International also suggests that the change to the law was in direct response to a complaint that it filed last year. In May 2014, Privacy International and seven communications providers filed a complaint with the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), asserting that GCHQ’s hacking activities were unlawful under the Computer Misuse Act. Continue reading

UK PM David Cameron Proclaims: It’s Not Enough To Follow The Law, You Must Love Big Brother

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Courtesy of Mike Krieger @ Liberty Blitzkrieg:

It’s not just those domestic extremists and crazy “conspiracy theory” kooks who took serious issue with UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent overtly fascist language when it comes to freedom of expression in Great Britain. For example, in a post published today, the UK Independent describes the quote below as “the creepiest thing David Cameron has ever said.”

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This statement, and others like it, are a huge deal. This isn’t how the leader of a major civilized Western so-called “democracy” speaks to the citizenry. It is how a master talks to his slaves. How a ruler addresses his subjects. I think the following tweet by Glenn Greenwald earlier today sums up David Cameron’s attitude perfectly well: Continue reading

David Cameron to Unveil New Limits on Extremists’ Activities in Queen’s Speech

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Just the actions of a government moving to crack down on it’s citizenry as their own incompetence and gratuitous malevolence becomes too obvious to ignore. Tip towing towards totalitarianism, slowly but surely. Cameron and May’s words are duplicitous but it is their actions that will breed extremism by labelling it as such, creating the thing they wish to stop, further exacerbating ‘extremism’ and further crack down on personal and social liberty. Courtesy of Patrick Wintour @ The Guardian:

A counter-terrorism bill including plans for extremism disruption orders designed to restrict those trying to radicalise young people is to be included in the Queen’s speech, David Cameron will tell the national security council on Wednesday.

The orders, the product of an extremism task force set up by the prime minister, were proposed during the last parliament in March, but were largely vetoed by the Liberal Democrats on the grounds of free speech. They were subsequently revived in the Conservative manifesto.

The measures would give the police powers to apply to the high court for an order to limit the “harmful activities” of an extremist individual. The definition of harmful is to include a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress or creating a “threat to the functioning of democracy”.

The aim is to catch not just those who spread or incite hatred on the grounds of gender, race or religion but also those who undertake harmful activities for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”.

They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred. Continue reading

Peaceful Protest is Much More Effective than Violence for Toppling Dictators

Courtesy of Max Fisher @ Washington Post:

Political scientist Erica Chenoweth used to believe, as many do, that violence is the most reliable way to get rid of a dictator. History is filled, after all, with coups, rebellions and civil wars. She didn’t take public protests or other forms of peaceful resistance very seriously; how could they possible upend a powerful, authoritarian regime?

Then, as Chenoweth recounts in a Ted Talk posted online Monday, she put together some data and was surprised by what she found. “I collected data on all major nonviolent and violent campaigns for the overthrow of a government or a territorial liberation since 1900,” she says — hundreds of cases. “The data blew me away.”

Here’s her chart, which pretty clearly suggests that nonviolent movements are much likelier to work:

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(Erica Chenoweth/YouTube)

And that trend is actually “increasing over time,” Chenoweth adds. “Nonviolent campaigns are becoming increasingly successful.” Below is a chart of the successful campaigns from 1940 to 2006. Continue reading

Forget Orwell And Rand, We’ve Gone To Full On Plato

Courtesy of Thad Beversdorf @ First Rebuttal:

Lately, we hear a lot about Orwell’s “1984″ and Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” but perhaps the best crystal ball to our current state of affairs is Plato’s Republic. You see both Rand and Orwell were describing a world outside of themselves. A world they couldn’t understand or accept. And while those works are brilliant and incredibly prophetic, I expect that to understand a world borne of narcissistic sociopathy one must examine the construct of such a world by a narcissistic sociopath. Fortunately Plato, perhaps the world’s most (in)famous narcissistic sociopath, provided us a vivid illustration and explanation of his ideal state in “Plato’s Republic”. Plato provides us the why to Orwell’s and Rand’s ‘unideal’ states.

Plato provides the arguments for the philosopher kings. He also describes various levels of reality, arguing that each societal demographic must live within the reality level delegated to them. He argues each demographic has a limited intellectual capacity and thus can only handle the reality level provided to them. With the philosopher kings being the only societal demographic with the right to and capacity for absolute truth. Likewise, the philosophers kings in the world we find ourselves today control each and every aspect of life including our subsequent perception the world. There is no such thing as happenstance.

The market moves a certain direction not because of unexplained market forces but because the philosopher kings have made it so. Economic policies are creating incredible wealth for the already wealthy while destroying the middle class not because of honest misjudgements or the need for more time but because the philosopher kings make it so. The Fed dropped the U3 unemployment rate as a benchmark because it does not meet their standard of truth but expects the rest of us to consider that true unemployment. Declining GDP is ignored while adjusted indicators signalling GDP is healthy are paraded all over the street because the philosopher kings make it so. A Malaysian airliner is shot out of the sky not by things yet unknown but because the philosopher kings make it so. Continue reading

Gadhafi’s Gold-money Plan Would Have Devastated Dollar

Courtesy of The New American:

It remains unclear exactly why or how the Gadhafi regime went from “a model” and an “important ally” to the next target for regime change in a period of just a few years. But after claims of “genocide” as the justification for NATO intervention were disputed by experts, several other theories have been floated.

Oil, of course, has been mentioned frequently — Libya is Africa‘s largest oil producer. But one possible reason in particular for Gadhafi’s fall from grace has gained significant traction among analysts and segments of the non-Western media: central banking and the global monetary system.

According to more than a few observers, Gadhafi’s plan to quit selling Libyan oil in U.S. dollars — demanding payment instead in gold-backed “dinars” (a single African currency made from gold) — was the real cause. The regime, sitting on massive amounts of gold, estimated at close to 150 tons, was also pushing other African and Middle Eastern governments to follow suit.

And it literally had the potential to bring down the dollar and the world monetary system by extension, according to analysts. French President Nicolas Sarkozy reportedly went so far as to call Libya a “threat” to the financial security of the world. The “Insiders” were apparently panicking over Gadhafi’s plan.

“Any move such as that would certainly not be welcomed by the power elite today, who are responsible for controlling the world’s central banks,” noted financial analyst Anthony Wile, editor of the free market-oriented Daily Bell, in an interview with RT. “So yes, that would certainly be something that would cause his immediate dismissal and the need for other reasons to be brought forward [for] removing him from power.”

According to Wile, Gadhafi’s plan would have strengthened the whole continent of Africa in the eyes of economists backing sound money — not to mention investors. But it would have been especially devastating for the U.S. economy, the American dollar, and particularly the elite in charge of the system.

“The central banking Ponzi scheme requires an ever-increasing base of demand and the immediate silencing of those who would threaten its existence,” Wile noted in a piece entitled “Gaddafi Planned Gold Dinar, Now Under Attack” earlier this year. “Perhaps that is what the hurry [was] in removing Gaddafi in particular and those who might have been sympathetic to his monetary idea.” Continue reading

Destroying Online Freedom in the Name of Counter-Terrorism Will make the World a More Dangerous Place

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Photo: Reuters

Courtesy of Carly Nyst @ The Telegraph:

Robert Hannigan, the new head of GCHQ, announced his arrival this week with a call for “greater co-operation” with security forces by tech companies. Hannigan’s article in the Financial Times illustrated vividly the destructive ideology that has driven the infiltration by the British and American intelligence agencies into every aspects of the digital realm – an unquestioning faith in the righteous purpose of intelligence agencies, a complete mischaracterisation of the nature of the internet and its value, and a frightening belief that companies stand only on the side of the State, rather than in the interests of the privacy and security of their users.

Hannigan’s decision to enter the debate in this way is extraordinary. In a parliamentary democracy based on the Rule of Law, it is not appropriate for civil servants to speak for government or set policy.

His rhetoric is all the more disappointing for being the first public response by GCHQ to the serious challenges to the lawfulness of its activities since the first of the Snowden revelations in summer 2013.
Such activities include, of course, mass surveillance of all communications in and out of the British Isles, warrantless access to the NSA’s databases, the hacking of user devices and even the infiltration of Yahoo webcam chats.

Over the past year, in courts and inquiries and the media, GCHQ has refused to confirm or deny any of its wrongdoings, and the Government has refused to engage in any constructive conversation on how to prevent the overreach of intelligence agencies in the digital age.

Rather than acknowledge the very real misgivings that the British people have in the accountability of the services charged with protecting their security, Hannigan has used his public platform as an exercise in ex-post justification, and to launch the case for expanded powers. The audacity of such an attack, even as GCHQ is under the review of the Intelligence Services Committee, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, is astounding. Continue reading

The Common Purpose – State Control of the Press by Appointment

David Cameron declares his interests with Common Purpose. Suddenly the press and media realise that he was part of the same Common Purpose that created the Leveson Inquiry. It was an oversight? No State Control of the Press is by appointment….

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Courtesy of Brian Gerrish @ The Uk Column:

Nothing could be so obvious, for those that are prepared to look, that the British State is taking direct control of the press via the Leveson Inquiry. This will only be the start. Controls for the wider TV media and Web based media will follow, as sure as night follows day. For now we will concentrate on the press – the follow on should then be obvious. Firstly we recognise that the Mainstream Press is not really free in any sense. Whatever the title, Telegraph, Mail, Sun, Guardian or other, the publication is controlled by those that control the finances and their legal teams, who are in turn controlled by the Bar Council, to whom they pledge their allegiance. History demonstrates however that despite this control, truth has a habit of bubbling to the surface, as competing journalists and titles publish their wares. True enough, the increasing centralisation of newspaper titles in the hands of a few corporations is a dangerous precedent, but at the moment that is a secondary threat to freedom and liberty. The Common Purpose of Leveson is the real and present danger.

Created on the back of a massive lie, that press phone hacking was not controllable by existing laws, the Guardian and its Common Purpose tentacle, the Media Standards Trust, deliberately created and fueled a press, media and government furore. The Guardian was even prepared to cynically use an emotive family tragedy and a lie, by falsely claiming that Millie Dowler’s texts were deleted.

By the time the phone hacking firestorm was burning, the UK Column and CP Exposed had been warning for several years of the danger of the political charity Common Pupose, and its subversive objectives to destroy both liberty and democracy in UK. Using key information taken from the UK Column, the Daily Mail eventually joined some of the dots in December 2012, to publish an expose of the Common Purpose network wrapped around Leveson. The Telegraph and Sun followed suit, as did the Guardian with a disingenuous piece ignoring the fact that its parent, the Scott Trust, had funded the Common Purpose Media Standards Trust in the first place. To their credit, the Mail, Telegraph and Sun exposure also covered the role of the Common Purpose created Hacked Off campaign, but none of the press identified the critical danger to press freedoms – the influence and control of David Bell (Common Purpose Chair of Trustees) and Julia Middleton (Common Purpose CEO), already deeply embedded in Cameron’s government. Continue reading

Very quietly, the coalition tries to dismantle judicial review

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Courtesy of Ian Dunt @ Politics.co.uk:

When the local council gave permission to put up a 66 metre wind turbine next to the home of Chris and Julia Holder, it initially seemed they were powerless to stop it. Despite 1,125 letters of objections, the plans went through. It was judicial review which gave the couple the ability to fight the case in the Court of Appeal.

When the Department for Education stripped headteachers of their discretion to approve absences during term-time, a group of parents suddenly found they couldn’t afford to take their kids on trips overseas. They used judicial review to challenge the decision.

When Sefton Borough Council refused to fund care for elderly Ms Blanchard until she’d diminished her savings to £1,500, it was judicial review which ended up finding the policy unlawful. The decision forced 120 other authorities to review their budget decisions and saved vulnerable people from having their savings slashed to pay for care.

Judicial review sounds boring. You shouldn’t put it in a headline, as I have, because people won’t click on it. You can’t mention it across a dinner table because everyone will stare at their plate and wait for you to shut up. But it is one of the most powerful tools citizens have over their government. In almost every case of injustice by the Home Office I’ve come across – especially in relation to immigration and asylum – it is judicial review which allowed the most vulnerable people in the country to challenge the most powerful.

When Chris Grayling was found to have turned legal aid into “an instrument of discrimination”, it was because of judicial review. When two immigration officers detained, shouted at, bullied, harassed, imprisoned and conspired against an innocent Indian mother, how did her family fight the case? Judicial review.

So of course it should come as no surprise that the government is trying to dismantle it in the Lords this afternoon. They will do so not by banning it or anything as obvious as that. Instead they will do what the coalition always does: price it out. They will make it too expensive and risky for anyone but the most reckless and wealthy to contemplate. Continue reading