Home Secretary John Reid's webchat transcript

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Participating in Home Secretary John Reid's "moderated" webchat via the Number 10 Downing Street website, this afternoon was a frustrating experience, and some of John Reid's comments were deeply worrying and creepy.

Obviously none of our "real time" or previously submitted Questions were chosen by the Moderators.
e.g. Why is there still no ban on the Taleban in the UK ?

Apparently, according to John Reid, the biometric National Identity Register, ID Cards and passports are somehow the only possible way forward:

"Without these, we cannot begin to track people in and out of this country, combat organised crime, tackle illegal immigration or counter terrorism"

Really ? How do other countries mange to do so then ? How were criminals ever caught in the past or even today, without the benefit of this ill-conceived system which will not be in place for several years ?

Moderator says: This webchat will start at 1500 GMT on Tuesday 27 February 2007.

We look forward to seeing your questions.

Moderator says: Hello and welcome to our John Reid webchat. Thanks for all your questions. We've had several hundred but we'll get through as many as we can during the hour the Home Secretary has available. Some of the questions address specific and personal issues which Dr Reid won't be able to able to deal with while he's here, but we'll make sure the Home Office are given all the unanswered questions. We've also received some questions about ID cards - Dr Reid may answer some of these, but we recommend that you log-in next Monday for our webchat with James Hall, head of the ID card scheme, who will online to deal with the issue.

Moderator says: The Home Secretary will be here in a minute or two

Moderator says: sorry for the delay, we hope to start very soon


John says : Hello everybody. Sorry I am slightly late but as ever it has been a delightful day in the Home Office!

mr john wilcox: i think the new law on the use of mobile phones in cars will be seen as just another way of extracting money from the motorist when in fact you should have made the use of mobile phones ilegal and people who use them other than when the car is parked off the public road should have their phones taken away from them.all the best

John replies: Thanks John. Like any new law, this is difficult to enforce at the starting period, not least because people are not yet acculturised to the dangers. But the dangers are real as some tragic injuries and deaths testify. Always open to suggestion that the phone should be confisciated, although given their widespread availability and relatively cheap cost this may not be a deterrent.

Mr Tom Graham: I just wondered what the thinking was behind the headline of reducing the age at which there is a mandatory 5yr jail term for carrying a gun from 21yrs to 17yrs when most of the recent victims and murderers have been under that age? Why do you have to recommend a new law everytime there's a problem when all you have to do is enforce existing laws.

John replies:

Thanks Tom. Of course we have to both enforce existing laws and to change the law where necessary as circumstances change. And it is obvious that circumstances have changed. There have always been gangs of course but the increasing use of guns or knives and the lower age at which they are being used can't be ignored. One thing I would say, is that this will not be solved by the police alone or tougher sentences alone. Unles we can engage the whole community, including the vast majority of young people against those that threaten the livelihoods (and the ngihts out), then we won't succeed.

Incidentally, tougher sentences can help. Since we introduced the 5 year mandatory sentence for gun crime firearms offences have fallen by 14% and the number of people killed by the use of guns has fallen from over 78 to 50. Still 50 too many, but moving in the right direction.

Daran Thomas
: Do you think that complete media coverage of criminal cases has any effect on public confidence and perception regarding crime figures and convictions?

If so, how can the government restore these factors and regain public confidence against the media?

John replies:

I think we should be very careful about allowing more and more coverage of offenders, their details, pictures and so on. Of course the public have a right to some information about crime, criminals and the justice system, but I am uneasy about pressures to move in the direction of the United States and think we should proceed with care.

Of course, where conviction has taken place, especially where those convicted are guilty of crimes against children like child abuse, I think there is a case for further information to be made available to the public.

What is John Reid doing about all the "climate of fear" propaganda , rumours and unattributed background briefings from "Whitehall" or "Police" or "Security" sources etc. which seem to feed the media frenzy associated with every major terrorism or even simple murder cases, even before any charges have been laid against those arrested ?

Nothing, except basking in the glow of "Must Be Seen To Be Doing Something" publicity, with claims like "I have been kept fully briefed about the situation", when he should have been keeping well out of it, for fear of prejudicing a fair trial.

Miss Debbie Howard: I watch the news in horror as young people are getting shot for no reason across the country. Would it be a good time to consider re-introducing National Service? Not only would this give the youth generation of today some discipline it may also encourage more people to join our diminishing Armed Forces. Yours sincerely, Miss D Howard, Aged only 46!

John replies: Dear Debbie, Iam not sure that national service as we knew it half a century ago would be welcomed by military chiefs, young people or most of the population. However, I do think there is a demand and a role for public service. That is why community sentences - where offenders are forced to do unpaid work for the benefit of the local community - are such a good idea and why I support them so strongly. They let people see that offenders are truly paying something back rather than just costing the taxpayers £40,000 a year in prison. Of course serious, dangerous or persistent offendeners should be sent to prison but there is a role, as you suggest for communtiy service and payback.

Robert Groves
: Home secretary. Why are the Police Service in Hampshire cutting down on police numbers by 76 front line officer they say not enough goverment funding, they need to save £1 million to balance the budget ,by reducing front line officers surely that will not be cost effective when anti social behaviour is on the increase, cost local council more to repair the damage done, Police on the streets would both prevent or arrest those reponsible.? like in the passed.

John replies: The truth is Robert that Hampshire, like every other police service in the country, is receiving more money than ever before. We have a record number of police in England and Wales at 140,000.

Buzzword Bingo - "record number of police"

And on top of this we are heading for 16,000 police community support officers. On top of this again, we have more ancilliary staff than ever before. Put simply, police staff numbers have increased by over 20,000 since 1997 and poilce funding has increased by almost 80% (39% in real terms). However, police chiefs locally have always asked for more responsibility and more power to vary their own numbers between officer numbers, equipment, cars, police community support officers etc so that they can maximise their own capabilities by combining these elements to suit themselves in the local area.

Mr Steven Baum: Having been to New York last year I was impressed that there is not graffiti, and street crime + anti social behavior has really declined. I did a lot of research on this and the main reason attributed to it is "ZERO TOLORANCE". plus 3 strikes and you are out. The youth of New York fear going "up river" for 20 years. This country is declining into a yob rule. The human rights act encourages kids to get as "asbo" as they get steet cred for getting one, and anyone under 16 has no fear of the police. I am not sayinmg go back to the stocks etc. But please please get a grip on society. I got the cane at school, it did not turn me into a violent person or encourage me to go out mugging old ladies. I was brought up to respect my elders but the youth of today has no respect because they know they can get away with anti social behavior. Take a look at what happened in New York and make a tough stance. he public are getting fed up with the weekly new "ban" and want our streets back.

John replies:

Thanks for your comment Steven. Lets never forget that the vast majority of young people, millions of them, are hardworking, law-abiding who just want to get ahead and make a future for themselves.

However, if we are to have a decent society everyone has to operate with a respect for other people. That is the whole point of ASBOs - to intervene early and show people that certain types of behaviour - even short of criminal offence - is just not acceptable. Of course there are always some, sometimes idiots, who regard being lifted by the police or ASBOs or prison as a badge of honour. That doesn't mean that any of these things are unnecessary, just that they are a necessary part of educating people out of their behaviour and part of that education is sanctions ranging from ASBOs right through to indeterminate prision sentences. Indicentally, a recent National Audit Office report concluded that the majority of people who received an ASBO intervention did not re-engage in anti-social behaviour bringing a degree of peace to the communities they had disturbed, and the overall British Crime Survey shows that in the 3-4 years we have been using ASBOs to around 2002/3 - 2005/6, the percentage of people believe in their to be high levels of anti-social behaviour in their area fell from 21% to 17% so a lot more needs to be done but a good start.

T Robbins: Why should I be prevented from having a passport merely because I wish to keep my private information secure by keeping it away from your proposed intrusive and unsafe 'National Identity Register'?

John replies

Dear Mr Robbins, obviously everyone needs a passport if they want to travel abroad. Increasingly country after country is going to require a biometric passport or visa (eg the USA already does) - ie a passport with your fingerpriint or the iris of your eye or exact facial features. If you are going to have biometric passport with that feature their obviously has to be a record of the feature to check it against. If there is a record of features, there is therefore a register.

Incidentally, the use of biometrics is intended to protect the individual. One of the greatest threats to indivdiuals and to our country as whole is the theft of identities. It is the major element in identity fraud (credit cards, bank accounts etc), internet theft, organised crime and terrorism through the use of multiple identities.

This is simply untrue ! "Theft of identities" is only a minor factor in most frauds, which involve false declarations of entitlement or circumstances, not of persobnal names and addresses.

There is no way in which "biometrics" are of any use whatsoever in combating "internet theft" - how can you believe that say, a fingerprint image sent over the insecure internet, belongs to a real person? Even if it does, how can you trust that it is not simply a Replay Attack using a fingerprint gathered from a previous online session, or from a latent print left somewhere by the victim of the impersonation ?

A secure infrastructure of biometric readers and encrypted communications networks would be required for this, which is not the internet.

According to the figures from MI5 quoted by David Blunkett and Des Browne, over two thirds of terrorists operate under their own names. This is especially true of suicide bombers, who hide their intentions and preparations but who leave specific identifying information, in their perverted attempts at notoriety.

See Home Affairs Committee ID Card soundbites

Those who do use "multiple identities" make use of forged or falsely obtained Foreign documents, so even a perfect UK biometric ID card scheme would have little effect.

It is not entirely safe now even with a pin number to go and withdraw money from a "hole in the wall" because people can discover your pin number. The one thing they would not be able to replicate on your passport or on an ID card is your fingerprint or your iris. That's the benefit of identity management and having a register against which to check it.

John Reid still does not understand that "biometrics" cannot be used to replace a PIN or password !

The "biometrics" used in ID Cards of Passports are only copies of digital images rather than your actual fingerprint pattern or iris pattern - they can definitely be copied by anyone with access to a medium quality digital camera and a home computer !

Unlike a PIN or password, they cannot be easily changed periodically or when it is suspected that the individual images or a central database has suffered a security breach.

Catherine: Dr Reid, you mention that the tougher sentences for gun crime have acted as a deterrant to this offence type.

Without the facilities available within the Offender Management Service to accommodate a significant number of additional criminals, what action will the Home Office be taking to manage adn deter other forms of criminal behaviour?

Also, what rehabilitation is available to offenders within the NOMS system when the resources are overstretched just containing the current population?

John replies:

Catherine, thanks for your follow up. Over the last five years we have increased the money available through the probation service (National Offenders Management Service) by 40% to more than £900 million. This is the equivalent of £3,800 for every offender they supervise and is a third more than they got in 1997. In addition, there are now 7,000 additional staff since this government came to power.

At present I am taking a bill through Parliament to make sure that in addition to all of this within the publicly provided probation service we can tap into the skills of the voluntary, charitable and private sectors in providing a wider range of services. Of course we are always looking to do more on rehabilitation in prisons themselves but we spend around £300 million on that at present which isn't peanuts.


John replies: Yes we are building around 10,000 extra prison places, 8,000 of which I announced in July 2006 within a couple of months of becoming Home Secretary. This year alone prison places will increase by 2500 places. I don't think anyone pretends that building prisons is the only solution to covering crime but the deterrent of being sent to prison is certainly one element of an effective penal policy.

Andrew Lewin: Recent criminal justice reforms have angered civil liberties groups as going too far: so where do YOU feel the line is between the needs of security and the rights of individual freedom? What 'red lines' would you NOT consider crossing?

John replies: The truth is that all of our liberties are under threat from extremist terrorists who have a contempt for the liberties that we value so much. Therefore, we need to protect them and in a civilised society people accept that requires some curtailment on our own liberties. For instance, while everyone agrees on the desirablitlity of freedom of speech, most people agree that it has to be curtailed when it comes to racist remarks or encouraging hatred against others. It is that balance which is always difficult to achieve, but I am proud that in this country we are amongst the most libertarian in the world, though we are under one of the greatest threats from terrorism.

What exactly has John Reid done as Home Secretary which has actually enhanced the freedoms and liberties which we have in this country ? Nothing.

He and his Labour predecessors have palpably reduced the freedoms and liberties of the vast majority of innocent people in the UK, crucially, without any commensurate or proportionate successes against terrorists and serious criminals.

They have forced through thousands of pages of badly written, improperly scrutinised legislation, most of which is not enforced or is actually unenforceable, except against the very weakest and most vulnerable people caught up at the edges of criminality, or innocents tarred with the brush of "guilt by association".

J. Kaufmann: Why are so many non-violent offenders sent to prison, especially now, when there is prison over-crowding?

John replies:

I have made my own view plain that violent, serious, persistent or dangerous offenders should be sent to prison but there are other offenders who should either be fined or put into community service. This is the assumption which is meant to underpin our penal policy, although when I said this recently you may remember it caused a bit of controversy.

sandra: Dear home secretary: whats your plans for the Illegal Immigrants in the UK thats lived, work and setteled here? are you considering an Amnesty to all immigrants in parallel with the new UK border bill?

Many Thanks

John replies:

Thanks Sandra. While I understand your question I don't think an amnesty would be a good idea since it would send an immediate signal to everyone that Britain is a soft touch for illegal immigration and compound our problems. We have no option but to work our way through the backlog of cases which I have estimated we can do within the next four years.

We are removing more people than every before for example removal of principal asylum applicants increasing by 237% between 1996 and 2006, but intake decreased by 21%. We are going to build on that, but I don't pretend its easy.

Candy Mathews: Please put all police back to walking the beat as they use to. In most communities just that extra police presense can make a huge difference to both the level of crime and peoples fear of crime. Now there is no fear of being caught.

John replies: Dear Candy, I think you are right. Neighbourhood policing - putting more poilce back on the beat and making sure the same police become known to people in the local community - is an essential element of what we want to achieve. I am pleased to say this is being done throughout England and in London, for instance, neighbourhood police teams with police constables and police community support officers have been established already, and by 2008 every area in England and Wales will have a dedicated policing team.

Nerissa Deeks: There is a direct correlation between the length of a prison sentence and the rate (ie how soon) and likelihood of recidivism (with the excsption of sex offenders). Instead of falling into the Daily Mail debate of build more/prisons/lock them up for longer, why not look at the alternatives, which may well be more expensive in the short term but will eventially reap benefits in terms of snuffing out criminality in younger offenders?
Can I refer you to the owrk of my cousin, an Australian sociologist Dr Chris Trotter, whose model of close supervision of offenders dramatically cut recidivism in Victoria state?

John replies: Dear Nerissa, thank you very much. I wlll commend your cousin's work to my officials.

Gordon Friel: would Mr Reid share my concern about media reporting.

whilst we need a free press and we need to be informed
do recent event show the news to be over zealous and indeed compromising for authorities.

Sometimes it appears that the media actual give enough information to assist acts, for example giving out bomb making ingredients.

I do not wish our press/broadcasters gagged but feel that
a code of "responsibility" is perhaps needed.

thanks for your time

John replies: Thanks Gordon. I have a great deal of sympathy with the points you raise. The best discipline on these matters is self-discipline by the press.

So how exactly is John Reid proposing to censor the worldwide internet of such "bomb making recipe" information ?

Like the vague European Commission plans under Franco Frattini ?

Response from the European Commission regarding the policy of censoring "terrorist" web sites - part 1

Mr Paul Mills: Why worry about the signal being sent now that Britain is a soft touch for illegal immigration? Hasn't this been the case for the last 10 years?

John replies: The answer is no, Paul. For instance, under the last Government, it took 22 months to process an asylum case. It now takes no more than 2. As far as deterrents are concerned, we received fewer applications for asylum in 2006 than in any year since 1993. We have removed more failed asylum seekers in 2006 than ever before. Under the last Governemnt that was a maximum of 5,465 staff in the whole of the immigration nationality department. Now there are nearly 9,000 staff dealing with borders, enforcement and detention alone.

Mr. Robert Allen: I am becoming increasingly concerned at the growing number of offenders of foreign origin who are commiting crime and filling up our prisons. Are there any checks on theIr police record from the country which they come before they are allowed to be residents in our country.We need to know that there are some protections.

John replies: Dear Robert, I share your concern. We do what we can in sharing of data but the truth is until we get identity cards for foreigners, as this government proposes, and use biometric identitty managment (fingerprints, iris etc) we cannot be confident of cracking this problem the way we should. That is why the Government is so committed to biometric ID cards, first of all for foreigners, biometric passports and British ID cards. Without these, we cannot begin to track people in and out of this country, combat organised crime, tackle illegal immigration or counter terrorism. That is why I constantly invite everyone else including all Parliamentarians to support us on this.

It is rubbish to claim that the ID Card Scheme is the only effective way to "track people in and out of this country, combat organised crime, tackle illegal immigration or counter terrorism." !!

John says: Many thanks for your questions and comments. Look forward to our next online chat.



We do what we can in sharing of data but the truth is until we get identity cards for foreigners, as this government proposes, and use biometric identitty managment (fingerprints, iris etc) we cannot be confident of cracking this problem the way we should.

Does this mean that iris scanning is back on the agenda, which seemed to have been dropped in favour of fingerprints according to the Identity and Passport Service's Strategic Action Plan (.pdf) ?

Or does it simply mean that John Reid is, yet again, simply not up to speed on the technology and on what his own department is proposing ?

More analysis of this transcript at the UK Liberty blog.

nulabour == nu-big-brother?

no - they don't deserve the respect of being equated with big brother - "joined up thinking" isn't in the agenda - unless it is was from a "join the dots for pre-teens" type puzzle book ..

the more things change - the more they stay the same ...

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About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog attempts to draw public attention to, and comments on, some of the current trends in ever cheaper and more widespread surveillance technology being deployed to satisfy the rapacious demand by state and corporate bureaucracies and criminals for your private details, and the technological ignorance of our politicians and civil servants who frame our legal systems.

The hope is that you the readers, will help to insist that strong safeguards for the privacy of the individual are implemented, especially in these times of increased alert over possible terrorist or criminal activity. If the systems which should help to protect us can be easily abused to supress our freedoms, then the terrorists will have won.

We know that there are decent, honest, trustworthy individual politicians, civil servants, law enforcement, intelligence agency personnel and broadcast, print and internet journalists etc., who often feel powerless or trapped in the system. They need the assistance of external, detailed, informed, public scrutiny to help them to resist deliberate or unthinking policies, which erode our freedoms and liberties.

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We look forward to the day when UK Government Legislation, Press Releases and Emails etc. are Digitally Signed under the HMG PKI Root Certificate hierarchy so that we can be assured that they are not fakes. Trusting that the digitally signed content makes any sense, is another matter entirely.

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Dissidents

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g. see Spy Blog's Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - or use this easier to remember link: http://ht4w.co.uk

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

Digital Security & Privacy for Human Rights Defenders manual, by Irish NGO Frontline Defenders.

Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

House of Lords Constitution Committee - Surveillance: Citizens and the State

House of Lords Constitution Committee 2008-2009 session - Second Report: Surveillance: Citizens and the State


Watching Them, Watching Us

London 2600

Our UK Freedom of Information Act request tracking blog

WikiLeak.org - ethical and technical discussion about the WikiLeaks.org project for anonymous mass leaking of documents etc.

Privacy and Security

Privacy International
Privacy and Human Rights Survey 2004

Cryptome - censored or leaked government documents etc.

Identity Project report by the London School of Economics
Surveillance & Society the fully peer-reviewed transdisciplinary online surveillance studies journal

Statewatch - monitoring the state and civil liberties in the European Union

The Policy Laundering Project - attempts by Governments to pretend their repressive surveillance systems, have to be introduced to comply with international agreements, which they themselves have pushed for in the first place

International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance

ARCH Action Rights for Children in Education - worried about the planned Children's Bill Database, Connexions Card, fingerprinting of children, CCTV spy cameras in schools etc.

Foundation for Information Policy Research
UK Crypto - UK Cryptography Policy Discussion Group email list

Technical Advisory Board on internet and telecomms interception under RIPA

European Digital Rights

Open Rights Group - a UK version of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a clearinghouse to raise digital rights and civil liberties issues with the media and to influence Governments.

Digital Rights Ireland - legal case against mandatory EU Comms Data Retention etc.

Blindside - "What’s going to go wrong in our e-enabled world? " blog and wiki and Quarterly Report will supposedly be read by the Cabinet Office Central Sponsor for Information Assurance. Whether the rest of the Government bureaucracy and the Politicians actually listen to the CSIA, is another matter.

Biometrics in schools - 'A concerned parent who doesn't want her children to live in "1984" type society.'

Human Rights

Liberty Human Rights campaigners

British Institute of Human Rights
Amnesty International

Prevent Genocide International

asboconcern - campaign for reform of Anti-Social Behavior Orders

Front Line Defenders - Irish charity - Defenders of Human Rights Defenders

Internet Censorship

OpenNet Initiative - researches and measures the extent of actual state level censorship of the internet. Features a blocked web URL checker and censorship map.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Reporters without Borders internet section - news of internet related censorship and repression of journalists, bloggers and dissidents etc.

Judicial Links

British and Irish Legal Information Institute - publishes the full text of major case Judgments

Her Majesty's Courts Service - publishes forthcoming High Court etc. cases (but only in the next few days !)

House of Lords - The Law Lords are currently the supreme court in the UK - will be moved to the new Supreme Court in October 2009.

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals under FOIA, DPA both for and against the Information Commissioner

Investigatory Powers Tribunal - deals with complaints about interception and snooping under RIPA - has almost never ruled in favour of a complainant.

Parliamentary Opposition

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

UK Government

Home Office - "Not fit for purpose. It is inadequate in terms of its scope, it is inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management systems and processes" - Home Secretary John Reid. 23rd May 2006. Not quite the fount of all evil legislation in the UK, but close.

No. 10 Downing Street Prime Minister's Official Spindoctors

Public Bills before Parliament

United Kingdom Parliament
Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.

House of Commons "Question Book"

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

FaxYourMP - identify and then fax your Member of Parliament
WriteToThem - identify and then contact your Local Councillors, members of devolved assemblies, Member of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament etc.
They Work For You - House of Commons Hansard made more accessible ? UK Members of the European Parliament

Read The Bills Act - USA proposal to force politicians to actually read the legislation that they are voting for, something which is badly needed in the UK Parliament.

Bichard Inquiry delving into criminal records and "soft intelligence" policies highlighted by the Soham murders. (taken offline by the Home Office)

ACPO - Association of Chief Police Officers - England, Wales and Northern Ireland
ACPOS Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland

Online Media

Boing Boing

Need To Know [now defunct]

The Register

NewsNow Encryption and Security aggregate news feed
KableNet - UK Government IT project news
PublicTechnology.net - UK eGovernment and public sector IT news
eGov Monitor

Ideal Government - debate about UK eGovernment

NIR and ID cards

Stand - email and fax campaign on ID Cards etc. [Now defunct]. The people who supported stand.org.uk have gone on to set up other online tools like WriteToThem.com. The Government's contemptuous dismissal of over 5,000 individual responses via the stand.org website to the Home Office public consultation on Entitlement Cards is one of the factors which later led directly to the formation of the the NO2ID Campaign who have been marshalling cross party opposition to Labour's dreadful National Identity Register compulsory centralised national biometric database and ID Card plans, at the expense of simpler, cheaper, less repressive, more effective, nore secure and more privacy friendly alternative identity schemes.

NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID bulletin board discussion forum

Home Office Identity Cards website
No compulsory national Identity Cards (ID Cards) BBC iCan campaign site
UK ID Cards blog
NO2ID press clippings blog
CASNIC - Campaign to STOP the National Identity Card.
Defy-ID active meetings and protests in Glasgow
www.idcards-uk.info - New Alliance's ID Cards page
irefuse.org - total rejection of any UK ID Card

International Civil Aviation Organisation - Machine Readable Travel Documents standards for Biometric Passports etc.
Anti National ID Japan - controversial and insecure Jukinet National ID registry in Japan
UK Biometrics Working Group run by CESG/GCHQ experts etc. the UK Government on Biometrics issues feasability
Citizen Information Project feasability study population register plans by the Treasury and Office of National Statistics

CommentOnThis.com - comments and links to each paragraph of the Home Office's "Strategic Action Plan for the National Identity Scheme".

De-Materialised ID - "The voluntary alternative to material ID cards, A Proposal by David Moss of Business Consultancy Services Ltd (BCSL)" - well researched analysis of the current Home Office scheme, and a potentially viable alternative.

Surveillance Infrastructures

National Roads Telecommunications Services project - infrastruture for various mass surveillance systems, CCTV, ANPR, PMMR imaging etc.

CameraWatch - independent UK CCTV industry lobby group - like us, they also want more regulation of CCTV surveillance systems.

Every Step You Take a documentary about CCTV surveillance in the Uk by Austrian film maker Nino Leitner.

Transport for London an attempt at a technological panopticon - London Congestion Charge, London Low-Emission Zone, Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras, tens of thousands of CCTV cameras on buses, thousands of CCTV cameras on London Underground, realtime road traffic CCTV, Iyster smart cards - all handed over to the Metropolitan Police for "national security" purposes, in real time, in bulk, without any public accountibility, for secret data mining, exempt from even the usual weak protections of the Data Protection Act 1998.

RFID Links

RFID tag privacy concerns - our own original article updated with photos

NoTags - campaign against individual item RFID tags
Position Statement on the Use of RFID on Consumer Products has been endorsed by a large number of privacy and human rights organisations.
RFID Privacy Happenings at MIT
Surpriv: RFID Surveillance and Privacy
RFID Scanner blog
RFID Gazette
The Sorting Door Project

RFIDBuzz.com blog - where we sometimes crosspost RFID articles

Genetic Links

DNA Profiles - analysis by Paul Nutteing
GeneWatch UK monitors genetic privacy and other issues
Postnote February 2006 Number 258 - National DNA Database (.pdf) - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

The National DNA Database Annual Report 2004/5 (.pdf) - published by the NDNAD Board and ACPO.

Eeclaim Your DNA from Britain's National DNA Database - model letters and advice on how to have your DNA samples and profiles removed from the National DNA Database,in spite of all of the nureacratic obstacles which try to prevent this, even if you are innocent.

Miscellanous Links

Michael Field - Pacific Island news - no longer a paradise
freetotravel.org - John Gilmore versus USA internal flight passports and passenger profiling etc.

The BUPA Seven - whistleblowers badly let down by the system.

Tax Credit Overpayment - the near suicidal despair inflicted on poor, vulnerable people by the then Chancellor Gordon Brown's disasterous Inland Revenue IT system.

Fassit UK - resources and help for those abused by the Social Services Childrens Care bureaucracy

Former Spies

MI6 v Tomlinson - Richard Tomlinson - still being harassed by his former employer MI6

Martin Ingram, Welcome To The Dark Side - former British Army Intelligence operative in Northern Ireland.

Operation Billiards - Mitrokhin or Oshchenko ? Michael John Smith - seeking to overturn his Official Secrets Act conviction in the GEC case.

The Dirty Secrets of MI5 & MI6 - Tony Holland, Michael John Smith and John Symond - stories and chronologies.

Naked Spygirl - Olivia Frank

Blog Links

e-nsecure.net blog - Comments on IT security and Privacy or the lack thereof.
Rat's Blog -The Reverend Rat writes about London street life and technology
Duncan Drury - wired adventures in Tanzania & London
Dr. K's blog - Hacker, Author, Musician, Philosopher

David Mery - falsely arrested on the London Tube - you could be next.

James Hammerton
White Rose - a thorn in the side of Big Brother
Big Blunkett
Into The Machine - formerly "David Blunkett is an Arse" by Charlie Williams and Scribe
infinite ideas machine - Phil Booth
Louise Ferguson - City of Bits
Chris Lightfoot
Oblomovka - Danny O'Brien

Liberty Central

dropsafe - Alec Muffett
The Identity Corner - Stefan Brands
Kim Cameron - Microsoft's Identity Architect
Schneier on Security - Bruce Schneier
Politics of Privacy Blog - Andreas Busch
solarider blog

Richard Allan - former Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam
Boris Johnson Conservative MP for Henley
Craig Murray - former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, "outsourced torture" whistleblower

Howard Rheingold - SmartMobs
Global Guerrillas - John Robb
Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends

Vmyths - debunking computer security hype

Nick Leaton - Random Ramblings
The Periscope - Companion weblog to Euro-correspondent.com journalist network.
The Practical Nomad Blog Edward Hasbrouck on Privacy and Travel
Policeman's Blog
World Weary Detective

Martin Stabe
B2fxxx - Ray Corrigan
Matt Sellers
Grits for Breakfast - Scott Henson in Texas
The Green Ribbon - Tom Griffin
Guido Fawkes blog - Parliamentary plots, rumours and conspiracy.
The Last Ditch - Tom Paine
The (e)State of Tim - Tim Hicks
Ilkley Against CCTV
Tim Worstall
Bill's Comment Page - Bill Cameron
The Society of Qualified Archivists
The Streeb-Greebling Diaries - Bob Mottram

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke - Freedom off Information campaigning journalist

Ministry of Truth _ Unity's V for Vendetta styled blog.

Bloggerheads - Tim Ireland

W. David Stephenson blogs on homeland security et al.
EUrophobia - Nosemonkey

Blogzilla - Ian Brown

BlairWatch - Chronicling the demise of the New Labour Project

dreamfish - Robert Longstaff

Informaticopia - Rod Ward


The Musings of Harry

Chicken Yoghurt - Justin McKeating

The Red Tape Chronicles - Bob Sullivan MSNBC

Campaign Against the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Stop the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Rob Wilton's esoterica

panGloss - Innovation, Technology and the Law

Arch Rights - Action on Rights for Children blog

Database Masterclass - frequently asked questions and answers about the several centralised national databases of children in the UK.


Moving On

Steve Moxon blog - former Home Office whistleblower and author.

Al-Muhajabah's Sundries - anglophile blog

Architectures of Control in Design - Dan Lockton

rabenhorst - Kai Billen (mostly in German)

Nearly Perfect Privacy - Tiffany and Morpheus

Iain Dale's Diary - a popular Conservative political blog

Brit Watch - Public Surveillance in the UK - Web - Email - Databases - CCTV - Telephony - RFID - Banking - DNA


MySecured.com - smart mobile phone forensics, information security, computer security and digital forensics by a couple of Australian researchers

Ralph Bendrath

Financial Cryptography - Ian Grigg et al.

UK Liberty - A blog on issues relating to liberty in the UK

Big Brother State - "a small act of resistance" to the "sustained and systematic attack on our personal freedom, privacy and legal system"

HosReport - "Crisis. Conspiraciones. Enigmas. Conflictos. Espionaje." - Carlos Eduardo Hos (in Spanish)

"Give 'em hell Pike!" - Frank Fisher

Corruption-free Anguilla - Good Governance and Corruption in Public Office Issues in the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla in the West Indies - Don Mitchell CBE QC

geeklawyer - intellectual property, civil liberties and the legal system

PJC Journal - I am not a number, I am a free Man - The Prisoner

Charlie's Diary - Charlie Stross

The Caucus House - blog of the Chicago International Model United Nations

Famous for 15 Megapixels

Postman Patel

The 4th Bomb: Tavistock Sq Daniel's 7:7 Revelations - Daniel Obachike

OurKingdom - part of OpenDemocracy - " will discuss Britain’s nations, institutions, constitution, administration, liberties, justice, peoples and media and their principles, identity and character"

Beau Bo D'Or blog by an increasingly famous digital political cartoonist.

Between Both Worlds - "Thoughts & Ideas that Reflect the Concerns of Our Conscious Evolution" - Kingsley Dennis

Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair - the rich Uzbek businessman and his shyster lawyers Schillings really made a huge counterproductive error in trying to censor the blogs of Tim Ireland, of all people.

Matt Wardman political blog analysis

Henry Porter on Liberty - a leading mainstream media commentator and opinion former who is doing more than most to help preserve our freedom and liberty.

HMRC is shite - "dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of the HMRC, who have to endure the monumental shambles that is Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)."

Head of Legal - Carl Gardner a former legal advisor to the Government

The Landed Underclass - Voice of the Banana Republic of Great Britain

Henrik Alexandersson - Swedish blogger threatened with censorship by the Försvarets Radioanstalt (FRA), the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishement, their equivalent of the UK GCHQ or the US NSA.

World's First Fascist Democracy - blog with link to a Google map - "This map is an attempt to take a UK wide, geographical view, of both the public and the personal effect of State sponsored fear and distrust as seen through the twisted technological lens of petty officials and would be bureaucrats nationwide."

Blogoir - Charles Crawford - former UK Ambassodor to Poland etc.

No CCTV - The Campaign against CCTV

Barcode Nation - keeping two eyes on the database state.

Lords of the Blog - group blog by half a dozen or so Peers sitting in the House of Lords.

notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society - blog by Dr. David Murakami Wood, editor of the online academic journal Surveillance and Society

Justin Wylie's political blog

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

Armed and Dangerous - Sex, software, politics, and firearms. Life’s simple pleasures… - by Open Source Software advocate Eric S. Raymond.

Georgetown Security Law Brief - group blog by the Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law , at Georgtown University, Washington D.C, USA.

Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia


Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at http://nuclear-weapons.info

RIPA Consultations

RIPA Part III consultation blog - Government access to Encrypted Information and Encryption Keys.

RIPA Part I Chapter II consultation blog - Government access and disclosure of Communications Traffic Data

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Please bear in mind the many recent, serious security vulnerabilities which have compromised the Twitter infrastructure and many user accounts, and Twitter's inevitable plans to make money out of you somehow, probably by selling your Communications Traffic Data to commercial and government interests.

Recent Comments

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence.gov.uk - Cabinet Office hosted portal website to various UK Intelligence Agencies and UK Government intelligence committees and Commissioners etc.

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protestClimate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

syf_logo_120.gif Secure Your Ferliliser logo
Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

cpni_logo_150.gif Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure
Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

SIS MI6 careers_logo_sis.gif
Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

Serious Organised Crime Agency - have cut themselves off from direct contact with the public and businesses - no phone - no email

Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

netcu_logo_150.gif National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit
National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit - keeps a watch on animal extremists, genetically modified crop protesters, peace protesters etc.
(some people think that the word salad of acronyms means that NETCU is a spoof website)

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV


I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !


Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign


Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."


Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme