Boris Johnson: I am not bothered with civil liberties stuff for terror suspects – Telegraph

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Johnson said: “In many ways the guys who did this kind of thing are very often at the fringes of criminality, lured into terrorism by very cynical and clever idealogues. In many ways they are vulnerable to all sorts of criminality.

“You have got to have a very tough security solution, to be absolutely determined to monitor these people, know where they are, know who they’re talking to.

“I’m not particularly interested in this civil liberties stuff when it comes to these people’s emails and mobile phone conversations. If they are a threat to our society then I want them properly listened to.

via Boris Johnson: I am not bothered with civil liberties stuff for terror suspects – Telegraph.

If someone’s a genuine threat then I want them listened to. Surveillance targeted at those the authorities have reason to believe pose a threat is fine, but we should not be engaging in mass surveillance of the general population, and that’s why I oppose the snooper’s charter.

 

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How Leveson’s press regulator would work

On Thursday, the long awaited report of the Leveson inquiry into the “culture, practice and ethics of the press” was published. Based on reading the executive summary, Leveson proposes:

  • an “independent self regulatory” body be established to:
    • promote high standards of journalism and protect the rights of individuals
    • be responsible for a code of conduct for all subscribers, including requiring them to have fast complaints procedures, plus appropriate, transparent internal governance processes.
    • be advised on the code of contact by a code committee that can include serving editors.
    • hear and complaints, with serving editors being barred from advising the board on such complaints
    • provide a low cost arbitration service related to civil claims in relation to breaches of the code of conduct
    • have the power to investigate serious or systemic breaches of the code of conduct by subscribers
  • the board of the regulatory body would comprise:
    • a majority of people independent of the press
    • “sufficient” people with experience of the industry but not including serving editors, MPs or members of the government.
  • the board would be appointed in a “fair and open” process by an appointments panel that itself would be independent of the press and the government. Leveson proposes that the panel be established by Ofcom
  • whilst membership of the body would be voluntary, Leveson envisages that all “significant news publishers” would subscribe to the the new body. In the event of failure for this to happen he suggests Ofcom could operate as a backstop regulator
  • the main incentive for publishers to subscribe to the body would be the provision of low cost arbitration which should be cheaper than going to court in the event of disputes
  • according to recommendation 8: “the code must take into account the importance of freedom of speech, the interests of the public (including the public interest in detecting or exposing crime or serous impropriety, protecting public health and safety and preventing the public from being seriously misled) and the rights of individuals. Specifically, it must cover standards of:(a) conduct, especially in relation to the treatment of other people in the process of obtaining material; (b) appropriate respect for privacy where there is no sufficient public interest justification for breach and (c) accuracy, and the need to avoid misrepresentation.”
  • Leveson also suggests consideration be given to amending the code of conduct to equip the regulator “with the power to intervene in cases of allegedly discriminatory reporting, and in so doing reflect the spirit of equalities legislation” (recommendation 38).
  • The role of legislation in all this is restricted to:
    • enshrining a legal duty for the government to uphold the freedom of the press
    • providing “an independent process to recognise the new self-regulatory body and reassure the public that the basic requirements of independence and effectiveness were met and continue to be met” (a role leveson suggests would be given to Ofcom)
    • “by recognising the new body, it would validate its standards code and the arbitral system sufficient to justify the benefits in law that would flow to those who subscribed”
    • Leveson summarises: “What is proposed here is independent regulation of the press organised by the press, with a statutory verification process to ensure that the required levels of independence and effectiveness are met by the system in order for publishers to take advantage of the benefits arising as a result of membership.” (section 73)
  • Leveson emphasies that the legislation would not establish the new regulatory body itself or give rights to the regulatory body, parliament or the government to prevent material being published or to require material to be published, except that the regulatory body would be able to require corrections and apologies to be published and direct how such corrections or apologies are placed.

It seems to me this raises quite a few questions such as:

  • how independent can the body really be?
  • when would a web based site (e.g. a blog) be considered a “significant news publisher”?
  • won’t web based publishing undermine this, if only because web based publishers can easily be based outside the jurisidiction of British laws let alone the regulatory body?
  • given that the the press would be held to a code of conduct rather than merely be required to obey the law, isn’t there an inherent threat to freedom of speech there?
  • will this setup actually stand a chance of addressing the problems Leveson was set up to address, namely the lying, disregard for accuracy, invasion of privacy for trivial reasons, intimidation and cosy relationships with politicians and police?

I intend to comment on these questions in later posts.

Tory Peer in bid to limit officials’ right to enter homes

[Hat Tip: Big Brother Watch]

The BBC reports:

It may sound like a Monty Python sketch – but an ancient law allowing people on private land without a warrant if they are following a bee might still apply.

The law, aimed at protecting honey supplies, is one of 1,208 powers of entry in dozens of different Acts of Parliament unearthed by a Tory peer.

Lord Selsdon recently launched a fresh bid to curb wide-ranging powers for officials to enter private homes.

He called for a code of practice to put strict limits on entry powers for all cases except those involving suspected serious crime or terrorism.

Introducing his Powers of Entry Bill in the House of Lords, Lord Selsdon said he had been pursuing the issue for more than 30 years but was not going to let it drop as “it has got into my blood”.

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Gordon Brown’s flawed argument about the retention of DNA from arrestees

The Labour party’s campaign currently berates the Tories for their policy on removing the DNA of those arrested but not convicted of a crime, suggesting (without explicitly stating) that this stance makes them soft on crime.

Recently the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown attemptrf to paint this stance as being soft on rapists. During a recent speech on crime and anti-social behaviour, Brown argued:

“Some argue that liberty dictates we should immediately wipe from the DNA database everyone who has been arrested but not convicted of an offence. But if we did this, some sickening crimes would have gone unsolved, and many dangerous criminals would have remained at large.

Let me give you just one example. In May 1991, a woman confined to a wheelchair was attacked and raped by a man who tricked his way into her home. A DNA sample was recovered, but no suspect was found. In June 2007, South Yorkshire Police’s ‘cold case team’ reinvestigated the case and the DNA sample was re-analysed using new techniques. A match was made with a profile from a man named Jeremiah Sheridan who had been arrested in 2005 in Cambridgeshire for a public order offence, but not convicted. It proved very difficult to trace Sheridan – but after the case was highlighted on ‘Crimewatch’ in 2008, South Yorkshire Police got several new leads including one that Sheridan was in Australia. He was arrested on his return at Heathrow airport and, last September, having pleaded guilty, he was sentenced to 16 and a half years.

The next time you hear somebody question the value of retaining DNA profiles from those who have been arrested but not convicted, remember Jeremiah Sheridan. And most of all remember the innocent woman he attacked.”

The problem with this argument is that the retention of the DNA of all arrestees is simply unnecessary for solving cases such as the Sheridan case above. If a policy of storing a database of crime scene DNA samples was in operation, with the DNA of those arrested being routinely matched against entries on that database, then Sheridan would have been caught in 2005, over a year before the case was reopened.

The question this case raises is why Sheridan’s DNA wasn’t checked against that found at past crime scenes whilst he was in custody in 2005. The failure to do this, resulting in him being let go, ensured the case would have to drag on for several more years consuming more police time and resources as a result.

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Are you a "domestic extremist"?

See Magna Carta Plus News for details on how entirely peaceful, legal protest and merely attending political meetings could get your details recorded on databases of “domestic extremists”…

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10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know

10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know is an informative look at how you can tailor your Facebook settings to protect your privacy. There’s more to those Facebook settings than you might realise.

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Online tax return system considered "too risky" for the famous

[Hat tip: Samizdata and Tim Worstall]

From a report in the Telegraph:

The security of the online computer system used by more than three million people to file tax returns is in doubt after HM Revenue and Customs admitted it was not secure enough to be used by MPs, celebrities and the Royal Family.

Thousands of “high profile” people have been secretly barred from using the online tax return system amid concerns that their confidential details would be put at risk.

And:

From this year, anyone wishing to file a self-assessment tax return after October will have to do so online or face stiff penalties.

However, HMRC has a list of those excluded from the new rules who must send hard copies of returns for “security reasons”.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to use the electronic system to make the Jan 31 deadline this week.

Tax records contain bank details, national insurance numbers, salary and details on investments and savings – all valuable to fraudsters.

On Friday, senior accountants said they had concerns over the security of the system – apparently confirmed by the Revenue’s secret policy.

Mike Warburton, of the accountants Grant Thornton, said: “Either the Revenue have a system which can guarantee confidentiality for all or they should defer plans to force online filing. It is extraordinary that MPs and others can enjoy higher security.”

Mark Wallace, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “This double standard is unacceptable. If the online system is not secure enough for MPs, why should ordinary taxpayers have to put up with it?”

This is of course the same HMRC who lost 25 million child benefit records. Why should anyone, famous or otherwise, trust these people or their online system to keep their personal data safe?

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