from the redefining-'terrorism,'-one-abuse-at-a-time dept
Here come even more revelations of surveillance abuse by UK law enforcement. To date, various law enforcement agencies have been exposed as participating in very broad readings of very broadly-written anti-terrorism laws to spy on journalists and activists. The latest abuse detailed by The Guardian concerns the surveillance of activists by UK law enforcement on behalf of a foreign government.
The police watchdog is investigating allegations that a secretive Scotland Yard unit used hackers to illegally access the private emails of hundreds of political campaigners and journalists.
The allegations were made by an anonymous individual who says the unit worked with Indian police, who in turn used hackers to illegally obtain the passwords of the email accounts of the campaigners, and some reporters and press photographers.
Hacked passwords were passed to the Metropolitan police unit, according to the writer of the letter, which then regularly checked the emails of the campaigners and the media to gather information. The letter to Jones listed the passwords of environmental campaigners, four of whom were from Greenpeace. Several confirmed they matched the ones they had used to open their emails.
This is more of the same for any UK agencies with access to surveillance tools and easily-abusable laws. These complaints are adding to the pile sitting in front of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Not that the Commission will ever get to the bottom of this, as it’s finding its oversight being thwarted by the agencies it’s assigned to oversee.
Last month the IPCC said it had uncovered evidence suggesting the documents had been destroyed despite a specific instruction that files should be preserved to be examined by a judge-led public inquiry into the undercover policing of political groups.
The letter claimed that the shredding “has been happening for some time and on a far greater scale than the IPCC seems to be aware of”. The author added that “the main reason for destroying these documents is that they reveal that [police] officers were engaged in illegal activities to obtain intelligence on protest groups”
It’s unclear what the Indian police — who used hackers to obtain account passwords — were looking for or why they turned to Scotland Yard for assistance. Those whose accounts were accessed were far from dangerous individuals. Although the activists may be vehemently opposed to UK government policies and the actions of several major corporations, the worst of the worst of those confirmed to be surveilled did 80 hours
hard time community service stemming from an incident where unwanted solar panels were forcibly installed on a deputy prime minister’s house.
Presumably, the valuable info snagged from hacked accounts gave police on both sides heads up on planned demonstrations, as well as any other non-protest-related conversations the activists might have had. Considering what flows into the average email account, police could have gained access to financial transactions, medical information, and conversations between activists and those with zero interest in making the world a subjectively better place.
Fortunately, the documentation backing up the hacking accusations is still in the hands of repentant hackers, rather than headed for the Scotland Yard shredder.