Category Archives: UK

John Oliver on David Cameron and #Piggate

“Snowden Treaty” proposed to curtail mass surveillance and protect whistleblowers

Glynn Moody reports for Ars Technica:

A “Snowden Treaty” designed to counter mass surveillance and protect whistleblowers around the world has been proposed by Edward Snowden, and three of the people most closely associated with his leaks: the documentary film-maker Laura Poitras; David Miranda, who was detained at Heathrow airport, and is the Brazilian coordinator of the campaign to give asylum to Snowden in Brazil; and his partner, the journalist Glenn Greenwald. The “International Treaty on the Right to Privacy, Protection Against Improper Surveillance and Protection of Whistleblowers,” to give it its full title, was launched yesterday in New York by Miranda, with Snowden and Greenwald speaking via video.

The treaty’s proponents say that Snowden’s leaks, and the treatment he received as a whistleblower, have “revealed the need for greater rights protections for citizens globally.” In order to achieve that, they write: “We are campaigning for governments to sign up to the Snowden Treaty, a proposed treaty that would curtail mass surveillance and protect the rights of whistleblowers.”


Profiled: From Radio to Porn, British Spies Track Web Users’ Online Identities

Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

There was a simple aim at the heart of the top-secret program: Record the website browsing habits of “every visible user on the Internet.”

Before long, billions of digital records about ordinary people’s online activities were being stored every day. Among them were details cataloging visits to porn, social media and news websites, search engines, chat forums, and blogs.

The mass surveillance operation — code-named KARMA POLICE — was launched by British spies about seven years ago without any public debate or scrutiny. It was just one part of a giant global Internet spying apparatus built by the United Kingdom’s electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

The revelations about the scope of the British agency’s surveillance are contained in documents obtained by The Intercept from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Previous reports based on the leaked files have exposed how GCHQ taps into Internet cables to monitor communications on a vast scale, but many details about what happens to the data after it has been vacuumed up have remained unclear.


Winners and Losers at DSEI 2015: Interview with Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT)

Afshin Rattansi talks to Andrew Smith, media coordinator at the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, about the recent Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms exhibition recently held in London. (Going Underground)

Ian Hislop reveals secret of Private Eye sales success: ‘We invest in journalism’

William Turvill writes for Press Gazette:

Ian Hislop has just returned from a two-week holiday to find – as is customary at Private Eye – himself featuring as a lookalike in his magazine’s letter pages.

On this occasion, his staff – led by deputy Francis Wheen – have tracked down an image of Hislop as a schoolboy with a blond mop-top, and compared him with the frontman of Britpop band The Charlatans.

Shortly before he went away on holiday, ABC figures showed that the Eye has recorded its highest average fortnightly circulation since 1986 – the year Hislop succeeded the magazine’s co-founder Richard Ingrams as editor. With an average circulation of 228,264, it has the highest sale of any current affairs magazine in the UK.

Hislop says he was “incredibly pleased… and somewhat surprised” by the performance.

How has it been achieved?


‘The UK is finished’: Owen Jones meets Peter Hitchens

Owen Jones of The Guardian, and author of The Establishment, meets Mail on Sunday columnist and uber-pessimist Peter Hitchens, brother of Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011). They discuss a number of issues including Jeremy Corbyn (before he won the Labour leadership election), whether or not the Conservative Party are socialists and whether there is anything to be optimistic about. (The Guardian)

Hostile BBC Interview of a Saudi Loyalist Shows Prime Journalistic Duty: Scrutiny of One’s Own Side

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

bbc1The ongoing atrocities by Saudi Arabia and its “coalition partners” in Yemen reflect powerfully — and horribly — on both the U.S. and U.K. That’s true not only because those two countries in general are among the closest allies of the Saudi regime, but also because they are specifically lavishing Saudi despots with the very arms and intelligence being used to kill large numbers of Yemeni civilians.

The American and British governments have long been overflowing with loyalists to the Saudi regime (recall how President Obama literally terminated a state visit to India [where he ironically spent his time “lecturing India on religious tolerance and women’s rights”] in order to fly to Riyadh to pay homage to the Saudi King upon his death, along with top officials from both parties).

One of those many Saudi regime loyalists, conservative British MP Daniel Kawczynski, appeared on BBC’s Newsnight program on Friday night and was mercilessly grilled by host James O’Brien about support for the Saudi war in Yemen by both the British government and the country’s private-sector weapons manufacturers.

The BBC deserves all sorts of criticisms, but this interview was a master class in how journalists should interview politicians and others who wield power. The whole interview is well worth watching, as O’Brien repeatedly demands that Kawczynski address the war crimes being committed by the Saudi regime he supports. But I want to focus on one point in particular.


Labour At War: Querying Corbyn’s Cabinet

David Cameron Says Jeremy Corbyn is a National Security Threat: Interview with Leo Panitch

Leo Panitch is the Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and a distinguished research professor of political science at York University in Toronto. He is the author of a number of books including The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire. (The Real News)

Corbyn’s victory gives us a glimpse behind the mask of his opponents

Kevin McKenna writes for The National:

The favoured tactic of the right in this country has always been to label any left-wing views that cause them discomfort as “extremist”. The prefix “hard” is applied to ideas of the left which they fear could cause any ripples in their world of pre-arranged privilege and social management. Their entire political strategy rests on ensuring that the rest of us look the other way as they ensure that real power will always be deployed from within their tiny, privileged elite.

Once, they were bred like battery hens and taken early from their families to spend what was left of their childhoods at places such as Eton and Harrow, learning how to wield power. Sentimental attachments to mummy and daddy could never be allowed to come before serving the state and their appointed place in it: at the top. They were scattered to the far ends of the British Empire to administer British control and to ensure that the fuzzy-wuzzies didn’t get too truculent about being ruthlessly robbed and exploited by the British East India Company.

When the sun began to set on that empire they retreated to their fortresses at home to ensure that they could hold on to control of the UK at least. They deploy The British Armed Forces like their own personal private army by deluding them into thinking they are serving the Queen and their country. And they rely on the right-wing press to be their nightwatchmen, ever-ready to defame and besmirch any who might rise up from the masses and attempt to tell the truth.

Occasionally, useful idiots like Tony Blair arrive to peddle some state-sponsored radicalism and soften up us, the idiot punters, for another stretch of reactionary Conservatism.


Corbyn’s Threat of Democracy

Mark Curtis, author several books including of Web of Deceit, writes:

Corbyn attack video released by the ConservativesIt is delightful to see Labour voters defy the establishment by finally electing a leader on the centre ground of British thinking. Opinion polls suggest that Jeremy Corbyn’s policies of nationalising the railways, energy companies and Royal Mail, along with opposition to the Iraq war and British intervention in the Middle East are all supported by a majority of the public.

These views stand in marked contrast to the neo-liberal, military policies of the Conservative and ‘mainstream’ Labour parties at home and abroad. These extreme positions, which are contributing to unprecedented domestic inequality, the draining of wealth from the world’s poorest countries and terrible military interventions (and not least the rise of Islamic State), have amazingly been allowed to be presented as the centre ground or ‘liberal democratic’ – an astonishing propaganda achievement for policy planners.

The threat of popular democracy is something I’ve tried to document in all my books because it comes through crystal clear in the government planning record, visible in declassified files, thousands of which I’ve looked at in my research. The threat that policies made by and for the elite could be derailed by popular opposition has long been regarded by British planners as a serious threat; in the Cold War, more serious, for example, than the Soviet threat, which was anyway rarely taken seriously in private after the early 1950s .

During the Vietnam War, Harold Wilson was terrified that public opposition would stop his ongoing private support for the US bombing campaign – something which the mainstream media still refuses to acknowledge. In various wars in the Middle East over the decades, the files are full of examples of how planners have had to resort to propaganda to counter public concerns. What elites have feared, especially during controversial policies such as military interventions, is that public opposition will become so great that they might actually have to change policy.


DSEI weapons fair: Authoritarian regimes descend on London

Richard Norton-Taylor reports for The Guardian:

Authoritarian regimes including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Azerbaijan are among the official guests invited by the UK government to one of the world’s largest arms bazaars, opening in London’s Docklands this week.

The biennial weapons fair, which opens on Tuesday, is the focus of an increasingly heated debate between those who say major weapons producers such as Britain cannot claim at the same time to defend human rights, and those who say the arms industry provides tens of thousands of jobs and valuable exports.

This year’s Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition coincides with a government drive to increase arms sales to countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, by far its most lucrative single market for weapons.


Jeremy Corbyn’s golden opportunity

Anthony Barnett writes for Open Democracy:

[…] The media-finance complex of official Britain will move to destroy the Corbyn wave as ruthlessly as the functionaries and bankers of the Eurozone smashed the hopes of Syriza despite their 60 per cent referendum support (indeed this seems to have made it all the more ‘necessary’). If they have to break the Labour party to prevent Corbyn becoming Prime Minister, they will. They will use their Labour representatives to assist this, just as German Social Democrats were the cruellest and most dismissive of the Greek referendum.

The first line of argument will be that the Corbynistas are not the expression of democracy at all, but represent leftist do-gooders and mere protestors who could never win an election or gain the public’s support. Not democrats, not popular, but hi-jackers threatening our security and way of life and ‘British democracy’ itself. The aim: to win any contest in advance by defining Corbyn as against the people.

This means that even before Labour under Corbyn can begin to pitch itself to voters as capable of leading a credible and attractive government, it must be seen to be convincing as a democratic alternative. And seen fast. This is not about economic policy or about being, or not being, socialist. The right-wing press will move to caricature Corbyn as creating the kind of government you’d never want to live under whatever it does.

It is very important to register therefore the ‘three elephants’ (as he puts it) that hold up Corbyn’s claim to be a democrat. They are: Iraq, austerity, greed.


If Jeremy Corbyn’s victory was an incredible political achievement, it was the easy bit

Owen Jones writes for The Guardian

Jeremy Corbyn[…] The Corbyn phenomenon has to be put in the broader context of surging disillusionment with political elites across the western world which finds its expression in support for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, Podemos and the Front National, the SNP and Ukip.

Social democracy is in crisis because it accepted the underlying principles of austerity, and therefore has little to say. A vacuum was left, and the Corbyn phenomenon filled it. He offered an optimistic hopeful vision that resonated, and his rivals failed to do so. The heirs of New Labour have a lot of soul-searching to do, and it will mean rejecting the negativity and nihilism represented by their champions in the media.

But have no doubt. If this was an incredible political achievement, it was the easy bit. The challenges now faced by a Corbyn-led Labour party are absolutely huge. Those who have been inspired by his message must do more than just vote for him.


Jeremy Corbyn and the Rise of the Labour Left: Interview with Leo Panitch

Leo Panitch is the Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy and a distinguished research professor of political science at York University in Toronto. He is the author of a number of books including The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire. This interview was conducted prior to Corbyn’s Labour leadership victory. (The Real News)

Nothing captures Western hypocrisy on refugees like these British tabloid front pages

Max Fisher writes for Vox:

 British tabloids, which have been scaremongering about refugees for years, telling Britons to fear and resist any immigration and helping to drive the UK’s shameful anti-refugee policies, discovered their compassion for refugees on Wednesday when a small child’s body washed up on a Turkish shore.

The child was a Syrian refugee who, like many hundreds of other refugees, had died during the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. A photo of the young boy went viral, and the same British tabloids that are overtly hostile to living refugees decided that this one was worth caring about, and have plastered their covers with his image.

Some British outlets are even running the image alongside sanctimonious headlines, decrying the loss of the life that is a direct and foreseeable result of the very anti-refugee policies they spent years clamoring for. The Sun, which is famous for anti-refugee headlines such as “Halt the Asylum Tide Now” and “Draw a Red Line on Immigration or Else” is running the dead child’s photo on its Thursday cover with the headline “Mr. Cameron, Summer Is Over … Now Deal With the Biggest Crisis Facing Europe Since WW2.”

The Daily Mail, just in July, ran an anti-refugee front page with the headline “The Swarm in Our Streets.” Today, suddenly, it cares about refugees, and will join the Sun (and, seemingly, much of the British press) in splashing the image of the dead child across its front page with the headline “Tiny victim of a human catastrophe.”


Emerging Markets Offer Growth Opportunities For Western Defense Firms

Andrew Clevenger reports for Defense News:

[…] The shift in defense spending creates opportunities for Western defense contractors as demand for sophisticated weapons will likely outpace emerging countries’ abilities to produce them domestically. As a white paper published by Avascent in March noted, the US has a leading position in these markets, but political friction between the US and its allies leaves an opening for competition from European, Israeli, Russian and Chinese defense companies.

While mature markets in Western Europe and Northeast Asia continue to offer major competitive opportunities over the next 10 years, “many opportunities will be found in fast-growing emerging markets which have less well-developed industrial capacity to fulfill the requirements of rapidly expanding militaries,” the Avascent white paper states. “A growing share of revenues for most Western defense suppliers will come from these emerging markets.”

For example, 95 percent of defense contracts in Gulf Corporation Council countries between 2010 and 2014 went to foreign companies, with the lion’s share going to the US (73 percent) and Western Europe (24 percent). In the coming decade, 64 percent of GCC contracts are up for grabs, according to Avascent projections.

Similarly, the US (41 percent) and Western Europe (31 percent) were the largest defense suppliers for Southeast Asia between 2010 and 2014, but 63 percent of contracts for the coming decade are uncommitted.


Jeremy Corbyn poses national security threat, says Brititsh Chancellor George Osborne

Press Associated reports:

A Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn would pose a threat to national security by undermining the future of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, according to the chancellor, George Osborne.

The chancellor said “an unholy alliance of Labour’s leftwing insurgents and the Scottish nationalists” would shatter decades of near-unbroken Westminster consensus in favour of maintaining a nuclear capability.

Both Corbyn, the favourite to succeed Ed Miliband, and the SNP oppose the renewal of the Trident missile system being pursued by the Conservative government. Osborne said that would be disastrous.

Amid suggestions that Conservatives were delighted at Corbyn’s surprise emergence as the favourite to lead the party, Osborne insisted the contest should not be seen as a joke.


Digital surveillance in Britain ‘worse than Orwell’, says new UN privacy chief

Adam Alexander reports for The Guardian:

The first UN privacy chief has said the world needs a Geneva convention style law for the internet to safeguard data and combat the threat of massive clandestine digital surveillance.

Speaking to the Guardian weeks after his appointment as the UN special rapporteur on privacy, Joseph Cannataci described British surveillance oversight as being “a joke”, and said the situation is worse than anything George Orwell could have foreseen.

He added that he doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter, and said it was regrettable that vast numbers of people sign away their digital rights without thinking about it.

“Some people were complaining because they couldn’t find me on Facebook. They couldn’t find me on Twitter. But since I believe in privacy, I’ve never felt the need for it,” Cannataci, a professor of technology law at University of Groningen in the Netherlands and head of the department of Information Policy & Governance at the University of Malta, said.


Jeremy Corbyn to apologise for Iraq war on behalf of Labour if he becomes leader

Ewen MacAskill reports for The Guardian:

The Labour leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn is to issue a public apology over the Iraq war on behalf of the party if he becomes leader next month, a move Tony Blair repeatedly resisted.

In a statement to the Guardian, Corbyn said he would apologise to the British people for the “deception” in the runup to the 2003 invasion and to the Iraqi people for their subsequent suffering.

Such an apology would be important symbolically – particularly in a party where Iraq remains a sore point, 12 years after Britain joined the US in the invasion – and signal a wider departure from existing Labour’s defence and foreign policy.

The MP made a vow that suggests future UK military interventions will become rarer: “Let us say we will never again unnecessarily put our troops under fire and our country’s standing in the world at risk. Let us make it clear that Labour will never make the same mistake again, will never flout the United Nations and international law.”


Tony Blair’s Tripoli Adviser

Tony Blair's Tripoli Adviser

The Planned Destruction of Libya

John Wright writes for CounterPunch:

With talks between various political factions in Libya beginning in Geneva with the objective of forging a unity government in a country best by chaos and lawlessness, the West’s role in this process must be questioned given its culpability in the country’s destabilization.

Out of the many examples of Western military interventions in recent times, none has been more grievous or disastrous than NATO’s 2011 intervention in Libya, which only helped turn the country into a failed state.

Unleashed under the auspices of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 – a UN mandate abused to effect the toppling of the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli despite its official and stated objective of ‘protecting civilians’ – NATO’s intervention in the form of airstrikes did not result in the democratic society so gushingly anticipated by those responsible and their supporters. Instead it ushered in crisis and chaos as Libyan society promptly fragmented and broke down into the tribal, sectarian, and brutal internecine conflict that has turned a once functioning state and society into a dystopia into which ISIS has gained a foothold and been able to spread its malign influence. The result has been the usual barbaric ritual beheadings of ISIS prisoners, the persecution of women and minorities, and in June the slaughter of 37 tourists in Tunisia in a terrorist attack prepared and organized across the border in Libya.


The very cosy friendship between Iraq inquiry chief and Tony Blair

Andrew Pierce reports for The Daily Mail:

Bereaved parents are disgusted their suffering is being dragged out while Sir John (pictured) gives leading figures in the inquiry, such as Mr Blair, the chance to rebut its findings – a process known as MaxwellisationWhen Tony Blair first appeared before the Iraq inquiry five years ago, the chairman Sir John Chilcot treated him with almost painful deference.

Chilcot, a crumpled figure whose opening remarks lasted seven minutes, never laid a glove on Blair, even though the former prime minister gave evidence for more than six hours.

What few people know is that the bumbling Chilcot, a retired career civil servant, could, in fact, have greeted Blair as an old friend.

The first time they met in 1997 — when Blair was still leader of the Opposition — was in a far more sedate environment. They dined together in the venerable Travellers Club in Pall Mall, where Chilcot is a member.


After 27 Years, Reporter Who Exposed ECHELON Finds Vindication in Snowden Archive

Dan Froomkin writes for The Intercept:

Ever since legendary British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell told the world in a 1988 magazine article about ECHELON — a massive, automated surveillance dragnet that indiscriminately intercepted phone and Internet data from communications satellites — Western intelligence officials have refused to acknowledge that it existed.

Despite sporadic continuing press reports, people who complained about the program — which, as Campbell disclosed, automatically searched text-based communications using a dictionary of keywords to flag suspicious content — were routinely dismissed as conspiracy theorists.

The only real conspiracy, it turns out, was a conspiracy of silence among the governments that benefited from the program.

As Campbell writes today, in a first-person article in The Intercept, the archive of top-secret documents provided to journalists by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden contains a stunning 2005 document that not only confirms ECHELON’s existence as “a system targeting communications satellites”– it shows how the program was kept an official secret for so long.


Suing the State: The Hidden Rules Within the EU-US Trade Deal

Meirion Jones: Everyone on right side of the Savile argument has been forced out of the BBC

Dominic Ponsford reports for Press Gazette:

Three days after finishing work on Panorama documentary The Fake Sheikh Exposed, producer Meirion Jones was told his services were no longer required by the programme.

His previous job as head of investigations at Newsnight had been filled in his absence. He was effectively out of a job.

After 26 years at the BBC, Jones felt like this career at the corporation had come to an end and he was being squeezed out.

Jones believes he was punished because he tried to expose the Jimmy Savile scandal at the BBC and spoke out about the way his Newsnight investigation of December 2011 was suppressed.


Jeremy Corbyn: The more they attack him, the stronger he becomes

Thomas G. Clark writes for Another Angry Voice:

[…] The sad thing is that many in the Labour Party don’t seem to have learned any lessons whatever from their defeat. In fact Tony Blair even repeated Miliband’s absurd stance when he said he’d prefer the Tories to win in 2020 than see a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Another thing that so many Labour Party politicians have utterly failed to understand is that offering a watered down version of Tory ideological austerity cost them dear too. I mean how many people other than die-hard Labour Party tribalists could have been enthused by the policy of promoting exactly the same failing pseudo-economic ideology as the Tories, just not quite as nasty about it?

The fact that so many Labour Party politicians are incapable of understanding where they went wrong is abundantly clear from the way that so many of them have queued up to slag off Jeremy Corbyn, and provide the Tories and the right-wing press with a huge supply of ammunition should he actually win the contest (which seems likely given that he’s the only one who isn’t bitterly slagging off his opponents and sticking instead to clearly explaining his policies and offering a message of party unity).

It’s absolutely clear from the terrified rambling of so many right-wing Labour Party politicians that they really rather would see the Tories win in 2020 than be part of a government led by Jeremy Corbyn.


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.’


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.’


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.’