Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jon Burge: Notorious Police Scandal..

CHICAGO — The anonymous letters to attorney G. Flint Taylor arrived in police department envelopes, and so the mysterious author was dubbed "Deep Badge."

It was 1989 and Taylor was representing a notorious killer – Andrew Wilson, who had shot two police officers and was behind bars for life.

He'd originally been sentenced to death but won a new trial after the Illinois Supreme Court ruled his confession had been coerced.

Wilson was now in federal court, claiming that during questioning in the police killings he'd been beaten, tortured with electric shocks, forced onto a hot radiator and smothered with a plastic bag. Among those he was suing: Chicago police commander Jon Burge, a decorated Vietnam veteran.

Taylor was no stranger to unpopular causes. Through the years, his firm – the People's Law Office – has represented the Black Panthers, anti-war activists and members of the FALN, the militant Puerto Rican independence group. So taking on the police wasn't a stretch.
But if Deep Badge was to be believed, this case was different. A ring of cops, the unsigned letter said, was torturing criminal suspects.

The letters launched Taylor on a 22-year odyssey from the streets to the courts to death row and into the heart of a scandal that would stain Chicago for decades.

Abuse claims like Andrew Wilson's would multiply. Eventually, more than 100 black men would claim Burge or his colleagues beat or tortured them to extract confessions or information on everything from robbery to murder.

Like Wilson, many of the accusers were known to the police: They included gang members, robbers, drug abusers – and convicted killers.
But in this topsy-turvy scandal, they claimed to be the victims. Burge and other police, they said, were the villains.

The first letter was postmarked Feb. 2, 1989.

The author appeared be an insider at Area 2, the South Side headquarters where Burge headed the violent crimes unit for several years. The letter contained tantalizing tidbits, including a claim that officers had used "torture machines" and one such device had been tossed off Burge's boat. (The boat's name? The Vigilante.)

Talk with other officers, the letter said, because, "some of them were disgusted and will tell all. The torture was not necessary."

If Taylor wanted to know more, he was told to place a personal ad in a local newspaper.
He did, then waited more than a month.

"I have learned something that will blow the lid off of your case," the second letter said.

It urged Taylor to look for other cases where the machine was used. It also listed officers' names, dividing them between Burge allies and those who had strained relations with him.
More than a week later, while Taylor was cross-examining Burge as part of Wilson's civil case, he received a third letter and a phone message with the same tip: Talk with Melvin Jones in Cook County Jail.

That visit turned out to be a revelation.

The case was much bigger than one man.

Jones, an admitted gang member, told a story later corroborated in city legal documents: After refusing to confess to murder, Jones was shocked in the genitals, foot and thigh by Burge with a hand-cranked electric device. Burge, he said, also pointed a gun to his head.

The methods Jones described became part of a pattern of abuse claims. The electric box was the most sensational. Others included beatings with phone books (to avoid leaving bruises), mock Russian roulette, smothering suspects with plastic or typewriter covers (it was called bagging) and using a cattle prod-like device.

In June 1989, Deep Badge (the name was a nod to "Deep Throat," the informant in the Watergate scandal) wrote again, claiming Burge was the leader and other police involved "were either weak and easily led or sadists."

It was the last letter Taylor received.

But his work – along with that of other lawyers and investigators – was just beginning.
"All of a sudden, the case was getting notoriety," he says. "We'd be talking to public defenders and they'd say, `I had a case back in the `80s and my client said he was tortured.' We started getting letters from prison. We were able to put together lists, interview people and find transcripts."

"It was just like peeling an onion."
Francine Sanders had embarked on her own search for truth.

In 1990, she was a civilian investigator for what was then the police department's Office of Professional Standards, assigned to the Wilson case. Since eight years had passed since his arrest and some key people were dead, Sanders focused mostly on documents.

Her 66-page report substantiated Wilson's claims. "I looked at all the evidence," she recalls, "and there was no other possible explanation for someone in police custody coming in looking one way, leaving looking another way."

As Sanders reviewed records, another investigator for the same agency was trying to determine if this was an isolated episode.

His report, released in 1992, was damning: It said "the preponderance of the evidence" showed abuse in Area 2 was "systematic" over more than a decade. It also concluded some in the police command "perpetuated it either by actively participating in same or failing to take any action to bring it to an end."

The next year, Burge was fired because of the Wilson case.

Flint Taylor kept chipping away. So did others. All were heading into another direction: the death house.
In the 1990s, a group of prisoners called the Death Row 10 emerged.

They claimed they'd been abused by Burge or his associates, mostly resulting in false confessions. But proving was part of a larger hurdle in this case – getting authorities to believe the accusers and see them as victims.

"I think it's likely that Burge and his men rationalize the misconduct by saying ... these guys are lowlifes, they're heinous criminals, it doesn't matter, they deserve what they get," says Locke Bowman, legal director of the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University and lawyer for some alleged Burge victims.

"The system tacitly or otherwise was prepared to go along with that rationale," he adds.

 "What starts to upend that is when you look at cases ... where the Burge crew got it wrong and the guys were innocent. The problem with vigilante justice is at the end of the day, you can't sort the guilty from the innocent."

Taylor began representing Aaron Patterson, one of the Death Row 10 who'd been convicted of a double murder but had used a paper clip to crudely scratch a message on a police station bench recanting: "Aaron I lie about murders, police threaten me with violence ...."

As Patterson's case was being appealed, then-Gov. George Ryan, days from leaving office, made a dramatic move: He commuted the sentences of everyone on death row; he'd already halted executions when 13 inmates were found to have been wrongly convicted.

Ryan also pardoned four of the Death Row 10 – including Patterson – and said a "manifest injustice" had occurred because police tortured them into false confessions. (Years later, the four would reach a $20 million settlement with the city.)

By this time, a special prosecutor was digging into allegations against Burge and others.

Investigators ran into a wall of resistance with many former detectives and supervisors – Burge among them – taking the Fifth Amendment when asked about accusations of torture and abuse.

But small cracks began to surface.

Taylor took statements from a handful of retired black detectives. One recalled barging into an interrogation room after hearing a terrible cry, finding a man with his pants down chained to a steaming radiator and seeing a surprised Burge turn "red as a beet."

If the case against Burge seemed to be gaining momentum, it stalled in 2006.

After reviewing 148 allegations, the special prosecution team concluded Burge and others, including some of the detective's "midnight crew," had abused suspects but there would be no action either because the evidence was too weak, or because the statute of limitations had expired. Some cases dated back to the 1970s and 1980s.

The investigation absolved Mayor Richard M. Daley, the county prosecutor when much of the alleged abuse happened. Daley has never been charged with any wrongdoing and has repeatedly defended his tenure as state's attorney.

But Taylor notes the police superintendent at the time of the Wilson case had written Daley alerting him to the abuse claims. "Daley had every power to investigate and indict Burge," the lawyer says. "If he had done what he should have done, this never would have happened."

Many were dissatisfied with the report and the lack of punishment – especially the black community, where the long-running scandal had already intensified a mistrust of the police.
But the case wasn't over.

In 2008, the feds had found a way to deal with the statute-of-limitations roadblock.

Burge was not charged with abuse; he was charged with lying about it

.The allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice were based on answers he provided in a civil lawsuit filed by a freed death row inmate when Burge denied he and other detectives had tortured anyone.

That day, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced the indictment.

"If Al Capone went down for taxes," he said, "it's better than him going down for nothing."
Last summer, Burge stood trial.

Prosecution witnesses told now familiar stories of abuse and torture. The defense called the accusers thugs and liars who were maligning an honorable man who'd served in Korea and Vietnam and returned with a Bronze Star.

The trial had been delayed so Burge could be treated for prostate cancer. Now he took the stand and broke his long silence, repeatedly denying he had tortured anyone.

A jury disagreed. It found Burge guilty of perjury.

At sentencing this month, two vastly different portraits of Jon Burge were presented to the court.

There was the villainous former lieutenant who was so cruel, one alleged victim claimed, that Burge laughed while he tortured him. And there was the valiant police officer who dedicated his life to keeping the streets safe.

There also was Burge himself, now 63, his hair white, his burly frame stuffed into a suit, who told U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow that "while I try to keep a proud face, in reality, I am a broken man."

Burge said he was "deeply sorry" for the disrepute his case had brought on the police department. But he offered no apologies for his actions.

On Jan. 21, Lefkow cited Burge's "unwillingness to acknowledge the truth in the face of all the evidence" and sentenced him to 4 1/2 years in prison.

She said the case demonstrated a "dismal failure of leadership" by the police department and added that if local or federal prosecutors had acted sooner, it could have saved "so much pain."

John Conroy, who has written extensively about Burge and police brutality, agrees.
"Not only were there other police, but state's attorneys and judges who looked the other way and ignored these obvious truths of what people were saying," says Conroy, now a senior investigator at the Better Government Association. "The fact this happened to more than 100 men ... and only one man has been indicted and charged ... no, justice has not been served by any means."

One of those men is Ronald Kitchen, who says he was tortured into confessing to the murder of five people. He was exonerated in 2009 and freed after spending 21 years behind bars – 13 on death row.

"This is not going to make up for what was taken from me," he says. "The things we were fighting for" – torture charges – "we didn't get." But he finds some solace in Burge going to prison.

"Something," he says, "is better than nothing."

Flint Taylor never discovered the identity of Deep Badge.

He holds out hope for more prosecutions and sees Burge's sentencing as a victory – albeit a partial one.

"I would have to characterize it as incomplete, late and insufficient," he says.
"But it's a start."
Less than a week after Burge was sentenced to prison, the police pension board considered whether he should continue to receive his benefits. It narrowly ruled that the former commander's conviction – for lying about the torture of dozens of men – was not related to his job as a police officer.

Burge will receive about $3,000 each month for the rest of his life.
Sharon Cohen, a Chicago-based national writer for The Associated Press, can be reached at features(at)
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Vogon International's Forensic Bulletin

Playing "Hired Gun" in Computer Forensics - "Boot Disk" or "Boot Hill"

Preparing forensic evidence for a court can be open to disaster, as we have all observed in recent weeks.

Sooner or later playing the "hired gun" for prosecution or defence work will see you come unstuck - no matter how good you consider your skills to be, there will be people who are more thorough, more professional and a lot faster on the draw.

We face "hired guns" in many cases and originally would feel satisfaction when the opposition withdrew a case, the charge was dropped or reduced prior to trial or we were able to demonstrate the opposing evidence had no provenance.

 Was this actually success for anyone? The answer must be a resounding NO. Thinking back to these cases now shows that the cases actually attempted abuse of the court system - since it now seems that our opposition had in fact no credible evidence and was embarking on a trial based on digital fudge.

In the recent high profile and well-publicised case (see R -v- Stevens) one of Vogon's long-term competitors, appeared for the defence against the prosecution expert.

 On the first day of the high profile prosecution of a Police Officer for child pornography, the prosecution attorney had to state that upon receipt of the defence expert's analysis of the defendant's laptop, that the prosecution expert, a Brian Underhill, had made several serious mistakes and there was no case to answer.

 A withdrawal, or change of charge prior to the trial would have been bad enough, but for the Crown Prosecution Service's barrister to have to announce the failures of their expert in open court was beyond belief.

The prosecution expert concerned claimed to have worked on over 600 UK police prosecutions associated with Operation Ore - the highest profile UK police operation involving child pornography.

Additionally he and his co-director of their 'investigations' company claim to have worked on 1,022 police prosecutions.

To compound the issue each Operation Ore prosecution describes the collection of the original evidence in the USA from the US Postal Service by the same two men, from the servers of the company known as Landslide in Texas.

 Indeed the Landslide servers are the origin of over 6,000 names of suspects being followed up by the UK police. It is believed that around 1,600 investigations have been undertaken as a result of this original evidence.

The matter throws the entire area, surrounding prosecutions associated with any evidence generated by these two men, into question.

 To anyone who works or has worked in this area it creates immense confusion over what to do next and raises issues which can only be handled by the highest levels of the Crown Prosecution Service and possibly ACPO (the UK Association of Chief Police Officers).

Bar the defence expert and barrister - there is no glory for anyone in any of this mess and we can only hope that in the post- mortem analysis there is something that can be learned.

 It is a disaster for all concerned, especially for anyone subjected to unsafe evidence, and is equally disastrous if someone escapes prosecution through the incompetence of the prosecution work which would perhaps leave or put children at risk.

It is also a complete waste of police, prosecution and defence resources, all of which are funded by the taxpayer.

Before you, the reader and perhaps a fellow computer forensics practitioner, become too complacent - we are aware of other individuals and organisations, throughout the UK and in other countries such as Canada, USA and Australia who are no better than the prosecution expert involved in this UK case.

 This type of situation almost guarantees a trip to the computer forensic "Boot Hill".
I have always been vociferous regarding poorly resourced and unskilled practitioners, since without a true peer group and serious technical backup, then there is no way that they can provide their clients with any credible work on cases which stretch their skills to their limits.

 At Vogon our forensic investigators have serious backing, with access to our team of hardware and software engineers, who include our developers of our own forensic tools. They have access to hundreds of years of experience that they can call on.

Our consultants and engineers have many notches on their guns and have no intention of heading to "Boot Hill" quite yet - through either "hired guns" or indeed friendly fire.

The nature of computer forensics is that we need peer reviews of our work to avoid error and continue the development of our staff and products alike.

Save the Whales and stop the slaughter

Libel reform campaign

Gambles back and the McCanns need to sell a will they be making 'sweet music?'

Gamble and Walsh 'searching'

Libel suit in British Courts...

Gamble/ McCanns and missing the point of WIKILEAKS

Amber Alert tracking devices

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GAMBLE back on board the gravy train..Be ready for the McCanns to become vocal....
New head of CEOP

Thursday, January 27, 2011

RIPA - a victory for privacy (and, ahem, BBW)

Over at Public Service, I've written an article about the fact that (rejoice) local authorities have finally been denied surveillance powers for many purposes and have to get warrants to authorise use for the rest. Just as we called for in our report, our manifesto and our book. Very pleased. Let's call this a win.
It's happened because (a) these powers should never have been used for trivial offences in the first place, and (b) the authorities displayed a total inability to use the powers responsibly. So, they lose the capacity to use these powers at all in most areas, and are severely restricted in the rest.
I therefore thought that you might be interested to see the way that the Local Government Association has spun it:
Lobbying success ensures councils can continue using RIPA to fight serious crime
Victory for the LGA! Hee hee
By Alex Deane

Source: Big Brother Watch

Who'll stand up for liberty in Britain?

The three main parties are all dragging their feet. They must deliver on the promise of a freedom bill
The Liberal Democrat compromise on control orders is significant of itself (people are still to be curfewed and tagged without charge) but also important for what it indicates about the political future of the coalition.

The bonhomie of last May's Conservative-Lib Dem negotiations was principally a function of the Lib Dems' volte-face over the speed of deficit reduction.

 But it was matched by agreement on a whole raft of civil liberties issues.

 The Conservative and Lib Dem manifestos were already in accord on scrapping ID cards, the national identity register and the nationwide ContactPoint children's database, as well as on restraining powers of entry and ending the misuse of anti-terror laws.

The coalition agreement also incorporated Lib Dem proposals to outlaw the fingerprinting of children without parental consent, the storage of internet and email records, and the restoration of protest rights, as well as firming up Conservative proposals to stop the holding of innocent people's DNA and to limit CCTV.

Thereby, for Lib Dem negotiator David Laws, "the economic liberalism of the Conservative Party" had been convincingly combined with "the social liberalism of the Liberal Democrats".

 The fate of the civil liberties agenda is thus a vital matter for all parties.

Max Rowlands of the research group Statewatch has produced an audit, and he finds a long list of kept promises – on ID cards, ContactPoint, stop-and-search powers, libel law reform and the misuse of anti-terror legislation. And 28-day detention without charge has now reverted to 14.

However, the new terrorism prevention and investigation measures retain much of the existing control order system, so the new regime for detention of the children of failed asylum seekers (in "pre-departure accommodation") looks more like an amelioration than an abolition of the old.

As Statewatch notes, biometric passports may have been abolished, but biometric permits for non-European nationals will remain.

The repeal of section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (stop and search) could mean increased use of section 43 (under which a photographer was detained for taking pictures of cadets near Buckingham Palace).

And much of the remaining civil liberties agenda – on DNA and criminal record retention, fingerprinting children and CCTV – still awaits the publication of a freedom bill, which Nick Clegg promised would be out last November.

The Lib Dems can justifiably claim to have made a difference on civil liberties, but that only goes to show they needed to. The resistance of the Conservatives to reform suggests that their much-vaunted commitment to social liberalism is skin deep.

The danger is that Labour can't – or won't – exploit this opportunity.

 The party has moved on since the days when Diane Abbott was a lone advocate for its traditional commitment to civil liberties. But some Labour backbenchers are still trying to outflank the coalition to the right on crime, and the frontbench speaks with an uncertain voice.

Before his translation, Ed Balls was attacking control order reform as putting politics before national security, and affirming his support for DNA retention and the current level of CCTV surveillance. This week, Yvette Cooper was evasive on how she'd reform control orders but definite on the need for legislation to put pre-charge detention back up to 28 days in emergencies.

If Labour genuinely accepts that it got it wrong on civil liberties, the party should not be attacking the coalition on these issues from the right. Rather, it should be holding the government to account, seeking to amend watered-down reforms, and insisting that the freedom bill fulfils its promise.

ISPs Are the New Secret Police, Says Report

More and more European Union member states are delegating online policing to private companies and Internet service providers, according to a report released Wednesday.

Where law enforcement agencies would traditionally have tackled the problem of illegal online content, more powers are being given to ISPs in the name of industry self-regulation, according to a study by the organization European Digital Rights (EDRI).

That trend is likely to become stronger with increasing "extra-judicial sanctions" against consumers, EDRI said.

Proposed legislation and "non-binding guidelines" have left intermediaries in a precarious position, unsure whether they are liable for the actions of consumers over their networks.

 So-called "three strikes" laws, under which alleged copyright infringers receive three warnings before their Internet connection is cut off, put the onus on Internet service providers to police customers.

 Such laws currently appear in some form in French, Irish and U.K. legislation, where they have met with anger from ISPs.

 In France, the law can impose a fine and a one-year Internet connection suspension.

The U.K.'s Digital Economy Act, adopted last year, provoked concern from the country's two largest ISPs, BT and TalkTalk.
International trade agreements such as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and bilateral trade agreements the E.U. has signed with India and South Korea, all leave the door open for intermediary liability.

"The European Commission appears far from perturbed by the dangers for fundamental rights of this approach and appears keen to export the approach.

This process is gradually strangling the openness that is at the core of the Internet. This openness has enhanced democracy, has shaken dictatorships and has boosted economies worldwide.

 This openness is what we will lose through privatized policing of the Internet by private companies," said Joe McNamee, Advocacy Coordinator at European Digital Rights.
Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Paedophile policeman who preyed on children for 11 years is jailed for life

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 10:21 AM on 25th January 2011
A former policeman has been branded 'every parent's worst nightmare' after committing a string of sex offences against children.
Daniel Lishman has been jailed for life and will serve a minimum of 11 years before being considered for parole.
He used jobs as a mobile dog-groomer and a TV licensing officer to help him carry out at least eight offences and also posed as a policeman to indecently assault two young girls, Coventry Crown Court heard.
Daniel Lishman
Cuffed: Daniel Lishman is believed to have committed his first crime while working as an officer for Northamptonshire Police
The 37-year-old, of Thorpe Street, Raunds, Northamptonshire, was convicted at previous hearings of 26 counts and asked for four others to be considered.
The charges, including one of rape and 12 of sexual assault, related to a total of 13 victims, including three with disabilities or learning difficulties, as well as hundreds of indecent images of children.
Lishman, who was a serving police constable when his first crime was committed, was arrested in April last year after attacking a 12-year-old girl while pretending to check on a boiler at an address in Southam, Warwickshire.
Judge Peter Carr was told that Lishman, who served with Northamptonshire Police between 1995 and 2002, was linked to a string of other offences after detectives who arrested him found a camera memory card hidden in one of his socks.
The card contained images showing Lishman posing indecently near an eight-year-old girl, who had been 'blindfolded' using a pair of taped-up goggles in the back of his dog-grooming van.
Passing sentence at Coventry Crown Court, Judge Carr told Lishman: 'About ten years or so ago, you began what can only be described as your systematic sexual abuse of your victims, who were in the main very young children.'
Daniel Lishman
Heinous crimes: Lishman was said to enjoy being in authority and gaining people's trust
The judge said it would be not be an exaggeration to describe Lishman as every parent's worst nightmare, telling the former special and regular police constable: 'You are in my view an intelligent, but also cunning, devious and extremely plausible man.'
Judge Carr added that Lishman had left many of his victims too frightened to go out and also led parents to wrongly blame themselves for what had happened to their children.

The court heard that Lishman, who showed no emotion as he was sentenced, targeted girls aged between eight and 14, two young boys, and a woman aged in her 20s.
The offences took place between early 2001 and February 2010 and all but one was committed in Northamptonshire.
In a statement issued after Lishman was jailed, Northamptonshire Police confirmed that he was required to resign from the force in 2002 after a woman made sexual allegations against him.
Daniel Lishman
Mug shot: Lishman served as a police officer as a constable
Speaking outside the court, Detective Inspector Steve Woliter appealed for other possible victims to come forward.
The officer, who led the inquiry, said: 'Over the years, Daniel Lishman sought the company and attention of children and put himself in a position of trust.
'He took up forms of employment with TV licensing and as a mobile dog groomer to gain people's trust and then abused this.
'We cannot rule out the possibility that there are other victims who have not yet come forward.'
Classing Lishman's crimes as heinous, the officer added: 'He enjoyed being in authority. He enjoyed being taken into people's confidence and being able to abuse children.'
Asked about the paedophile's service as a police officer, Mr Woliter told reporters:
'Lishman was required to resign from our organisation in 2002.
'He had served some time as a special constable and also as a police constable.
'In May 2001, a female adult made a number of sexual allegations against Lishman. He was disciplined for that and the highest sanction possible was taken.
'From the timescales that we have got from one of his first victims, it would appear that at that time Lishman was also a serving police officer.'
Detective Inspector Peter Hill, the officer in charge of the investigation into the offence committed in Warwickshire, said the life sentence handed to Lishman underlined the significance of his offending.
Mr Hill observed: 'Throughout several days of police interviews following his initial arrest, Lishman refused to answer questions put to him and as a result the victims and witnesses had to go through the ordeal of taking part in an identification procedure.
'We would not be in the position we are in now were it not for the strength and courage of these witnesses.'

Read more:

Monday, January 24, 2011

The end of the Internet as we know it...


Elite crime unit's database of one million suspects 'breaks the law'

Tom Harper
20 Jan 2011


A secret database of suspects operated by Britain's elite crime-fighting unit breaks data protection and human rights laws, according to the information watchdog.

The Information Commissioner today criticised the Serious Organised Crime Agency for maintaining a shadowy register of suspected fraudsters and money-launderers.
An Information Commissioner's Office report suggests that an estimated one million citizens are on the database known as Elmer - and many may be innocent. It criticises the system, introduced under terror laws 10 years ago, and questions if it is "justified, necessary and proportionate".

Tory peer Lord Marlesford said: "This database sounds like something used by the Stasi in communist Germany. It is in effect a secret database of suspects - none of whom know they are on it nor can they respond to the allegations. It is most un-British and most undemocratic."

Under the Terrorism Act 2000 every employee in the finance industry is required to send Soca the details of any customer they suspect of a financial crime, and are asked to include information such as their national insurance number, vehicle registration, account numbers and details of relevant transactions.

Without making any attempt to check the allegations, Soca agents log every "suspicious activity report" on the database and store them indefinitely.

Today's report, seen by the Standard, states: "The retention of data on the Elmer database engages concerns about whether this is an unjustified interference with an individual's right to respect for their private and family life."

Assistant Information Commissioner Jonathan Bamford led a four-month investigation into Elmer, and warned of "the ongoing privacy risks" of data being retained "indefinitely and without justification". He added: "Many of these entries are of no ongoing interest to the law enforcement community and do not comply with the Human Rights Act or the Data Protection Act." Former shadow home secretary David Davis, who campaigns on civil liberties, said Soca should remove "all entries that are trivial and unproven".

A Soca spokesman said: "We accept the Information Commissioner's findings on retention and deletion periods and already have work in hand to bring current practice into line with ICO requirements."

Police on 999 calls demand taser guns

Rank-and-file police want all officers on emergency calls to be armed with a Taser. They say initial fears about the electric stun-gun have proved "totally groundless".

At present, only firearms officers and the Territorial Support Group are equipped with the weapon, pictured, introduced in Britain in 2003.

Now the Metropolitan Police Federation, representing officers in London, has called for training in its use to be extended.

It wants officers on single patrols to be equipped with it - including those in outer London boroughs, where the TSG is seen less frequently.

Federation chairman Peter Smyth said: "Fears about the Taser causing death on the streets of London have proved totally groundless. When it is deployed, most people calm down without it having to be discharged."

Scotland Yard said: "There are no plans to extend the Taser's use."

Police DNA retention ruled lawful by NI High Court

Human rights court ruling trumped
Northern Ireland's High Court of Justice has ruled that police retention of a 14-year-old boy's DNA was not illegal, despite a European Court of Human Rights ruling that the blanket data retention policy conflicts with human rights law.

The Court said that it could not follow the ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) because an earlier ruling by the House of Lords conflicted with it. Mr Justice McLoskey said in the ruling that this verdict was necessary even though it was the Northern Irish Court's view that the retention was in conflict with human rights law.
Click here to find out more!
"By virtue of the doctrine of precedent, it is incumbent on this court to give effect to the decision of the House of Lords... with the result that the first limb of [the boy's] challenge cannot succeed," said the ruling.
The House of Lords ruled in a case involving an anonymous man known as S and Michael Marper in 2004. That Court said that the automatic retention by police forces in England and Wales of DNA samples did not interfere with citizens' rights to privacy as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, which became UK law in the Human Rights Act.
When it heard the case the Strasbourg-based ECHR, which rules on the application of the Convention, said that the "blanket and indiscriminate" retention of data was a "disproportionate interference with the applicants' right to respect for private life".

The Northern Irish Court said that it had to follow the ruling of the House of Lords, though, and not the ruling of the ECHR, which is not binding.

The case involved the arrest in relation to a burglary offence of an anonymous 14-year-old boy. He was not charged with the crime and his data was due to be kept by police for seven years with possible extensions for longer.

Mr Justice McLoskey said that it was bound by the House of Lords ruling to say that the retention was lawful. This was despite the fact that he and his fellow judges disagreed with that application of Article 8 of the Convention, which is the section guaranteeing the right to a private life, to the photographs taken of the boy.

"Applying the objective test of reasonable expectation, it is not in dispute that such expectation would encompass the photographing of [the boy] following his arrest," he said. "Furthermore, we consider that this expectation must embrace the retention of the photographic images for some period of time. Photographs serve no purpose unless they are retained."

"The lengthy, perhaps indefinite, retention by the police of the Applicant's photographic images seems incompatible with the broad and elastic formulations of the scope of Article 8(1) [of the ECHR]," he said. "As each person grows older, photographic images of their appearance at an earlier age will increasingly belong to their inner, private sanctum."

"The court is of the opinion that a person's physical appearance falls within the personal sphere protected by Article 8, as it is a means of identifying the individual and forging a link between the individual and exclusively private aspects of his life, including family membership and other matters and activities properly to be regarded as falling outwith the public gaze and belonging to a person's private sphere.

"The photographic images of the Applicant go further than simply displaying his physical appearance at a particular age: they disclose that he was in police custody when a young teenager. Thus they contain, and convey, both his physical appearance and the fact of police arrest and detention (Lord Nicholls' "thousand words")," he said.

"But for [the House of Lords] decision and our analysis of it, we consider that there is substantial force in the view that the retention of the Applicant's photographic images by the Police Service for a minimum period of seven years, which may be extended indefinitely, unconnected in any concrete or rational way with any of the statutory purposes, interferes with his right to respect for private life guaranteed by Article 8(1)," he said.

The Government had planned to allow the retention of police-gathered DNA data for 12 years but in 2009 said that it would change that in many cases to six years.

The Northern Irish Court did not permit an appeal of the case to the Supreme Court because, it said, a ruling on a similar case which would clarify the law on the issue is due soon.
"The case highlights a clear judicial tension between the approach of the UK courts and the ECHR," said privacy law expert William Malcolm of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. "The UK Government has already had to consider and react to the decision in the Marper case, with some commentators taking the view that the Government did not change its original plans enough bring it within the ECHR ruling.

"It will be interesting to see whether or not individuals challenge the specific capture of information by law enforcement authorities in Northern Ireland and whether or not the Northern Ireland Executive will have to contend with similar issues to those which the Government had to consider when looking at the Marper case," he said.

Surveillance orders: new name, old problems

The BBC announced yesterday that the coalition government is planning to replace control orders, controversial powers introduced by Labour in 2005 which place terror suspects under "house arrest", with a new range of restrictions named 'surveillance orders'. The new orders would give security services the power to:
  • ban suspects from travelling to locations such as open parks and thick walled buildings where surveillance is hard
  • allow suspects to use mobile phones and the internet but only if the numbers and details were given to the security services
  • ban suspects from travelling abroad
  • ban suspects from meeting certain named individuals, but limited to people who are themselves under surveillance or suspected of involvement in terrorism
These proposed changes may initially sound like a reasonable sort of compromise, but they still place heavy restrictions on suspects without any trial taking place, or any burden on the police to provide proof of guilt. This is inconsistent with the fundamental tenet of UK law which holds that suspects are innocent until proven guilty. Unlike subtle surveillance on suspected criminals who don't know it's happening, which impinges on their privacy but not, until sufficient evidence can be brought to charge them, their freedom, these affect both privacy and freedom prior to any trial. It's misleading to rename these powers 'surveillance orders' when they still permit significant pre-trial control.
The debate has proved a source of disagreement within the Conservative party. David Cameron voted against the introduction of control orders six years ago, and recently said that in their present form they haven't been successful. But Michael Howard, who co-ordinated the parliamentary opposition to the introduction of control orders when he was Tory leader in March 2005, demonstrated a U-turn on the 4th of January and spoke out against scrapping them. Even ex-Home Secretary John Reid - who joined Howard a week ago, saying "security must come first" - admitted in January 2007 that control orders are "weak, they are hard for the police to implement [and] they involve massive manpower from the police and security services to try and carry out surveillance."
The New Statesman reports that:
The Lib Dem manifesto promised to abolish control orders; the coalition agreement merely promised an "urgent review". In October, David Cameron was said to have told Clegg that the coalition was heading for a "fucking car crash" on this issue; the publication of the review - which was conducted rather conveniently inside the Home Office by counterterrorism officials - has already been postponed from October to December and now to an unspecified date later this month.

[...] The Lib Dem peer and former director of public prosecutions (DPP) Ken Macdonald has been charged with overseeing the Home Office review. I understand that he has not softened his long-held opposition to control orders: he plans to publish a report condemning any retention of restrictions on a terror suspect's ability to leave his home to meet particular people or visit specific locations.
It is unclear whether the purpose of control orders is even to facilitate successful prosecutions¹, or to render suspected terrorists inoperative through restrictive surveillance. Many civil liberties campaigners, who have seen successive restrictive measures introduced in the name of counter-terrorism, argue that the threat of terrorism is exaggerated to excuse increasing curtailments of liberty. Within the legislative context of stop and search powers which disproportionately affect people of colour, particularly young black men, but which have resulted in no terror charges, terrorism feels like a thin excuse for authoritarian social control.
It is also interesting to see the way in which the proposed surveillance orders tie in with current controversy over digital rights and web censorship. As yet the government have struggled to effectively control the internet use of individuals, despite considerable debate, and legislative changes such as the Digital Economy Act. The clause which 'permits' suspects to use the phone or internet only if they pass on details to the police is particularly worrying. Can we trust the police to only look for evidence of terrorist conspiracy among those details? Or would any form of civil disobedience or political protest become significant?
With the new political category of "domestic extremist" used by the government and police to restrict the movements of activists and make pre-emptive arrests, we cannot trust that these draconian powers would be limited to use on those planning violent terror attacks. Counter-terror legislation has been illegitimately used against non-violent campaigners, young people, people of colour or anyone gathering in public to make a point. There is no reason to believe that surveillance orders would not be used with impunity against anyone the police didn't like.
Most worrying of all, however, is this quote from the BBC:
The government is drawing up tough new anti-terror laws that could be rushed through after a major terrorist incident - in case the new surveillance orders proved inadequate in the face of increased threat levels.
If that doesn't sound ominously like the government waiting for terrorists to provide a convenient excuse to further curtail our freedoms, I don't know what does.
1. We haven't been able to find any figures on the number of successful prosecutions brought about via control orders, or through any other counterterrorism legislation. Anyone who is able to help with this information is invited to get in touch.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Exclusive: Brown asks Scotland Yard to investigate if he was hacked

Murdoch flies in for high-level meetings as Yard faces new questions about its conduct
By James Hanning and Matt Chorley
Sunday, 23 January 2011
Andy Coulson leaves No 10 after resigning as David Cameron's director of communications on Friday
Andy Coulson leaves No 10 after resigning as David Cameron's director of communications on Friday

    Newsletter - 21st January

    Alex Deane is moving on
    Alex writes:
     "After 18 fantastic months at the helm with BBW, I have accepted an offer to become a Director at Bell Pottinger. Whilst I’m excited by a new challenge, I shall miss working with BBW full time terribly. I am very proud of what we’ve done so far with Big Brother Watch, and I will definitely remain involved in BBW’s work in the months and years to come.

    "I want to say thank you to everyone that has helped us get this great organisation off the ground, and urge you to pitch in and help Dan over the next few weeks when he’ll be running the show on his own!"
    ID cards will cease to be legal at midnight
     At midnight tonight, ID cards will cease to be valid means by which to prove your identity or to travel inside the Euopean Union. By the end of next week, the National Identity Register - which was designed to hold the details of card holders - will be deleted.
     Damian Green MP, the minister with responsibility for the abolition of ID cards, made the  following statement.
    "Laying ID cards to rest demonstrates the government's commitment to scale back the power of the state and  restore civil liberties.
    "It is about the people having trust in the government to know when it is necessary and appropriate for the state to hold and use personal data, and it is about the government placing their trust in the common-sense and responsible attitude of the people"
    Amen to that.
    28 to 14 to...?

    This week saw the announcement by the coalition that the powers which allow terrorist suspects to be detailed for up to 28 days will be allowed to expire at midnight on Monday.  From that point, the maximum limit for which someone will be allowed to be detained without charge will be 14 days.
    This is a good result for those who believe in freedom.  Finally, this government is delivering some of what they promised when the coalition took office in May.
    This is not, however, the end of the road. 

    The debate should now be about whether the limit should go lower than 14 days without charge.  Big Brother Watch firmly believes that it should.

     The European Arrest Warrant

    This week, the Big Brother Watch team attended an excellent event hosted by our  good friends at the Freedom Assocation at which Nick de Bois MP outlined his concerns about the unfair use of the European Arrest Warrant.

    For those of you who weren't able to make it, you can watch a video of the full event by clicking here.

    Big Brother Watch book... available in all good bookshops!

    The debate about our DNA database, the largest per capita in the world, has dominated headlines throughout the last few years. Britain has more CCTV cameras than any other country in the world, and even more are being installed – including in private homes, facing out into the street. With the Intercept Modernisation Programme, the current government plans to record details of every telephone call made and e-mail sent by people in the United Kingdom.

    A database of households, is set to be compiled for “health and safety” reasons, is planned by the NHS. The Independent Safeguarding Authority continues to plan a compulsory register of all those who regularly come into contact with children – perhaps a third of adults in the country. Stop-and-Search powers under the Terrorism Act are argued about as photographers are arrested for taking photographs of public buildings. Data chips in our bins monitor our domestic waste. Despite a temporary retreat on their compulsory status, identity cards (and, more importantly, the database behind them) remain with us.

    What is the future for civil liberties in modern Britain?

    Each of these topics - and more - are investigated in a landmark collection of essays by leading experts in the field of civil liberties, edited by Big Brother Watch Director Alex Deane.

    Click here to buy the book on Amazon for only £6.49!

    Blogs of the Week

    Coalition to allow 28 day detention to expire

    The coalition government has today announced that the powers which allow terrorist suspects to be detailed for up to 28 days will be allowed to expire at midnight on Monday.  From that point, the maximum limit for which someone will be allowed to be detained without charge will be 14 days.
    No cookies for the EU
    In November, we reported that European Union officials were engaged in discussing and debate what to do about regulating web cookies. A cookie is a piece of information stored in a browser by a website in order to track a users preferences, login details or any other data that it useful for a website to know. Privacy advocates support a regulated cookie environment while business who make their money online say that cookies are a necessary part of shopping and browsing online.

    Obama and Cameron must press China on human rights

    If you are fortunate enough today to be inside the Beltway today, you will notice a rare treat, an official state visit, this time the U.S. will host  Chinese President Hu  Jintao. The President arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, where we was greeted by V.P. Joe Biden and attended the first of two lavish dinners. The second state dinner, will be given tonight, and no expense will be spared.

    Terry Jones: Let him in

    According to news report this morning, the American pastor Terry Jones has been blocked from visiting the United Kingdom. 
    Jones, you may recall, is the head of the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainsville, Florida (congregation size: 30) which last year attempted to hold a ceremonial Koran burning in order to demonstrate their stalwart opposition to Islamic extremism.  In the end, following calls from President Obama (who perceptively suggested that such a burning would result would spark a "recruitment bonanza for Al Qaeda") and General David Petraeus, Jones announced that is church had abandoned their plans.

    Facebook wants to share your contact details

    The Telegraph reports that Facebook has now made it easier for third party application developers to request a user’s contact information in return for using an application. According to Facebook’s Developer Blog, the new feature rolled out early on Saturday morning. It is ‘now making a user’s address and mobile phone number accessible'.

    Pressure mounts on Hungary over new media law

    As reported on the BBW blog ten days ago, the Hungarian government is currently seeking to establish a new media regulator with the power to arbitrarily seize media equipment, force journalists to reveal their sources or face the threat of imprisonment for non-compliance and impose fines on news organisations for reporting on items deemed “undesirable”.
    Jane Fae, a long-standing Big Brother Watch supporter, has today written an excellent piece regarding the chorus of disapproval at this law which is starting to resonate across Europe.

    Media Coverage

    BBC News - Is CCTV creeping too far?
    The proliferation of the cameras has prompted small, dedicated pressure groups to take action. Big Brother Watch and No CCTV are the most notable...
    ...CCTV is everywhere, both public and private-run. It is in hospitals, universities, car parks, buses, trains, shopping centres and pubs. It is even mobile, with many councils in London, and a handful outside the capital, using CCTV cars to film traffic offences, such as driving while using a mobile phone. There are 54 CCTV cars patrolling 31 local council areas, according to Big Brother Watch.
    The Independent - 'Kiss and tell' policy dumped
     A nd campaign organisation Big Brother Watch said people should not be expected to divulge details about personal circumstances to employers.
    "Quite apart from the fact it's wrong for Fenland District Council to build up this kind of database, what people do in their own time is up to them," said Big Brother Watch campaign director Daniel Hamilton. "If people are good at their jobs, they should be left alone - regardless of who they share their bed with at the end of the day."
    TechEye - Failed ID Card project racks up another £400,000 in expenses
    This has not appeased Alex Deane, director at rights group Big Brother Watch. Deane told TechEye: "This is yet another reason we should never have begun with this monolithic database in the first place.
    "Not only was it absurdly intrusive, not only was it eye-wateringly expensive – it costs a pretty penny to take apart, too. Still, we should all be very grateful for its demise." 
    Yorkshire Post - Alex Deane: Alcohol and price of freedom from nanny state
    THE Government has announced plans to introduce minimum prices for alcohol. I think it should keep its collective nose out... A government elected on a platform of widening freedom should not give way to authoritarian nanny statists. They've U-turned on this subject once already. They should turn again.
    The Independent - 28 day terror detention order to expire
    Alex Deane, director of the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: "This is a good day for freedom. Finally, this Government is delivering some of what they promised.
    "The debate should now be about whether the limit should go lower than 14 days without charge - I firmly believe that it should."
    The Express - Anger at 14-day limit on holiday terror suspects
    Alex Deane, of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “This is a good day for freedom.”
    Wales Online - Council criticised over powers to ‘spy’ on members of the public
    Alex Deane, director of civil liberty campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “These powers are designed to tackle serious crimes, not to allow councils to snoop on their residents. If the offence is serious enough to merit covert surveillance then it should be in the hands of the police. These powers have to be taken away from councils.”

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