A committee of the British Parliament has proposed legal reforms to Britain's intelligence agencies that are mostly cosmetic and would do little to protect individual privacy.
In a report published on March 12, the Intelligence and Security Committee acknowledged that agencies like MI5 collect, sift through and examine millions of communications. Most of this is legal, the committee said, and justified by national security. It
proposed a new law that would tell people more about the kind of information the government collects about them but would not meaningfully limit mass surveillance. That is hardly sufficient for a system that needs strong new checks and balances.
As things stand now, intelligence agencies can monitor vast amounts of communications and do so with only a warrant from a government minister to begin intercepting them. Lawmakers should limit the amount of data officials can sweep up and require them
to obtain warrants from judges, who are more likely to push back against overly broad requests.
The parliamentary committee, however, did not see the need to limit data collection and concluded that ministers should continue to approve warrants because they are better than judges at evaluating diplomatic, political and public interests. That
rationale ignores the fact that ministers are also less likely to deny requests from officials who directly report to them.
The committee's acceptance of the status quo partly reflects the fact that Britons have generally been more accepting of intrusive government surveillance than Americans ; security cameras, for instance, are ubiquitous in Britain. But the committee
itself was far from impartial. Its nine members were all nominated by Prime Minister David Cameron, who has pushed for even greater surveillance powers.
Lib Dem minister Jo Swinson has accused the Tories of blocking an 'independent' review clearing aiming to reveal sexism in the media.
The junior equalities minister has claimed that editorial decisions by British newspapers belittle women on a daily basis. She has long wanted to use an inquiry to shine a light on the issue. She revealed in a speech that the idea was shot down. In the
speech at her party conference she called for censorship
I have argued within Government for a review -- to be led by senior representatives of the media -- to look at the implications of media sexism. Guess what? The Tories blocked it.
They are either happy with how things are or too afraid of a backlash. As we might find out in tomorrow's papers, sometimes suggestions like this one can be taken out of context.
But make no mistake. This is not a call for censorship, this is not a call for editorial agendas to bow down to government diktat. This is a call for an independent review -- chaired by media representatives -- to work with government and other
stakeholders to take this issue seriously.
Lib Dem sources told BuzzFeed News that culture secretary Sajid Javid was the Tory minister who put his foot down over the inquiry.
Apparently, Swinson had been fighting for a review into sexism within the media for a long time. She had been conspiring with Tory education secretary and equalities minister Nicky Morgan. The pair had even talked about who might chair such an inquiry,
with Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark's name among those mentioned.
BuzzFeed obtained the inquiry's suggested terms of reference which revealed that the inquiry was a thinly disguised call for more censorship:
The aim of the review would be to test the effects that everyday media sexism has on society and assess what can be done to reduce it. Everyday media sexism is defined as coverage that results in representations of women that are narrow,
inappropriately sexualised, and demeaning .
The panel would undertake a rapid evidence review to demonstrate the prevalence of media sexism and women's feelings about it, and correlations between sexual violence, sexually demeaning attitudes and the consumption of pornography .
It would then consider whether there is scope to improve the regulatory framework and establish whether the public understands how to complain about media sexism, including reviewing the roles of/for Ofcom and the new press complaints body in setting
content standards and assessing complaints .
Gordon Hessler directs this 1960s horror starring Vincent Price. Lord of the manor Julian Markham (Price) is ashamed of his mutilated brother Edward (Alistair Williamson) and keeps him hidden away from public view in the tower of
his vast house. However, when Edward escapes he attempts to get his revenge on his overbearing brother. The cast also includes Christopher Lee, Rupert Davies and Sally Geeson.
'Justice' Secretary Chris Grayling has been speaking of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which was expected to get Royal Assent today,
This bill extends the definition of extreme pornography to include the depiction of rape with vague definitions that will surely see hundreds of people likely to become victims when police make commonplace and routine computer searches.
The government has also increased the maximum penalty to 2 years for those who send internet insults that the authorities deem to be abusive.
Pandora Blake runs a very popular website on the theme of Spanking. She has taken a prominent role in opposing the Government's discriminatory new law censoring British porn, and particularly targeting kinks focusing on women's enjoyment of sex.
She has recently posted 3 articles on the topic:
Channel 4 debate on UK porn protest
You have all probably seen this already, but I haven't mentioned it here yet, on 12th December after the facesitting protest outside Parliament against the new UK porn laws, I was invited to debate the issue on Newsnight.
I finally got round to making a video blog about the new UK porn censorship laws. The Audiovisual Media Services Regulations (AVMS) 2014 impose dramatic restrictions on the sort of online porn that can be published in the UK, disproportionately targeting
fetish, queer and feminist porn with no reference to whether the content was ethically and consensually produced. These laws criminalise me and my site Dreams of Spanking, and put me and other independent UK porn producers in a very precarious position.
If you want to know more detail about the laws, exactly what is restricted, and how they affect me, watch this.
The best chance for me and every other producer affected by this is to join forces and support Backlash, the campaign group who are lobbying against these regulations, as well as defending freedom of sexual expression on many other fronts. The best way
to support them, if you can, is by donating hard cash. They explain on their website:
The majority of our income is spent on legal support for people who fall foul of laws and practises that criminalise, or discriminate against, their consensual and victimless sexual practises. We also endeavour to advocate our beliefs in such freedoms
and make challenges to the legislative process where we can.
Any producer who refuses to comply with these regulations and ends up in court will need every bit of support Backlash has to offer.
Nick Clegg has spoken of the irony of politicians who defend free speech and press freedom yet advocate a huge encroachment on the freedom of all
In a key passage from his speech at the Journalists' Charity, Clegg said:
The irony appears to be lost on some politicians who say in one breath that they will defend freedom of expression and then in the next advocate a huge encroachment on the freedom of all British citizens.
Let me be really clear , we have every right to invade the privacy of terrorists and those we think want to do us harm, but we should not equate that with invading the privacy of every single person in the UK. They are not the same thing.
The so-called snoopers' charter is not targeted. It's not proportionate. It's not harmless. It would be a new and dramatic shift in the relationship between the state and the individual.
People who blithely say they are happy for their communications to be open to scrutiny because they have 'nothing to hide' have failed to grasp something fundamental about open democratic societies:
We do not make ourselves safer by making ourselves less free. Free speech means bad ideas can be exposed and good ones promoted.
But how is the marketplace of ideas supposed to work if law-abiding people can't communicate freely about our ideas with others, free from surveillance?
How can we test our assumptions about the world and discover new ideas if our web browsing is being monitored? Free speech and privacy therefore go hand in hand.
Roy Greenslade of the Guardian noted: I am surprised that this speech has not been given greater media coverage and I'm grateful to the report on the News Media Association for bringing it to my attention.
And right on cue, David Cameron has spouted off about the right for British people to offend religions.
This is the same politician that has presided over a police regime where people are regularly being jailed for trivial bad jokes on twitter.
This is the same politician that has championed the PC lynch mob in its crusade to destroy people's lives over minor PC transgressions.
This is the same politician that has brought in new censorship decrees without consulting the people or parliament that has destroyed the British adult internet industry.
This is the same politician that has championed shoddy internet filtering that simply isn't fit for purpose.
This the same politician that wants to strip away every last vestige of people's privacy and to leave them prey to hackers, scammers and criminals.
Cameron has been speaking to CBS News about the right to publish material that was offensive to some. He rightfully disagreed with a comment made by Pope Francis, who warned that people who mock religion are asking for a punch. He said:
I think in a free society, there is a right to cause offence about someone's religion. I'm a Christian - if someone says something offensive about Jesus, I might find that offensive, but in a free society I don't have a right to, sort of, wreak my
vengeance on them.
All would have been well and good if he hadn't already created/interpreted laws that have seen people jailed and punished for offending religions.
He also said as long as publications acted within the law, they had the right to publish any material, even if it was offensive to some. But then again the leaders of Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and North Korea could all make the same statement. It
all rather depends on how repressive the law is.
David Cameron's repressive and ludicrous porn censorship law draws US comments. New pornography regulations in the UK seem to be the latest in a series of campaigns against female sexuality. By Chris Chafin
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, EU ministers have issued a joint statement calling for ISPs to help to report and remove extremist
The statement was signed by interior ministers from 11 European countries, including the UK's Theresa May, on 11 January, with French ministers and security representatives from the US, Canada and EU in attendance. It called for tighter internet
surveillance and border controls.
But of course David Cameron wants to go further. According to the Independant, Cameron could block WhatsApp and Snapchat if he wins the next election, as part of his plans for extreme surveillance powers announced in the wake of the shootings in Paris.
He said that he would stop the use of methods of communication that cannot be read by the security services even if they have a warrant.
But that could include popular chat and social apps that encrypt their data, such as WhatsApp. Apple's iMessage and FaceTime also encrypt their data, and could fall under the ban along with other encrypted chat apps like Telegram.
The comments came as part of David Cameron's pledge to revive the snoopers' charter to help security services spy on internet communications. He said: In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which [...] we
cannot read? But companies such as WhatsApp have remained committed to keeping their services encrypted and unable to be read by authorities.
Politics does make for strange bedfellows. Cameron's announcement comes just days after the Iranian government decided it was taking a similar step and banned WhatsApp, along with comms software Tango and LINE.
Ed Miliband told the Andrew Marr Show he would not support new emergency legislation if it was modelled on the snooper's
charter. He said he would adopt a cautious and considered approach in answer to calls for increased surveillance powers for the intelligence agencies.
Miliband was speaking after Lord West of Spithead, the former security minister in Gordon Brown's government, called for a revival of the data communications bill, known as the snooper's charter.
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, declined to offer support for the bill, proposed by the home secretary, Theresa May, that would give the police and security services the ability to track the email and internet use of UK citizens.
West told the same programme that it would be wrong to rush in legislation. But he criticised Clegg for forcing the government to abandon the data communications bill. He said:
Normally we stop plots because we get a heads up because we know people are talking to each other. That is why that intercept is so important. Most of the plots we have stopped in this country because of that initially indicator. If they are talking then
it is really difficult to do anything about it.
Responding to calls to revive the communications data bill, aka the Snoopers Charter, Emma Carr, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said:
It is wholly unacceptable for this tragedy in Paris to be used as a means to call for a return of the Snoopers Charter. It is the wrong solution and would divert resources from focused surveillance operations at a time when the agencies are
already struggling to cope with the volume of information available.
The Government is introducing legislation to solve the important problem of who is using a specific Internet Protocol address, but the powers within the Snoopers Charter go too far, as recognised by a number of Political figures and two Parliamentary
Instead, the government should focus on the number of failures to continue monitoring those suspected of posing a threat. Those failures should be used as a blueprint to re-evaluate the decision making and record keeping processes of the intelligence
agencies, as well as the training and resources allocated within the counter terrorism community.