The misuse of Britain’s hastily conceived anti-terrorism/counter-terrorism laws and security regimes is now affecting society as a whole…
Blog started 6 December 2008 (updated regularly)
“…When I think of terrorists, newspaper editors aren’t the first people who spring to mind. Yet yesterday the editor of the Guardian was hauled before the Commons home affairs select committee – of which I am a member – and accused of breaching terrorist law.” Julian Huppert MP writing in The Guardian, 4 December 2013
… Yet it is plainly the direction of travel revealed by Snowden of the wilder shores of the NSA and GCHQ. What made his revelations particularly important was the spectacle of two contrasting forces in ghastly collusion. On the one hand was the move to digital transparency, the erosion of personal privacy through electronic surveillance, drone photography, face recognition and type-sorting. On the other was the hijacking of such power by a secret agency of the state under cover of “the war on terror”. Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, 20 November 2013
The National Union of Journalists has joined a coalition of media and free speech organisations in a High Court challenge to the use of counter-terrorism powers to detain David Miranda, partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist reporting on the mass surveillance programmes by the United States National Security Agency, at Heathrow airport in August. At the time of the detention the union said: “The treatment meted out to David Miranda is wholly unacceptable and it is time the use, or rather misuse, of terrorism legislation as a way of targeting individuals was properly and independently reviewed….” From the NUJ website, 6 November 2013
Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor in The Guardian, 5 November 2013 “He (former Home Secretary David Blunkett) was also responsible for reviewing the early use of a key piece of anti-terror legislation, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (Ripa), which has provided the legal underpinning for some of GCHQ’s mass-surveillance programmes revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Guardian has revealed that GCHQ relies on Ripa to provide the legal cover for programmes such as Tempora, which taps undersea cables that carry internet traffic in and out of the country.”
16th October 2013
… Charles Farr, the Home Office’s head of the office of security and counter-terrorism…confirmed that among the 552,000 requests for communications data each year were requests from local authorities for personal data to use in investigations into benefit fraud, trading standards offences and antisocial behaviour. That undermined May’s claim in the Sun that the powers in the bill would only be used to track suspected terrorists, paedophiles and serious criminals. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/oct/16/mps-peers-may-snoopers-charter
22nd August 2013
It is the height of naivety to believe that police will not routinely abuse any powers granted to them for special purposes. After all, photographing a police minibus parked in a disabled parking spot while the officers ate sandwiches has brought a threat of prosecution under the Terrorism Act unless the photos were deleted; and the demand that demonstrators remove head coverings, regardless of suspicion of involvement in any of the actions supposedly required to justify such a demand, is now routine. (Letter to the Editor of the Guardian, from Jon Fanning, 22 August 2013)
19th August 2013
Labour has called for an urgent investigation into the use of anti-terror powers to detain David Miranda, the partner of a Guardian journalist who interviewed US National Security Agency whistle blower Edward Snowden. Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said ministers must find out whether anti-terror laws had been “misused”, after Miranda was held for nine hours by authorities at Heathrow airport under the Terrorism Act.
29th April 2013
Police misuse of counter-terrorism powers to restrict photography
2nd November 2012
Ellie Mae O’Hagan “Despite the peaceful nature of their actions, the simple act of protesting means that activists’ lives sometimes resemble that of Tony Soprano. Surveillance, police intimidation and undercover officers are routine hazards they must negotiate. As one environmental campaigner who has come into contact with undercover officers puts it: ‘You don’t have to be self-important to suspect you’re the victim of state surveillance. If you’re politically active, it’s simply a fact of life’….Last April the foreign secretary, William Hague, called for Syria to ‘respect basic and universal human rights to freedoms of expression and assembly’. What does the intrusive surveillance of activists mean for a society that champions freedom of expression to the world? ”
4th April 2012
“Too often in the recent past, anti-terror laws have been used for purposes for which they were not designed. For instance, of the 1,000 odd public bodies entitled to monitor electronic communications under existing surveillance laws, two-thirds are local authorities”.
Financial Times Editorial, 4th April 2012
19th March 2012
An Italian student [Simona Bonomo] has won an out-of-court settlement with police after she was stopped under anti-terrorist legislation while filming buildings in London, and later arrested, held in a cell for five hours and then fined…”I am pleased with the settlement but money alone does not erase what happened and I am left with consternation that the systems in place to protect citizens from police brutality do not work,” Bonomo said.
1st October 2010
A secret police operation to place thousands of Muslims living in Birmingham under permanent surveillance was implemented with virtually no consultation, oversight or regard for the law, a report found today.
Project Champion was abandoned in June after an investigation by the Guardian revealed police had misled residents into believing that hundreds of counter-terrorism cameras installed in streets around Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath were to be used to combat vehicle crime and antisocial behaviour.
In fact, the £3m project was being run from the West Midlands police counter-terrorism unit with the consent of security officials at the Home Office and MI5.
15th August 2010
A Liberal Democrat adviser to Nick Clegg has called on Scotland Yard to explain why it held his details as well as Clegg’s name on a secret police database. Fiyaz Mughal, who advises the deputy prime minister on combating violent extremism, wrote to Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan police commissioner, last week demanding to know why surveillance officers logged his identity on the database after he spoke at a peaceful rally in Trafalgar Square…to protest against the BBC’s refusa to broadcast a charity appeal for Gaza. A team of surveillance officers from the forward intelligence team of the Met’s public order unit were watching the demonstration to gather information about various protesters linked to groups including Stop the War and the Socialist Workers party…”
Source: Sunday Times, 15th August 2010, report by David Leppard
20th July 2010
“Education secretary Michael Gove faced heavy criticism yesterday by both Labour and a senior Tory MP for using Parliamentary procedures normally reserved for emergency counter-terror laws to rush through legislation to create more academy schools….”
17th June 2010
“A project to place two Muslim areas in Birmingham under surveillance has been dramatically halted after an investigation by the Guardian revealed it was a counter terrorism initiative….Under the initiative, Project Champion, the suburbs were to be monitored by a network of 169 automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras three times more than in the entire city centre. The cameras, which include covert cameras secretly installed in the street, form “rings of steel” meaning residents cannot enter or leave the areas without their cars being tracked. Data was to be stored for two years.
There was no formal consultation over the scheme, which includes an additional 49 CCTV cameras…”
11th June 2010
“Senior police officers are fighting hard to retain the use of section 44 stop and search powers after the Home Office admitted 14 forces had unlawfully used them in 40 operations dating back to 2001…. a series of blunders meant the operations under the Terrorism Act 2000 had not been legally authorised, either because they exceeded the maximum legal 28-day limit in duration or had not been properly signed off by ministers within 48 hours….The 14 forces are trying to contact tens of thousands who were unlawfully searched on the streets in operations going back to 2001, when the powers were introduced.
1st June 2010
“A couple who kept their curtains closed were also flagged up to the Channel Project, an anti-terror warning programme designed to stop vulnerable people becoming radicalised…[the] teenage schoolboy was one of 53 people reported in East Lancashire alone after regularly drawing bombs and guns. …Inspector Paul Goodall, the Prevent and Channel coordinator for East Lancashire, said: ‘We are looking at people who would not normally come on to our radar’.”
11th May 2010
“Grant Smith, a renowned architectural photographer, was taking photographs at One Aldermanbury Square, near London Wall, when he was stopped by officers from City of London police. He said they prevented him from using his camera to film the stop and search, and held his arms behind his back as they searched through his possessions.
It is the second time in six months that Smith has been stopped by City police under section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which allows officers to stop and search anyone without need for suspicion in designated areas. In December, the police stopped him from photographing the spire of Sir Christopher Wren’s Christ Church.”
4th April 2010
“Police are secretly photographing up to 14 million motorists a day and storing their details for years, it has emerged.
Images of drivers and their front seat passengers captured by a network of cameras are being held on a police database without motorists knowledge, a police document has revealed. Now police chiefs are facing a legal challenge from privacy campaigners …Police say it is an invaluable tool against serious criminals and terrorists.”
7th March 2010
“A Sunday Express investigation asked 300 councils if they had used the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to spy on staff and 33 answered ‘yes’.
Caroline Spelman, Shadow Local Government Secretary, said:’Under Labour’s surveillance state, laws passed in the name of fighting terror have been misused….’
The list includes Gedling Council in Nottinghamshire which used surveillance to catch people stealing lights from a Christmas tree.
Burnley Council in Lancashire watched a council gym to see if staff were using the showers in work time, Medway Council in Kent used CCTV to keep tabs on parking attendants thought to be knocking off early and Tamworth Council in Staffordshire watched a market official suspected of fiddling time sheets. Lancaster City Council staff had emails examined in an inquiry into working practices and Hackney Council in London spied on staff thought to be misusing disabled parking badges.
22nd Feb 2010
“Police questioned an amateur photographer under anti-terrorist legislation and later arrested him, claiming pictures he was taking in a Lancashire town were ‘suspicious’ and constituted ‘antisocial behaviour’.
Footage recorded on a video camera by Bob Patefield, a former paramedic, shows how police approached him and a fellow photography enthusiast in Accrington town centre. They were told they were being questioned under the Terrorism Act.
…He turned on his video camera the moment he was approached by a police community support officer (PCSO). In the footage, she said: ‘Because of the Terrorism Act and everything in the country, we need to get everyone’s details who is taking pictures of the town’.”
26th Jan 2010
“Children’s TV hosts Anna Williamson and Jamie Rickers said today they were quizzed by police under anti-terrorism powers – while carrying glittery hairdryers. The pair, who front ITV1′s hit show Toonattik, were filming on the South Bank wearing combat gear and armed with children’s walkie talkies and hairdryers. Their fake fatigues aroused the suspicions of police, who stopped them and took their details.”
Source: Kiran Randhawa in the Evening Standard, 26th Jan 2010
16th December 2009
“An Italian student has described how she was stopped by police under anti-terrorist legislation while filming buildings, and later arrested, held in a police cell for five hours and given a fixed penalty notice. Simona Bonomo, 32, an art student at London Metropolitan University at London Metropolitan University, filmed the moment on 19 November when she was approached by two police community support officers (PCSOs) in Paddington, west London.
When Bonomo was challenged by one PCSO, she said she was filming ‘just for fun’. He replied: ‘You like looking at those buildings do you? You’re basically filming for fun? I don’t believe you.’ Bonomo then declined his request to see what she had filmed. ‘I can have a look if I want to, if I think it may be linked to terrorism. This is an iconic site,’ he replied. Bonomo then said she was an artist. ‘You’re an artist? Have you got any proof or any identification?” he said. After accusing Bonomo of being *censored*y, the PCSO said she had been cycling the wrong way down a one-way street and threatened to fine her. After she apologised, the PCSOs departed, but returned moments later with about six police officers, she said.
She was searched and, after an altercation with one officer, was accused of being aggressive, bundled to the ground and arrested. The PCSOs were not involved in the arrest. After five hours in a police cell, Bonomo said she was told to sign an £80 fixed penalty fine for a public order offence. She plans to contest the penalty, which stipulated she caused ‘harassment, alarm and distress’ in public.
Bonomo returned the next day to interview builders who had witnessed her arrest. Footage of the interviews appears to corroborate her account. ‘I was disgusted,’ one said. ‘They were terribly out of order. There was one officer who was spiteful to you.’
The Met confirmed that a woman was stopped and searched under section 44 of the Terrorism Act. Any complaint made to police would be fully investigated.
8th December 2009
“One of the country’s leading architectural photographers was apprehended by City of London police under terrorism laws today while photographing the 300-year old spire of Sir Christopher Wren’s Christ Church for a personal project. Grant Smith, who has 25 years experience documenting buildings by Richard Rogers and Norman Foster, was stopped by a squad of seven officers who pulled up in three cars and a riot van and searched his belongings under section 44 of the Terrorism Act, which allows police to stop and search anyone without need for suspicion in a designated area.
‘Three of them descended on me and said they were here because of reports of an aggressive male,’ Smith said. ‘One of them even admired my badge which said ‘I am a photographer not a terrorist’. But they searched my bag for terrorist-related paraphernalia and demanded to know who I was and what I was doing. I refused. saying that I didn’t have to tell them, but they said if I didn’t they would take me off and physically search me’.”
10th August 2009
“Fears have been raised about the scale of the UK’s “surveillance state” after it was revealed 1,500 requests to snoop on the public were made every day last year.
Councils, police and the intelligence services asked more than 500,000 times for approval to access private email and phone data, according to official figures.
Each request allows public authorities access to communications data – which includes records of phone, email and text messages – but not their content.
The Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said the figures ‘beggared belief’, and questioned whether so many operations were necessary.
24th May 2009
“…Burnley borough council invoked laws set up to safeguard national security to mount a covert operation against one of its own officials because it suspected he was using a gym during office hours. Internal council papers, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that the council decided to mount a ‘direct surveillance’ operation against the official. Its purpose was ‘to see if [the] council employee is using gym/showers whilst clocked in’.”
…The operation required authorisation from senior council officials under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa).
The act, introduced in 2000, was said by government ministers to be necessary to combat terrorism. Critics warned that its wide powers could easily be abused.”
30th April 2009
Officers were last night accused of abusing their powers after it emerged just one per cent of around 124,000 ‘suspects’ targeted in 2007/08 were arrested – and only a fraction of those were for terrorism related offences….
The level of stop and searches for other suspected offences also increased to more than a million last year – the highest for a decade. There was also a sharp rise in the number of times the public had to justify their activities to police in so-called ‘stop and account’ incidents. Members of the public were stopped and questioned by officers more than 2.3 million times last year after a rise of 26 per cent. ..
Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, said: “People will be highly suspicious about the scale of stop and search under terror laws. ‘This will only serve to reinforce the view that many anti-terror powers are being used for unrelated purposes.’
17th April 2009
“The government tried yesterday to quell rising concern over the abuse of powers designed to fight terrorism and serious crime, which some councils were using to target people who put their bins out on the wrong day. Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, announced a review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which the government says is designed to stop the powers being used for ‘trivial’ purposes.
… a procession of stories of abuse has raised concern. A family in Poole, Dorset, were tracked covertly for nearly three weeks because the council wrongly doubted their claim that they lived in a school’s catchment area.
Four councils, Derby, Bolton, Gateshead and Hartlepool, have admitted using the surveillance powers granted under Ripa to investigate dog fouling. ..Last month it emerged the surveillance powers had been used by 182 district and unitary councils 10,288 times since 2004, but fewer than one in 10 inquiries led to a successful prosecution, caution, or fixed penalty notice.
…The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the details under freedom of information legislation, said Ripa was becoming a ‘snooper’s charter’.”
16th April 2009
“On the eve of the G20 summit in London five young people were arrested in the Plymouth area under the Terrorism Act. Their arrest took place after one young man was caught spraying anti-capitalist graffiti, a tiny act of dissent which resulted in police raids on several premises. Despite large servings of media sensationalism, not even the police claimed that those arrested posed a credible threat to the leaders of the G20. They were accused of possession of ‘material relating to political ideology’. The state now finds the ownership of anti-capitalist books suspicious.
6th March 2009
“Police are targeting thousands of political campaigners in surveillance operations and storing their details on a database for at least seven years, an investigation by the Guardian can reveal.
….The ?Metropolitan police, which has ?pioneered surveillance at demonstrations and advises other forces on the tactic, stores details of protesters on Crimint, the general database used daily by all police staff to catalogue criminal intelligence. It lists campaigners by name, allowing police to search which demonstrations or political meetings individuals have attended….Names, political associations and photographs of protesters from across the political spectrum ñ from campaigners against the third runway at Heathrow to anti-war activists ñ are catalogued..”
28th Feb 2009
“Controversial surveillance powers employed to fight terrorism and combat crime have been misused by civil servants in undercover ‘spying’ operations that breach official guidelines, the Guardian has learned….organisations which have used surveillance powers include Ofsted, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Driving Standards Agency and Food Standards Agency, the Financial Services Authority, the BBC (for TV licensing detection) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.”
19th Feb 2009
“Yes, fighting terrorism requires some restrictions. Yes, you can make a crime reduction case for some CCTV. But we have more CCTV, a larger DNA database and a more ambitious (and unworkable) National Identity Register scheme, as well as more police powers and more email snooping than any comparable liberal democracy. On top of which we have a bureaucracy so centralised and incompetent in managing this mass of data that it lost two computer discs containing the child benefit details of 25 million people.
What’s more, the certain loss of liberty will often not result in the alleged gain in security or efficiency. So, for example, Gordon Brown and his ministers went on pressing for 42 days’ detention without trial, despite the fact that two former heads of the country’s security service, the director of public prosecutions, the former lord chancellor, attorney general and lord chief justice – in short, almost everyone in a position to know – said it was wrong, unnecessary and counterproductive. How can a government of intelligent and often liberal-minded persons behave so illiberally, arrogantly and stupidly? ”
Timothy Garton-Ash http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/feb/19/civil-liberties-terrorism
7th Feb 2009
“…Poole borough council is using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) – a law brought in to combat terrorism and cyber crime – to scrutinise people gathering shellfish.
Last month the council [Poole] admitted spying on a family to check they were living in the correct school catchment area. Jenny Paton, 39, Tim Joyce, 37, and their three daughters had their movements scrutinised and timed by an undercover official.
A detailed log of the family’s activities was kept with statements including ‘curtains open and all lights on in premises’, but no action was taken against them.
…Poole and other councils have argued that the act is not simply intended to target very serious criminals and terrorists.
According to the Home Office, the act ‘legislates for using methods of surveillance and information gathering to help the prevention of crime, including terrorism’.
6th January 2009
“Reuben Powell is an unlikely terrorist. A white, middle-aged, middle-class artist, he has been photographing and drawing life around the capital’s Elephant & Castle for 25 years.
With a studio near the 1960s shopping centre at the heart of this area in south London, he is a familiar figure and is regularly seen snapping and sketching the people and buildings around his home ñ currently the site of Europe’s largest regeneration project. But to the police officers who arrested him last week his photographing of the old HMSO print works close to the local police station posed an unacceptable security risk.
“The car skidded to a halt like something out of Starsky & Hutch and this officer jumped out very dramatically and said ‘what are you doing?’ I told him I was photographing the building and he said he was going to search me under the Anti-Terrorism Act,” he recalled.
…The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has also taken up the cause, highlighting the case last month of the photographer Jess Hurd, whose camera was taken from her when she was detained for 45 minutes under Section 44 while documenting a traveller wedding in London’s Docklands. Last week police were filmed obstructing photographers covering a protest at the Greek embassy in London. Scotland Yard promised to investigate.
5th January 2009
“Police have been given the power to hack into personal computers without a court warrant. The Home Office is facing anger and the threat of a legal challenge after granting permission. Ministers are also drawing up plans to allow police across the EU to collect information from computers in Britain….A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said police carried out 194 hacking operations in 2007-08 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including 133 in private homes, 37 in offices and 24 in hotel rooms.
…The spokesman said such surveillance was regulated under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.”
March against Arms Fair, in Brighton – account of a University of Sussex student arrested in October 2008 under section 60AA, brought in as part of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act of November 2001.
“I headed over towards Lewes Road, and filmed protesters being surrounded by riot police, just by the bottom of Elm Grove. At this point I was grabbed from behind and a policeman started pushing/marching me towards the other side of the road. He was quite rough with me and nearly pushed me into a police car and then managed to knock me into a riot policeman….I informed the police officers that I was not part of the protest, and that my scarf was to keep me warm. He then insisted again and again that I remove my scarf, I said no, and why should I? At this point he pulled my scarf off the lower part of my face, he couldn’t pull it off as when I wear a scarf I tie it up at the back so it stays put when I’m out and about. By this point both police officers had hold of me, one on each arm….
I haven’t been able to put into words how the police made me feel that day. The whole experience has scared me so much.”
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) was passed in 2000 to regulate the way that public bodies such as the police and the security services carry out surveillance. Originally only a handful of authorities were able to use RIPA but its scope has been expanded enormously and now there are at least 792 organisations using it, including hundreds of local councils.
This has generated dozens of complaints about anti-terrorism legislation being used to spy on, for example, a nursery suspected of selling pot plants unlawfully, a family suspected of lying about living in a school catchment area, and paperboys suspected of not having the right paperwork.
Cambridgeshire County Council, December 2008
Cambridgeshire County Council sent undercover officers to monitor whether eight children delivering papers in Melbourn, Cambs, were doing their rounds without the correct paperwork.
Campaigners accused the council of acting like a “jumped up version of the A-Team” by using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to target the former postmistress Rashmi Solanki and her husband Dips, who run the local shop.
The couple received a six-month conditional discharge at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court for employing delivery boys without a valid permit after what they claimed was a “mix-up” over paperwork.
It is the latest in a series of incidents where local authorities have used surveillance powers to investigate minor matters from dog fouling to underage smoking.
The Daily Telegraph disclosed recently that councils carried out almost 10,000 spying missions last year under the act which was introduced to help the police fight terrorism and crime in 2000.
One council used the powers to investigate a family it wrongly suspected of breaking rules on school catchment areas and to monitor whether fishermen were gathering shellfish illegally. Another recently carried out surveillance to check whether a nursery was selling pot plants unlawfully.
Damian Green MP, December 2008
Mr Green, a shadow Home Office minister, was arrested and his property searched last Thursday in an operation involving 20 police officers after he received leaked Whitehall documents. The MP’s mobile phone, computer and sensitive documents have all been seized by anti-terrorist police. He has been bailed under suspicion of conspiring to break the archaic law of “misconduct in public office”.
Climate Change protesters, August 2007
Armed police will use anti-terrorism powers to “deal robustly” with climate change protesters at Heathrow next week, as confrontations threaten to bring major delays to the already overstretched airport.
Nosy journalists, August 2006
Anti-terrorist police yesterday arrested three men, including the News of the World’s royal correspondent, for allegedly intercepting phone calls at Clarence House, the official residence of the Prince of Wales.
Walter Wolfgang, September 2005
The Foreign Secretary was telling the conference that Britain was in Iraq “for one reason only” – to help the elected Iraqi government – when Walter Wolfgang shouted: “That’s a lie and you know it.”
Mr Wolfgang, a refugee from Nazi Germany and a Labour Party member since 1948, was immediately surrounded by security staff in full view of the television cameras and ejected from the hall in Brighton as officials revoked his pass.
When he tried to re-enter the secure zone, he was stopped by a police officer citing the Terrorism Act.
ExCel Arms Fair protesters, September 2003
Several people demonstrating outside Europe’s largest arms exhibition in Docklands were detained under new powers to crack down on suspected terrorists introduced after the 11 September attacks.
Fairford anti-war protesters, July 2003
A group of peace protesters has launched legal proceedings against Gloucestershire police, claiming they used anti-terrorism laws to prevent demonstrations against the war in Iraq.
The complaints centre on RAF Fairford, where American B-52 bombers were based during the conflict.