Archive for the ‘Civil Liberties’ Category

Militant Animal

Sunday, April 19th, 2009


My name is Animal and I’m a Muppet.

Most of you will remember me as the drummer on the  show a few years back. I’m not playing drums any more, but I am a full time terrorist. Sorry, I mean tourist – bah, silly me!

I heard that Klaus and Loris Matzka were having a few problems taking photographs in London, because a couple of over-zealous policemen decided that snapping the transport infrastucture was “strictly forbidden” and deleted their photos. So I decided to help them out, go for a walk around London and  take some pictures of my own.

So if Klaus and Loris really are terrorists from the radical Peoples Front Of Austria (not to be confused with the Austrian Peoples Front – wankers), then I hope these photos prove useful!

Outside MI6 building

Outside MI6 building

Here you go Klaus & Loris - Vauxhall bus station (or perhaps nuclear silo?)

Here you go Klaus & Loris - Vauxhall bus station (or perhaps nuclear bunker?)

The I went to a demonstration in Parliament square. Lots of angry people.

Then I went to a demonstration in Parliament square. Lots of angry people.

Big Ben - it's really big!

Big Ben - it's really big!

Parliament - the home of the British politburo.

Parliament - the home of the British politburo.

Apparently this building's full of Muppets!

Apparently this building's full of Muppets!

This is where Gordon controls his empire

This is where Gordon controls everything with his large, white, fluffy cat

in pub

And finally - after a long day sightseeing, I went to the pub.

Official: Jacqui Smith is a witch

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

I am struggling to find words that adequately describe my feelings of utter revulsion over what this wretched woman and her brain-dead cronies in the government have done. It seems that the position of Home Secretary brings with it a pathological contempt for what used to be Democracy UK. An endless precession of half-wits have held this position and have duly screwed things up.

First up, the brilliant David Blunket who decided that the £18 billion ID cards scheme would be a terrific way to loose all our personal data. Then we had Jack Straw’s murky dealings with Extraordinary Rendition (the gun’s is still smouldering), followed by a lifetime achievement award from Privacy International for introducing the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act that enforces widespread internet snooping powers. Then there was that buffoon, Charles Clarke who tried to get 90 day internment enshrined in law – thankfully booted out of parliament only to re-emerge as watered-down  “control orders”.   And as for SOCPA….don’t get me started.

Enter stage left, Jacqui Smith – the most miserable of them all. Not satisfied with control orders, she then pushes through for 42 day internment (down from 96) and a few weeks ago the Coroners and Justice Bill which permits the state to snoop on our emails.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have another gem from the Ministry of Control: Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act such that taking a photograph of a policeman may lead you to a 10 year stretch at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. Astonishing. Even the Metropolitan Police Federation are “concerned” with these new powers that have landed on their table, they must think it’s Christmas. Be in no doubt, the police will abuse these powers – just has they do with the rafter of existing anti-terrorism laws. This is no reflection upon the police force per se, but a police force as a bunch of average people with average intelligence. Does Jacqui Stasi-Smith think that driving another wedge between the police and the people is really going to help crime fighting? Doesn’t she get it? We’re supposed to be on the same side you moron!!

Adam Curtis in 2004 made a brilliant documentary series for BBC called The Power Of Nightmares which shows how politicians use fear to hoodwink the public in order to retain power. This is precisely what this government continues to do – so much knee-jerk policy can be distilled down to “fear-of-terrorism” that not only tramples on habeas corpus but also hands any Kalashnikov wielding shitheads a resounding victory. These fools in Whitehall have done more damage to our democracy in the past 6 years than the Nazis could every have done.

The former head of MI5, Dame Stella Rimington, has also broken ranks by writing  “It would be better that the government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism – that we live in fear and under a police state,”. Here bloody here.

I’m so bloody angry I’m going to go outside and shoot a policeman. With my potato gun, of course – a camera would be illegal.

42 day detention – why 42?

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

On first appearances, it would seem that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has been reading too much Hitchhicker's Guide To The Galaxy. Where else did she pluck 42 from? She contests that 42 was arrived at between herself and "senior police officers" as an appropriate safeguard against future threat. It's clear to me that the greatest threat to us is the systematic bleeding of our democracy: terrorists 1 – UK 0

2000 saw the first of Labour's tinkering for detention-without-charge, a leisurely 48 hours, up to 7 days with court's approval. In 2003, this doubled to 14 days. In 2006, Blair tried for a staggering 90 days – reduced to 28 days after a commons rebellion. And how many times has there been a need to exceed this limit? Nil. Nada. Zilch. Never. But Brown & Co still swagger around with their new service medals "I Fought The War On Terror", hence 42 days.

The vote was won by the government by 9 votes (36 Labour rebels), which so happens be the same number of DUP MPs who were bribed into voting with the government. It was the DUP who opposed internment in Northern Ireland in the 80's, so it's quite astonishing that they can support this kind of legislation – unless your principles carry a £200m price tag.

What sickens me is Brown's insistence that he is "doing what is right" for this country. It's up to the politicians to decide what to do under the rules of the parliamentary process, which includes both the Commons and Lords. The bill will be rejected by the house of Lords (often a voice a reason from those motivated by beliefs and not spin), where it will bounce back to the Commons. Brown will then do what Labour do in these circumstances where it's lost the argument but won the vote: invoke the 1911 Parliament Act to condemn the bill straight into the statute books.

This is the same government that now boasts the world's largest DNA database on its citizens. The Criminal "Justice" and Police Act 2001 allowed police to retain DNA from acquitted suspects, modified in 2004 for anyone arrested. This results in the police drooling over the DNA records for over 1 million innocent people, including over 100,000 children. That makes a total of over 5% of the population, compared to 0.5% for the USA. Astonishing.

This is also the government that in 2005 oversaw the SOCPA legislation that prevents people from demonstrating within a 1 mile radius of the houses of parliament. Doesn't sounds like democracy to me.

Time after time, the government keeps us biting our fingernails by continuously telling us of the threat we face from people wanting to blow us up. In 2002, Blair scared the crap out of us stating that we were only 45 minutes away from an Iraqi chemical attack. This didn't turn out to be 100% true, but what the hell – parliament voted and we went to war anyway.

And then there's the government's plan to introduce ID cards, that will include a myriad of biometric details and god knows what else. Their record of retaining information isn't actually very good. There's been a spate of minister's stolen laptops, 25 million child benefit records lost in the post, confidential security documents left of trains, details of 3 million driving licenses going AWOL from a private company in, of all places, the United States of Paranoia. Not to mention the issue of civil liberties – Churchill scrapped ID cards after a real war in 1952,realising that they provoked so much public animosity as to prove counter productive when tackling crime. Wise words Winston, wise words.

It's almost impossible to go anywhere in London these days without being spied upon from a towering CCTV mast. They even have cameras on sticks poking out of Smart cars. Is this kind of surveillance effective? Like hell – on average we all get snapped 300 times per day and yet it solves only 3% of crimes. Some even have mounted speakers for that all important "Hey you! Stop littering!". It's enough to make you want a hoodie.

But the biggest problem with all these powers of surveillance and anti-terrorism that Labour have introduced, is in their misuse. Walter Wolfgang was famously arrested at a Labour party conference in 2005 after shouting "nonsense" during the Home Secretary's speech. Yep, he was arrested under anti-terrorism laws. And now local councils are having a go. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act in 2000 was brought in to combat terrorism by legalising surveillance on an individual (intercepted phone calls, emails etc). Last year, 474 councils used these powers to snoop on residents for heinous crimes like underage smoking, dog fouling, school placement cheating. I had first hand experience of police-power-abuse in 2006 when I was stopped and questioned under terrorism laws, all because I had an orange motorcycle.

It's quite clear to me: give authority power and they will eventually abuse it. Just because the police say they want 42 days detention is not sufficient reason to grant it – I'm sure they'd bite your arm off if you offered them 100 days. Yes, the 7/7 bombings in London were terrible – but we have to accept that there's always going to be shit-heads with radical agendas. The fact is that killings from terrorism world wide have never been lower. The difference is the media.

But just when I'd given up hope of living in a free county and contemplated emigration, a ray of hope twinkled out of parliament in the form of David Davis. Disgusted at the way last week's 42 day vote was bullied through parliament, he resigned as MP so that he could be re-elected purely on a civil liberties agenda.

Well, I have nothing but admiration for this guy – someone who is risking his career to fight something in which he believes. Labour dismiss the election as a gimmick – which just demonstrates the contempt they show for this issue.

According to the media, 70% of the public support 42-days – a statistic I struggle to believe. I can't vote in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election, but what I can do is send a modest cheque to Mr Davis and hope that a small microcosm of democracy will finally be heard.

IDiot Cards

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

One of my pet topics has bubbled to the forefront of media attention in Britain over the past week. The reason for this was a howling blunder on behalf of the HMRC governmental department (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Cockups) who managed to mislay personal details of 25 million UK citizens including their names, addresses, date of births, National Insurance numbers and bank account details. A junior official at HMRC was able to download this information onto a couple of CDs and pop them in the regular post, where of course they subsequently disappeared. Oops.

This is the same government advocating compulsory ID cards for all UK citizens, that will contain substantially more information than was on these CDs. But this argument is well trodden, and I am against ID cards for reasons more fundamental than of potential fraud: it is the wrong relationship between the citizen and the state: they do not own us – they work for us.

Ethics aside, it is also doomed to failure. As long as humans are humans, we will always be susceptible to error – an asset for evolution, but not so hot for super-sized security logistics. It only takes a single error for any national identity scheme to be compromised. Once the data is out there, it can never ever be retrieved.

Human error within the “system” is only one potential fallibility, the other is the system itself. Ministers are touting biometric data as the silver bullet to fraud prevention. They point towards finger print data (pardon the pun) as a means of secure authentication. The fact that you can replicate someone’s fingerprints using encoded data on a biometric chip, some cryptographic know-how and a £12.50 trip to Maplin’s seems to have been conveniently ignored. If we rely solely on this kind of technology in the future then we’re in for Trouble.

And don’t expect the banks to look after you either, they care as much about security as turkeys do for Christmas. For example, when I phone my bank I am asked a series of “security” questions for authentication. Fine, no problem. But whenever the bank phones me, they still ask for the same authentication! This is so utterly, utterly stupid. I could phone up anyone pretending to be from a bank and demand all sorts of personal information. Banks fail to understand that authentication is a 2-way process.

Not that authentication seems to bother HSBC too much either. About a month ago I received a letter, addressed to “Ms X” at my address. As Ms X has never lived here I phoned the bank to see what was going on and to suggest that someone was using my address for potentially fraudulent purposes. Next week I received 2 statements and a paying-in book. Another phone call to the “fraud” department, in New Delhi. A few days later, a cheque book arrived. Another phone call. The following week, a PIN number arrived in the post as did a note from a courier attempting to deliver a credit card. Another phone call to HSBC. There has been nothing for a few days now so perhaps they’ve got the message, but I wouldn’t trust this bunch of fools with my money if that’s the way they treat fraud.

I fear that the ID cards issue has now become too politicised to be debated rationally. Yes we need an alternative to using utility bills for authentication, and there are many things we can all do to achieve this – using a little common sense for a start – but investing in billions for a system that could be outwitted by bowl of bananas certainly isn’t the answer.