Category Archives: UK

Foreign Office to face inquiry into role played by UK in Libya’s collapse

Matthew Weaver reports for The Guardian:

‘The Foreign Office is to face questions over Libya’s descent into a failed state, following the launch of an inquiry by an influential committee of MPs into Britain’s role in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and the troubled aftermath.

Launching the inquiry, the Tory chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, Crispin Blunt, told the Guardian that the intervention and subsequent breakdown of the state had proved disastrous for Libya and posed a global security threat.

He said: “It has turned out to be a catastrophe for the people of Libya. And now it is a growing problem for us, with our undoubted enemy Isis beginning to establish control of areas of Libya. Plus the migration crisis – any area where state authority collapses obviously poses problems for us all over the world.”

Blunt, a former government minister, said the inquiry will investigate Britain’s capacity to conduct the necessary post-intervention planning.’

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UK Police Confirm Ongoing Criminal Probe of Snowden Leak Journalists

Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

A secretive British police investigation focusing on journalists working with Edward Snowden’s leaked documents remains ongoing two years after it was quietly launched, The Intercept can reveal.

London’s Metropolitan Police Service has admitted it is still carrying out the probe, which is being led by its counterterrorism department, after previously refusing to confirm or deny its existence on the grounds that doing so could be “detrimental to national security.”

The disclosure was made by police in a letter sent to this reporter Tuesday, concluding a seven-month freedom of information battle that saw the London force repeatedly attempt to withhold basic details about the status of the case. It reversed its position this week only after an intervention from the Information Commissioner’s Office, the public body that enforces the U.K.’s freedom of information laws.

Following Snowden’s disclosures from the National Security Agency in 2013, the Metropolitan Police and a lawyer for the British government separately stated that a criminal investigation had been opened into the leaks. One of the London force’s most senior officers acknowledged during a parliamentary hearing that the investigation was looking at whether reporters at The Guardian had committed criminal offenses for their role in revealing secret surveillance operations exposed in the Snowden documents.’

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British army reluctant to post troops on UK streets after terror attacks

Ewen MacAskill reports for The Guardian:

Concerns: Tanks at Heathrow in 2003 amid reports of a terror plot against a passenger jetThe British army is resistant to the idea of deploying thousands of troops on to UK streets in the event of a terrorist attack on home soil, despite the perceived increase in threat from groups such as Islamic State.

Although the army has drawn up detailed contingency plans, it is understood to be reluctant to follow the example of the French military, which sent 10,000 troops on to the streets of Paris and elsewhere around the country after the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Plans for up to 5,100 troops to “augment armed police officers engaged in protective security duties” were revealed in documents accidentally uploaded to the National Police Chief Council’s (NPCC) website, according to a Mail on Sunday report.

The plan was contained in the minutes of a closed session of the NPCC held on 22 April in a hotel in Leicester. The minutes were then inadvertently uploaded to the council’s website.’

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Labour Leadership Race: The Blairite Attacks on Jeremy Corbyn

Thomas G. Clark writes at Another Angry Voice:

The rising popularity and public profile of the left-wing Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn is sending the right-wing elements of the Labour Party into panic mode. In the wake of the almost unbelievably inept decision by the three Blairite leadership candidates to abstain from voting against the latest Tory attack on children, vulnerable people and the working poor, leaving Jeremy Corbyn as the only leadership candidate to actually oppose the Tories, right-wingers like John McTernan, Tony Blair and Chuka Umunna waded into the leadership debate to attack him.

The first thing to note before I get to the specific comments from McTernan, Blair and Umunna is that their opposition to Jeremy Corbyn is built upon the foundation of a fantasy narrative about what the UK electorate want. Not only is it highly presumptuous to tell the electorate what they do and don’t want, the idea that people don’t want a left-wing government is also contradicted by a number of indisputable facts, including the fact that a party running on a centre-left anti-austerity platform just annihilated the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats in Scotland (more on that later …) and the fact that an overwhelming majority of the UK public support the unmistakably left-wing policies of running the NHS, the nation’s energy infrastructure, the Royal Mail and the rail network as not-for-profit public sector services (source).

The claim that a Labour Party that offers a genuine alternative to the Tory ideological austerity con would render itself completely unelectable is at best a display of bogus futurology, and at worst a complete denial of indisputable facts.’

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Margaret Thatcher demanded Britain find ways to ‘destabilise’ Ethiopian regime in power during 1984 famine

Cahal Milmo reports for The Independent:

pg-14-ethiopia-4-getty.jpgMargaret Thatcher demanded that Britain find ways to “destabilise” the regime which presided over Ethiopia’s disastrous 1984 famine after concluding that British aid was wrongly supporting its “particularly cruel” government, according to previously unpublished records.

A top secret Downing Street memo reveals how the former Prime Minister wanted to support rebels fighting the authoritarian regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam and suspend some types of relief to the Ethiopians after a year of aid operations to alleviate the famine which killed a million people and inspired Band Aid and the Live Aid concerts.

Documents released by the National Archives at Kew, west London, show Mrs Thatcher decided it was wrong to “jog along” with the Mengistu government, whose human rights abuses greatly exacerbated the death toll from the famine, and lambasted the Foreign Office for failing to come up with robust measures to tackle the regime.’

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Freedom of Information Act review “may curb access to government papers”

Rajeev Syal reports for The Guardian:

This front page makes an important point about freedom of speechMinisters have launched a cross-party review of the Freedom of Information Act that is likely to be viewed as an attempt to curb public access to government documents. The move comes just hours after papers released on Friday under FOI disclosed that British pilots have been involved in bombing in Syria.

Matthew Hancock, the Cabinet Office minister, laid a statement before parliament outlining details about the five-person commission that will be asked to decide whether the act is too expensive and overly intrusive. Members will include Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, who is already on the record calling for the act to be rewritten. Straw is still the subject of FOI requests over the rendition of a terror suspect during his time in office.

Lord Carlile of Berriew will also sit on the commission. He accused the Guardian of “a criminal act” when it published stories using National Security Agency material leaked by Edward Snowden. The committee’s other members will be Michael Howard and Dame Patricia Hodgson, and it will be chaired by Lord Burns.’

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Behind the infant Queen’s gesture lies a dark history of aristocratic Nazi links

Editor’s Note: Karina Urbach is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research at School of Advanced Study and is the author of “Go-Betweens for Hitler“.

Karina Urbach writes for The Guardian:

When analysing the approach taken by the British royal family to events in Germany in the 1930s, key is the pervasive fear of communism among the aristocracy in Europe. In 1933, Edward (later Duke of Windsor) said of the Nazi regime: “It is the only thing to do. We will have to come to it, as we are in great danger from Communists, too.”

The royal family was also particularly susceptible to such fears because some of their German relatives had from the outset been great admirers of Hitler. To this day, the royal archives have ensured that correspondence between the monarchy and these German relatives remains closed to historians. But, thankfully, relationships always have two sides to them. Other archives – in Germany – reveal the substance of contacts between Queen Mary, her sons – George VI, the Duke of Windsor and the Duke of Kent – and their German cousins.

Among these were members of the houses of Hessen, Coburg, Hanover, Hohenzollern and Waldeck-Pyrmont. Many of them were infatuated with Hitler. These German relatives had an agenda and their agenda was written by Hitler: an alliance with Britain.’

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Online pirates could face 10 years in jail under plans being considered by UK government

BBC News reports:

Piracy keyOnline pirates could face jail terms of up to 10 years under plans being considered by the government.

Online copyright infringement currently carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.

Ministers have launched a consultation on increasing it to 10 years – bringing it into line with copyright infringement of physical goods.

The government said tougher sentences would act as a “significant deterrent”.’

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British Royals told: Open archives on family ties to Nazi regime

Jamie Doward and Tracy McVeigh report for The Guardian:

Buckingham Palace has been urged to disclose documents that would finally reveal the truth about the relationship between the royal family and the Nazi regime of the 1930s.

The Sun’s decision to publish footage of the Queen at six or seven years old performing a Nazi salute, held in the royal archives and hitherto unavailable for public viewing, has triggered concerns that the palace has for years sought to suppress the release of damaging material confirming the links between leading royals and the Third Reich.

Unlike the National Archives, the royal archives, which are known to contain large volumes of correspondence between members of the royal family and Nazi politicians and aristocrats, are not compelled to release material on a regular basis. Now, as that relationship becomes the subject of global debate, historians and MPs have called for the archives to be opened up so that the correspondence can be put into context.’

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Queen’s Nazi salute footage is matter of historical significance, says Sun

Jamie Grierson reports for The Guardian:

The managing editor of the Sun has defended his newspaper’s decision to release leaked footage, apparently shot in 1933 or 1934, showing the Queen perform a Nazi salute as a matter of “historical significance”.

The black-and-white footage shows the Queen, then aged six or seven, and her sister Margaret, around three, joining the Queen Mother and her uncle, Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, in raising an arm in the signature style of the German fascists.

Edward, who later became King Edward VIII and abdicated to marry the American socialite Wallis Simpson, faced numerous accusations of being a Nazi sympathiser. The couple were photographed meeting Hitler in Munich in October 1937, less than two years before the second world war broke out.’

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We shouldn’t let Prince Philip off the hook

Owen Jones writes for The Guardian:

[…] Prince Philip is back in the headlines with another “gaffe”, followed by the usual “oh what is he like” response. This time, he asked a group of East End women: “Who do you sponge off?” The easy response here is that they weren’t personally offended, so what’s the problem? Well, if a senior politician expressed sentiments that aren’t, let’s just say, very favourable to women as a whole, it would be goodbye career. It’s perfectly right to hesitate before criticising a 94-year-old, out of respect for his age. And I think that’s a good point. But at the same time, he’s one of the chief representatives of the nation.

Last week, he told a photographer who was perhaps excessively perfectionist to “just take the fucking picture!” This is the ultimate abuse of authority: someone powerful by virtue of birth abusing someone who holds their position by virtue of ability, knowing they can’t respond. They just have to take the public humiliation. Not a great look, is it? I appreciate Prince Philip must tire of being constantly photographed, which is why there’s a strong case for rotating the position of head of state so that they and their spouse get some respite.

He’s the man who once asked Lord Taylor of Warwick: “And what exotic part of the world do you come from?” That’s because Lord Taylor is black. When he once visited an electronics factory in Scotland and came across a “messy fuse box”, he exclaimed it looked “as though it was put in by an Indian”. He asked a female sea cadet if she worked “in a strip club”. And when he met British students in China in the 1980s, he said: “If you stay here much longer you’ll all be slitty-eyed.”’

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The Met’s helicopter snap of Michael McIntyre is a wake-up call to all of us

James Ball writes for The Guardian:

npas london tweetOn the surface of it, the incident is entirely trivial: in a thoughtless moment, a police officer on a surveillance helicopter decides to tweet a photo of a celebrity he’s spotted (in this case Michael McIntyre), briefly adding the Metropolitan police to the ranks of London paparazzi.

The Met’s snap had a few features a standard press photo lacks, though, including an exact timestamp, location data, and a vantage point from an expensive and taxpayer-funded aerial spot. Online reaction to the photograph was predictably bad – why are police invading the privacy of someone who’s doing nothing wrong? – and was followed by questioning whether the photo breached the Data Protection Act, which it may well have done.

But what the picture really serves to do is to remind us that surveillance – whether of photos, data, phone records or emails – is a human activity, despite the technology involved and the safeguards we’re endlessly told about.

People in the police and in intelligence agencies are still people, and have all the human failings and fallibilities the rest of us do. The difference is the sheer scale of information available to them.’

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Finally, the high court puts a brake on snooping on ordinary Britons

Carly Nyst writes for The Guardian:

A UK court has ruled today that the government’s ever-growing powers to track and monitor its population must be restrained and that the UK cannot continue to flout its international obligations to respect privacy and protect personal data. For the first time in over a decade, the British government must stem its insatiable appetite for surveillance powers.

The decision came in a challenge to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act brought by MPs David Davis and Tom Watson, who are represented by the human rights organisation Liberty, and in which Privacy International and the Open Rights Group also intervened.

The decision is first and foremost a simple one – that the UK must comply with European law which, according to the European court of justice’s digital rights Ireland judgment, forbids blanket data retention measures that aren’t accompanied by a strict regime regulating access to retained data. Even this is a significant finding, a living example of deep integration of – and dialogue between – EU mechanisms and member states and of the uniquely influential role the ECJ is empowered to play in human rights matters.

The decision also encapsulates – and progresses – some of the biggest surveillance debates of modern times. This case will play a decisive role in the future of surveillance law in Britain, which, come September, will be at the top of the legislative agenda.’

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British pilots took part in anti-ISIS bombing campaign in Syria

Josh Halliday, Ewen MacAskill and Frances Perraudin report for The Guardian:

British pilots have carried out air strikes in Syria, marking a significant expansion of the UK’s role in the campaign against Islamic State.

The UK pilots were embedded with coalition forces, including the US and Canada, and the number involved is understood to have been in single figures.

Details of British personnel’s involvement in strikes by allied nations’ forces were revealed by a freedom of information request from the pressure group Reprieve.

The House of Commons voted against military action in Syria in 2013 and parliamentary authorisation has so far only been given to UK air strikes against Isis in neighbouring Iraq.

[…] The revelation is likely to infuriate MPs who voted against the military intervention. John Baron, the Tory MP for Basildon and Billericay and a member of the foreign affairs select committee, called for the immediate end to UK military strikes in Syria and urged Fallon to explain himself to parliament.

“What this does show is at the very minimum an insensitivity to parliament’s will,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.’

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How the British Government subjected thousands of people to chemical and biological warfare trials during Cold War

David Keys reports for The Independent:

Aircraft, lorries and ships spread 4,600kg of cadmium sulphide in one decadeDuring the Cold War, the British Government used the general public as unwitting biological and chemical warfare guinea pigs on a much greater scale than previously thought, according to new historical research.

In more than 750 secret operations, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Britons were subjected to ‘mock’ biological and chemical warfare attacks launched from aircraft, ships and road vehicles.

Up until now historians had thought that such operations had been much less extensive. The new research, carried out by Ulf Schmidt, Professor of Modern History at the University of Kent, has revealed that British military aircraft dropped thousands of kilos of a chemical of ‘largely unknown toxic potential’ on British civilian populations in and around Salisbury in Wiltshire, Cardington in Bedfordshire and Norwich in Norfolk.

Substantial quantities were also dispersed across parts of the English Channel and the North Sea. It’s not known the extent to which coastal towns in England and France were affected.

The research reveals, for the first time, that around 4600 kilos of the chemical, zinc cadmium sulphide (now thought to be potentially carcinogenic, on account of its cadmium content) were dispersed from ships, aircraft and moving lorries between 1953 and 1964.’

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UK police forces wanted to buy Hacking Team spyware, leaked docs show

Glyn Moody reports for Ars Technica:

Since 2011, the UK’s Metropolitan Police, the Serious and Organised Crime Squad (now merged into the National Crime Agency) and Customs and Excise (part of HM Revenue & Customs) have all considered buying Hacking Team’s spyware, which can be used to spy on people and organisations and gather user data via Wi-Fi access points.

These findings stem from e-mails that were released as part of the recent major leak of Hacking Team documents. The Intercept has also found an e-mail from October 2011 that reveals UK concerns with the legality of surveillance information gathered by the product.

As far as the Metropolitan Police were concerned, those worries seem to have been assuaged. In September 2013, it wrote that it was “ready to progress the trial of Da Vinci,” the name given to the version of Hacking Team’s Remote Control System at the time; the current version is called Galileo.’

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Hacking Team hack casts spotlight on murky world of state surveillance

Alex Hern reports for The Guardian:

In contrast to many of the private companies performing outsourced aggressive surveillance work for the world’s spy agencies, Hacking Team doesn’t try to hide behind a generic corporate identity. Gamma International, Academi and QintetiQ could be companies doing anything, but Hacking Team – well, it doesn’t take a genius to guess what line of work they are in.

Hacking Team works in the “cybersecurity” industry. That’s “cybersecurity” in the same way that arms manufacturers describe their business as “defence”. It doesn’t provide security at all, really; none of their software will help clients avoid cyberattacks, tighten up their internal networks, or patch flaws in their software. Its main business is offensive hacking.

It sells its Remote Control System (RCS) software to law enforcement and national security agencies around the world, letting them hack into targets’ computers and mobile devices, install backdoors, and monitor them with ease.

The company’s promotional material advertises its abilities: “Hack into your targets with the most advanced infection vectors available. Enter his wireless network and tackle tactical operations with ad-hoc equipment designed to operate while on the move … Remote Control System: the hacking suite for governmental interception. Right at your fingertips.”

But apart from the clarity of its name, Hacking Team was just as opaque as the other companies in its industry. It didn’t disclose its clients, the technology behind its software, or the sort of work it was contracted to do, citing the need for privacy and security. All that changed this week when its own security was compromised, to the tune of 400GB of its data published online.’

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Britain spent five times more on Angelina Jolie summit than tackling rape in war zones

Ben Riley-Smith reported for The Telegraph last month:

William Hague, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt..Britain spent five times more money on a high-profile summit to end sexual violence featuring Angelina Jolie than tackling rape in war zones, it has emerged.

The three-day event last year, which was headed up by then-foreign secretary William Hague and the Holywood star, cost the taxpayer £5.2 million.

Among the costs were £299,000 on food alone and £576,000 on taxis, hotels and transport, according to figures obtained by the Observer.

But the Foreign Office told the paper just £1 million had been put into a fund to tackle the use of sexual violence across the world.’

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The £93bn handshake: Businesses pocket huge subsidies and tax breaks

Aditya Chakrabortty reports for The Guardian:

BUSINESSMEN shaking hands. In 2012-13, the government spent £58.2bn on subsidies, grants and corporate tax benefits. It took just £41.3bn in corporation tax receipts.Taxpayers are handing businesses £93bn a year – a transfer of more than £3,500 from each household in the UK.

The total emerges from the first comprehensive account of what Britons give away to companies in grants, subsidies and tax breaks, published exclusively in the Guardian.

Many of the companies receiving the largest public grants over the past few years previously paid little or zero corporation tax, the analysis shows. They include some of the best-known names in Britain, such as Amazon, Ford and Nissan. The figures intensify the pressure on George Osborne, the chancellor, just as he puts the finishing touches to his budget. At the heart of Wednesday’s announcement will be his plans to cut £12bn more from the social welfare bill.

Yet that sum is less than the £14.5bn given to companies in direct subsidies and grants alone.

Corporate welfare is part of what David Cameron calls his government’s policy to make the UK “the most open, welcoming, business-friendly country in the world”.’

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Tony Blair and the Self-Exalting Mindset of the West: in Two Paragraphs

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Tony Blair and the Self-Exalting Mindset of the West: in Two ParagraphsTony Blair today took a little time off from serving the world’s despots in order to exploit the 10th anniversary of the July 7 London train bombing. He did so by casting blame on “radical Islam” for the world’s violence while exempting himself, pronouncing:

This is a global problem … we’re not going to allow anyone to excuse themselves by saying that the slaughter of totally innocent people is somehow a response to any decision by any government.

The proposition Blair just decreed invalid — “the slaughter of totally innocent people is somehow a response to any decision by any government” — is exactly the rationale that he himself repeatedly invoked, and to this day still invokes, to justify the invasion and destruction of Iraq, as in this example from December 2009.’

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Former London Mayor, Ken Livingston: “Since Blair-Bush decided on Iraq war, London terror attack was inevitable”

Life for British Muslims since 7/7 – abuse, suspicion and constant apologies

Medhi Hasan writes for The Guardian:

Friday prayer at the Shah Jahan mosque in Woking, Surrey[…] British Muslims have been spied on, stopped and searched, stripped of citizenship, and subjected to control orders and detention without trial. Many were not guilty of any crime. Remember Mohammed Abdul Kahar, shot in the shoulder during a dawn raid on his home in Forest Gate, east London, in 2006, before being released without charge a week later? Or Rizwaan Sabir, the university student held for seven days without charge as a terror suspect in 2008, on the basis of police evidence later described as “made up”?

How about the Muslim residents of the three areas in Birmingham that in 2010 were to be surrounded by a “ring of steel” of 218 “spy cameras” as part of a counter-terrorism operation?

Blair may have changed the rules but he didn’t win the game. A decade ago four British suicide bombers, aligned with al-Qaida, shocked us all. Today, up to 600 Britons are reported to have left the UK to battle and behead on behalf of the al-Qaida offshoot, so-called Islamic State (Isis). These include the youngest ever UK suicide bomber, 17-year-old Talha Asmal, who blew himself up while fighting for Isis in Iraq in June.

So what is David Cameron’s solution to the problem of violent extremism? Why, to change more rules, of course.’

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Blair’s bombs: on July 7 2005, the invasion of Iraq came home to London

John Pilger wrote in July 2005:

[…] The bombs of 7 July were Blair’s bombs.

Blair brought home to this country his and George W Bush’s illegal, unprovoked and blood-soaked adventure in the Middle East. Were it not for his epic irresponsibility, the Londoners who died in the Tube and on the No 30 bus almost certainly would be alive today. This is what Livingstone ought to have said. To paraphrase perhaps the only challenging question put to Blair on the eve of the invasion (by John Humphrys), it is now surely beyond all doubt that the man is unfit to be Prime Minister.

How much more evidence is needed? Before the invasion, Blair was warned by the Joint Intelligence Committee that “by far the greatest terrorist threat” to this country would be “heightened by military action against Iraq”. He was warned by 79 per cent of Londoners who, according to a YouGov survey in February 2003, believed that a British attack on Iraq “would make a terrorist attack on London more likely”. A month ago, a leaked, classified CIA report revealed that the invasion had turned Iraq into a focal point of terrorism. Before the invasion, said the CIA, Iraq “exported no terrorist threat to its neighbours” because Saddam Hussein was “implacably hostile to al-Qaeda”.

Now, a report by the Chatham House organisation, a “think-tank” deep within the British establishment, may well beckon Blair’s coup de grace. Published on 18 July, it says there is “no doubt” the invasion of Iraq has “given a boost to the al-Qaeda network” in “propaganda, recruitment and fundraising” while providing an ideal targeting and training area for terrorists. “Riding pillion with a powerful ally” has cost Iraqi, American and British lives. The right-wing academic Paul Wilkinson, a voice of western power, was the principal author. Read between the lines, and it says the Prime Minister is now a serious liability. Those who run this country know he has committed a great crime; the “link” has been made.’

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BBC Newsnight Report on the 7/7 Bombings and Martin McDaid

Editor’s Note: History Commons has a great timeline of news articles regarding the 7/7 bombers which can he found here.

Major anti-terror drill recently took place in central London

BBC News reported on June 30th:

nullThe simulation of a terror attack has been six months in the planning.

The exercise – codenamed Strong Tower – involves 1,000 police officers at locations across the capital until Wednesday [July 1st] afternoon.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said it would test responses to extremists using firearms.

It comes days after 38 people were killed by a gunman in Tunisia, the majority of them British holidaymakers.

The Metropolitan Police says this week’s exercise in London is not based on any specific intelligence and is part of a long-term strategy of planning and preparing for all possible types of terror attack.’

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Russell Brand: Tunisia Minute Of Silence Is Propaganda To Justify More War and Surveillance

British PM reaffirms there will be no “safe spaces” from UK government snooping

Glyn Moody reports for Ars Technica:

The UK’s prime minister, David Cameron, has re-iterated that the UK government does not intend to “leave a safe space—a new means of communication—for terrorists to communicate with each other.” This confirms remarks he made earlier this year about encryption, when he said: “The question is are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read. My answer to that question is: no, we must not.”

David Cameron was replying in the House of Commons on Monday to a question from the Conservative MP David Bellingham, who asked him whether he agreed that the “time has come for companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to accept and understand that their current privacy policies are completely unsustainable?” To which Cameron replied: “we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.”‘

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19 British MPs official credit cards suspended, including DWP Secretary Ian Duncan Smith

Rowena Mason reports for The Guardian:

Iain Duncan SmithIain Duncan Smith had his official credit card suspended after running up more than £1,000 in expenses debts, it can be revealed. The work and pensions secretary was among 19 MPs subject to action by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) after failing to show spending was valid.

The details, disclosed in response to a freedom of information (FoI) request submitted by the Press Association, are likely to prove embarrassing for Duncan Smith, who has previously backed prepaid cards for benefits claimants to control what they can spend their money on.

The senior cabinet minister is responsible for identifying £12bn of welfare cuts and the benefit sanction regime, which cuts off payments for more than a month at a time for failing to meet certain criteria. It has been criticised by the Commons work and pensions committee for causing severe hardship, sometimes when people are penalised for relatively minor breaches.’

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British Education Secretary says homophobia may be a sign of extremism, is she going to investigate herself?

Ian Dunt reports for Politics.co.uk:

[…] When British Education Secretary Nicky Morgan was asked to give an example of the kind of behaviour from a pupil which would trigger an anti-extremism intervention, she struggled. And then, out of nowhere, she found an example: homophobia.

This was an interesting example, because Morgan herself voted against gay marriage twice. Is opposition to gay marriage always homophobic? No, not really, although you could make the case. But this isn’t about what’s really the case. It’s about what’s perceived to be the case.

School children are often fond of accusing each other of being ‘gay’. Is this going to be enough to call in the anti-extremism unit? Will Catholic or Jewish faith schools face daily visits from the inspectors? Will a socially conservative teacher find themselves under investigation?

Probably not. But we know the truth: when a Muslim kid calls his friend ‘gay’ it will be treated differently to when a white kid does it. The vague language and imprecise measures of the counter-extremism strategy will allow people’s prejudice free rein.’

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Row over British police officer buying shoelaces has cost £500,000, lawyer says

Ciaran Fagan reports for the Leicester Mercury:

A complaint about a police officer buying shoelaces while on duty spiralled into a seven-year dispute costing the public an estimated £500,000.

A shopper saw the uniformed officer buying laces while on duty in the Melton area in August 2008.

The man reportedly told the officer he should not be shopping while on duty. The policeman is said to have replied that he needed the laces for his police-issue boots.

The exchange is thought to have lasted no more than one minute, but was to have long-lasting consequences for both of them.’

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