Posts Tagged ‘Hacking’

Mass Rallies Across State Capitols in America Tomorrow to Persuade Republicans against Installing Trump

December 18, 2016

This is awesome. In this video from TYT Politics, The Young Turks interview Kai Newkirk and Tania Maduro, the spokespeople for Democracy Spring, about the mass rallies that are set to be held tomorrow to persuade Republican electors not to install Donald Trump as the next president of the US.

The blurb for the protests states

In order for Republican Electors to vote tomorrow, Dec. 19 on whether or not to install Donald Trump as the United States president, they will need to go to their state capitols where concerned citizens will be waiting to greet them, hoping turn them against the reality-TV start turned demagogue turned president-Elect. Kai Newkirk and Tania Maduro of Democracy Spring and December19.us explain their strategy to use 51 public demonstrations to remind the Electors of their Constitutional duty to deliberate upon whether or not the electoral vote leader is fit to hold the highest office in the land.

Their argument includes (1) reports from the FBI and the CIA that Russian spies intervened in the election to help Trump win, (2) Trump has failed to disclose financial conflicts of interest that may prevent him from protecting the interests of the United States, and (3) Donald Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots.

Newkirk and Maduro state that Trump should not be president, not just because of his racism and sexism, but because of his unstable, aggressive character. They fear that when he gets into power, he will install an official, who will try to ban Democracy Spring and its efforts to get corporate money out of politics. They state that they will try to engage with Republican electors by saying that they have to vote with their conscience, but Trump is not just a danger to people like them (the protesters) but to all Americans, to the world, and to the climate. They realise that many Republicans are unhappy about vile character and its defects.

Interspersed with the interview is clips showing the Orange Fuhrer actually beating someone up at a wrestling or boxing match, and a Saturday Night Live sketch in which Putin describes him as ‘the best candidate … the Manchurian candidate’. They not that the Electoral College was put in to protect America from potential Manchurian candidates. The organisers also show how you can join the protests by logging on to their website and looking up one near you.

I’m fully behind Democracy Spring and their efforts to oust Trump.I don’t believe that he is a Manchurian candidate, and indeed the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, has said that all the material published by WikiLeaks did not come from the Russians, but by disgruntled Democratic insiders. Similarly, the Electoral College was set up to preserve the power of the slave states, who did not want their slaves counted as full human beings.

But the organisers are right: Trump is a vicious bigot, who has drawn any number of Fascists and misogynists out of the woodwork and put them in his cabinet. He is indeed a danger to America, the environment and the world. And there are a number of Republican Electors, who have already decided that he is too much for their stomachs to bear. I hope tomorrow we will see many more of them.

Daily Mail: Democrat Party WikiLeaks Information Was Not Hacked by Russians

December 17, 2016

Now this is a very strange story, as it seems the Daily Mail may just about have done some independent reporting, rather than just following the anti-Russian line the Clintonite Democrats and their allies in the media have been trying to whip up.

Strange days, indeed.

In this video from The Jimmy Dore Show, Dore and his guests discuss an article in the Daily Mail, which reports that Craig Murray, a former British ambassador closely involved with WikiLeaks, has come forward to claim that the material published by the organisation came from an insider from within the party, and not from Russian hackers. Mr Murray is the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who was relieved of his post and then charged with misconduct, of which he was cleared. He is a close associate of Julian Assange. He stated that he was handed the material published by WikiLeaks in a wooded area of a park in Washington D.C. by a member of the Democrat Party, who was disgusted with the corruption of the Clinton team and the Party’s bias against Bernie Sanders.

This contradicts Killary herself, and the CIA, who have claimed that the material was obtained by Russian hackers. Murray states that the Russians may have hacked the Democrat Party, but they weren’t the source of the information published by WikiLeaks.

Dore and his production team discuss how the Democrats have tried to blame everybody except themselves for the leak, and for losing the election to Trump. The latest excuse is that the material was obtained after John Podesta, one of Killary’s aides, fell for a Nigerian phishing scam. You know, the type where a Nigerian prince or somebody claims that he has all this money lying around, which he would like to put into your account for safekeeping, if only you would give him the details. Dore makes the point that if the story was true, then it would raise the question of what a grown man, who was taken in by such a blatant piece of fraud, was doing holding a position so far up in the party. He also notes Podesta also lost of his mobile phone in a taxi, and it took a day for that to be returned.

Dore makes the point that all these comments and accusations about Russian hackers were an attempt by the Clinton team to deflect attention away from the embarrassing content of the leaked material itself. He concludes this piece by wondering if anyone in the media will now go to Murray himself for this side of the story. He bets they won’t.

Dore doesn’t mention it in the video, but Murray is a rare example of a high level civil servant with an independent conscience. He was relieved of his ambassadorial post as he spoke out about the brutal, corrupt nature of the Uzbek regime and made it very clear that he did not think her majesty’s government should be supporting such a despotism. This was at the precisely the time when the British government was very keen to support the regime, especially through trade deals, which I think were to secure oil contracts. Murray also has his own website, giving his profound and controversial views on international politics and its corruption. I also think he’s contributed at least one article to Counterpunch.

This article should also embarrass Killary and her team, as well as the CIA, as Hillary has been using the accusations of Russian hacking not only to attack Trump, but also to whip up hatred against the Russians and the independent media. She was so incensed about being hacked by the Russians – despite the fact that there was no evidence – that she wanted a military response. And last week the Washington Post ran a piece by Craig Timberg which seems to have drawn on material from the Democrat Party, Ukrainian Fascists and a pseudo-scientific eugenicist and biological racist think tank listing 200 different alternative news organisations and journalists. These were smeared as the promoters of Russian propaganda. Just as the Ukrainian Ministry of Truth has smeared independent journalists there.

Now Mr Murray has shown that this is based on another lie. It’s a lie intended to stop serious discussion about what is wrong with the Democrat Party, the corruption and mendacity of the Clintons, and which is adding to the plethora of other lies, bringing us dangerously close to war with Russia.

As I said, it’s a bizarre thing to say, but this time the Daily Mail may have done the right thing and the world a service.

Counterpoint on the Washington Post’s Journalist Blacklist and the CIA, Eugenicist Nazis and Ukrainian Fascists

December 12, 2016

Last week the American radical news magazine, Counterpunch, carried a report analysing a piece by Craig Timberg in the Washington Post, falsely accusing about 200 journalists, websites and news organisations of being disseminators of Russian propaganda. This followed Hillary Clinton’s accusations that her defeat by Trump at the presidential elections was due to Russian hacking. There’s no evidence for this, and Clinton’s accusation and the smears in the Washington Post suggest that the blacklist was compiled and published as an attempt by the corporate mainstream media to close down its rivals, and by the Democratic Party as part of Killery’s campaign to blame anyone and everyone except her for her failure, and to force some kind of confrontation with Russia. Craig Timberg, the author of the piece, was a national security editor at the Post, and was unusually deferential to Eric Schmidt, the head of the world’s largest spying organisation. The Washington Post is closely involved with the American deep state. It’s proprietor, Jeff Bezos, is one of the three richest people in America. His main firm, Amazon, is a contractor to the CIA.

Last weekend Counterpunch also published a story tracing the apparent connections between the authors of the blacklist, a shadowy group calling itself PropOrNot – as in ‘Propaganda or Not’, and the CIA, Ukrainian Fascists, including their sympathisers in the Democrat Party, and the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a far right think tank, which specialised in defending colonialism, advocated eugenics and thought that America could win a nuclear war with the former Soviet Union.

The article’s author was Mark Ames, owned a satirical newspaper in Russia, which was closed down by the Kremlin on charges of ‘extremism’. Which in the modern Russian context means basically criticising or making fun of Tsar Putin. Ames took the hint, and returned to America. So whatever Timberg or PropOrNot may claim, Ames himself is not a supporter of Putin or traitor to his country.

Ames reveals that one of the news sites smeared was Truthdig, one of whose founders is the veteran newspaperman Robert Scheer. In the mid and late ’60s Scheer was an editor and journalist for Ramparts, a news magazine respected for its investigative journalism. Scheer and Ramparts drew the ire of the CIA when they exposed the agency’s funding of the National Student Association. The CIA then began an illegal campaign of spying on Scheer and his magazine, as they were convinced they were Soviet spies. They weren’t, and the CIA’s intense efforts failed to turn up anything on them. This was, however, just the beginning. The programme was expanded into MK-CHAOS, the CIA operation under which hundreds of thousands of Americans were under the agency’s surveillance. The programme lasted until 1974, when it was exposed by Seymour Hersh.

PropOrNot is anonymous, but there are some clues to the identities of the people behind it. One of its contributors on Twitter goes by the monicker “Ukrainian-American”. Even before PropOrNot was known, this user had revealed their ethnic identity in Tweets in Ukrainian, repeating Ukrainian far right slogans. A PropOrNot Tweet of November 17th, 2016, saluted the efforts of Ukrainian hackers in combating the Russians with the phrase “Heroiam Slavam” – ‘Glory to the Heroes’. This salute was adopted by the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists at their congress in Nazi-occupied Cracow in 1941. The OUN was a Fascist organisation, which fought for the Nazis as auxiliary SS regiments during Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Two months after the adoption of the slogan, the Nazis allowed the OUN to control Lvov for a brief period. This resulted a horrific pogrom in which thousands of Jews were tortured, raped and murdered.

The article then goes on to describe how the present Ukrainian regime, installed in the 2014 Maidan Revolution, has rehabilited the wartime Fascist and Nazi collaborators as national heroes, and the links many members of the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, have with Fascist organisations. Ames writes

Since the 2014 Maidan Revolution brought Ukrainian neo-fascists back into the highest rungs of power, Ukraine’s Nazi collaborators and wartime fascists have been rehabilitated as heroes, with major highways and roads named after them, and public commemorations. The speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, Andriy Parubiy, founded Ukraine’s neo-Nazi “Social-National Party of Ukraine” and published a white supremacist manifesto, “View From the Right” featuring the parliament speaker in full neo-Nazi uniform in front of fascist flags with the Nazi Wolfsangel symbol. Ukraine’s powerful Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, sponsors several ultranationalist and neo-Nazi militia groups like the Azov Battalion, and last month he helped appoint another neo-Nazi, Vadym Troyan, as head of Ukraine’s National Police. (Earlier this year, when Troyan was still police chief of the capital Kiev, he was widely accused of having ordered an illegal surveillance operation on investigative journalist Pavel Sheremet just before his assassination by car bomb.)

Ames also argues that the Washington Post’s wretched article is modelled on a similar blacklist compiled by the Ukrainian secret state and associated hackers. The regime has been attempting to silence and intimidate independent and dissenting journos. It has set up a ‘Ministry of Truth’, which sounds straight out of Orwell, as well as a website, Myrotvorets, which means ‘Peacemaker’. This has the backing of the Ukrainian answer to the KGB, the SBU, Avakov, the head of the Interior Ministry, and his Nazi deputy, Anton Geraschenko. The website publishes the names and personal information of 4,500 journalists, including westerners and Ukrainians working for western media companies. Those so doxed for not obeying the government’s demands to publish only articles from the required ultra-nationalist viewpoint have suffered death threat, many of which ended with ‘Ukraini Slavam!’ ‘Glory to Ukraine’, the other Fascist salute adopted by the OUN at its 1941 congress.

One of the lobbyists working for the Democratic National Committee is Alexandra Chalupa, who is the head of the Democratic National Committee’s opposition research on Russia and on Trump, and founder and president of the Ukrainian lobby group “US United With Ukraine Coalition”. In October 2016, Yahoo named her one of the 16 most important people, who shaped this year’s election. It was Chalupa, who blamed Shrillary’s defeat on Russian hackers, and that Trump’s campaign was aided by the Kremlin. This was because Trump had appointed Paul Manafort as his campaign manager, who had ties to Putin. Chalupa worked with Michael Isikoff, a journalist with Yahoo News, to publicise her views on Russian influence on the election campaign. She has also hysterically accused Trump of treason, even requesting the Department of Justice and other official government departments to investigate Trump for this alleged crime.

Ames is very careful, however, to state that he is not arguing that Chalupa is one of those behind PropOrNot. Rather, he is using her to show how PropOrNot is part of a wider, venomously anti-Russian movement within the Democrat party. He states that in his opinion, it is a classic case of blowback. After the Second World War, the US supported Ukrainian Fascists, despite their collaboration with the Holocaust and the massacre of the country’s ethnic Polish population, because they were seen as useful agents and allies against the Russians. Now that policy is beginning to blow back into domestic American politics.

Timberg’s other source for his blacklist was the Foreign Policy Research Institute, citing its ‘fellow’, Clint Watts, and a report Watts wrote on how Russia was trying to destroy America’s democracy. The Institute was founded on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania by Robert Strausz-Hupe, who had fled Austria in the 1920s. It was funded by the Vick’s chemical company, which sponsored a large number of initiatives devoted to rolling back the New Deal. It was also clandestinely funded by the CIA. Strausz-Hupe’s collaborator was another Austrian émigré, Stefan Possony. Possony had been a member of the Fascist governments of Dollfuss and Schuschnigg, but fled in 1938 after the Nazi annexation. Possony was the co-author of nearly all of the institute’s publications until he moved to the Hoover Institute at Stanford in 1961. He also continued publishing in the FPRI’s Orbis magazine, and was one of the contributors to Mankind Quarterly. This was one of the leading proponents of pseudoscientific racism and eugenics. Possony also wrote books advocating the same vile policy with another White supremacist, Nathaniel Weyl.

Possony claimed that Black Africans, along with the peoples of the Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia, were mentally inferior to Whites. He stated that giving them independence was high dangerous. Instead, they benefited from White rule, which was gradually improving them. Whites dedicated to overthrowing colonialism were derided as ‘fashionable dupes’ who would be responsible for a ‘White genocide’. Possony defended William Shockley’s theories on racial eugenics, which argued that spending money on welfare was wasteful, because non-White races were too inferior to improve their conditions. Possony also supported Reagan’s Star Wars programme, as he believed it gave America first strike capability, and thus would allow it to win a nuclear war with Russia.

Strausz-Hupe believed that America was losing the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, and demanded a series of reforms to strengthen the American propaganda machine and close the gap between Soviet and American propaganda. And when Kubrick’s Cold War black comedy, Doctor Strangelove, came out, he accused the great cineaste of either being a conscious Soviet propaganda agent, or a willing dupe.

Ames’ article concludes

Today, the Foreign Policy Research Institute proudly honors its founder Strausz-Hupe, and honors his legacy with blacklists of allegedly treasonous journalists and allegedly all-powerful Russian propaganda threatening our freedoms.

This is the world the Washington Post is bringing back to its front pages. And the timing is incredible—as if Bezos’ rag has taken upon itself to soften up the American media before Trump moves in for the kill. And it’s all being done in the name of fighting “fake news” …and fascism.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/09/the-anonymous-blacklist-promoted-by-the-washington-post-has-apparent-ties-to-ukrainian-fascism-and-cia-spying/

These are very disturbing and dangerous times for western democracy. Not only is it under threat from Trump and the Nazis and White Supremacists in his supporters, but it’s also under attack from the corporatist Democrats, the Clintonite wing, desperate to expand American military and industrial power throughout the world, and using Cold War-era McCarthyite rantings and persecution to stifle dissent at home. If we are to enjoy peace and genuine democracy, it means effectively combatting both of these threats.

Jimmy Dore: Hillary Wanted to Rig Palestinian Elections

November 3, 2016

I’ve put up a couple of pieces about a documentary that’s on this evening about Donald Trump and his conspiracy theories. One of these is that the election is rigged against him and in favour of Shrillary. As Loobitzh’s comment below that post shows, many people do believe this to be true. There are several pieces by people on the internet citing the WikiLeaks material, which they believe shows that the Clintons are rigging the American elections. I don’t know if this is true. It is clear, however, that she and Debbie Wasserman Schultz stole the Democratic primaries from Bernie Sanders in order to protect corporate America from a Democratic Socialist entering the White House, in a way that parallels exactly the way the Blairites in the Labour party over here have tried to steal the elections within the Labour party from Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. And there is very definitely material in the WikiLeaks documents that show how massively corrupt the Clintons are. They have enriched themselves immensely through corporate donations to their foundation, which their lawyer Doug Band has made very clear to them is a business venture, not a charity. It also appears that Shrillary and her husband were also tipped off by the Justice Department about possible plans by the FBI to investigate her.

And if Shrillary has little respect for American democracy, she has absolutely none for those small, powerless states and peoples, from Honduras and Latin America to Palestine. In this clip from the Jimmy Dore Show, the comedian and occasional guest on The Young Turks discusses an audio clip of Hillary talking about the Palestinian elections. She states that they shouldn’t have allowed the Palestinians to hold the elections in the first place. When they did, they should have ensured that the elections produced the right outcome.

Dore points out how hypocritical this attitude is. He reminds everyone that Hillary wants a military response to the hacking of documents from the Democrats, and blames Russia, even though there’s no evidence that Russia is responsible. She’s furious that a foreign power is trying to influence the American elections, even though America does it all the time. Dore points to Honduras, where Hillary helped overthrow a democratically elected liberal president in favour of yet another Fascist strongman. He states that America is supposed to be the great champion of democracy, exporting it all over the world. But what really matters is the interests of big corporations – look at the Iraq invasion. That was all about oil.

He also talks to one of his staff about the difficulty of voting early in California. This is in contrast to where that particular member of the studio crew comes from, Tennessee. Dore responds by describing the ways the political establishment in America has closed down polling stations and done what they can to exclude certain groups from voting. He states that this is to make people feel powerless and voiceless, to suppress the vote, so that half the population doesn’t do so, in order to get politicians like Clinton into power.

New Labour Turns to Criminal Hacking to Stop Corbyn

July 19, 2016

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting that an internet campaign organisation, #HackingLabour, had been formed by the Blairites at Progress, Saving Labour and Labour First. This organisation has the object of hacking into Labour’s computer records, in order to find details of ex-members, who left in protest against Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour party. #HackingLabour and its backers wish to use the information to recruit these former members back to Labour, so that they can vote six more anti-Labour representatives onto the NEC to block Corbyn’s policies there.

Mike points out that such data mining is illegal under data protection laws. See his article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/18/hackinglabour-the-new-wheeze-by-the-campaign-against-corbyn-is-a-criminal-offence/

In fact, it was so illegal that Mike later reported that the Information Commissioner had stepped in to stop it.

Information Commissioner acts to shut down illegal #HackingLabour data harvesting

This is more evidence showing just how desperate New Labour is to hold on to power, and keep people trapped in the Thatcherite consensus of austerity, welfare cuts and poverty, all to curry favour with the right-wing media and political and economic establishment. It’s just one in a long line of dirty tricks, from T-shirts to heckling and other PR stunts.

Of course, the real question is what Owen Smith and Angela Eagle think of all this. These stunts have been done for their benefit, and breaking into computers to steal membership information isn’t that far removed from breaking into a hotel room to steal information. That brought down Richard Nixon. The public has a right to know what Smith and Eagle think about it, because this reflects on their attitude to other, possible forms of corruption and illegality in government.

Hackers Have Their Revenge on Rupert Murdoch

December 10, 2015

There was a little moment of pure comedy amongst a very serious piece on the Beeb’s The One Show Tuesday evening. The programme was discussing hacking, and showing how easy it is for hackers to get into your computer. One of the guests on this segment of the show was a former hacker, who had been arrested and jailed for his activities. One of the stunts he had pulled during his career was hacking into the Sun’s website. He’d was angry at the way New International journalists had hacked private phone conversations, and decided to take revenge. He hacked into the Sun’s website, and put up a piece on their on-line edition announcing that Rupert Murdoch had died. Obviously, this is not the case, and we are sorry to say that the Dirty Digger remains in rude health, and lowering standards across the globe as we type. The incident was completely scurrilous. It was also, as Ian Hislop, who was also on the programme, observed, very funny. And the Lord only knows what would have happened if Anonymous had attacked.

Oddly enough, there is an ethical hacker community. They have their own magazine back in the 1990s, which if I recall properly, was called 2400, or something similar, and their own code of conduct. This pledged that they would only peer around the machines, websites and databases into which they hacked. They wouldn’t change anything, or commit other crimes. Along with articles on phone phreaking and phishing, the magazine also had a regular column, ‘Payphones of the World’, where its geeky readers sent in pictures of phone boxes and their equivalents from across the globe.

Unfortunately, most hackers ain’t so benign, and you do need to put security on your computer and be wary, because of the sheer amount of cyber crime out there. But the idea of hackers taking their revenge on Dirty Rupe for hacking is funny, and definitely poetic justice.

Grant Shapps Accused by Wikipedia of Making Political Alterations

April 22, 2015

Also in today’s Indie was a story about Grant Shapps, who has been accused by Wikipedia of altering and editing the entries on the on-line encyclopedia about himself and other politicians. These were to make them more favourable to him and other members of the Conservative party, and more negative about their political opponents. Wikipedia’s editors said that the alterations were either done by Shapps, or by someone acting on his behalf.

Shapps, as you might expect, has denied this.

My guess is that Wikipedia’s probably right. Apart from the fact that they’d have a bit more information that might help them to identify some of the people making alterations to their encyclopedia, Shapps has got previous for misleading the public. He was after all running a highly dodgy business offering to tell you how to get rich quick under the false name of Mr Michael Green. This is fraud under the meaning of the act, yer honour. He also lied, and claimed that he had stopped trading under the name when he began his parliamentary career, when this was exposed by one of the papers.

And it also isn’t as though the Tory party isn’t above rewriting the past when it suits them. about a year or so ago the press revealed that the Tories were so embarrassed by the all the broken promises they had made in the run-up to the 2010 election, that they had started erasing them from their website. Fortunately, someone else had come along to take screenshots of them, thus stopping this latest Orwellian manoeuvre from the party of Thatcherite Big Brothers.

And Mike posted a little piece a little while ago also suggesting the Tories were behind attempts to hack into left-wing blogs and websites in an attempt to take them down.

Given all this circumstantial evidence, I’d say that Wikipedia are almost certainly right. If it isn’t Shapps himself, it’s certain one of his minions. It shows the totalitarianism at the heart of the modern Tory party: no independent sources of information are allowed. All must conform, by hook or by crook, to the diktats of Tory Central Office. Which by their behaviour should now be renamed the ‘Ministry of Truth’.

Not Just Russians: Britain’s Webcam Computer Spies

November 23, 2014

One of the major stories over the past week or so has been that a Russian website is showing hacked images from webcams from around the world, including about 600 or so from Britain. This has naturally caused alarm at the way the potential exists for people’s private computers to be attacked and used to spy on them.

The Russians, however, are not the first or only people to have developed and used such software. In its ‘In the Back’ section for the 22nd August – 4th September issue of this year, Private Eye published a story about the use of similar software developed by a British company. This was being used by the Bahraini government to spy on and persecute dissidents. Here’s the story.

Bahrain Shower

New documents reveal that expensive British spy software – marketed as a means of tracking “paedophiles and terrorists” – has been used by the Bahraini Ministry of the Interior to hack the phones and computers of activists and lawyers.

The software, sold by Gamma Group, a company based out of serviced offices in Winchester, works by sending malware called FinSpy to “target” computers and phones (see Eyes 1368 and 1351). This allows content to be harvested and turns the computer or phone into a mobile spying device by secretly activating the microphone and webcam and intercepting Skype calls.

Gamma Group, which had not applied for an export licence from the UK authorities, denied last year that is product was being used in Bahrain. A spokesman told the Observer: “It appears that during a demonstration one of our products was stolen and has been used elsewhere. I believe a copy of FinSpy was made during a presentation and that copy was modified and then used elsewhere.

However, new documents obtained from the Gamma Group customer support server include logs sent to Gamma, showing a list of Bahraini targets and whether or not all their files had been “archived” – in other words, pinched Gamma says it only sells to government agencies.

Mohammed Al-Tajer, Bahrain’s leading human rights lawyer, has been on the wrong end of Gamma-inspired snooping. Having once defended a group of Shia Muslims accused of throwing a petrol bomb at a police car, and having also published evidence of torture of detainees, shortly before Bahrain’s Arab Spring uprising, in January 2011, he received a recording of himself having sex with his second wife, accompanied by a message telling him to watch his step. The new documents show that, on the same day in January, Gamma spyware was successfully installed on Al-Tajer’s computer, archiving all his files, in contravention of illegal privilege and most likely turning his computer into a mobile spying device.

In April 2011, Al-Tajer was then arrested and held by the Bahraini Ministry of the Interior for four months. Every morning he was made to stand against a wall and was beaten until he fainted. A subsequent report5 into the security services, commissioned by Bahrain’s King Hamad Al-Khalifa and carried out by human rights lawyers and others, found evidence of widespread torture, including “beating; punching; hitting the detainee with rubber hoses (including on the soles of the feet), cables, whips, metal, wooden planks or other objects; electrocution; sleep-deprivation; exposure to extreme temperatures; verbal abuse; threats of rape; and insulting the detainee’s religious sect Shia).” It also found evidence of deaths at the hands of the security forces.

In late 2011, Bahrain thought it had better do something to reform its police forces, bringing in a hired hand from overseas to ensure the force met international codes of practice. It wasn’t long before this new adviser was hailing the “substantial progress” being made, detailing a “new police code of conduct” and “comprehensive programme of training in human rights”, adding: “I am bewildered by the level of criticism aimed at a nation that has acknowledged its mistakes, but has plans in place to put things right.”

This state of bewilderment was presumably nothing new to the adviser, John “Yates of the Yard” Yates (for it was he”, who as Met Police assistant commissioner in London had overseen the Met’s brilliant early phone-hacking investigation and had personally declared that there were only a “handful of victims”. He later resigned when the number approached 4,000.

Even after Yates had begun his reforms in Bahrain, Al-Tajer continued to receive text message threats from anonymous telephone numbers; and in June 2012 the sex recording was finally published on YouTube, as was footage of Al-Tajer eating and praying.

Yates told the Eye he had never heard of Mohammed Al-Tajer (he was only the leading lawyer defending police cases, after all), nor of Gamma Group, and that he had had no operational involvement in police matters, acting solely as a “strategic adviser”.

* The hacker who posted internal Gamma documents on the internet showing how it FinSpy, aka FinFisher, software had been sold to the oppressive regime and used to spy on the Bahrain Independent Commission of Investigation (BICI), which was investigating torture and killings in the country, also revealed that the kit wasn’t quite as effective as Gamma likes to claim.

“After infecting a target’s [computer]the targets [sic] works for few days only then he never comes online and we have to infect him again,” the Bahrainis complained. “We can’t stay bugging and infecting the target every time since it is very sensitive. And we don’t want the target to reach [sic] to know that someone is infecting his PC or spying on him.”

I can’t say that the information that webcams could be hacked came as news to me. I can remember being told by a member of staff in one of Bristol’s computer shops that they had a friend, who was a hacker. This individual used to tap their victim’s webcams, so he could see them through the computer. The staff member, who told me this, didn’t approve of it himself, and really didn’t want anything to do with such activities. Nevertheless, hackers were still doing it.

This is very much the world of 1984, where Big Brother used the televisions in people’s homes to spy on them. In the case of the Russian hackers, despite their protestations that they are doing it to make people aware of the existence and the dangers posed by the software, it looks to me very much like the Russian secret services making veiled threats about their capability for cyberwarfare, espionage, and ability to intimidate foreign nationals in their own homes.

As for Gamma Group and the Bahrain government, Britain has, unfortunately, a long history of supplying arms and spying equipment to oppressive governments around the world, including the Middle East. This includes BAE selling weapons banned under international law, like electronic batons and shields, to places like Saudi Arabia. Gamma Group is merely the latest to join this long and infamous list.

Other foreign companies are no better. Nokia sold software it had developed to allow governments to hack into and monitor private mobile phones to various despotic governments in the Middle East, including Iran.

This does, however, raise the chilling question of whether this software is being used domestically to gather information on people the British and American states consider politically awkward. The Snowden revelations showed the truly massive extent to which both countries’ secret services were monitoring and spying on the phone calls and electronic communications of their citizens. The Coalition has attempted to censor politically inconvenient websites, like Pride’s Purge, using legislation it has attempted to pass under the pretext that this would protect children from internet paedophiles. The police have also been used by UKIP and fracking companies to harass and intimidate Green protestors and documentary film-makers.

How do we know that the Tories and their corporate backers aren’t using this already to track and monitor left-wing groups and individuals they consider subversive?

Immigration, ID Cards and the Erosion of British Freedom: Part 2

October 13, 2013

In the first part of this post I discussed the way successive administrations since Mrs Thatcher – those of john Major, Tony Blair, and now, possibly, the coalition, had planned to introduce ID cards. Privacy campaigners such as Simon Davies have opposed them, because of the immense potential they represent for human rights abuses, the mass surveillance of the population, and discrimination against immigrants and minorities. I posted it as a response to Mike’s piece on Vox Political, which I reblogged, on Theresa May’s latest campaign against illegal immigration, and the fears landlords and immigrants’ rights groups have about the terrible effect this will have on them. The landlords in particular were concerned that this would lead to the introduction of 404 European document-style ID cards. In this part of the post I will discuss the dangers ID cards present, and their failure to do what is often claimed for them, such as to prevent crime and illegal immigration.

It looks like illegal immigration will be the platform by which ID cards will be introduced in this country. Mike and a number of other bloggers have commented on the way recent statements and policies by coalition ministers to combat illegal immigration suggest that they plan to introduce ID cards as part of their campaign. Illegal immigration has been the main issue driving their introduction in Europe, America and some developing nations. Davies book on the growth of the surveillance society in Britain notes that as the European Union dissolves borders in Europe, so the police were given greater power to check people’s ID. As for fears that ID cards will somehow stop illegal immigrants from claiming benefits, this has been disproved in Australia. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australia Card found that of 57,000 people, who overstayed their visa in New South Wales, on 22 were illegally claiming Unemployment Benefit.

Anti-racism campaigners are right to worry that ID will increase discrimination. ID cards carrying information on the bearer’s ethnic groups or religious beliefs have been used to discriminate against minority groups in many countries. The Japanese were accused of racism when they passed legislation forcing all foreigners to carry ID cards. The French police were similarly accused of racism in demanding Blacks and Algerians carry and produce ID cards. This was one of the reasons behind the race riots in France in the 1990s. In Greece, the authorities were also accused of using the religious information on the card to discriminate against those, who were not Greek Orthodox. Down Under, Aboriginal and Jewish Australians joined the campaign against the Australia Card from fear that they would also suffer discrimination. A few thousand miles across the Pacific in New Zealand, Kiwi trade unions and civil liberties groups also feared ID cards would lead to discrimination against minorities and the poor.

Contrary to the frequent claims made by various Right-wing governments like Thatcher’s, Major’s and Blair’s, ID cards don’t actually stop welfare fraud. Says Davies ‘the key area of interest lies in creating a single numbering system which would be used as a basis for employment eligibility, and which would reduce the size of the black market economy’. In Oz, the Department of Social Security stated that much less than 1 per cent of overpaid benefits came from identity fraud. The true figure for such crime is probably 0.6 per cent. Most fraudulent or overpaid benefit claims – 61 per cent – came from the non-reporting of variations in the claimant’s income.

ID cards also don’t stop crime. This is again contrary to the statements made by governments wishing to introducing them. The problem is not the identification of criminals, but in collecting sufficient evidence and successfully prosecuting them. The Association of Chief Police Officers in Britain concluded in 1993 report that burglaries, street crime and crimes committed by people impersonating officials could be reduced through ID cards. They did not, however, present any evidence for this. The Association did fear that the introduction of ID cards would make relations between the police and the general public worse. Davies considered that only a DNA or biometric database could possibly link perpetrators with their crimes.

The introduction of ID cards do, however, increase police powers. Police routinely ask for ID cards in all the countries that have them, and detain those, who don’t possess them. In Britain the wartime ID cards were removed in 1953 after a High Court judge ruled that their routine demand by the police was contrary to the spirit of the National Registration Act, and adversely affected the good relations between police and the public.

In fact, instead of helping to combat crime, ID cards actually help it. ID cards provide a ‘one-stop’ proof of identity, and this can and is used by criminal gangs in their crimes. The technology used to manufacture the cards is now available and used by such organisations. As ordinary organisations, such as companies and the state civil service increasingly rely on ID cards as the unquestioned proof of an individual’s identity, so they abandon the other systems used to check it that they have been using for decades. As a result, crimes using fake identities are actually easier with ID cards.

ID cards are a real danger to the privacy of personal information. About one per cent of the staff of companies involved in collecting the personal information used to construct the relational databases used in such cards are corrupt and prepared to trade confidential information. Each year, one per cent of all bank staff in Europe are dismissed for corruption. This is a minuscule percentage, it is true, but nevertheless it still presents a danger to the privacy and safety of the public. In Britain, computer crime amongst the civil services own ID staff massively increased in the 1980s and 1990s. The National Accounting Office estimated in March 1995 that hacking, theft and infection by viruses were all increasing on the IT network in Whitehall. In one year, for example, hacking rose by 140 per cent and viruses by a massive 300 per cent. Of the 655 cases of hacking in the Whitehall network identified by the NAO, most involved staff exceeding their authority to obtain the personal information of members of the public, which was they then passed on to outside individuals.

ID card schemes also tend to be much more expensive than governments’ estimate and allow for. Once again, Australia provides a good example of this. When introducing the Australia Card scheme, the Ozzie government failed to take into account training costs, and the expenses coming from administrative supervision, staff turnover, holiday and sick leave, as well as compliance, the issue of the cards overseas and fraud. They also underestimated the costs of issuing and maintaining the cards and how expensive they would be to private industry. In the first part of this post I mentioned how leading Australian bankers and financiers, such as Sir Noel Foley, were openly hostile to the scheme. This is not surprising, as the Australian Bankers’ Association estimated that the ID card their would cost Ozzie banks A$100 million over ten years. The total cost of the cards to the private sector was estimated at A$1 billion per year. At the time Davies was writing, the cost of the card system in the UK had not taken into account of administration and compliance costs. These could be as high as £2 – £3 billion. When Tony Blair launched his scheme to develop biometric ID cards, there was further embarrassment to the government when it was revealed by the papers that the scheme had also gone massively over its budget due to problems in developing the technology.

Another factor against the cards is the distress and inconvenience caused to the individual by their accidental loss or destruction. About five per cent of ID cards are either lost, damaged or stolen every year, and it can be several weeks before a replacement is received.

Governments have frequently insisted that ID cards will be voluntary. This was the stance taken by Tony Blair’s government on them. It is misleading. There is a tendency for them to become compulsory. Even in nations where they are voluntary, there is considerable inconvenience if they are not carried, so that they are actually compulsory in practice if not in law.

ID cards also have a tendency to become internal passports as they acquire other uses through function creep. These will include all government and a significant number of important, private functions.

Finally, opponents of ID cards object to them because they feel that they damage national identity and personal integrity. The movements against ID cards in America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand called attention to the fears of ordinary people that the introduction of such cards would reduce them to mere numbers. They were a symbol of oppressive authority, and represented popular anxieties that their countries were ruled, not by elected officials, but by bureaucracies driven by technology.

Actually, reading through all the considerable negative aspects of ID cards and the list of the dangers and damage they represent to society and the safety and privacy of its members, I can see why the Coalition government would see no problem in introducing them. After all, such schemes are inefficient, corrupt and massively expensive. They expand the power of the state and the police at the expense of the individual, and are used to persecute and victimise minorities and the poor. Pretty much like all the Coalition’s policies, then. And ID cards are exactly like IDS welfare schemes and workfare in that, undercover of eliminating welfare fraud, which they actually don’t do anything about, they’re really about controlling the movement of labour.

So, corrupt, authoritarian and discriminatory: just right for Theresa May and the rest of the Coalition then!