UK Government Brings In Yet More Counter-Terrorism Measures -- Including Internal Exile

from the time-for-another-solzhenitsyn dept

The UK has the sad distinction of leading the way in the West when it comes to playing up the terrorism threat to justify the introduction of disproportionate surveillance laws. One of the favorite rhetorical tricks employed here is to invoke the "capabilities gap": this refers to the fact that the security services are unable to capture all communications in the same way they once could. But it's a misleading comparison.

It's true that it was easier to spy on the public's communications in the past; the percentage of traffic that can be tracked today may be lower, but the overall quantity of information available to the police and security forces is vastly greater, simply because the range of digital communications is so wide, and their use in everyday life so pervasive. This means that it is quite unnecessary to put in place even more intrusive monitoring in order to gain equivalent amounts of relevant information. However, the UK's Home Secretary, Theresa May, didn't let a little thing like the facts get in the way when she introduced yet another counter-terrorist bill earlier this week:

I remain passionately convinced of the need to address the capabilities gap the authorities face when it comes to communications data. And I am pleased to say that the Bill will go some way to bridging that gap. It will therefore require internet providers to retain Internet Protocol -- or IP -- address data to identify individual users of internet services.
That might seem a curious thing to introduce, since UK ISPs are already required to store metadata. A useful post from the Open Rights Group (ORG) explains this is all about the rise of mobile Internet use:
The new proposal, while being consistent with existing arrangements for ISPs in the UK, is another proposal for blanket retention beyond what is needed for business purposes.

In any case, this is a rather backward proposal, dealing with a problem that exists because the mobile companies continue to rely on out of date technology. To take a moment to explain: the Internet is famously running out of addresses (numbers that identify a point on the Internet – Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses).

To deal with the lack of address space, mobile companies use a technology called "Network Address Translation" or NAT, which allows several devices to share the same IP address. Most people use this at home to allow two or three computers to use the ADSL or cable connection, However the mobile companies do this at a far greater scale called "Carrier Grade NAT" -- and there will be hundreds of different people using the same IP address.
It is for this reason that the port number for each connection must also be stored under the new proposals. But as ORG goes on to point out, it would be far better if mobile phone companies were encouraged to upgrade their systems to IPv6, which has such an abundance of addresses that this kind of quick fix would be unnecessary. Even then, such addresses would only identify a device, not who was using it at any given time.

Similarly, ORG also notes that this blanket retention could fall foul of a recent ruling by the European Union's Court of Justice that data retention must be "limited to what is strictly necessary. Indeed, because all IP addresses and port numbers are retained, the fear has to be that sooner or later they will be used in an attempt to identify those accused of copyright infringement -- as in Australia.

However, it seems unlikely that the UK government will worry about these kind of details given that the new counter-terrorism and security bill includes even more troubling provisions, such as the following:

in response to the increased threat we face and in response to the police and security services telling us this is what they need, we will legislate to allow TPIM [Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures] subjects to be relocated to different parts of the country.
Yes, you read that correctly: the new bill will introduce internal exile for the UK. The parallels between the UK and Soviet Russia become more painfully apparent by the day.

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Nov 2014 @ 2:33am

    'Be afraid, always afraid!'

    I remain passionately convinced of the need to address the capabilities gap the authorities face when it comes to communications data.

    A 'capabilities gap' isn't where the problem comes in, the spy agencies can already scoop up absolutely ridiculous amounts of personal data and communications, and in fact this capability leads to the real issue, if the purpose is really to find and stop threats:

    The 'Quality gap'.

    When you've got piles of 'hay', larger than any stadium to sort through, finding the individual needles becomes very difficult, especially finding them in time to actually do anything about them before it's too late. The spy agencies have become so enamored by the 'Collect it ALL' idea, that they've actually sabotaged their own capabilities with regards to finding, and responding to, actual threats.

    The focus shouldn't be on increasing the amount they have access to, but decreasing, and more precisely targeting their collection efforts, so that they have less 'hay' to sort through, and an easier time spotting the rare 'needles'.

    in response to the increased threat we face and in response to the police and security services telling us this is what they need

    'In other news, companies selling 'Fantastically-Ultra-Dangerous UV protection windows and screens' have told the government that the threat of FUD UV is growing at an alarming rate, and is advising the government to spend several billion dollars to upgrade their systems to deal with the growing threat.'

    we will legislate to allow TPIM [Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures] subjects to be relocated to different parts of the country.

    'Different parts of the country'. Yeah, the more you think on that phrase the worse it gets. If they had sufficient evidence against a 'threat', they could try them and throw them in jail. If they don't have sufficient evidence to try someone, such that they don't believe that they could win in court, then a forced relocation is basically punishing them without that pesky 'present evidence in court' step.

    And of course the big question, the really important question after reading that line is this:

    Where are they planning on relocating the people caught up by the program to?

    If it was jail, then why not say that(oh, right, that pesky 'trial' step)? If they're 'just' relocating a potential threat, that implies that they intend to do so in an attempt to do something about the 'threat', and that implies a distinct loss of freedoms on the part of the 'threat'. Where they can go, what they can do, likely who they can speak to. Prison in all but name essentially, except given they are being relocated under a law designed to deal with terrorists, a class of people that, according to the US and UK governments have no rights...

    Yeah, the whole idea/law is a terrible idea from top to bottom.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 25 Nov 2014 @ 7:28am

      Re: 'Be afraid, always afraid!'

      When you've got piles of 'hay', larger than any stadium to sort through, finding the individual needles becomes very difficult, especially finding them in time to actually do anything about them before it's too late. The spy agencies have become so enamored by the 'Collect it ALL' idea, that they've actually sabotaged their own capabilities with regards to finding, and responding to, actual threats.

      Well demonstrated by the fact that the perpetrators of most recent attacks were already known to the authorities but they were too busy to do anything to stop them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2014 @ 4:20am

    These extra powers to deal with terrorism will soon be needed, to deal with the terrorism that they create. In particular, it will be very useful to be ables to banish protest leaders to remote areas, so that they cannot lead large scale protests.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2014 @ 4:42am

    So when do we stop calling it the UK, and start calling it Airstrip One?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2014 @ 4:51am

    > That might seem a curious thing to introduce, since UK ISPs are already required to store metadata.

    Didn't ECJ say that's illegal? Why is UK still doing it? And why is no one suing the government in UK over it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2014 @ 5:09am

    On the subject of sanitized 'anti-terrorism' language/policy

    Winston Churchill made an almost psychic observation about how authoritarian groups would conceal their agenda:
    The future fascists will call themselves anti-fascists
    Hate to say it Churchill but your observation has hit closer to home than you thought.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2014 @ 5:21am

    The governments problem with "needle in haystack" analogies

    The best way to find the needle is to transmogrify all the hay in to needles and declare you have found it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2014 @ 5:54am

    when creating a stack of needles, one should handle them carefully or you may end up being the pin cushion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2014 @ 6:31am

      Re:

      Not if they are knitting needles.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2014 @ 7:56am

      Re:

      Introducing Smart-Needles(tm) which are designed with haystack searching in mind. Our best ever needle surreptitiously crawls (we were gonna use squirm because it is so much more awesome, until we thought about 1950's horror flicks) inside the third nearest hay stalk (the closest one would not take very much smart) thereby making it so much harder to find.

      We were disturbed recently when we received a government request to build a back door into our squirming, err, crawling needle, wondering what a door in a needle might look like.

      In the meantime we are working on our chameleon skin coating which will cause our Smart-Needles(tm) to take on the appearance of the selected hay stalk, striking a wonderful balance between the esoteric and functionality of our phenomenal device.

      Lastly we would like to announce a contest offering one metric shit ton of Smart-Needles(tm) to whomever can come up with an actual usage for our product.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2014 @ 7:09am

    May is an obnoxious bitch, that's why she fitted so nicely into this job! add in that anything the present UK government can do to screw the 'ordinary' people there and we have the two most important things

    a)keep income of ordinary people as low as possible while ensuring the things they NEED are at as high price as possible, making them work that much harder, for that much longer, taking away the time for spending with families or hobbies. at the same time ensuring the bosses and otherwise elite retain and increase their wealth
    b) ensure that the ordinary people can be spied on in every way thinkable, not because it would help anyone or prevent anything from happening but because it can be done.

    i just read where the results of the enquiry into the death of a soldier has found that had the isp that was being used by the murderers brought the emails to the attention of the authorities, the death may have been prevented. if ever there was a fabricated reason for any government to increase surveillance on everyone, this is it! the fucking clown who made that revelation has no idea what he has just done! he has turned the UK into a worse place than China and N.Korea! the authorities will be installing cameras into bedrooms and toilets next! what an idiotic thing to say!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 25 Nov 2014 @ 7:50am

      Re:

      i just read where the results of the enquiry into the death of a soldier has found that had the isp that was being used by the murderers brought the emails to the attention of the authorities, the death may have been prevented. if ever there was a fabricated reason for any government to increase surveillance on everyone

      Huh - I would have thought that that revelation was a reason NOT to increase surveillance - since the existing surveilance is clearly adequate (if not already excessive). What is lacking is the will or ability to actually DO anything about what it reveals in a timely way. (Except of course in those cases where what it reveals are nothing to do with the stated purpose of preventing terrorism.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2014 @ 7:36am

    Is this a recap of how Australia happened?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2014 @ 8:00am

    Wouldn't it be easier?

    From the desk of the current Grand Potentate Poobah in training:

    Scotland, Wales, go to your rooms.

    Northern Ireland, take your pants down.

    England, get the switch!

    City of London Police, where are those charge sheets?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Julian (profile), 25 Nov 2014 @ 9:27am

    Tower hamlets

    So perhaps this explains Tower Hamlets re-locating sheltered housing and council tenants to Dagenham or Middlesborough. With the added benefit that the vacant council property can then be sold off to the Buy-To-Let crowd. Just re-label "benefits cheats" to "TPIM subject" and you've solved several problems in one go while also enabling a tidy profit for your friends and appeasing UKIP and the Daily Mail readers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 25 Nov 2014 @ 9:59am

    Just an aside, ...

    You know what else in this story is old technology?

    Haystacks.

    Farmers don't even use hay bales anymore. They create cylindrical shrink-wrapped pellets to leave out all over the place. What are we going to do when the planet is covered twenty feet deep with T. Rex sized plastic shrink-wrapped mouse droppings which never break down or degrade? Some of them are so big, you could hollow them out and create a nice shelter from the elements inside.

    Maybe this's the plan. Once all the needles, er terrorists, have moved into these hay pellets, we'll finally know where to look for them.

    I suppose when all the oil's gone, it'll make ready fuel for the eventual collapsed civilization's survivors' campfires, but it's pretty smoky, stinky fuel.

    I just thought I should mention it. We need a new paradigm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2014 @ 1:44pm

      Re: Just an aside, ...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 25 Nov 2014 @ 3:32pm

        Re: Re: Just an aside, ...

        Incredible. I've known for a long time that mud plus straw bricks have been used in construction for eons in arid regions, but I never expected something like this would get past the building code designers. I don't think I want to be anywhere near one of those buildings in earthquake prone areas. Yet part (?) of Oregon is part of a supervolcano caldera.

        Astonishing.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2014 @ 1:36pm

    Drop the pretense and go all the way just put all the citizens in a labor camp. So much easier to watch that way. From the sounds of it they won't mind in the UK.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 25 Nov 2014 @ 5:34pm

    Question, from the back:

    From the bill: "...in response to the increased threat..."

    I've noticed a funny thing: Threats always increase, they never decrease no matter what measures we put in place.

    So, just how high are these threats now? Stratosphere? Alpha Centauri? Or are we getting all the way close to the edge of the universe?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Nov 2014 @ 9:39am

    What bothers me most about data retention policies. Is how all the law-abiding citizens are scooped up in mass surveillance. While the criminals these laws are meant to stop, find ways of circumventing the logs and defeating the whole purpose of the exercise.

    Unless of course, the purpose of the exercise is mass surveillance...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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