A Law That Treats All Citizens As Suspects

This is a video interview with Euronews, published on 27th January 2017, discussing how the Investigatory Powers Act (‘Snooper’s Charter’) affects us, and the onset of Liberty’s legal challenge to the mass surveillance powers.

Full video here: The UK’s new surveillance powers treat all citizens as suspects

 

 

 

The Snooper’s Charter passed into law this week. Our message to Government – see you in court.

By Silkie Carlo

Originally published on The Independent, 19 November 2016

The fact that you’re on this website is – potentially – state knowledge. Service providers must now store details of everything you do online for 12 months – and make it accessible to dozens of public authorities

This week a law was passed that silently rips privacy from the modern world. It’s called the Investigatory Powers Act.

Under the guise of counter-terrorism, the British state has achieved totalitarian-style surveillance powers – the most intrusive system of any democracy in history. It now has the ability to indiscriminately hack, intercept, record, and monitor the communications and internet use of the entire population.

The hundreds of chilling mass surveillance programmes revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013 were – we assumed – the result of a failure of the democratic process. Snowden’s bravery finally gave Parliament and the public the opportunity to scrutinise this industrial-scale spying and bring the state back into check.

But, in an environment of devastatingly poor political opposition, the Government has actually extended state spying powers beyond those exposed by Snowden – setting a “world-leading” precedent.

The fact that you’re on this website is – potentially – state knowledge. Service providers must now store details of everything you do online for 12 months – and make it accessible to dozens of public authorities.

What does your web history look like? Does it reveal your political interests? Social networks? Religious ideas? Medical concerns? Sexual interests? Pattern of life?

What might the last year of your internet use reveal?

Government agencies have even won powers to hack millions of computers, phones and tablets en masse, leaving them vulnerable to further criminal attacks.

You might think that you have nothing to hide, and therefore nothing to fear. In that case, you may as well post your email and social media login details in the comments below.

But I don’t think we do feel that blasé about our privacy – we cherish our civil liberties. Everyone has a stake in guarding our democracy, protecting minorities from suspicionless surveillance, defending protest rights, freedom of the press, and enjoying the freedom to explore and express oneself online. These freedoms allow our thoughts, opinions and personalities to flourish and develop – they are the very core of democracy.

Has any country in history given itself such extensive surveillance powers and remained a rights-respecting democracy? We need not look too far back – or overseas to see the risks of unbridled surveillance. In recent years, the British state has spied on law-abiding environmental activists, democratically elected politicians, victims of torture and police brutality, and hundreds of journalists.

In fact, as the Bill finally passed on Wednesday evening, I was training a group of British and American journalists in how to protect themselves from state surveillance – not just from Russia or Syria, but from their own countries.

When Edward Snowden courageously blew the whistle on mass surveillance he warned that, armed with such tools, a new leader might “say that ‘because of the crisis, because of the dangers we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power.’ And there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it”.

The US finds itself with a President-elect who has committed to monitoring all mosques, banning all Muslims, investigating Black Lives Matter activists and deporting two to three million people. And with the ushering into law of the UK-US free trade in mass surveillance, MPs may have a lot to answer for.

Liberty and its members fought tooth and nail against this new law from its inception to the moment it was passed. That fight is not yet over. Our message to Government: see you in court.

Silkie Carlo is the policy officer at Liberty

Why journalists should be thinking about information security and source protection

Originally published on journalism.co.uk, August 2016

Silkie Carlo, policy officer at Liberty, explains the importance of security for journalists, and what the introduction of the Investigatory Powers Bill means for them

By Caroline Scott

The Investigatory Powers Bill, introduced to the House of Commons on 1 March 2016, has provided a new framework to “govern the use and oversight of investigatory powers by law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies,” but what does this mean for the work of investigative journalists?

Silkie Carlo, policy officer at Liberty and co-author of Information Security for Journalists, told Journalism.co.uk that reporters should be prepared for the changing working environment in the UK that comes with the update in the law.

“Journalists have to be aware that if they are doing any stories that could be of interest to the police or the security agencies, they do face a real risk of being intercepted, and that’s all made possible by this new piece of legislation that’s going through at the moment,” she said.

As the Investigatory Powers Bill can give the police and security services the ability to legally access journalists’ work, Carlo noted that sources may become aware that they are not communicating with the journalists in full confidentiality.

Recent research from the University of Sussex has found the current surveillance threats to journalists “may all but eliminate” confidential sources for investigative reporting.

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FACING DATA DELUGE, SECRET U.K. SPYING REPORT WARNED OF INTELLIGENCE FAILURE

Originally published on The Intercept, June 2016

By Ryan Gallagher.

A SECRET REPORT WARNED that British spies may have put lives at risk because their surveillance systems were sweeping up more data than could be analyzed, leading them to miss clues to possible security threats.

The concern was sent to top British government officials in an explosive classified document, which outlined methods being developed by the United Kingdom’s domestic intelligence agency to covertly monitor internet communications.

The Security Service, also known as MI5, had become the “principal collector and exploiter” of digital communications within the U.K., the eight-page report noted, but the agency’s surveillance capabilities had “grown significantly over the last few years.”

MI5 “can currently collect (whether itself or through partners …) significantly more than it is able to exploit fully,” the report warned. “This creates a real risk of ‘intelligence failure’ i.e. from the Service being unable to access potentially life-saving intelligence from data that it has already collected.”

draft copy of the report, obtained by The Intercept from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, is marked with the classification “U.K. Secret” and dated February 12, 2010. It was prepared by British spy agency officials to brief the government’s Cabinet Office and Treasury Department about the U.K.’s surveillance capabilities.

Notably, three years after the report was authored, two Islamic extremists killed and attempted to decapitate a British soldier, Lee Rigby, on a London street. An investigation into the incident found that the two perpetrators were well-known to MI5, but the agency had missed significant warning signs about the men, including records of phone calls one of them had made to an al Qaeda-affiliated radical in Yemen, and an online message in which the same individual had discussed in graphic detail his intention to murder a soldier.

The new revelations raise questions about whether problems sifting through the troves of data collected by British spies may have been a factor in the failure to prevent the Rigby killing. But they are also of broader relevance to an ongoing debate in the U.K. about surveillance. In recent months, the British government has been trying to pass a new law, the Investigatory Powers Bill, which would grant MI5 and other agencies access to more data.

Silkie Carlo, a policy officer at the London-based human rights group Liberty, told The Intercept that the details contained in the secret report highlighted the need for a comprehensive independent review of the proposed new surveillance powers.

“Intelligence whistleblowers have warned that the agencies are drowning in data — and now we have it confirmed from the heart of the U.K. government,” Carlo said. “If our agencies have risked missing ‘life-saving intelligence’ by collecting ‘significantly’ more data than they can analyze, how can they justify casting the net yet wider in the toxic Investigatory Powers Bill?”

The British government’s Home Office, which handles media requests related to MI5, declined to comment for this story.

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With the Snoopers’ Charter, Our Digital Security Is Under Attack in the Name of Total Surveillance

Originally published on Huffington Post, April 2016

By Silkie Carlo

There’s a reason most of us lock our phones with a passcode. We know they’ve become a window into our private lives, much more revealing than a rifle through our diaries or bedside drawers. They contain our contacts, banking details, confidential work emails and personal messages – highly valuable in the wrong hands.

So if a stranger approached you in the street and asked to see your browsing history or text messages, you’d naturally recoil. And that’s exactly how people responded when Liberty sent Olivia Lee out to do just that. Even Home Office staff couldn’t see why she should get to hoover up everybody’s communications data.

But under the Investigatory Powers Bill, the latest resurrection of the Snoopers’ Charter, we won’t get a choice.

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Revealed: immigration officers allowed to hack phones

originally published by The Guardian, April 2016

by Mark Townsend

Home Office granted powers to snoop on detention centre refugees three years ago by amendment to 20-year-old Police Act

Two women detained at Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire

Two women detained at Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire beg for help. Now it has been revealed that their phones can be legally hacked. Photograph: Guy Corbishley/Demotix/Corbis

Immigration officials have been permitted to hack the phones of refugees and asylum seekers, including rape and torture victims, for the past three years.

The revelation has sparked outrage among civil rights groups and campaigners for rape victims, who said that it was distressing that the British government had rolled out powers that could target some of the most vulnerable individuals in society.

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The Investigatory Powers Bill: kiss privacy goodbye

originally published on Medium, March 2016

By Silkie Carlo

If you were a Government hoping to smuggle through the most intrusive, least accountable surveillance regime in any democracy without pesky inconveniences like massive public, press and parliamentary scrutiny, right now would be a good time to do it.

Buried under the sound and fury of pre-referendum in-fighting, on the day before a heavily trailed budget, the Investigatory Powers Bill has its second reading in Parliament tomorrow. MPs will debate powers capable of fundamentally, irreversibly, shifting the relationship between citizen and state — and not in our favour.

But you’d be forgiven for missing the whole thing.

The draft bill’s publication in November was preceded by a formidable PR offensive — journalists invited to GCHQ, spy chiefs giving unprecedented interviews and the Home Secretary trumpeting “unparalleled” transparency and “world-leading” oversight.

Four months on, the picture wasn’t so rosy. The draft bill came in for a mauling from campaigners and tech experts. Pressed to make the operational case for mass surveillance, the Home Office floundered. Three parliamentary committees made more than 100 major recommendations for change. A total rethink was clearly needed.

Not that that’s stopped the Government. With extraordinary nerve and contempt for parliament and public, they published the Bill itself just three weeks later with only a few minor tweaks (note to Theresa May: changing the title of Part 1 from “General Protections” to “General Privacy Protections”, without inserting any actual privacy protections, is not a substantial revision).

And they’re a whole lot less keen to draw attention to it this time. Because, as pre-legislative scrutiny showed, this Bill is fatally flawed. The case simply hasn’t been made for these unbelievably broad, intrusive powers. Suddenly they’re all too keen to rush it through Parliament at breakneck speed and well below the radar. The fewer questions, the better.

But the public deserves to know what is about to be inflicted upon them so they can question. So they can challenge and push for the time this legislation so urgently needs — because, in its current form, it will make us less free and less safe too.

Here’s what the UK looks like if this Bill passes.

The State will be able read billions of our communications every day

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