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Home Office whistleblowers - hints and tips

The Home Office has been "dysfunctional and unfit for purpose" for several years now. It is only recently that the mainstream media has started reporting how bad things actually are.

The "crisis" seems to be fuelled by revelations in the newspapers and the broadcast media, e.g.

Sunday Times: Focus: Home Office in meltdown

The Guardian: Unfit or unfair: was Reid right about the Home Office?

However the Home Office Public Relations spin and disinformation machinery seems to be carrying on regardless, according to The Guardian: Home Office still burying bad news, say reporters

A couple of UK political bloggers are actively soliciting , or have commented on the likelihood of further "leaks" from disgruntled Home Office Civil Servants i.e. not the usual spin doctor briefings and "Whitehall sources" stories planted in the weekend newspapers, ahead of a policy announcement in Parliament, but actual examples of even more incompetence and bad management from whistleblowers elsewhere in the bureaucracy.

Guido Fawkes: The Truth Is Out There : Tell It!

Ian Dale's Diary: Why the Home Office Will Leak Like a Sieve

Ian Dale suggests that whistleblowers may be contacting the Shadow Home Secretary David Davis by email ,

Now, what was that email again? davisd AT parliament dot uk, I seem to remember.

This is something which was done before the Beverly Hughes resignation as Secretary of State for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality back in 1994, when David Davis was contacted by whistleblowers Steve Moxon in Sheffield and and James Cameron in Bucharest. This episode boosted the political career of David Davis.

However, we asked at the time,
Is the Shadow Home Secretary's email being monitored ?

Our questions about whether or not the 40 year old Wilson Doctrine about "not tapping MPs telephones", has been updated and whether or not it also applies to their mobile phones, faxes and electronic mail, none of which existed when the Wilson Doctrine was uttered in 1966, remain unanswered.

Steve Moxon and James Cameron found that the supposed protections for whistleblowers under employment law, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 did not seem to help them very much.

Our own experiences of the unfair treatment of a rightly disgruntled Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate Field Intelligence Officer bear this out. He was , apparently suspended from duty for contacting Spy Blog with details of his case, under the terms of the Civil Service Code, which forms part of the contract of employment for civil servants.

The fact that this Code is breached every week by Ministers, their Special Advisors, lobbyists, spin doctors etc.

"the duty not to use public resources for party political purposes, to uphold the political impartiality of the Civil Service, and not to ask civil servants to act in any way which would conflict with the Civil Service Code;"

does not make the experience any the less stressful for more junior staff who act as whistleblowers.

"10 Civil servants should not without authority disclose official information which has been communicated in confidence within the Administration, or received in confidence from others. Nothing in the Code should be taken as overriding existing statutory or common law obligations to keep confidential, or to disclose, certain information. They should not seek to frustrate or influence the policies, decisions or actions of Ministers, Assembly Secretaries or the National Assembly as a body by the unauthorised, improper or premature disclosure outside the Administration of any information to which they have had access as civil servants.

Many UK political bloggers are willing to publish controversial or leaked Government documents or memos e.g. all those who offered to Publish the Bomb Al-Jazeera Memo. However, if any of them should be lucky or unlucky enough to actually be the first people to be contacted by a Government whistleblower, they have an ethical duty to protect the identity of their "journalistic source".

This can be a quite difficult, especially if the Government wastes our taxpayers' money on a large scale "leak inquiry", as they have done in the past.

Spy Blog's hints and tips for Home Office (or other Government or corporate) whistleblowers, UK political bloggers and the media: - admittedly these are slightly paranoid, but unfortunately necessary to at least consider, if you plan to shame this media obsessed Labour Government, by becoming a whistleblower:

See our new Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers mini-blog - Technical Hints and Tips for the anonymity of sources for Whistleblowers, Investigative Journalists, Campaign Activists and Political Bloggers


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Home Office whistleblowers - hints and tips:

» Tracking Threats - how whistleblowers can avoid tracking by cell/mobile from Financial Cryptography
Someone's paying attention to the tracking ability of mobile phones. Darrent points to Spyblog who suggests some tips to whistleblowers (those who sacrifice their careers and sometimes their liberty to reveal crimes in government and other places): 8. ... [Read More]


Good list, a handy reference...

At the same time though, I have to wonder what leaks are deliberate and/or tolerated, and what the ends *really* are in all of this.

Out of the discussion I've managed to catch on the news, the impression I get is that the timing is impeccable. The contrast between the extent of the "damage" and the "butt-kicking mode" of John Reid is inseparable.

I have no doubt that the state of the Home Office is FUBAR, but one must question why it has all come to light now. Now that the ID Bill has gone through, and also now that Tony's position is looking extremely untenable.

As far as I can see, there are two things that will come out of this "disgraceful" situation. Firstly, the argument for increased tracking systems (including, but not limited to an ID system) will have gained ground tenfold. If immigrants and escaped, "untrackable" (without large, inefficient amounts of police time) convicts are running around committing crime within our midst, the only way to filter them out is to give everyone some token of their identification, and a system to go with it.

Secondly, such a "scandal" (which, as you point out in the first sentence, it's not) is the best mechanism to implement rapid overhaul. It is, or is soon to be, a revolution that will go down as a success - if only because the current system has revealed to be so "appalling". And this is what will stick in the public memory - the success of Blair and Reid combined, the reformers, the guerilla revolutionaries intent on extracting the rot from public administration and claiming all along that they were the saviours. Just as with Iraq, they want to be met with cheers, whilst everyone handily forgets that they were mostly responsible for the mess that existed in the first place.

Leaks are to be encouraged and welcomed of course, but they should also be treated with the suspicion that anything emitted from the bowels of government deserves. Blame needs to be remembered.

Worth sharing.

It's a good list but far from complete (eg. you should delete your "Recent" docs and while in Internet Options also do "Content > Auto Complete > Clear Forms") and it makes me dizzy to think about it leave alone someone who's not techie.

Simple rules are

(i) You can trust no one. Figure a way of maintaining your anonymity.

(ii) Talk to a solicitor before you do anything. Even if you weren't the whistleblower you could get your door kicked in in the early hours and not get to speak to anyone rational for 28 days.
Also a solicitor might know someone like wtwu who could advise you on how to do it.

(iii) Documents and audio files can be "watermarked" which can make them directly traceable back to you. Likewise printers and photocopiers may leave ID. Find out how to get around this before you pass them on.

(iv) If poss. don't use a computer at all for your nefarious deeds. Not at work or at home. If you need email open a web based account (eg hushmail as recommended above) and use it from a variety of internet cafes.

I kid you not, I have forensic software that can tell me all that's been done on a computer since the first time it was turned on. (I can also make it look like it's never been turned on but then, I'm not Joe Soap, I'm a security nut :)

@ Scribe.

My opinion is that Reid's sudden revelations about the state of the Home Office have nothing to do with the Home Office and everything to do with his ambitions to become PM. The other two main contenders for the run off both served there and he buried Clarke within a couple of days. He's endeavouring to ruin Straw by implication of what a mess he made there before he went on to ruin our reputation in the world over Iraq.
He'll run against Brown saying that B has tarred Labour with stealth taxes and squandered the money because Health and Education still need reform.

His pitch to the Right of the LP will be that the revolution continues and to the Left that we should re-evaluate PFI.

In the last four weeks, the odds on him becoming PM have dropped from 100:1 to 14:1.

If you want cheering up :) go online to Radio 4 and "Listen Again" to "Any Answers" for Sat 27 May. The first item is about George Galloway's latest provocation and every caller supports him, many of them call for Blair to be put on trial. You can hear J Dimbleby blanching!!

Nice list. I wrote a guide to this subject for the OSCE a few years ago, and you can read that chapter here (pp.187-196).

Another guide worth perusing is the Reporters sans Frontières - Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents.

It is frightening that we should even have to be considering using techniques designed to help political dissidents living under repressive police states, here in the United Kingdom.

Due to excessive and pointless spam, Trackbacks are currently disabled on Spy Blog, so here is a link back to the "Protecting whistleblowers" article by Ian Brown.

My best suggestion for a government whistleblower today would be to attempt to make contact with a journalist using a payphone, and arrange a physical meeting where the journalist can make notes based on a document without taking an actual duplicate.

Sound advice.

However, in London, especially, a feature of the Northern Irish terrorist bombing campaigns was the extensive use of "warnings" from payphones, to newspaper or broadcast media offices. Many of these "recognised code word message" warnings were deliberately too late or too vague for bomb target areas to always be evacuated in time.

There were also a large number of bomb hoax calls (not just to the emergency services 999 / 112 number), some from the terrorists, some from mentally unstable attention seekers.

This led to the development of the ability to almost instantly position fix any call from a public payphone, certainly in London and to pass this information this on to a Police control room.

We speculate that it is therefore likley that Communications Data Traffic records of any payphone call to a newspaper or tv or radio studio are likely to be retained and analysed as a matter of routine.

British Telecom payphones come in two varieties, the coin operated ones, on which you risk leaving fingerprint and DNA samples, which might betray your identity as a whistleblower, depending on the level of resources being applied to a "leak investigation", and the card operated ones.

Like all our advice above, it should be obvious , with a moment's thought, that a whstleblower should not use a a credit card or a BT Charge Card to make a phone call, as this could reveal a name and address.

Even if these details are deliberately false, do not phone home or work, to use up the remaining credit on the BT Charge Card, as the pattern of calls made using that card can easily be analysed.

Similarly any use of a Transport for London Oyster travel card on the Tube or Buses is likely to be used to attempt to cross reference CCTV images of a whistleblower, as they travel to or from a meeting with , for example, a journalist who is being kept surveillance.

See Oyster Card data used by the Police

I think a good spy should always have his or her saftey gear

@ Franki - there are differences between spies and whistleblowers - the latter run more risk of discovery, because of who they are giving information to i.e. journalists, politicians, campaign activists or perhaps bloggers.

Dear Sirs For just how much longer will the great British Public continue to accept the intrusiveness of CCTV. We are now being
given PNRS to follow your every move on the Public Highway. We are told (Tongue in Cheek) that it will catch all those 'bad boys' that neither Tax nor Insure their Motor Vehicles. What they do not tell you is that they can also track any car, anywhere in the UK. Any car, applying to approx. 90% of the population. But
of course, that is not the object of the exercise - is
it. Identity cards by any other name. Our friends in the MVL dept. are fully aware that S/H cars can be bought at Auction, no name no pack drill. Used for one off crimes and then torched. Why worry, the majority are very law abiding so they can hammer them.
CCTV within Shops, Towns are totaly an invasion of privicy. The next and most frightening of all are RIFDS. If you no not what they are, then I suggest all investigate. Beware, be
very aware when you shop, and this is only the begining.

Guido Fawkes is, perfectly reasonably, asking for whistleblowers who may have important information regarding any possible Financial Services Authority investigation iinto the seemingly dubious lending activities of the Trades Union and Cooperative Bank plc funded Unity Trust Bank, which seems to have lent a large percentage of its relatively small capital base to the Labour Party, despite its "ethical" lending and investment policy.

Skype Voice over IP is one of the methods of contacting prominent bloggers like Guido Fawkes with tips which may well be picked up subsequently by the mainstream media.

However, please remember that although Skype offers content privacy through encrypted conversations, Skype does not offer anonymity protection against Communications Traffic Data analysis.

Even if the conversation is set up and relayed through, a network of low latency anonymising proxies, like Tor, or through other open proxy servers around the world (not the default behavior of the software), the time sensitive nature of VoIP traffic seems to enable Government level snoopers to introduce characteristic signal delays, which can allow such VoIP calls to be traced, even with these non standard precautions.

See Bruce Schneier's blog

This is a fantastic resource of the highest order. I am proud to say that I have added a link to this page.

I think it is vital that those who wish to act in the public interest and release information be able to do so safly.

I am thinking that maybe a list of (self-certified) "safe to leak to" bloggers (and the obligitory "I keep my sources secret" badge) might be a usefull resource especially if it's in a place where bloggers can feel free to replubish the aformentioned "safe to leak to" list.

EXIF information in JPEG images: one excellent free Windows image viewer and editor, IrfanView, can delete EXIF information during "Save as". A Windows command-line utility jhead can expunge from a JPEG image file all non-image data and tags.

@ PK - thanks for the .jpeg suggestions



The jhead documentation and program options make the point, that even if you have digitally manipulated the main .jpg or .jpeg file, e.g. to pixellate out someone's face or a street name or vehicle number plate etc. many digital cameras embed a small, typically 10Kb thumbnail of the main image, which may need separate manipulation or (using jhead) re-generation, or better still, deletion.

Just a brief acknowledgement of the fine (and very comprehensive) work here.

A pity that society is now so oppressed that free speech and fair comment are reduced to these levels. Even more so that so many institutions of all kinds spend exorbitant effort on killing the messengers, rather than righting the wrongs. Nonetheless, more power to you!

I wonder how many Government whistleblowers go through this website...


I guess we'll never know!

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