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UK military prepare for ‘9/11-type attack


BRITISH military commanders said they are training to deal with a “9/11-type attack” as they launched a major exercise to test their readiness for the 2012 London Olympics.

As jet fighters took to the sky with nine weeks to go to the opening ceremony, the Olympic Park was getting its biggest try-out as the final wave of sporting test events got under way.

Four Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon fighter jets flew into the British capital to herald the start of Exercise Olympic Guardian, a nine-day training operation to test the response to a possible air attack during the Games.

Military helicopters were stationed around the capital, including on the amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean in the River Thames, with some carrying sniper teams.

AWACS surveillance planes and air-to-air refuelling aircraft will also be airborne during the exercise.
Airspace restrictions will be in place throughout the July 27-August 12 Games.

Air Vice-Marshal Stuart Atha, air component commander for Olympics air security, said their plan had several levels and “will allow us to deal at one end - which is that 9/11-type attack - perhaps down to the lower and the slower type of threat that we may face.

"All we are doing is having in place what we would describe as prudent and appropriate measures, in order that we could react if required in a timely and appropriate fashion."

Speaking of any potential attackers, he said: “I would hope when they see how we are preparing they might be deterred from making any threats to the Games.”

Typhoons are stationed on high alert as part of Britain’s regular air defence.

"Whilst there is no specific threat to the Games, we have to be ready to assist in delivering a safe and secure Olympics for all to enjoy," said defence secretary Philip Hammond.

The exercise underlines the commitment “to keeping the public safe at a time when the world will be watching us”.

At the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, five venues were to stage events in three Olympic and three Paralympic sports between today and next Monday.

Assisted by 11,000 staff, more than 140,000 spectators were to watch 3000 athletes take part in hockey, wheelchair tennis, water polo, athletics, boccia and Paralympic athletics.

The international invitational hockey tournament was the first to get started, with Britain’s women winning the opening match on the striking blue-and-pink surface, beating South Korea 1-0.

Just one stand was open at the 15,000-seater Riverbank Arena but the capacity will gradually be increased throughout the tournament.

"We were blown away," goalscorer Alex Danson told the BBC. "It was a 4000 crowd and so noisy."

World number one Australia, Olympic champions Germany, Britain and India are competing in the men’s event, while World Cup holders Argentina, China, Britain and South Korea are in the women’s tournament.

The British university athletics championships will take place in the main Olympic Stadium from Saturday to Tuesday, and on Sunday the sporting action will be mixed with a concert as 40000 spectators get a feel for the venue.

"Testing the Olympic Park and its operations is a hugely important part of our plans," said London Games chairman Sebastian Coe.

"Over the last 10 months, over 250,000 spectators have watched world-class sport as part of the London Prepares series test event program, and, in doing so, every one of them is helping us deliver the best possible Games."

Meanwhile it was announced that the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Paralympics will be called Enlightenment.

The Paralympic movement originated in Britain in 1948 and the August 29 spectacular at the Olympic Stadium, which will feature injured soldiers, will be a celebration of the Paralympics coming home.

Filed under News London Olympics Terrorism Fear Royal Air Force Olympic Guardian UK

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You Are All Suspects Now. What Are You Going to Do About It?

by John Pilger

You are all potential terrorists. It matters not that you live in Britain, the United States, Australia, or the Middle East. Citizenship is effectively abolished. Turn on your computer and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Operations Center may monitor whether you are typing not merely “al-Qaeda,” but “exercise,” “drill,” “wave,” “initiative,” and “organization,” all proscribed words. The British government’s announcement that it intends to spy on every email and phone call is old hat. The satellite vacuum cleaner known as Echelon has been doing this for years. What has changed is that a state of permanent war has been launched by the United States and a police state is consuming Western democracy.

What are you going to do about it?

In Britain, on instructions from the CIA, secret courts are to deal with “terror suspects.” Habeas corpus is dying. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that five men, including three British citizens, can be extradited to the U.S. even though only one has been charged with a crime. All have been imprisoned for years under the 2003 U.S.-U.K. Extradition Treaty, which was signed one month after the criminal invasion of Iraq. The European Court had condemned the treaty as likely to lead to “cruel and unusual punishment.” One of the men, Babar Ahmad, was awarded 63,000 pounds compensation for 73 recorded injuries he sustained in the custody of the Metropolitan Police. Sexual abuse, the signature of fascism, was high on the list. Another man is a schizophrenic, who has suffered a complete mental collapse and is in Broadmoor secure hospital; another is a suicide risk. To the Land of the Free they go — along with young Richard O’Dwyer, who faces 10 years in shackles and an orange jumpsuit because he allegedly infringed U.S. copyright on the Internet.

As the law is politicized and Americanized, these travesties are not untypical. In upholding the conviction of a London university student, Mohammed Gul, for disseminating “terrorism” on the Internet, appeals court judges in London ruled that “acts … against the armed forces of a state anywhere in the world which sought to influence a government and were made for political purposes” were now crimes. Call to the dock Thomas Paine, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela.

What are you going to do about it?

The prognosis is clear now: the malignancy that Norman Mailer called “pre-fascist” has metastasized. The U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, defends the “right” of his government to assassinate American citizens. Israel, the protégé, is allowed to aim its nukes at nukeless Iran. In this looking-glass world, the lying is panoramic. The massacre of 17 Afghan civilians on March 11, including at least nine children and four women, is attributed to a “rogue” American soldier. The “authenticity” of this was vouched by President Obama himself, who had “seen a video” and regarded it as “conclusive proof.” An independent Afghan parliamentary investigation produced eyewitnesses who give detailed evidence of as many as 20 soldiers, aided by a helicopter, ravaging their villages, killing and raping: a standard, if marginally more murderous, U.S. Special Forces “night raid.”

Take away the video-game technology of killing — America’s contribution to modernity — and the behavior is traditional. Immersed in comic-book righteousness, poorly or brutally trained, frequently racist, obese, and led by a corrupt officer class, American forces transfer the homicide of home to faraway places whose impoverished struggles they cannot comprehend. A nation founded on the genocide of the native population never quite kicks the habit. Vietnam was “Indian country,” and its “slits” and “gooks” were to be “blown away.”

Read more …

Filed under News Commentary US Government UK Terrorism Terrorist CIA FBI

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UK aid helps to fund forced sterilisation of India’s poor

Money from the Department for International Development has helped pay for a controversial programme that has led to miscarriages and even deaths after botched operations.

The Guardian

Tens of millions of pounds of UK aid money have been spent on a programme that has forcibly sterilised Indian women and men, the Observer has learned. Many have died as a result of botched operations, while others have been left bleeding and in agony. A number of pregnant women selected for sterilisation suffered miscarriages and lost their babies.

The UK agreed to give India £166m to fund the programme, despite allegations that the money would be used to sterilise the poor in an attempt to curb the country’s burgeoning population of 1.2 billion people.

Sterilisation has been mired in controversy for years. With officials and doctors paid a bonus for every operation, poor and little-educated men and women in rural areas are routinely rounded up and sterilised without having a chance to object. Activists say some are told they are going to health camps for operations that will improve their general wellbeing and only discover the truth after going under the knife.

Court documents filed in India earlier this month claim that many victims have been left in pain, with little or no aftercare. Across the country, there have been numerous reports of deaths and of pregnant women suffering miscarriages after being selected for sterilisation without being warned that they would lose their unborn babies.

Yet a working paper published by the UK’s Department for International Development in 2010 cited the need to fight climate change as one of the key reasons for pressing ahead with such programmes. The document argued that reducing population numbers would cut greenhouse gases, although it warned that there were “complex human rights and ethical issues” involved in forced population control.

The latest allegations centre on the states of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, both targeted by the UK government for aid after a review of funding last year. In February, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh had to publicly warn off his officials after widespread reports of forced sterilisation. A few days later, 35-year-old Rekha Wasnik bled to death in the state after doctors sterilised her. The wife of a poor labourer, she was pregnant with twins at the time. She began bleeding on the operating table and a postmortem cited the operation as the cause of death.

Earlier this month, India’s supreme court heard how a surgeon operating in a school building in the Araria district of Bihar in January carried out 53 operations in two hours, assisted by unqualified staff, with no access to running water or equipment to clean the operating equipment. A video shot by activists shows filthy conditions and women lying on the straw-covered ground.

Human rights campaigner Devika Biswas told the court that “inhuman sterilisations, particularly in rural areas, continue with reckless disregard for the lives of poor women”. Biswas said 53 poor and low-caste women were rounded up and sterilised in operations carried out by torchlight that left three bleeding profusely and led to one woman who was three months pregnant miscarrying. “After the surgeries, all 53 women were crying out in pain. Though they were in desperate need of medical care, no one came to assist them,” she said.

The court gave the national and state governments two months to respond to the allegations.

Activists say that it is India’s poor – and particularly tribal people – who are most frequently targeted and who are most vulnerable to pressure to be sterilised. They claim that people have been threatened with losing their ration cards if they do not undergo operations, or bribed with as little as 600 rupees (£7.34) and a sari. Some states run lotteries in which people can win cars and fridges if they agree to be sterilised.

Despite the controversy, an Indian government report shows that sterilisation remains the most common method of family planning used in its Reproductive and Child Health Programme Phase II, launched in 2005 with £166m of UK funding. According to the DfID, the UK is committed to the project until next year and has spent £34m in 2011-12. Most of the money – £162m – has been paid out, but no special conditions have been placed on the funding.

Funding varies from state to state, but in Bihar private clinics receive 1,500 rupees for every sterilisation, with a bonus of 500 rupees a patient if they carry out more than 30 operations on a particular day. NGO workers who convince people to have the operations receive 150 rupees a person, while doctors get 75 rupees for each patient.

A 2009 Indian government report said that nearly half a million sterilisations had been carried out the previous year but warned of problems with quality control and financial management.

In 2006, India’s ministry of health and family welfare published a report into sterilisation, which warned of growing concerns, and the following year an Indian government audit of the programme warned of continuing problems with sterilisation camps. “Quality of sterilisation services in the camps is a matter of concern,” it said. It also said the quality of services was affected because much of the work was crammed into the final part of the financial year.

When it announced changes to aid for India last year, the DfID promised to improve the lives of more than 10 million poor women and girls. It said: “We condemn forced sterilisation and have taken steps to ensure that not a penny of UK aid could support it. The UK does not fund sterilisation centres anywhere.

"The coalition government has completely changed the way that aid is spent in India to focus on three of the poorest states, and our support for this programme is about to end as part of that change. Giving women access to family planning, no matter where they live or how poor they are, is a fundamental tenet of the coalition’s international development policy."

Filed under News UK Forced Sterilisation India Poor Poverty Climate Change

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Bristol: Attack against Communications Infrastructure by ELF (UK)


11 April 2012

We take responsibility for the attack on the communications mast on Dundry hill on 11th April, that took out five communication services and took off air BBC Radio Bristol and Jack FM for more than 16 hours, as well as disrupting Avon and Somerset Police radio communications it seems (although they are refusing to comment on this).

We did this by stuffing two tyres with rags and methylated spirit, jamming them in the bundles of wires at the bottom of the mast and then igniting them. It was our pleasure to demonstrate that with modest ability and ample will we can create a rupture in ‘business as usual’.

We want to interrupt the spectacle of the mass media, and the administration of the technological-information society.

These radio stations and the media in general enforce the interests of the ruling class – the state and corporations. Propaganda masquerading as ‘objective news’ comes ad verbatim from government and corporate sources, and listeners get blasted with a tidal wave of adverts worshipping commodity lifestyle. Any criticism of the status quo is allowed, as long as it occurs within certain parameters, taking capitalism and civilisation as given, and entrenching the idea that these are inevitable. These criticisms, drained of any vitality, actually help maintain the existing order by making it appear tolerant. Genuinely revolutionary ideas are met with violent repression, as in the recent case of the anarchist counter information websites Culmine and Parole Armatein Italy. Every repressive blow deserves an answer. Mass media is the enemy of all rebellion and of every attempt to create a free life.

The media is just one tool of modern alienation. Technologies such as mobile phones and online networks have become so all-pervasive that other more meaningful forms of communication have been undermined. We are increasingly atomised and connected to each other through the mediation of mass electronic devices. The technological-information society makes it easy to bury yourself in obsessive updating, reality TV, ‘social media’, popularity games and whatever gets handed down to blot out a way of life which hinges on control and exclusion.

Faced with all this, we aren’t bought off as accomplices to an impoverished society that is collapsing the ecology which hosts us on this planet, and we reject the endless slide show of media revelry.

This was our torch of solidarity to; Luca Abba (injured whilst resisting the military-style occupation by police thugs in the Susa Valley) and the 25 arrested across Italy fighting against the high speed train line construction; the jailed eco-sabateurs Braulio and Adrian in Mexico along with Sadie and Exile in the US; and members of the Greek revolutionary organisation Conspiracy of Cells of Fire(who are now threatened with having their sentences lengthened) and the others accused in their case.

For a renewed spring offensive – THE TIME IS NOW AND THE ENEMY IS EVERYWHERE

-Some rising flames, ELF Empowering inferno

Filed under News Anarchism Anarchy ELF UK

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Cambridge: ‘Jobcentre’ vehicle torched by Fire Cell / FAI (UK)


325 receives and transmits:

17 April 2012

We stand alongside the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire / Informal Anarchist Federation (CCF/FAI) and salute our brothers on hunger strike in the prisons of Greek democratic totalitarianism for the final prison transfer of CCF/FAI prisoners of war Gerasimos Tsakalos and Panagiotis Argyrou. for dignity and rebel solidarity.


On 17/04/12 we set on fire a promotional “employment van” of the Cambridge Jobcentre, we entered the gated carpark, lit our fire and left, right under the snouts of passing cops.




- Fire Cell / Informal Anarchist Federation – International Conspiracy for Revenge

Filed under News UK Anarchy Anarchism CCF Resistance

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Interxion Readies Staff ‘Sleeping Pods’ for Olympics

By Rich Miller

For data centers, uptime is mandatory, even if the buses and trains aren’t running on time. That’s an issue on the minds of data center in operators in London, which may see its transit system tested by the huge crowds expected for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The data center team at Interxion has come up with a solution that will ensure that its London tech staff can be on site to keep things running smoothly throughout the Games.

Interxion today unveiled “sleeping pods” at its London data center campus, allowing staff to sleep amongst the racks to ensure that the facility will be fully staffed throughout the Games.  allowing engineering staff to stay on site 24/7 should congestion on the travel and road networks become too severe, making it difficult for critical staff to travel to and from the site in a timely fashion.

“Due to the nature of our business we need to be ready for all eventualities and while we are excited to have the Olympics in London we also need to be sure that we can continue to offer the highest level of resilience to our customers,” said Greg McCulloch, UK Managing Director of Interxion. “The installation of the sleeping pods is another great example of Interxion putting resilience and uptime at the forefront of everything it does.”

Read more …

Filed under News London Olympics England UK Tech Technology Interxion

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UK ‘exporting surveillance technology to repressive nations’


Britain is exporting surveillance technology to countries run by repressive regimes, sparking fears it is being used to track political dissidents and activists.

The UK’s enthusiastic role in the burgeoning but unregulated surveillance market is becoming an urgent concern for human rights groups, who want the government to ensure that exports are regulated in a similar way to arms.

Much of the technology, which allows regimes to monitor internet traffic, mobile phone calls and text messages, is similar to that which the government has controversially signalled it wants to use in the UK.

The campaign group, Privacy International, which monitors the use of surveillance technology, claims equipment being exported includes devices known as “IMSI catchers” that masquerade as normal mobile phone masts and identify phone users and malware – software that can allow its operator to control a target’s computer, while allowing the interception to remain undetected.

Read more …

Filed under News Technology Tech surveillance surveillance state Big Brother Syria Iran Yemen Bahrain USA Germany Israel UK Britain Europe

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Putting Syria into some perspective

by William Blum

The Holy Triumvirate — The United States, NATO, and the European Union — or an approved segment thereof, can usually get what they want. They wanted Saddam Hussein out, and soon he was swinging from a rope. They wanted the Taliban ousted from power, and, using overwhelming force, that was achieved rather quickly. They wanted Moammar Gaddafi’s rule to come to an end, and before very long he suffered a horrible death. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was democratically elected, but this black man who didn’t know his place was sent into distant exile by the United States and France in 2004. Iraq and Libya were the two most modern, educated and secular states in the Middle East; now all four of these countries could qualify as failed states.

These are some of the examples from the past decade of how the Holy Triumvirate recognizes no higher power and believes, literally, that they can do whatever they want in the world, to whomever they want, for as long as they want, and call it whatever they want, like “humanitarian intervention”. The 19th- and 20th-century colonialist-imperialist mentality is alive and well in the West.

Next on their agenda: the removal of Bashar al-Assad of Syria. As with Gaddafi, the ground is being laid with continual news reports — from CNN to al Jazeera — of Assad’s alleged barbarity, presented as both uncompromising and unprovoked. After months of this media onslaught who can doubt that what’s happening in Syria is yet another of those cherished Arab Spring “popular uprisings” against a “brutal dictator” who must be overthrown? And that the Assad government is overwhelmingly the cause of the violence.

Assad actually appears to have a large measure of popularity, not only in Syria, but elsewhere in the Middle East. This includes not just fellow Alawites, but Syria’s two million Christians and no small number of Sunnis. Gaddafi had at least as much support in Libya and elsewhere in Africa. The difference between the two cases, at least so far, is that the Holy Triumvirate bombed and machine-gunned Libya daily for seven months, unceasingly, crushing the pro-government forces, as well as Gaddafi himself, and effecting the Triumvirate’s treasured “regime change”. Now, rampant chaos, anarchy, looting and shooting, revenge murders, tribal war, militia war, religious war, civil war, the most awful racism against the black population, loss of their cherished welfare state, and possible dismemberment of the country into several mini-states are the new daily life for the Libyan people. The capital city of Tripoli is “wallowing in four months of uncollected garbage” because the landfill is controlled by a faction that doesn’t want the trash of another faction.1 Just imagine what has happened to the country’s infrastructure. This may be what Syria has to look forward to if the Triumvirate gets its way, although the Masters of the Universe undoubtedly believe that the people of Libya should be grateful to them for their “liberation”.

As to the current violence in Syria, we must consider the numerous reports of forces providing military support to the Syrian rebels — the UK, France, the US, Turkey, Israel, Qatar, the Gulf states, and everyone’s favorite champion of freedom and democracy, Saudi Arabia; with Syria claiming to have captured some 14 French soldiers; plus individual jihadists and mercenaries from Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, et al, joining the anti-government forces, their number including al-Qaeda veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are likely behind the car bombs in an attempt to create chaos and destabilize the country. This may mark the third time the United States has been on the same side as al-Qaeda, adding to Afghanistan and Libya.

Read more …

Filed under News Commentary War Syria United States Afghanistan Libya London Suaid Arabia UK France Turkey Israel Qatar NATO European Union Cuba Obama CIA China Imperialism

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How electrical brain stimulation can change the way we think

After my brain was jolted, says Sally Adee, I had a near-spiritual experience


Researchers have found that "transcranial direct current stimulation" can more than double the rate at which people learn a wide range of tasks, such as object recognition, math skills, and marksmanship.

HAVE YOU EVER wanted to take a vacation from your own head? You could do it easily enough with liberal applications of alcohol or hallucinogens, but that’s not the kind of vacation I’m talking about. What if you could take a very specific vacation only from the stuff that makes it painful to be you: the sneering inner monologue that insists you’re not capable enough or smart enough or pretty enough, or whatever hideous narrative rides you. Now that would be a vacation. You’d still be you, but you’d be able to navigate the world without the emotional baggage that now drags on your every decision. Can you imagine what that would feel like?

Late last year, I got the chance to find out, in the course of investigating a story for New Scientist about how researchers are using neurofeedback and electrical brain stimulation to accelerate learning. What I found was that electricity might be the most powerful drug I’ve ever used in my life.

It used to be just plain old chemistry that had neuroscientists gnawing their fingernails about the ethics of brain enhancement. As Adderall, Ritalin, and other cognitive enhancing drugs gain widespread acceptance as tools to improve your everyday focus, even the stigma of obtaining them through less-than-legal channels appears to be disappearing. People will overlook a lot of moral gray areas in the quest to juice their brain power.

But until recently, you were out of luck if you wanted to do that without taking drugs that might be addictive, habit-forming, or associated with unfortunate behavioral side effects. Over the past few years, however, it’s become increasingly clear that applying an electrical current to your head confers similar benefits.

Read more …

Filed under Tech News Technology transhumanism Science Brain Biology US Military UK

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Drones Flying Under the Radar

By Tom Barry

An undated handout photo of a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper, a drone aircraft aimed with laser-guided munitions and Hellfire missiles.

Drones are the future, especially in foreign wars, surveillance and law enforcement.

In all sizes, armed and unarmed, drones are proliferating at home and abroad. Some are loaded with missiles, others simply with Tasers, but all carry surveillance payloads.

These “eyes in the skies,” also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPA), may soon be inescapable. For the most part, however, drones fly outside the radar of public scrutiny, Congressional oversight or international control.

In the seven years that the CIA and US military have deployed killer drones, the US Congress has never once debated the new commitment to drone operations. Although the CIA and the US military now routinely direct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations that enter foreign airspace, these interventions haven’t been subject to serious Congressional review.

Drone operations often proceed without any authorization or knowledge of the intervened nations.

On the domestic front, local police and Homeland Security agents are also enthusiastically deploying drones for law enforcement and border security missions. At all levels, government in the United States is sidelining mounting civil rights, privacy and air safety concerns. The US Congress functions more as a booster for the drone industry than as a regulator.

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Filed under News Drones UAV Drones Surveillance Surveillance State US Government CIA US Military Spying Washington DC UK FAA DHS department of homeland security

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The 2012 Drone Wars Briefing


Today we are publishing the first, of what we hope will be an annual briefing.

The Drone Wars Briefing explores some of the key issues arising from the growing use of armed unmanned drones in a detailed, yet, accessible way.  Examining current UK and US military drone operations, as well as looking at future developments and legal issues, the fully-referenced briefing will be of use to both those new to the issue as well as those with a long-term interest.

Each of the briefings five key sections starts with a short background summary before reviewing what has happened over the past year.  In addition, the 36-page document looks at the growing autonomy of drones; Israel and drones and the push towards allowing drones to fly within UK civil airspace.  The briefing concludes with a short essay arguing that at the very least there must be proper public accountability for the use of armed drones and an informed public debate on their future development and use.

As the introduction to the briefing notes, 2012 will be a significant year for the development of drones in the UK. A go-ahead for the new UK-French drone is expected early in the New Year, the British Watchkeeper drone will finally be deployed sometime in the Spring, RAF pilots will begin piloting armed Reaper drones over Afghanistan from the UK for the first time during the summer, and it is likely that drones will fly over London during the Olympics. For all these reasons and more, we believe the Drone Wars Briefing is a timely and vital publication.

  • We are making the Briefing available free of charge to download (simply click image) but would very much appreciate a donation towards our work.
  • To order up to 5 copies through the post (sorry, UK only) please send a cheque (payable to ‘Drone Wars UK’) for £3.00 per copy plus £1.00 postage and packing per copy to:  Drone Wars UK, 20 Wilkins Road, Oxford, OX4 2HX
  • To order more than 5 copies please email us.

Filed under News Drones UAV UK USA Israel War War crimes

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The surveillance state: growing under a coalition that pledged to reverse it

Proposals for real-time monitoring of email and social media show the government has caved in to the security services

By James Ball

If the government were to suggest monitoring every building that each person in the UK visits, and making a note of every conversation they had, the policy would be seen as electoral suicide. Assurances that the actual content of conversations wouldn’t be recorded would be unlikely to help.

It’s a telling sign of how many real-world freedoms have been sacrificed online, then, that a government that just two years ago pledged to"reverse the rise of the surveillance state" feels able to propose real-time monitoring of all email and social media communications.

The information stored would include the sender and recipient of an email, the time it was sent, and details of the computer it was sent from. This would build a profile of who contacts whom, with what frequency, and from where.

The government says such measures are essential to counter organised crime and terrorism, citing that 95% of organised crime investigations and “every” major counter-terrorism investigation use communications data. However, this statistic does not show if such information was essential or even useful to these investigations – merely that investigators chose to get hold of communications records on almost every occasion, usually via warrant or use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa).

This kind of surveillance is nothing new: it’s been gradually expanding in the UK over the past decade, from measures that make it easier to obtain permission to monitor communications, to requiring internet service providers to store information on email communications to all their users. Under Ripa, state employees as junior as Royal Mail officersare allowed to “ping” mobile phones for location information on the basis of a simple, unrecorded, verbal request.

Information about each email sent – the data that would be covered by the new proposals – already has to be stored by providers for at least a year under UK law. The change would make it accessible to intelligence services in real time, presumably to allow for patterns or unusual activity to be spotted.

Read more …

Filed under Commentary Surveillance Surveillance State UK Britain Terrorism Big Brother Google Yahoo! MSN internet

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What happens when social surveillance goes mainstream?

By Mathew Ingram

The 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham came up with an idea for a futuristic prison he called the “Panopticon,” a building with mirrors that would allow everyone to see what their neighbors were doing. Thanks to the growth of social tools like Twitter and Facebook and Foursquare, we now have the ingredients for a digital version of this phenomenon, and some are already using those mirrors for questionable purposes: in addition to creepy apps like “Girls Around Me,”the UK is proposing a law that would allow for monitoring of social media (as well as email and text messaging) without a warrant, U.S. universities admit that they already trackwhat their athletes are saying — and a high-school student was recently expelled for comments he made on his personal Twitter account. At this point, advertisers tracking us online is the least of our problems.

In case you missed the furore, the “Girls Around Me” app has attracted a huge amount of negative attention for plotting the location of women on a mobile app by combining Facebook profile information and Foursquare check-in data. Foursquare has blocked the app from using its API, but the developers of the controversial service complain that they don’t do anything different than plenty of other apps such as — and they point out that the information they use to compile the profiles of the women they feature is from the publicly available Facebook profiles of those users.

If it’s public, can anyone track or record it for any purpose?

That’s part of what makes the issues around tracking people through Twitter, Facebook and other networks so problematic: the information is already public by default. With the kind of personally-identifiable data that the government is concerned with for its “Do Not Track” legislation, many people are unaware of what they are sharing — and with whom, and for what reason — when they click on a button or visit a website. But with Twitter or Foursquare or Facebook, users happily post status updates and check-in to places and share that information with the world. How do we determine what is an appropriate use of that information? As one observer said of Britain’s proposed legislation:

If your national or local postal service were to open and check every letter you sent in order to keep a record of whom you correspond with, would you not be outraged? What if the postal service then made all this information available to over 600 public bodies such as local councils and police forces on request?

Under the UK law, the authorities would be allowed to monitor a wide range of social media, along with email and phone calls, to detect potential terrorist threats, etc. But the functional outcome would be to allow for monitoring of virtually anyone’s activity, an idea many people are outraged by, as my colleague Bobbie Johnsonnotes in his coverage of the reaction to the law. The Department of Homeland Security in the U.S. and other intelligence officials already do this, and they argue the same thing — that they need this power to detect security threats to the government and other institutions — and then they use it to block a trip that some harmless bar-owner has planned because of a joke he made on Twitter.

As a story in the New York Times on Monday pointed out, several U.S. universities admitted that they already employ companies to monitor their amateur athletes, whether it’s Facebook status updates or Twitter messages — one university forces any member of its sports teams to “friend” the coach on Facebook so that he or she can track their behavior. University officials argue that they need this power in order to see when athletes are saying or doing things that might cause problems for the university, but the reality is that it means everything a student does is potentially being monitored.

Read more …

Filed under News Surveillance Surveillance State Twitter Facebook Foursquare UK USA Privacy Rights

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Argentina accuses Britain of ‘militarising’ South Atlantic

Argentina ramped up its campaign against Britain’s sovereignty over the Falkland Islands yesterday by using an international nuclear summit to accuse the UK of “militarising” the South Atlantic.

By Damien McElroyAndrew Salmon in Seoul

Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, was forced to fend off accusations that the UK had violated South America’s nuclear moratorium by dispatching a Trafalgar-class nuclear submarine to patrol the seas around the islands.

"I’m afraid I’m duty bound to respond to the insinuations made by theArgentinian delegation of militarisation of the South Atlantic by the British Government,” he said. “These are unfounded, baseless insinuations.”

Foreign Office officials have become wearily used to Argentinian diplomats using global meetings to reinvigorate their campaign to recover the islands, known as Las Malvinas in Spanish, in advance of the 30th anniversary of the junta’s invasion on April 2.

The International Institute of Strategic Studies, a London think tank, said yesterday that the diplomatic offensive, which is designed to bolster the government’s flagging popularity was based on a strategy of isolating Britain in Latin America and beyond. “Argentina’s current strategy is focused not on military deployments but on diplomatic and economic initiatives,” it said. “Buenos Aires hopes to harness the emerging global clout of Latin American countries to strengthen its position.”

Mr Clegg was responding to an intervention by Hector Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister, at the Seoul meeting, accusing Britain, an “extra-regional power”, of flouting treaties prohibiting nuclear materials from South America and the Caribbean.

"Argentina demands that that extra-regional power that has recently sent a submarine capable of carrying nuclear arsenal to patrol the South Atlantic waters confirm the absence of nuclear weapons in the region," MrTimerman said.

However Mr Clegg rejected the claim London had violated the Tlatelolco treaty banning nuclear weapons.

"As my colleague from Argentina knows, the UK ratified the protocols to the Treaty of Tlatelolco in 1969," he said. "We have respected these obligations and continue to do so." President Cristina Kirchner has wasted to opportunity to advance Argentina’s demands that Britain open negotiations on Falklands sovereignty. She has branded the UK a ‘crude colonial power in decline’ and used summits to proclaim that the recovery of the Falklands was an issue for all South America.

British diplomats predict that the campaign will continue to widen but stop far short of military action. “We just try to keep the level of rhetoric at a sensible level,” said one Whitehall source.

Filed under News Argentina Falklands Britain Militarisation War UK South America nuclear moratorium

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