Category Archives: UK

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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