Wandsworth Prison IMB report 2007-2008 - things have got even worse with illegal drugs and mobile phones in the last year

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Apart from retaining the Communications Traffic Data on millions of innocent people (with plans for even more extensive snooping under the Communications Data Bill), and admitting to the electronic bugging of Member of Parliament Sadiq Khan (now a junior Government Minister) when visiting his constituent Babar Ahmad (who has not been charged with any offence in the UK, but is awaiting extradition to the USA, without any prima facie evidence having been brought against him in a UK court) in prison, what has this labour government done about the ongoing scandal of thousands of mobile phones in Prisons ?

See Spy Blog: Thousands of Mobile Phones seized in UK Prisons - evidence of corruption ?

What has Jack Straw and his Prisons Minister David Hanson, who made vague promises to the BBC, actually done about this scandal in the last year ?

The 2007 - 2008 Independent Monitoring Board annual report for Wandsworth prison (.pdf), which holds the largest number of prisoners in the UK, makes dismal reading in this regard.

Access to mobile phones:

- For the past three years in this report we have asked the Home Office and then the Ministry of Justice to implement an effective jamming system to curtail the use of mobile phones. We have been promised that trials are taking place but nothing is happening in the large Local prisons to jam the use of mobile phones. Within Wandsworth it is estimated that the drugs trade would be halved if phones were jammed. As with drugs mobile phones are very freely available within HMP Wandsworth. Last year 307 were found and the numbers being found in the first six months of this year show an alarming increase. Phones are not just used to drive the drugs trade in Wandsworth. We have seen a phone seized by Security which had the most graphic and violent images taken in another prison, including forced sex and stabbings. With the possession of mobile phones within prisons now being a criminal offence we look forward to the Police taking a more active role in arresting and charging those found with mobile phones in prison.

The Labour government have, as is so typical of them, legislated unnecessarily in the Offender Management Act 2007 section 22 Conveyance of prohibited articles into or out of prison , which amends section 40 of the Prison Act 1952, to make smuggling mobile phones into a prison a criminal offence, pretending that it was not already illegal under drug dealing or prison escape conspiracy laws.

However they seem to have done nothing to actually implement any sort of mobile phone blocking or precise location tracking of handsets, (the controversial Path Intelligence Footpath technology used in some shopping centres, could be used for this).

Astonishingly, at HMP Wandsworth, it appears that the available metal detector anti-mobile phone smuggling technology is not being used !

We had very high hopes last year that the BOSS (Bodily Orifice Security Scanner) chair would be used to try and detect more phones being brought in by prisoners. Unfortunately it has hardly been used at all.

Is this because there is only the one BOSS chair, which cannot cope with the large number of movements in and out of the security perimeter every day ?

Or is there resistance to its use from corrupt prison staff ?

- Availability:

Drugs appear to be more widely available than at any time previously. The Mandatory Drugs Tests targets have been met with difficulty until recently primarily because of the relatively low level of drugs usage in Onslow. The current target for positive tests is 14%. The current annual market for drugs in Wandsworth was recently estimated to be worth £1million .Drugs of any sort are freely available.


Drugs enter the prison within prisoners, through visits, over the wall or via staff. Considerable progress appears to have been made to curb supplies through the first three categories of supply. There are concerns that a small number of staff is responsible for bringing the lion's share of drugs into the prison. Clearly this is an area for intensive investigation and the creation of the Ministry of Justice's new Anti-Corruption Unit is to be welcomed.

Who is holding Labour Ministers and Senior Civil Servants to account for their utter management failures e.g.

Spy Blog: Home Office and PA Consulting lose the names and addresses of all the most serious criminals in the UK

Given the years of failure by both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to sort out both the drugs and mobile phones scandals in prisons throughout the UK, one has to ask if the corruption extends beyond individual corrupt prison staff, and includes senior civil servants, private sector companies and Labour politicians as well ?

They are either incompetent, or corrupt, or both - they cannot be innocent of any blame.

Just a reminder, to those who think that simple mobile phone jamming is the answer, and who forget that most of our prisons in the UK are in, or near to, busy urban areas or roads:

  • Crude jamming or Faraday cage shielding of mobile phone signals could easily affect mobile phone services well outside the perimeter of a prison, if done stupidly or on the cheap.
  • Unless appropriate micro or pico cell transmitters or repeaters are also installed, then the shielding or jamming of a prison, will create a mobile phone reception "dead zone" shadow, which will prevent normal mobile phone use where the prison happens to be directly between a Cell Phone Mast and a mobile phone handset.
  • This includes a "dead zone" for ringing the Emergency Services (over half of such 999 / 112 emergency calls are from mobile phones) , so inappropriate jamming or shielding done on the cheap could contribute to injuries or loss of life.

Given the claim that

The current annual market for drugs in Wandsworth was recently estimated to be worth £1million

there is no excuse for not investing in some mobile tracking, jamming, shielding and micro / pico cell repeater infrastructure in every Prison in the UK, instead of wasting billions of pounds on ID Cards, and centralised national snooping databases of innocent people.


MoJ has failed to procure some mobile phone detection equipment:


Prisons fail to find mobile detection provider 12 November 2008

The Ministry of Justice has cancelled a tender for mobile telephone detection equipment in prisons, having failed to find a suitable vendor

The ministry advertised a framework contract in June 2007, planned to last four years and estimated to be worth £400,000, to provide "mobile phone detectors to detect the use of all mobile phones within the prison environment" in England and Wales.

This equates to only £100,000 a year to cover 139 prisons in England and Wales


(more in Scotland and Northern Ireland)

i.e.only £720 a year per prison.

This must be for simple detection equipment only, not anything involving actual location triangulation or protocol blocking etc., let alone any micro cell repeater infrastructure.

That is not enough to pay for any training of prison staff, or any maintenance visits.

But on 8 November 2008, it announced that although it received two offers, it had not awarded the contract, as "no compliant bids (were) received," according to the Official Journal of the European Union.

That is no surprise, if that is all they are offering for a geographically national scheme.

The ministry said that it plans to place a new advertisement shortly, adding that it already has various measures in place to detect mobile telephones in prisons, such as portable mobile phone blockers and body orifice security scanners, also known as Boss chairs, which will be introduced to all prisons from next year.

So why ha the one in Wandswsorth "hardly been used at all. " ?

"We are also making full use of the new legislative provisions in the Offender Management Act 2007 which makes it a criminal offence for staff, visitors and prisoners to bring mobile phones into a prison, with a maximum penalty of 10 years," said a spokesperson.

Existing illegal drugs and prison escape conspiracy laws already made this a criminal offence.

"It is important to ensure all equipment is appropriate and good value for money, and we work closely with partners to identify and test developing technologies."

Mobile phone detection is not a "developing technology" - why has nothing been deployed operationally throughout the prisons estate then ?

Unless appropriate micro or pico cell transmitters or repeaters are also installed, then the shielding or jamming of a prison, will create a mobile phone reception "dead zone" shadow, which will prevent normal mobile phone use where the prison happens to be directly between a Cell Phone Mast and a mobile phone handset.

Shielding might create a shadow for absolutely direct line of sight (but no worse than, say, a metal-skinned industrial building) but jamming won't. Think inverse square laws.

@ Ed Davies - "jamming won't. Think inverse square laws."

Think mobile phone handshake protocol jammers - effectively base station transmitters which are programmed not to connect a handset properly to the network. These have, potentially, a far bigger effective range than crude radio frequency signal jammers, which need to swamp the 900, 1800 or 2100 MHz mobile phone signals to an unusable level, even when the phone is transmitting at maximum power. There is no reason why criminals would not use illegal amplification of the signal, and better than standard antennas, if that burned through crude jamming.

Directional antenna design is also critical - most designs have a rearward facing signal lobe, which will reach outside of the prison, even if the main jamming antenna is facing inwards.

The problems are not technically insurmountable, but they will cost more than the £700 a year per prison site, which is all that the Ministry of Justice appears to have been willing to spend on "mobile phone detection equipment".

Blakey Report:


A report by David Blakey CBE QPM DL, a former Inspector of Constabulary and Chief Constable of West Mercia, following his review of measures to disrupt the supply of drugs into prison.

The purpose of the review was to make recommendations on how to improve the effectiveness of the Prison Service′s measures for disrupting the supply of illegal drugs into prisons and whether any additional measures might be possible. The review consisted of visits to various establishments, contact with interest groups, meetings with internal stakeholders and a review of the relevant literature.


The report makes 10 recommendations, ranging from suggestions to roll out mobile phone blocking technology to fostering the good work NOMS have been taking forward in intelligence. All of the recommendations have been accepted by the government.


Recommendation 5

That the BOSS chair be installed progressively in establishments. That more staff searching including the use of the chair be conducted on staff.

121. Recommendation 4 - Searching

The cost of equipping all prisons with a BOSS chair is about £1 million with another £1 million in running and staff costs.

To upgrade searching of staff, visitors and prisoners in all prisons to High Security standards would cost £3 million for equipment and £20 million for staff.

This is less than the cost of a couple of "see through your clothes scanners" using Passive Millimetre Wave or Terahertz or Backscatter X-ray etc., being touted for use at airports, rail and Tube stations, and would be a far more effective use of the money !

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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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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)

Convention on Modern Liberty - 28th Feb 2009

Convention on Modern Liberty - 28th Feb 2009
Convention on Modern Liberty - 28th Feb 2009

The Convention is being held in the Logan Hall and adjoining rooms at the Institute of Education in Bloomsbury, central London.


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


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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.

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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

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

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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.

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

Identity Cards Bill clause by clause analysis and comments


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.

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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  • wtwu: Blakey Report: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/disrupting-drugs-prisons.htm A report by David Blakey CBE QPM read more
  • wtwi: @ Ed Davies - "jamming won't. Think inverse square laws." read more
  • Ed Davies: Unless appropriate micro or pico cell transmitters or repeaters are read more
  • wtwu: MoJ has failed to procure some mobile phone detection equipment: read more

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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.

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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


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