Ramblings

There has been a lot going on since my last commentary blog. The Paris attacks are a notable case in point. These have once again prompted the powers that be to insist that they need more powers to monitor communications as a way of preventing further attacks.

Once again no specificity is provided on how exactly the systems proposed would have prevented an attack, given that the purveyors of the UK’s 7/7/ and Lee Rigby attacks and the Paris attackers were already known to the security services and could therefore have had a warranted watch put on them.

In the House of Lords in the UK a small group of peers attempted to re-introduce the proposed “Snooper’s Charter” via a back door amendment into another bill. It failed but all the main political parties seem to be keen to re-introduce such legislation in the next Parliament. It may only be a temporary reprieve. I am torn between the need for the security and police services to have the tools they need against the wider civil liberties objections. It would really help if actual facts were provided rather than meaningless ascertains.

What was truly astonishing was the demonstrable lack of expertise exhibited by any of the speakers. By their questions they could not describe how the technology works, why current systems cannot do what they want, or how they can be circumvented? This against a back-drop of Post-Snowden cynicism. Itself created by the continuing release of so much information on how the 5 Eyes have already misused their powers. Then there is the misuse of existent legislation, like the use of RIPA to spy on everyone from journalists to dog fouling pedestrians. The bland statements of we acted within the law whilst pressing for changes to those same laws. Of course with CCTV on every corner even private face to face meetings can be monitored if only the pictures were not so rubbish – traffic enforcement does not seem to have the problem.

Frankly if the security services or police want to intercept get a warrant. This gives them all the power they need. Of course it may help their argument if tapped phone calls etc were admissible in UK courts; yet these same organizations do not want that. So what is the information for?

Even where full surveillance is in place in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack the security services and police managed to kill the wrong target (Mendes) or used their authority to investigate the family of innocent victims (Lawrence) Both of course actions under the stewardship of the then Met Police Commissioner Blair. The same Blair who tried to get the amendment through parliament.

Another Blair (ex PM this time) of course has stated how keen he is for the Chilcott inquiry to finally report on the actions leading up to the second Iraq war. The report has again been delayed until after the next election. Much like the Bloody Sunday Inquiry – good job if you can get it – unlimited budget, no delivery timescale and a no requirement to come up with interim or other conclusions. Even parliamentary scrutiny can be ignored or not answered. Independent judiciary or cover up for their mates? It is difficult to decide. Of course I would love to see the outcome in light of the background story to my own books (needed to get a plug in somewhere) An Agent’s Demise and An Agent’s Rise. One reviewer thought my story was far fetched – clearly they have not read about the machinations of the politicians and spy agencies to justify their actions.

Still another election is looming and the electorate are far more concerned with who will win Big Brother rather than who is behaving as Big Brother!

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Brooks et al Trial Coverage

I’ve been following the Hacking phone trial with considerable interest. It would not be prudent to comment on testimony or my opinion on the evidence submitted so far. After all I may have undue influence on a juror. I don’t but for the avoidance of doubt I have no direct connection with any participant.  For any direct comment I strongly recommend the coverage provided by The Drum, which has excellent and thorough coverage.

Where though is the coverage in more mainstream media.  The trial which produces revelations almost daily has rare coverage on the BBC, ITV or C4.  Sky I would expect to be circumspect given the Murdoch connection but they are supposed to cover news and given the 24hr nature of BBC News 24 and Sky News surely they could provide some analysis and reporting rather than another fifteen reporters in Sevastopol plus the John Simpson and Panorama crews, all repeating the same thing.

Anyway back to Hacking.  The trial has raised some serious issues (as did The Leveson Inquiry) regarding freedom of speech and the conflict in my own head between the type of coverage required to uncover corruption in public officials (Expenses scandal etc.) and the right to a private life.  Why does anyone care who Hugh Grant has sex with or whether he was paying for it.

As only Rebekah Brooks of the defendants has appeared on the witness stand it is of course to early to judge any evidence, but what has become clear at Leveson and this trial is the culture, attitude and approach of a national newspaper and its reporters.  The absence or non-enforcement of management controls has also been highlighted. None of the defendants are on trial for being bad managers, but the lack of financial controls at the papers should send most Financial Directors spinning to an early grave.  What the jury believes is of course a matter for them and the evidence presented to them.  What stories are and are not printed in newspapers broadcast or otherwise reported is a matter for all of us.  Outside of true police states, what we see and hear is decided by a small elite deciding what stories get column inches or broadcast time.  The Internet has multiplied the availability and direct access of reporting to unbelievable levels yet so much remains drivel.  So much is repetitive and shows no insight.  With all the news in the world why is 24hr TV on an almost totally hour by hour repeat.  You can click on Sky News anytime of day and see the same clips repeated over and over again regardless of what else has happened.  With the advert repeats it is a continuous dose of Deja Vu and none of it is about the Hacking Trial and the behaviour of one or more  News International Executives.

Of course I am unusual in that I am concerned about freedom of speech whether it is censorship, snooping, police misbehaviour or the actions of newspaper reporters.  What do all these stories have in common?  They all reflect the closeness of a political and media elite all feeding like cannibalistic vampires off of each others actions, whilst trampling over the rights, opinions and feelings of their victims, Whether it is the family of Milly Dowler, Stephen Lawrence or one of the victims of misreporting, misbehaviour or misdeeds.  Our press and mainstream media, failed to report accurately, failed to check their facts and allowed statements by police and others to be misused or believed regardless of the evidence.  The press paid for many of these stories bribing public officials in the process.  A picture of a royal at a party more important than the corruption that paying for the story exposed.  The same press baying for MP’s blood over expenses whilst casually shipping thousands to their contacts for a snippet of gossip or paying a self confessed phone hacker thousands to keep quiet or a publicist to settle out of court.

Now some of these executives are dependent on the very legal system they have done so much to undermine and ignore.  I wonder who the jury will believe.