1 December 2000
Source: Hardcopy of draft transcript from Freedom Forum, Europe.
THE FREEDOM FORUM
In association with Article 19, Index on Censorship and Liberty
The Nature of National Security Laws in association with
British State Security in Northern Ireland in association with Article 19.
The Internet - Circumventing Censorship? in association with Index on Censorship magazine.
Registration: 9:00, Friday November 10, 2000
The Freedom Forum, European Centre, Stanhope House
Standhope Place, London W2 2HH
The Nature of National Security
Moderator: Nick Fielding, The Sunday Times
Glenmore Trenear-Harvey, Writer & Journalist
Stephen Dorril, Author
David Shayler, Former MI5
John Wadham, Liberty
Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson, D-Notice Committee
British State Security in Northern Ireland
Moderator: Gary Gibbon, Channel Four
Alistair Brett, The Sunday Times
Ruth Dudley-Edwards, Historian and author
Tony Geraghty, Author and Northern Ireland analyst
Andrew Puddephatt, Executive Director Article 19
The Internet - Circumvention of Censorship?
Moderator: Sheena Macdonald, Journalist
Roger Darlington, The Internet Watch Foundation
Phillip Virgo, Secretary General EURIM
Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian
Rohan Jayasekera, Web Managing Editor, Index on Censorship
John Young, www.cryptome.org
Panel 1 The Nature of National Security
Panel 2 British State Security in Northern Ireland
Panel 3 The Internet - Circumvention of Censorship?
A day of discussions at the Freedom Forum 10th November 2000
PANEL 1: The Nature of National
Moderator - Nick Fielding (Sunday Times)
Panel - Stephen Dorril (Author), David Shayler (ex MI5), John Wadham (Liberty), Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson (D-Notice Committee), Glenmore Trenear-Harvey (Intel Research)
Nick Fielding: Thank you to the Freedom Forum for making this event possible. I think that everyone can agree that not for many years has there been this level of interest and intense debate on the whole issue of national security. In the UK, as John said, there's been a whole succession of legal cases, most of the debate is taking place in the courts. We've had David Shayler and Richard Tomlinson, Martin Ingrams, Nigel Wilde, Tony Geraghty, Martin Bright, Liam Clarke, James Steyn of Punch, Julie-Ann Davies, the issue of ex-members of the SAS writing.
All theses cases one after another are piling through the courts, they have not really, to date, been reflected in civil society in terms of debate taking place in Parliament. In fact we can say almost categorically that Parliament has been left behind in this debate and has almost categorically refused to discuss secrecy issues despite the pledges of this government while it was in opposition.
The background isn't just in the UK, as John said, Clinton's last act before the election was to veto what would have been a very draconian act in the USA. In Europe, recently we've seen moves to tighten up on until recently what was an organisation that prided itself on its openness. The European Commission has introduced a whole number of restrictions on access to information mostly on security grounds.
This session on the nature of national security, the first speaker will be John Wadham director of Liberty who wants to speak primarily about the Official Secrets Act and set the basis for the discussion. He'll be followed by David Shayler who doesn't really need an introduction but I think it's safe to say that he is largely responsible for igniting a large part of this debate about national security. Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson secretary of the D-Notice Committee will be speaking after him. I think we can all accept the point that Nick Wilkinson is probably the most enlightened D-Notice secretary that has been imposed for many years. He'll be followed by Glenmore Trayner-Harvey, who has stepped in at the last minute, a researcher and writer with Intet research. And finally Stephen Dorill author of a very well received book on MI6. So without any further ado can I introduce John Wadham.
John Wadham: Well this is a festival for me, all my toys and friends, colleagues and clients in one room. I'm having a great time, I hope you are too. Welcome from Liberty as well. We should start by considering why there isn't anybody from the authorities here today. I've had great difficulty in the past engaging anyone from Parliament, government or the security services themselves, for engaging in any debate on these issues. Every time there is any discussion the best that we get is unattributable briefings or briefings from ex-MP's. But we never get anybody talking about what their position is and that's a real problem because in the absence of that debate it's very difficult except for us at Liberty, at least to carp from the sidelines and that's not acceptable in a democratic society.
That problem is illustrated by the fact that in the very first report by the intelligence and security committee, the so called Parliamentary committee that's supposed to keep the security forces under surveillance, when it was debated in parliament no-one debated the real issues that were raised by David Shayler and Richard Tomlinson. There was a lot of sniping about individuals, a lot of criticism of those whistleblowers but there was no-one who asked one single question about the allegations they raised. Now how can we have a Parliamentary system where nobody raises any of the issues. Especially of course and this is depressing to anyone who interested to New Labour coming up with new approaches to national security and the security services that you would have assumed that there would have been some change.
I have a letter here from a person that I cant name, somebody who is the publicity person for the security service, I wrote to him personally asking him to come here today and he said:
"Thank you very much for your invitation. I do hope the day proves worthwhile and productive. The topics you plan to discuss raise some real issues over which there will be much debate. I hope this debate at the same time generates light rather than heat and better understanding of the issues that various people from different perspectives have genuine and strongly held views."
But that's not enough, we need that person or people to attend and to have this debate with us. I've also got a letter from Tom King who's also the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee who I also invited along to this event and he said he was engaged on constituency business that day and wouldn't be able to attend. No, that's not acceptable. This is the first conference that I can think of which has engaged issues about national security and freedom of expression and the parliamentarian who's in charge of that process, the parliamentarians that are supposed to support us, those people in this country that vote for MP's, that are supposed to ensure that they are keeping the spooks under surveillance and they're not here and that's a problem.
The second thing is the Official Secrets Act (OSA) itself. Again I'm afraid I've got to criticise this government. In 1988 when the Bill was going through parliament they were very critical of the 1989 Official Secrets Act, they voted against it. Many of the members of the current cabinet voted against it because it didn't have a public interest defence, it didn't have freedom of expression written in it, it allowed individuals to be prosecuted who were whistleblowers and it allowed people to be prosecuted that had done a service to the community rather than reveal secrets that should be secret forever.
That's a real problem that we have a government that not only votes against the measures going through when they're in opposition but then consents to the prosecutions. In most criminal cases of course there is no involvement by government, decisions by police officers are made independently and decisions by the CPS are made in relation to the evidence and the public interest in relation to the particular offences. The OSA however has a special provision which is supposed protect us and it means that the Attorney General has to consent to these prosecutions. And the Attorney Generals, Labour Attorney Generals, have consented to the prosecution of Tony Geraghty, of Nigel Wylde, and of David Shayler. Two AG's have consented to the prosecution of David Shayler: both the previous AG and the more liberal, so called liberal, Gareth Williams, and there is a real problem about that if we believe in more openness and freedom of expression.
What we need to have is, as we say in the recommendations in this book we have published, is to have a comprehensive review of the existing legislation. But it has to be reviewed not by government. I'm afraid to say that my approach is "whoever you vote for the government gets in." And the problem with that process is that people seem to be tainted by being involved in controlling the levers of power. Those people who would normally to have liberal views seem to lose those liberal views once they get into power. And therefore we need a comprehensive review, not run by the government but by somebody else.
Perhaps it's us who should be looking at the review of the OSA and the other laws.
The second recommendation we make is a review of all ongoing prosecutions and convictions. There aren't many convictions because there's only been two or three people who have ever been prosecuted and pleaded not guilty, two of them are sitting here and both are free men so far and I hope the same result will occur for David.
I won't go through all these recommendations and some people might think is all this is about a legalistic approach. I don't think it is because one of the problems that we've identified in this pamphlet is the judges themselves. One would assume that if the executive was going to use draconian measures against individuals to suppress freedom of expression and that Parliament was failing to take it's proper role to review the executive, that the judiciary would take a more robust approach. I'm afraid to say in the past our judges have not considered properly what national security means and in most cases have failed to address the merits of any particular case. And it took the judges in Strasbourg in the case of Jahal which concerned the deportation of a Sikh activist. It took the Strasbourg court to force our judges and Parliament to consider ensuring that national security is properly addressed but unfortunately they've only addressed it in those particular cases and in relation to most other cases once national security is raised judges run in fear.
I would hope that the Human Rights Act (HRA) in future will make a difference and judges will be forced to confront the real issues because someone needs to protect us from these draconian laws and if it's not going to be the executive and it's not going to be Parliament we may have to rely finally on the judges and I think that's a sad state of affairs and we should be looking for support from all of those branches and so far we haven't got that.
Nick Fielding: Thank you John. I'd like to ask David Shayler to speak now. David's been in the unique position of having seen the secret world from both sides and I think that he can contribute to this discussion.
David Shayler: Thank you for allowing me to speak today that's obviously a novelty for me because of the OSA. I'd also like to say as well that I have to be very careful about what I say. This England is supposedly a country of free speech and so on and yet if I say the wrong thing today I could be arrested by Special Branch and my bail rescinded. So that gives you an initial indication of how national security can affect us all.
I want to talk obviously in reference to my own case which should be more than adequate to show that we don't have the right balance between freedom of expression and national security right. Of course the state has a need to protect genuine secrets but the state has never defined national security in Britain. It seems to be an ever lengthening or ever shortening piece of elastic that is used when necessary to suppress free speech.
In my case in July 1998 I actually tried to make a legal disclosure about an MI5-funded plot to assassinate Colonel Gadaffi. Now I don't think that when the OSA was first drafted that people had protecting that kind of information in mind. They were trying to protect genuine state secrets, information that might identify sources, information that compromise sensitive operational techniques and obviously ongoing operations.
In the Gadaffi plot we saw MI6 working beyond the control of government and if they work beyond the control of governments they commit offences. Under the 1994 Intelligence Services Act if they don't have permission they are liable to the laws of the land in same way as you or I if we were to get involved in conspiracy to murder.
Despite this the Government has used the catch all of national security to have me thrown in prison in France, to arrest supporters of my campaign like Julie-Ann Davies, to arrest my partner Annie Machon for criticising MI5 management. Again that shows that they haven't got the balance between freedom of expression and the need to protect national security right.
We had the same problem with Punch. I published an article about the failures in the run up to the Bishopsgate attack in 1993. The article came out earlier this year and the government finally decided to use the injunction against Punch for publishing the article. They threatened the editor with prison and I think we should think very hard about a Prime Minister who wants to use the threat of prison against a journalist who is in fact behaving responsibly.
We tried to get these allegations out in other ways. We tried to get the government to take that evidence and they didn't and the last resort in that case is the free press and even then we've got to go backwards to not damage national security. Even then in court the government didn't offer any evidence of damaged national security.
Although after prosecution had rested it's case it did come running in with a document claiming to be an assessment by the AG that national security had been damaged, it was ruled in admissible because the prosecution had rested, and yet the judge still found in favour of the government over the free press.
So the point that John's making about judges being unfit to decide our liberties is proven by that. And I wonder why or how MI5 can claim that national security can be used to protect files dating back to 1909. As I've often said the first file ever made by MI5, PF #1 is held by somebody called Vladimir Illyich Lenin. It's hardly a secret that they'd have a file on him in the first place and it's very unclear why they need to protect that information now.
But I have to say that when I was in MI5 they were talking about reforming the 100-year rule which generally protects all MI5 documents "and extending it into 2009," and I said how can you do this and they said "it may compromise our operational technique." Are they still really using the same techniques as 1909?
We've talked here about Parliament not standing up for our rights over national security. I went to Parliament recently and was appalled by the lack of understanding of these issues. People trying to tell me what I'd done, people trying to tell me what my motives were because they'd blindly followed off the record briefings from the intelligence services. This kind of thing verges on totalitarianism but I have to say the only reason Parliament can get away with that is because the free press in this country doesn't make a song and dance when our rights are infringed.
When the government tried to imprison the editor of Punch the Guardian covered it but very few people made enough of a song and dance about it. And I have to say that I agree with John on this, in that I always thought the problem was 18 years of Conservative government. Now I think the problem is government per se and until we have a proper bill of rights and a proper working definition of national security it will always be used to suppress free speech.
Nick Fielding: Thank you very much. Nick Wilkinson, the Secretary of the D-Notice Committee, is in a very unique and interesting role in government. I'm sure he'd like to explain how he handles his role.
Nick Wilkinson: I have a feeling that none of my predecessors would have thought it prudent to be on a panel in company like this but I'm here because things are changing especially things on the D-Notice Committee and because I personally believe that we should have more openness.
I've been asked to talk briefly about my role at the D-Notice Committee and then I'd like to talk about some aspects of national security as I see them. I have a very strange job indeed. I work in the no-man's land between two very powerful and normally battling armies. The army of officials and the army of the media and my job is to offer advice and sometimes to negotiate between these two armies.
I have an office in the castle of officialdom and I can some times be privy to their Kafkaesque dealings and secrets. I'm not responsible to any government department and I do not therefore speak for them. I spend as much time with journalists as I do with officials, I'm responsible to an independent committee, 13 of whose 17 members are representatives of the media and they are extremely protective of the independence of the committee and of my role as a servant of the committee and servant of the public.
The system is voluntary and I have no powers other than persuasion. The decision whether or not to use the system and the decision of whether to publish lies with the editor and the publisher. The standing defence advisory notices have now been reduced to five and they were again revised and made more limited earlier this year. The details are all on the Internet and there's nothing mysterious about the system.
How in practice do I get involved? Either I myself become aware of something of potential interest e.g., in the booksellers guides or in breaking news stories and I offer my services. Or a journalist or author gets in touch with me about something he or she intends to write or broadcast and asks for my advice or asks that I act as an intermediary with officials. Or an official learns of some potential story and asks me to act as an intermediary. In the latter case I do not always agree to get involved e.g., if I consider the official is being unjustifiably secretive or it's a matter of embarrassment and not a matter of national security.
Which brings me to national security, a term that's frequently used as a justification or as an exemption for an act or a bill. OSA has been mentioned already but there's been others too, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the Data Protection Act, the Regulation of Investigator Powers Act and the Freedom of Information Bill.
National security is not defined anywhere, I think for two main reasons, the first is that government lawyers believe that national security should be what they call an ambulatory concept, a general idea to be interpreted by the courts in the light of particular and unforeseeable circumstances, as they put it. The other main reason is that national security is actually quite difficult to define concisely and precisely as the 13 experienced journalists and 4 senior civil servants of my committee found earlier this year when they tried to draft a definition of national security to go with the revised defence advisory notices.
In the end they fell back on the detailed areas described in the standing notices and they put these notices in a context of scale, namely involving grave danger to the state. That deliberately excludes many issues covered by the Prevention of Terrorism Act. That's all very well but that carefully circumscribed concept of national security only applies to the work of the D-Notice Committee and has no legal status nor is national security defined in the 1989 OSA.
Whereas the D-Notice criterion is that there actually be a damage to national security and that applies to all my interventions and is rather different to the criteria in the OSA. So what can be done to reduce the strife between officials, and the media. You would expect me to believe that resolving disagreements between the two is best done using the D-Notice system, cheap quick & precise rather than going to law and risking blanket injunctions, police investigations and prosecutions.
Failure by officials or by the media to use the D-Notice system usually ends in unnecessary unpleasantness. Of course one could do without the D-Notice system but all that would do in the current climate is lead to more injunctions and more recourse to the legal system and I believe that in any area of media activity a voluntary system is preferable. That is if the system is applied impartially and in a liberal-minded way and that is my aim.
The D-Notice system is not a problem in recent works we've heard about BSE secrecy. The OSA secrecy is of even longer standing. The Cold War habit of attempting to keep everything secret rather than just a very few things which really do need to be kept secret, as David has said, for the time being to prevent genuine damage in particular to lives or to current or future operations.
There are faults on the media side too sometimes of sensational inaccuracy which makes officials even more bloody-minded. But more seriously, the fault is that of a very patchy approach by most of the media to secrecy and freedom of information matters. In the same way that there are some in Westminster & Whitehall who believe that nobody outside the MI5 cares about trial by jury there are certainly some in Whitehall & Westminster who believe that nobody outside the Guardian readership cares about freedom of information or reform of the OSA.
However, both media and officials are well aware the culture of secrecy is being challenged by a number of court cases and other events this autumn and through spring. During this same period we shall all possibly be in the run up to a general election and simultaneously that parliament, government and officials are trying to cope with an unusually heavy legislative load. This is not the ideal scenario for calm rational open debate.
Nevertheless, from where I sit it is clear that change is needed. We need to deal with matters of official secrecy, freedom of information and national security in a more mature and modern way. I therefore welcome discussion like today's and look forward to helping push things along both in open debate and behind the scenes.
Nick Fielding: Thank you Nick. Our next speaker Glenmore Trenear-Harvey from Intel Research.
Glenmore Trenear-Harvey: Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
First of all I do not -- cannot -- speak for the security intelligence services so if I'm cast on that side then it ain't necessarily so. I see myself as an interested member of Joe Public. The only involvement I'll admit with intelligence and security was with the misleadingly named organisation, the AMBP&DC, the Air Ministry Book Production and Distribution Centre. What we produced were codes and ciphers, I was also a courier.
I am interested enthusiast in intelligence and what I find fascinating, and so many members of the public find is the strange dichotomy between the real world where there's an immense amount of literature about security and intelligence and the Alice in Wonderland part of the government where denial seems to be the main thing.
It wasn't until May 6th 1992 that John Major confirmed the existence of the secret intelligence service. Which was extraordinarily dopey because the amount of literature that was there. And coming to the two points both of David Shayler and of Nick Wilkinson, the state has a need to protect genuine secrets and Nick's role -- he has to ensure that no actual damage to national security will come about.
Well whoever, whether it was any of the forces lined up against this country, they knew in greater detail than the British public. And to this day it's a bizarre situation, I believe, where we don't know the generalities unless one is moved to go to your local library and increasingly, and I think this is very important, the Internet.
Now there is virtually nothing in the public domain, open source information that people can't get. If I can give plug for John Young's Cryptome (www.cryptome.org), which seems to be an absolute clearing house for every thing that comes through, Duncan Campbell's and the Federation of American Scientists (www.fas.org). All their sites have tremendous information and through the Freedom of Information Act in the US have great ease of access.
I too like a lot of people thought that when New Labour came to power all of their pre-election talk about a Freedom of Information Bill would free up, forget defence for a minute. BSE is a prime example one tends to think that there are an awful lot of officials just covering their arses that's the only reason that they claim national security.
I read the other day that Nixon deemed that something, 20 minutes of tapes of his rich vocabulary, could be deemed state security in that particular instance. I come to point that I have very mixed feelings about David Shayler, I think a lot of people do. I won't say that he's a traitor though I have called him a traitor in the past. As I have learned more about him I have shifted my position. But he said that the state has a need to protect genuine state secrets and Richard Tomlinson said practically the same thing but who is to determine what is genuine? He then said that the last resort is the free press, what to do when you disagree with that judgement?
Is it as James Baker said that if you have election if you don't like the result you can keep on having the result you can keep on having the election until you do like the result. I think that which in a military sense does jeopardise troops in Kosova or what we're doing in Sierra Leone, there are situations when whistleblowers who might be disgruntled because their terms and conditions aren't quite what they want or their promotion prospects have been restricted then just don't become moaning minnies in the mess but then go public with that.
I don't actually know that the Security and Intelligence Committee does have a role where one can actually if you're dissatisfied with the complaints procedure within the security service. It would seem that it would help a great deal, it would certainly give the public more confidence. As it is at the moment they are fed a mixture of James Bond imagery, and according to some, security service leaks about youngsters coming in with anthrax in thermos flasks. Unattributed stories that cause and maintain interest in that which is secret though indeed one is not always sure.
Finally talking about that interest and what is currently available. It ludicrous that the NSA, CIA and the myriad of other intelligence services in the US seem to thrive with websites, public relations officers and former intelligence officers going to local communities explaining there roles within national defence mechanisms.
I would like to see something like that happen in this country while still preserving that core of national secrecy.
Nick Fielding: Thank you Glenmore. Our final speaker this morning is Stephen Dorill.
Stephen Dorril: I think that some people here will be having a sense of deja vu. Under a Labour government again 20 years ago the ABC case, AGB Eisenborg, we seem to be going through the same thing replaying it again. I think there is a problem within the Labour Party I would regard it or the New Labour side at least as having a very authoritarian streak. If you look at the Benn diaries on the CFOI, he was surprised that the people supporting it back in '76/'77 were the people that went off to the SDP, they were the libertarians, the people that remained in the Labour Party Callaghan, Jack Straw and the rest of them were against what they regarded as something for the middle-classes and not of any consequence for the country.
The Labour party doesn't know how to deal with national security and the intelligence services. When I tried to get some policy statements out of Jack Straw, Robin Cook and Tony Blair before the General Election they passed the buck between them and said it's very interesting we must do something -- we never did hear what they were going to do. We now hear that Tony Blair doesn't even call the Prime Minister's Committee on Intelligence, it's as we always suspected. It's all just left up to officials. The politicians don't want anything to do with it, it's too embarrassing, they don't want to stand up in Parliament and take responsibility.
There are a whole range of laws relating to national security which do have a direct impact on some people here in the audience. They also have an indirect impact, the culture of secrecy. Authors come under a lot of pressure to cooperate with the D-Notice Committee. Those authors that refuse happen to have their books passed to the D-Notice Committee without their say so. If they don't cooperate they are forced into highly expensive lawyering, often using lawyers the publishers insist on using who know very little about the OSA.
The D-Notice Committee is one of those strange half committees that's been in existence for nearly a century. It is in the ring of secrecy but not quite in it. It's been said that it's a voluntary organisation. Well it is for publishers and editors, but as reporters and authors know it's compulsory. The reporter has to along with what the editor says.
I dislike the hypocrisy that goes on in this area. It's OK for Christopher Andrew to publish a book that relies on information passed to him by MI6. Alan Judd has just published a biography of the first Director of MI6 that is entirely based on records from MI6, which he doesn't acknowledge in his book. It's OK for these people or anybody else within the ring to do this but if anyone else does it then the full weight of the law in various guises comes down on them.
There are a number of area where there should be a counter-balance to the national security laws. One is oversight the Intelligence & Security Committee isn't giving it and I think the first area they should deal with is budgeting. The only way to have complete oversight of the security services is to control their budgets, if they do well give them more money if they don't then you cut their budgets. We know from their latest reports that MI5/MI6 have refused access to look at their budgets.
We need greater openness, a proper freedom of information act -- even the David Clarke one which received high praise in my view was far too restrictive. The test for a freedom of information act is would we come anywhere close to discovering arms to Iraq and from the various versions of the FOI Act we wouldn't. It does not cover defence, intelligence services and commercial interests. It would mean that we know no more about arms to Iraq than we do now.
We have to develop open source intelligence which was mentioned earlier. This century is going to be about open source intelligence and it's time that agencies were set up that exploit the mass of information that's coming out and we start to see intelligence officers operating like good journalists and we cut down the size of agencies that deal with covert, national security, secret areas to very small organisations.
We need committed back benchers. What's missing at the moment is no-one in Parliament that's taking up these issues. We used to have Tam Dalyell, Tony Benn, Livingstone. Campbell-Savours has now been taken into the ring of secrecy as member of the Intelligence & Security Committee.
We also need more committed journalism. The committed journalists are here today but I think we have a problem with the younger generation of journalists coming through. I lecture on journalism history and I'm struck by the deep cynicism of the students. They're cynical about the World, politics, about this whole area: everybody lies, they don't trust anybody and they're cynical about journalism. We need to bring new committed journalists through.
Finally I'd just like to break the OSA. This just shows to me the ridiculousness of the OSA. Here are three things that are official secrets, they come from Richard Tomlinson. MI6 do have exploding suitcases, if you attempt to open one of their suitcases it implodes. Second, Richard Tomlinson was on the Counter Proliferation desk. Thirdly, he was the only MI6 officer in the Balkans when he was there.
Those three things I was not allowed to put in the book [MI6: Inside the World of Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service]. For some reason. It's ridiculous. I'd just like to read from the Washington Post on Tuesday which I think is a really good editorial and also applies to Britain.
"A newspaper we admit is hardly a neutral commentator on the question of leaks, we sometimes publish leaked information and our reporters solicit all kinds of material some of it classified. There are good reasons why the US has never had an official secrets law and those same reasons caution against adopting one.
While some leaks harm national security, others serve to expose wrongdoing in government or to provide useful sunshine where government over-classification has needlessly kept citizens in the dark. Classification is sometimes used for no other purpose than to save the government from embarrassment.
At the same time high level officials in every administration leak classified materials for tactical advantage. Leaks are part of the political system, one that is easy to decry but would quickly missed if actually chilled."
Nick Fielding: Thank you Stephen. My name is Nick Fielding and I too have broken the OSA. There are many points to discuss. When you rise to speak would you please announce who you are and any affiliations you might have. The floor is now open.
Nick Radford (Sunday Times): Nick Wilkinson said that he thought there should be more openness. Can I ask him whether he has any specific measures in mind.
Nick Wilkinson: Well I've tried to make the D-Notice system more open for a start which is the limit of my powers. Behind the scenes I can suggest to officials areas where I think secrecy is counter productive to them. And that's what I'll continue to do,, more than that I don't think I can really say.
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian): The definition of national security has been brought up and that it's difficult to define, as Nick Wilkinson said it's an ambulatory concept. The fact is that it's being defined increasingly broadly mostly by the courts as indeed the concept of terrorism is by the PTA and if you read from the Appeal Court ruling in the Rehman case a sheik who there the government wanted to deport to India where he would have been treated badly. To quote three sentences from the appeal court judgement. The Lord Chief Justice gives a new definition of national security. When an attack on an ally can undermine the security of this country. The promotion of terrorism against any state is capable of being a threat to our own national security. And finally the executive is bound to be in a better position to determine what should be the policy to adopt on national security than any tribunal no matter how eminent.
John Wadham: Can I just come in here, if you look in the Johannesburg principle which we set out. Liberty, Article XIX and others support a much narrower definition which says its not national security unless it's genuine purpose and demonstratable effect is to protect a country's existence or territorial integrity against the use or threat offorce or its capacity to respond to the use of force. Whether from an external source or an internal source to overthrow a government.
Well that's a completely different kind of definition and it seems to go right to the heart of issues relating to national security. National security means the security of the state and that means that there needs to be threat to the security of the state. I understand that there may be other issues that need to be protected such as the lives of MI5/MI6 agents. But in relation to national security it now means anything that connects on to issues relating to that, such as the PTA where individuals involved in animal rights activism or road protests or GM crop protesters are defined as terrorists.
David Shayler: Can I come in here and say that terrorism isn't obviously the same thing as national security but the reason for the definition of terrorism being extended is in theory to further protect national security. At this year's Labour Party conference Nelson Mandela got on the platform with Tony Blair, if we'd had the 1998 PTA earlier Nelson Mandela would be in prison. That's how extensive the PTA has become and its ludicrous to suggest that threats to other countries are a threat to us. There are many terrorist groups that would attack targets on the West Bank but would never dream of attacking British targets.
Stephen Dorril: On the definition of terrorism, it seems to me that the reason we've got that definition is pressure from the Americans. I can't see any other reason, we are the only country that supports the US on counter-terrorism policy. We're not threatened by outside terrorism, most of the other European countries have cut back on their counter-terrorism budgets and we're the only country supporting the US and that's why we've got that definition.
Robert Henderson: I've got direct experience of the use of the security services, legally essentially. What I want to address which hasn't been addressed yet is the complicity of the media, who are supposed to protect human rights, to actually agree to suppress information when in fact it isn't suiting their particular political purpose. In March '97 Blair and his wife went to the police and tried to get me put in prison, because I'd written a few letters to them. They failed miserably. They then sent Special Branch or MI5/MI6 to spy on me. For the last 3 1/2 years I've been trying to get the media to cover this. Lobster bravely put out an article about this and I've had one or two in magazines like Right Now or Free Life and the Individual but I cannot break the censorship.
My question is this, it's alright for the media to say the government is being suppressive. The truth of the matter is that the media is being suppressive and my question is how do we get over that.
Martin Bright (Observer): I'd like to make a suggestion on this idea of media complicity. We do now have quite a robust chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee who has indicated that that committee should take control of the Intelligence & Security Committee. In the case against me and the Guardian around 50 MP's signed an Early Day motion supporting me and I would be interested in finding out how we could get those MP's to put pressure on Robin Corbett and the Home Affairs Select Committee to have a proper inquiry of secrecy issues perhaps via freedom of press issues considering how many MP's are being targeted. That's my suggestion.
Unidentified (Radio Romania): I think we need to answer two questions: do we feel the Cold War is over, do we really feel the global clash of interests is over. If we don't really feel that then one can explain the culture of secrecy. But if we feel that the real Cold War is over then we cannot explain the culture of secrecy.
Duncan Campbell: I wanted to ask about an extraordinary position that the US and UK reached only 9 days ago. However first I'm going to indulge in slight anecdote because I was very impressed by the speaker from the D-Notice Committee.
22 years ago I arrived at the New Statesman and I found in my new desk, a file of D-Notices stamped secret. I've never said this before but for the next six years, I think, I used them as guide for the best stories to go for. In 1982 I nearly did our friend out of job by saying right we're going to publish them now and then I got what every journalist dreams of, the dispatch rider coming round from the Ministry of Defence with the envelope with the official stamps. And he said this is terrible how can you possibly dream of publishing such things.
But we went ahead and if it hadn't been for a bit of manoeuvring on the Committee, alas, you wouldn't be in a job, sir. But I do welcome the fact that you come here now quite unlike so many of your predecessors, with a real understanding for civil society and that's fantastic. In the USA 9 days ago when Bill Clinton refused to pass the Intelligence Authorisation Act 2000, the position for all civil servants in the US was going to be: Any classified information passed to any person without authority was going to attract a 3 year prison sentence. Very much like the British OSA of 1911 under which I was prosecuted 22 years ago.
Had that act passed into law or does under Bush, Jr., the position in the US has become the complete reverse of the UK, because on that same day we knew that the trial of Nigel Wilde had come to an end on the test under British law of actual damage to defence issues which didn't exist in US law. We won the case so quickly in the face of showing that they had no case for damage, but we never tested whether there was damage.
There was also the issue of the new Human Rights Act being tested in court. In the US law there was no test for damage only: was the material classified and did the person know it. Had wisdom not prevailed and we had gone to court I'm sure that Nigel would have been thoroughly acquitted. Had he been in the same position in the US under the Act he would have gone to gaol there would have been no possibility of defence.
My point is that if there are any Americans with an understanding of the Constitution is it actually the case that law had passed that the First Amendment would have afforded no protection to an American Colonel Wilde?
Bob Haiman (Freedom Forum 1st Amendment Center NY): I think the answer to your question is the one that you fear. The only intervention would be an approach to the US Supreme Court and then we'd see whether this act would be held to be constitutional. There's a great deal of interest in an election in the US at the moment I am reminded by a column in a newspaper the other day about another election. In 1959 General Nathan Twining head of Strategic Air Command gave secret testimony to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee of which a young Senator called John F Kennedy was then a member.
He had been lambasting the Eisenhower administration claiming that there was a missile gap between the US and the Soviet Union and they were about to leap far ahead of us. General Twining told the Committee specifically that there was no missile gap. That US could more than surpass the USSR and he proved it to Kennedy. Based on Kennedy's remarks in the transcript of the Committee he accepted Twining's statement but he continued to campaign on this missile gap and went on to win the election.
General Twining could not step forward publicly and contradict Kennedy because he would have been dismissed from his position and gone to gaol. And the act that Bill Clinton vetoed would have extended this kind of prohibition vastly beyond what it was then. I believe that the US came very close to the edge of the precipice and would have gone over.
Laurence Lustgarden: I'd like to pick up on something Richard Norton-Taylor touched on which was the Rehman case which I don't think is well enough known in terms of the significance.
The context of national security is increasingly being caught up with terrorism and with foreign relations with regard to the Muslim world and what is happening is that Islamophobia is creeping into the definition and understanding of National Security particularly in relation to deportation. What's so extraordinary about the Rehman case, and I have to declare that I was asked by the defence to provide expert opinion. There was a man called Peter Wrench from the Home Office who filed an affidavit saying that, and I want to pick this up because of what Stephen Dorril said about this being American pressure because it isn't. It's about the British government's conception of worldwide terrorism problems and therefore their understanding that they need to be in league with the governments of Pakistan and India and all the governments they deal with because the perceived problem of Islamic terrorism in this country.
We have therefore come to accept the definition of who is dangerous given by those military governments which we are no longer questioning. And what Wrench had said was that if the terrorist threat was to be countered we have to assist the definition of national security given to us by all the states to which we are allied and when this went to the SIAC the body that was set up after the Shahad case that's supposed to deal with deportation on national security. They said that the definition was not acceptable as there had to be a threat to British national security. This was then appealed and the judges, Wolf and Laws, supposedly liberals, washed their hands of the case and accepted the government definition.
I don't think the HRA will make any difference to the willingness of the judges to counter the definition of both terrorism and national security offered by the executive. I think journalists are going to have to step outside the law and be the bold ones.
Phillip Knightley: Has Mr Wilkinson seen the memoirs of Stella Rimmington or do you expect to see them? Maybe you could even tell us what's in them.
Nick Wilkinson: The committee has not and I have not seen them. The system is that memoirs of insiders or ex-insiders go straight to the agency or ministry involved, not through the D-Notice Committee.
Tim Gopsill (National Union of Journalists): I'd like to go back to the immigration angle. The big cases that the Labour government brought in the '70s started with the deportation of Phillip Agee under the national security provisions of the 1971 Immigration Act. People who are deported under these provisions are given no evidence of the charges against them and I think we need to remember that provision if you're going talk about the unjust operations going unexposed by the media.
Alistair Brett: What we should be concentrating on is getting a public interest defence built into the OSA. It was a crap piece of legislation, it shouldn't have been brought in the first place and the government must do something about it. There's always going to be a conflict between national security and cases where it is going to be in the public interest and the public have a right to know what's going on. That's where we should be concentrating on.
Barry White (Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom): Richard Eyre, former deputy chief executive of BBC news and former member of the D-Notice Committee, has called for the media to end it's support for the D-Notice system. He says amongst other things that in return for continuing its support of this discredited system in the 21st century the media gets nothing in return. Alerting the Admiral to your scoop story won't even earn you a promise that you won't be prosecuted under the OSA. Worse, the very act of alerting the Admiral and through him the spooks, might lead the government to seek an injunction to prevent you publishing a story that they would otherwise have been unaware. What is the panel's view of this suggestion and whether the media should cease its support for the D-Notice system?
Tony Geraghty: Will Admiral Wilkinson please confirm that some of his predecessors have not been as committed as he has to an open game. They have covertly worked for agencies ranging from MI5 and Home Secretariat and Special Forces of the Ministry of Defence without saying so.
Nigel Wylde: During the 23 months of my period of suspension from normal life with the OSA case against me I was kept out of affairs largely in the UK. The Americans have invited me to many a CIA conference at which I have become a guest lecturer and have been privy to some extraordinary events including lunch with George Bush, Sr.
The reason I mention this is that the Republicans have gone to great lengths to publicise information about the break up of the Cold War and how it all ended. We were given vast amounts of material that until 1992 was classified at very high levels and had the great 'NOFOR' -- No Foreigners stamp -- all over it. The reason for this is because they defined national security as a threat to the existence of the US.
They were not interested in trivia and when you look at the trivia that was briefed in it got hardly a mention. What they were looking at was a genuine and open threat to the US, every thing they said was sensible and was classified by paragraph so there was no blanket classification as we have in this country if you've got a sentence in the document that's secret the whole document is secret regardless of the classification. The US doesn't do that their system is more liberal and I'm glad that Bill Clinton put his foot down to stop the draconian legislation going through.
The other thing I want to say was, told in totally open forum was that there was a committee comprising FBI and CIA agents to look at the Lockerbie disaster, it was about 25 strong and they invited MI6 along. Mr Initials that David keeps talking about was there and was very rude in open company about the FBI. What he didn't know was that the group was a complete mixture of CIA/FBI but they were all wearing a standard badge and the people he was being rude to were the FBI. At which point MI6 were cut out of all future activities.
Very interesting discussion and what David's putting forward into the public domain is verifiable by the Americans and in an open forum.
Nick Fielding: I'd like the panelists to summarise very briefly a few points towards the end of this discussion.
John Wadham: I would take up Alistair's suggestion and say that we should have a campaign to reform the OSA and I hope that other people will join. We need money and the media need to put their hand in their pockets and help us.
David Shayler: The protection we have at the moment under the OSA makes it a crime to report a crime. If MI5 were planning to bump off Tony Blair it would be an offence for you to go into a police station and make the police aware of that. That should suggest to us all that we've got the law totally wrong and it needs reform. On the subject of the D-Notice Committee we need a proper committee with a bit more teeth a committee of MPs who would be some kind of intermediary between the intelligence service and perhaps journalists. The trouble is if you submit to them first you run the risk of an injunction later.
In the US it's impossible to take out prior restraint of the press, so unless we have that measure in place people will not go to committees and submit information first because they fear prosecution and injunction. I agree totally with the idea of the free press leading the attack on the OSA. When I went on the record I was amazed by the level of ignorance and arrogance and plain old bullying. I would like to say again that I did what I did because I love my country and that I am not traitor but the OSA seems to want to make me traitor.
Nick Wilkinson: Firstly to answer Tony's question. Without doing a lot of research I can't tell you what my predecessors views were. I hope that in the next 2 or 3 years the history of the history of the D-Notice system will be written and I'm sure you'll have something to say about that. Secondly, could we abolish the D-Notice Committee? Of course we could, but my own view is that this would lead to more injunctions. I can think of a couple of cases where had I not been involved the ministers concerned would have gone straight to court and I don't think that's healthy. The revised notices offer a starting block for a definition of national security and I still think that a voluntary system is better than litigation.
Glenmoore Trenear-Harvey: I have very simple suggestions before the FOI Bill is enacted. Firstly greater publicity given to the understanding of what is embraced by national security. The second is that I would like to see Lego land across the water at Vauxhall Cross set up it's own website and just put the information that is already in the public domain on it. And I particularly like Stephen's suggestion that we get greater interest from MPs in security issues. It does seem to me that very little attention is paid to security issues.
Stephen Dorril: Somebody mentioned complicity. Well there is complicity but on such a small level, little things, like journalists who won't mention that their main source is a MI5 officer. Baroness Park, BBC governor, was often called a diplomat when she was in fact an MI6 officer. Martin Woollacott writing about the Iran revolution in '79 referring to his main source as a businessman. I pointed out to him that the man used to be a former station chief in Iran. And I said why didn't you just name him. He replied that it wasn't the done thing, a gentleman's agreement. Somebody mentioned Cold War, yes, it is over, so why do we still need the OSA.
To say a good word for journalists, they can't name agents because it can put lives at risk. The fact is that no MI5/MI6 officer has lost his life in the last 50 years. They have a pretty easy existence. And finally if there had been a proper complaints procedure we'd probably never have heard of Richard Tomlinson or David Shayler and that's my recommendation: a proper complaints procedure that really works.
Nick Fielding: This discussion has shown that we have a long way to go. It's a starting point and the Freedom Forum is to be congratulated for allowing this debate and discussion to take place and I sincerely hope that it continues. There is still no end in sight and everybody here has a duty to the truth, and I sincerely hope this discussion continues.
Panel 2: British State Security in Northern
Moderator: Gary Gibbon (Channel 4)
Panel: Alistair Brett ( Sunday Tirnes lawyer), Ruth Dudley-Edwards (historian & author), Tony Geraghty (author & NI analyst), Andrew Puddephatt (Executive Director Article 19)
Gary Gibbon: Hello everybody and welcome. I feel a bit of a fraud as I'm one of those complicit jourrialists, a lobby correspondent and I've only been censored once in my reporting on Northern Ireland and that was by the Irish government for suggesting that they were in talks with the ERA which is a constitutional blasphemy. We've got a very distinguished panel and the first member I'd like to introduce is a man known to al of you, Tony Geraghty.
Tony Geraghty: It's good to be here and at liberty. We all feel that and I'm sure that David feels that as well as does my friend Nigel Wylde. Everybody here knows the recent background -- the knock on the door after my refusal to allow the D-Notice Committee access to my then unpublished book about Ireland [The Irish War], the 6 MOD detectives one of whom was a woman to look after my wife. Unfortunately she was wearing high heels and was somewhat disconcerted when my wife said that she had to go out in the mud to look after the horse.
This was the beginning of a hallucinatory, Kafkaesque experience. One in which I had to direct the MOD police to the local police station, as they didn't know where it was. When we got there the officer in charge of the station was unsure how to log me in, he said "Tony, we don't get too many OSA cases in Leinster," so I said "try miscellaneous" and he replied that that was fine and they then formally locked me up for while and interrogated me and so on.
It soon became apparent that I had caused embarrassment in my book. I had caused, in an exquisite phrase -- the man who wrote it should have been an advertising copywriter -- 'unquantified awkwardness'. But no damage to military capability and no lives were at risk. It was clear from the outset that no crime had been committed.
After two years of investigation, expert testimony provided by Duncan Campbell and Brian Gladman essentially confirmed what the MOD had found during the first two days.
What happened during those two years was constant pressure, intimidation, bullying, of not only myself but also my publisher Harper Collins, whose offices were also raided. The book remained in the public domain on sale and yet after some 12 months a letter came from a Mr T Taylor, Special Secretariat Home & Special Forces to my publishers, the head of the legal department, saying we strongly urge you not print the paperback edition because it endangers national security. An additional incentive was an invitation to the same head of the legal department to go to Hammersmith police station and be questioned for four hours by the MOD police.
So here you get one part of the act with your arm twisted up your back and the other half saying we strongly urge you not to publish. I think the message is pretty clear. The intimidation ended with the book not being published and succeeded in holding up the publication of the paperback. So that's the background I think its familiar to most people.
I first encountered that Kafkaesque strangeness whilst in Belfast in July 1970 while I was a Sunday Times correspondent during an illegal curfew imposed by the British army. I remember hearing a voice from a helicopter saying there was a curfew in force so get off the streets and a whole district was put under curfew and those of us who were unwise enough to ignore this were put in handcuffs and nasty things followed.
I shall never forget the corpse being dumped in the rain beside me and the soldiers made joke about it. That experience was followed the following Monday morning by the announcement in Parliament that there had been no curfew only a restriction of movement.
It was this change of perception of reality that led me to report that the IRA were back in business because there was a 'no go' area on the Lower Falls Rd. This led me to be called back to London by the Sunday Times and court martialled by the director of public relations for the army who said that it was nonsense to say that there were 'no go' areas in the UK.
So how do we arrive here? The mindset of the military is ... firstly you should understand that the British army has or had a manual of deception, no soldier will go to war without a deception plan. The manual is classified of course, a further joy is that we must not show it to female members of the army or members of The Royal Corps of Padres. So there it is, this plan telling you how to lie convincingly. The deception plan is often necessary in certain situations to save lives but that is one element in the military mind that we don't understand.
Diplomacy has been defined as lying for one's country and getting an OBE for it. For the other element we have to go back to WWII and Malaya, the strategy that evolved to fight that sort of campaign was to remove people from the villages that they lived and to bring them under control in fortified settlements to contain them and then declare the settlement a free fire zone and you could then go out and kill the guerrillas.
The US tried the same process in Vietnam with the fortified hamlet idea that did not work. Clearly with the onset of insurgency in Northern Ireland in 1969 that sort of physical control of hundreds of thousands of people was not an option even in spite of Bloody Sunday and the Amritsar approach of some generals.
The alternative emerged after a period of time, and its what I call the electronic cage -- tight surveillance of suspects, their extended families, their neighbourhoods, their supporters. It meant evolving a system using computers, cameras, covert human surveillance etc. It meant that the targets could go nowhere without being actually contained. That was a necessary process in the war against terrorism witness Omagh.
However, like the war that the French army fought in Algeria, where again the military were left to get on with their thing, the politicians averted their gaze and then when it went wrong they tried to scapegoat the soldiers. There has been a similar evolution in NI.
NI in my view has polluted the body politic of the British mainland. It has done so as an unhappy conjunction of three historical factors. One was the guerrilla war against terrorism, secondly there was the evolution of computers as a means of surveillance, and third was the lack of any constitutional safeguard to protect the civil liberties of the honest citizens of either the mainland or NI.
Those three came together with the military mindset, with the relinquishing of the political control over how this war was actually fought. Those three things have produced a poison that has damaged us all, that is why our civil liberties are now under threat in this country, e.g., through the RIP Act. That is my analysis, that is all I have to say.
Gary Gibbon: Thank you, I'll move straight on to Andrew Puddephatt, a distinguished lawyer and he'll be known to you through extensive human rights work. He is currently Executive Director of Article 19.
Andrew Puddephatt: Thanks Gary. I've actually been accused of many things; being a lawyer isn't one of them and I've never felt so insulted, but I'll move on from that.
One of the most difficult things for a journalist to do is to cover conflict. Wars these days aren't usually the outright things we saw in Kuwait or the Gulf. They're internal conflicts over disputed territory or jurisdictions where sovereignty is being challenged by a substantial minority or proportion of the population. Just think of Spain, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone. This is the face of modern conflict and it's often intermittent, often vicious and its often extremely confused and I would say that that describes the conflict that raged in NI for around 30 years.
Now in those kinds of conflicts there's rarely, if ever, a military solution, the role of the state forces is to fight the insurgents to a standstill or some kind of stalemate, where within which some constitutional settlement can be developed which embraces sufficient interest of all parties to ensure a lasting peace. And again that's more or less the situation in NI.
The role of the media in covering that conflict is not that of a neutral vessel that conveys information in a free and open way about the issues and the nature of the conflict -- the media itself is part of the conflict. The media is how the hearts and minds of the population who are usually the target of both state and insurgent forces are won or lost. So control of the media and reporting is essential to both sides.
One of the characteristics of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia was that the fight for the media agenda and the fight for media attention was an integral part of the strategy of all combatants and that's partly why they conducted their operations to secure the right kind of international media coverage. And this was also true of the conflict in NI, both in the operation of the army's press office and the RUC's press office but also the Provisional IRA.
Anyone who's ever visited West Belfast in the 1980's was taken on what the Provos liked to call the scenic railway trip, where they would take journalists and visitors to their highspots from Bombay St. to Anderson's Town.
So everybody's seeking to control the flow of inforination so that we as members of the public see what people want us to see. There are two main reasons for this, one is to the entirely legitimate one to protect the nature of the operations you're undertaking and to protect the identity of the people you're working with and often if you're in the state forces you don't want people to know how far you've infiltrated para-military groups -- these are highly sensitive pieces of information.
The second more problematic desire to control information comes because any revelations may not compromise operations but they may compromise the image of the conflict you see as essential to your strategy to control and portray, and that's a wholly different problem for journalists to deal with. And I think that latter consideration raises three problems for journalists.
The first is the problem of truth. One of the characteristics of successful political conflicts worldwide is some kind of truth process or commission, where given that there isn't any justice as there is usually immunity given to the combatants on all sides. So people who've been the victims of that conflict want to know the truth almost by way of compensation. The British government has recognised this need in the establishment of the Bloody Sunday enquiry which is an important development as it was a very significant moment in the history of that conflict.
We've also seen them demand of the IRA to know where the bodies of the people they murdered are secretly buried. That desire for openness is part of the same desire for truth. But truth is not just the story of certain deaths; it's also about the nature of the conflict and its causes and its management. That's why I think that Tony's book doesn't just deal with the tactics it also deals with the history of the NI conflict.
And here one of the key questions, if you like, about NI was about the role of the state. Was the state, as is often portrayed in Britain an impartial referee between two recalcitrant communities where Britain was holding the ring without any strategic interest or saw the state a participant in the conflict on one side with a very shadowy relationship with the combatants of one particular side -- the loyalist paramilitaries. That's a very big and, I think important question that is to do with the conflict in NI.
Answering that question seems as important as the understandable need to explain particular deaths. And it's the attempt to control that second debate, that it's the reason why Tony's book was so controversial and why Liam Clark is facing prosecution now.
The second problem is the double standards of justice in the UK. The fact is, the legal regime in Ireland and Britain began to separate sometime in the 19th century. It's quite clear that in Ireland there has always been a history of far more repressive legislation with regard to popular rights than there has been in Britain. That was understandably a feature of NI, when NI was partitioned, a substantial part of the population were there against their will and did not accept legitimacy of that state and so there's always been emergency legislation in place of some kind or another.
And what's grown up is the acceptance at official level in the UK that you can run NI in a way that you would not dream of running anywhere else in the UK. You wouldn't dream of carrying out the same level as surveillance on the people of Britain that is routine in NI.
It's no secret. A senior policeman once showed me a map of Portadown and the Religious affiliations of every household was indicated by green and/or orange. That's not a secret in NI; I don't think that that anybody in NI doesn't know that. That's how the province is managed but that is regarded by our masters as too shocking for the British population as a whole to be told. So we're not allowed to know that there's been this distinct police & military regime within NI. As a citizen of the UK I have a right to know how the UK as a whole is being covered and no-one should take that right away from me.
Thirdly, there's the problem of what Tony called pollution which I would call contamination. Running a secret war require some extraordinary things to be done, there have been some extraordinary acts of heroism in that war. But equally if you look at the treatment of the Stephen's enquiry there's also been some pretty unsavoury things conducted, in that case by agents of the state against other agents of the state carrying out a perfectly legitimate enquiry.
The problem with systematic and draconian secrecy laws is that they don't just cover up the necessary heroism, they cover up corruption, mismanagement and the breaking of the laws and principles that those agents are there to protect. And that's the problem of pollution or contaminazion where it seeps into the body politic.
A thorough airing of the truth of what's going on NI is not only necessary for democracy as a whole in the UK but it's vital for the resumption of democracy in NI itself. If we want to see a viable democratic culture developing in NI there has to be the basis that the truth can be told and talked about. This does not just apply to the state forces. Truth isn't a one way street, truth also means about applying to what the paramilitaries did, particularly those paramilitaries of that representative in the current government of NI, which is obviously why in a sense the truth is hard to get at because none of the combatants, the ones that benefited ever want the truth to be told afterwards.
Whether that's the case in NI, whether we allow that to happen or whether we say notwithstanding the interests of the new political government of NI, the truth should be told is I think an important question. Whether that can actually happen depends on a radical reform of the official secrecy regime of the UK. Until we change fundamentally the secrecy regime in this country we will never be allowed to the truth of anything that's happened in such a sensitive area as NI.
Gary Gibbon: Thank you very much and sorry for the slur on your reputation in the introduction. The third speaker was to have been Liam Clark but he's sent his lawyer instead which makes me think he's misread the summons. I'm going to ask Alistair Brett to outline Liam's case before he addresses you.
Alistair Brett: You'll pleased to know that Liam's not in prison. He's had to write for the Sunday Times and the editor sees me as a the most dispensable person in the place because I'm the gamekeeper and he doesn't like gamekeepers so I was sent here today to explain Liam's situation.
As you probably know Liam's been writing about the Forces Research Unit (FRU) over the last year and we have had huge difficulties in getting into the public domain information which you as the public have a right to know. For instance to give you the most simple example, should the public not be allowed to know that the FRU sent a CME (Cover Meanings of Entry) team to burgle and then set on fire John Stephen's police office in NI because John Stephens was about to find out about Brian Nelson and what had been going on in collusion with the paramilitaries. We had huge difficulties getting that in the public domain. Luckily we got there.
But immediately what happens after that is that the Secretary of State for Defence goes to the court to get an injunction under the laws of confidence, which is wheeled out time and time again in this country to silence the press. What then happens because there is no satisfactory interplay between OSA, because the government knows that after Ponting it daren't take anybody to court, because with a good defence team you can get the charges dropped and the government can't afford a huge fiasco again.
So what they're doing now is using the laws of confidence and they're silencing the press. Because judges are establishment figures and they're prepared to err on the side of safety because of some bland general affidavit from some security man in the MOD, we can't even name the people who've actually sworn affidavits in Liam's case, there is no danger of damage of national security because the one thing the Sunday Times does all the time is we are so careful not to put people's lives at risk.
Liam was actually approached by Martin Ingram, his source, who said you're not being fair to FRU. NI is an incredibly dangerous place and you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. And he said not only do we need to protect and give information to the security services to try and police things in NI. But equally the military intelligence branch are breaking the law and that's how we got to publish what we had to publish.
Which brings me back to the reforming of OSA. But I do think that people need to bite the bullet on just how dangerous journalists' positions are in NI not only Liam but his predecessor Chris Ryder who had huge difficulties with the paramilitaries IRA or UDA. Very often they have to have personal protection weapons because they could be lifted so easily.
Liam sent me a memo yesterday saying that when he first talking to Martin Ingram they had to buy pay-as-you-go phones, and that secondly he didn't want to know too much about agents acting for FRU. If he knew too much he could be picked up. It's my job to help protect journalists because like it or not, whether you're a journalist or photographer.
For example after the Trafalgar Square riots the police hit us with a PACE injunction on us to provide every single photograph that our photographers had taken. I went to see Simon Jenkins who said the one thing the world's got to know is that my journalists are not coppers narks. If they want photographs of all the people in the square they've got to go through all the right hoops to get them because we don't want our journalists to put at risk in the future by letting it known that they work hand in glove with the police.
It is desperately important for papers to be a proper element in the whole equation of the executive. Our job is to seek after the truth and it really hurts when Jeff Hoon wheels out these confidence injunctions all the time. I sincerely hope that one day he wheels out one too many and he'll be taken all the way. Because there is an issue and that is: can the state honestly wheel out the OSA or the law of confidence to close down the exposure of iniquity and criminality by elements of the state in this case the FRU?
Gary Gibbon: Thank you Alistair. Our next speaker is Ruth Dudley-Edwards, who has a phenomenal CV. I don't know whether the organisers knew this when they invited her here but her latest novel Anglo Irish Murders is a merciless satire on worthy politically correct gatherings.
Ruth Dudley-Edwards: I am here under duress because nobody would come from the security forces and because it was thought that I was slightly less hostile to them than most people here would be.
I have absolutely no affiliations whatsoever. I have occasionally been accused of being MI5 or MI6 but that is the usual IRA tactic to discredit you because they don't like what you're saying and because they want to set you up as target.
I have to be careful about what I say about the civil liberties and human rights industry which I wish address today, because I see in the audience Gareth Pierce who took £10,000 off the Sunday Times because of something I wrote about her several years back. I would have fought the case myself but the Sunday Times thinks that £10,000 is neither here nor there.
My difficulty about this is not enough people have doubts, I find myself eternally torn on the rights and wrongs in this. I am even at the moment caught between my belief in freedom of expression and the matter of protection of reputation which is why I've just threatened to sue another journalist for malicious defamation.
I don't like doing it. I do care about free speech, but there are two sides to it. I worked for the government and I realise the government can be an ass, just as much as the law can be an ass. I also think that a democratic government has its own legitimacy. When John Wadham talks about New Labour being tainted by being in control of the levers of power, maybe he should consider that maybe they've acquired a little wisdom because they have come into control of the levers of power.
Sometimes in opposition things are very straightforward sometimes in power they're not everything is rather more difficult. Freedom of information cuts two ways for historians. As an ex-civil servant I was very unhappy about the 50-year rule becoming a 30-year rule because I thought that if you're a civil servant of 24 you know that in 30 years the memos you're writing now will be available freely. With a freedom of information act I don't think that there'll be enough information on the record, people will circumvent it. So I'm saying, don't be too sure, always remember the law of unintended consequences.
I would have been strongly opposed to any restriction of freedom of expression for representatives of terrorists, so I was opposed to the Irish Section 31, but I changed my mind and I think that my mind was changed by the research I was doing into Walter Bagehot in the late 80s, and I came to the conclusion that he was right when he said that order should come before liberty -- that was a result of his experiences in the 1848 revolution in France.
In the end he said that the most important thing is that the fig seller can sell figs. That doesn't mean that liberty isn't important but it may not the most important issue. I am ferociously anti-terrorist in NI or the UK because I don't think that any body has the right to kill because they're not getting their own way. And that goes for Republican terrorists or Loyalists.
I am very uneasy about the way that terrorists have used the law against two liberal governments. I am very concerned about the victims of terrorism who if they're at all aware of the human rights industry see it slanted against them. They believe that nobody cares about the RUC man that was shot 7 times in the back of the head, they're far more concerned with helping terrorists disband the RUC. That is how they see it.
We are talking about, when we talk about the RUC, a police force that had 302 of its members murdered by terrorists and shot 50 people. I think that's a pretty good record. I think the record of the security forces with all their stupidities and occasional barbarities is pretty good by the standards of any country in the world.
When the victims look at the human rights lawyers I think they feel that they are not running to back up ordinary law abiding NI citizens. I might be entirely wrong, and I apologise if I am, but did Liberty campaign for the right of the Orangemen to march their traditional route -- did they? I don't think they did. I'd be delighted if they did. But they did rush to support Gerry Adams because he was being forced to swear allegiance to the Queen. They do seem keen to support terrorists or supporters of terrorists.
There was huge outcry and outrage when Michael Mansfield began to cross-examine traumatised RUC officers in a manner that caused deep offence to the victims because it seemed that there was more concern in that corner of the world with actually the forces of law and order than with the perpetrators of the atrocity.
What's a human rights lawyer? Pat Finucane was a human rights lawyer? Pat Finucane was a IRA member. Does that make him a human rights lawyer? Rosemary Nelson was a human rights lawyer, why? Why was Edgar Graham who was murdered by the IRA at Queens University not a human rights lawyer? Who dictates what a human rights lawyer is? Somebody who's on the side of Republicans. You can argue that any decent solicitor in NI doing their job is a human rights lawyer.
Just think about accepting propaganda. I'm saying this directly to the human rights/civil liberties lobby: don't be too gullible. Terrorists are smarter than you might think. It's terribly easy, and it was when Rosemary Nelson was foully murdered, for HQ to announce collusion. They did within about an hour of the attack, its just something you say, you say collusion -- human rights lawyer and the industry rushes to you.
Another complication, lets take Ken Livingstone. He is much loved in the activist part of the Irish community because he always been an opponent of PTA. I was at a event during his mayoral campaign when he said that that whilst he'd always been against that because it discriminated against the Irish he couldn't say that he was against the new broader act because he was aware of the international conspiracy of the KKK, European neo-Nazis, Italian freemasons and retired army officers and police who are putting all our lives possibly at risk and therefore there had to be wider terrorist legislation.
So there's two sides to every story, one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. The civil rights/human rights industry can be an ass.
Gary Gibbon: Thanks Ruth for that wide ranging and no doubt blood boiling survey of the scene for some people here. A lot of issues thrown up there and I would like to throw up another -- should the Labour government be posed as such a bogie, isn't that throwing the door open with the HRA and the albeit limited FOI Act. I invite any contributions from the floor.
Unidentified: Whilst there are things like HRA and other legislation that seems to be giving the public something they're being taken away by things like the Data Protection Act. Jack Straw signed general exemption orders for absolutely everything covering MI5/MI6 so you can't actually get a response from them saying that they have got something on you and they're refusing it on security grounds.
That's just one example but there are other things, the PTA effectively allows an individual or a group to be classified a terrorist. The point I'm making is: don't be mislead by HRA there's plenty of government jiggery-pokery to take back what they've given you.
Gary Gibbon: I'm just going to ask Nigel Wylde to address us.
Nigel Wylde: I'd just like to pick up a couple of points. I was one of the few people identified publicly because the BBC made a film about my tour which went out as a 50-minute documentary. I watched the Protestants trying to kill each other and then trying to kill Catholics -- ethnic cleansing as we would know it today. I saw Catholics ... and I'm not hinting at any particular organisation try to kill me.
So when you look at it there are an awful lot of brave people who have been working in NI and we are fed up of all the bad eggs. And the people in the FRU who are my former colleagues had been in Eastern Germany observing. When they went back to NI they were horrified at what was going on and the story that Liam brought out must be heard.
But I don't hold out hope that Lord Williams is the man to do this. He wrote to me saying that he saw no purpose in a truth and reconciliation committee for NI. Nothing over there is black and nothing is white but the middle course is a very difficult way indeed.
Duncan Campbell: What struck me most when I became involved in NI through Nigel's case was the complete ignorance in many journalists and army officers as to boundaries of secrecy, having no realisation of what is and isn't secret and what is and isn't known.
Perhaps the most startling I found out from this case, not a secret at all, was about a little spot in South Armagh, straddling the border where the chief of staff for the IRA lives. On the two hills to the NE and NW are two enormous British army surveillance towers. Everybody knows they're there; they live looking down each others nostrils and yet to know that it was no secret to anyone about these towers or their equipment.
Within the army one of the most extraordinary things was to see documents, classified confidential that didn't even refer to MI5 because at the level of confidential MI5 was an organisation that didn't dare speak it's name. Tony Geraghty and Nigel Wilde were being accused of transacting paragraphs that they hinted at MI5 and I said we have grown up you can go to an MI5 website and get a complete report on divisional structure. They haven't grown up. I think it's the political journalist role that plays a part in NI.
Glenmore Treanor-Harvey: I do think there's a culture of senior military staff who are totally unaware of the capability of the Internet. There is a piece of surveillance equipment called Glutton that monitors vehicular movement and there is information about it in detail on the Sinn Fein website, stuff that the Sunday Times couldn't publish. I have wry amusement at the concerns that people have about information getting out when it's already there.
Tony Geraghty: I'm struck by the extent to which there is a dislocation between the apparent knowledge of the MOD and the knowledge that is already out there. This dislocation is illustrated by the lady using the nomme de guerre Susan George who was given clearance to write about her time in 14 Company and the book was published and two months later MOD sought an injunction to stop publication.
It's the capriciousness of military censorship that is growing exponentially. It has to do with nervousness and a style of information control set by this government. It has to do with the military habit of turning jobs over every couple of years and such is the nature of the military mind that each new generation that takes over the regiment or office whatever it is to adopt a Pol Pot approach -- this is year zero nothing else matters.
The result is, of course, that of total chaos and no consistency. And the powers that be in Whitehall like it that way because we don't know where the rules are which leads to self censorship which is exactly what is intended.
Tim Gopsill: I have slight sympathy with what Ruth Dudley-Edwards said with the regard to the human rights lobby because the industry did not take up the case of the Sunday People. Which was trying to publish stories about collusion between military intelligence and the UDA in the killing of Catholics. They were subjected to the most extraordinary injunctions, the NI editor of the Sunday People had written these stories and the injunctions prevented any mention of the security services or their agents in NI. Any thing they wanted to publish on the subject had to go to Mr Hoon first three working days before publication There was a series of hearings to try and get the injunctions lifted which the editor was not allowed to attend only the People's lawyers. The Sunday People did succeed in getting nearly all the injunctions lifted.
The lesson is that the Sunday People resisted and made a great song and dance about it and the glare of publicity made the government back down. And the point is that if the media defies the government it will win, if it complies it won't.
Richard Norton-Taylor: I want to address this to Ruth, the whole question of collusion and informers which is a very dangerous one. You can say that Pat Finucane was in the IRA and that Rosemary Nelson was a Republican. Anyone who will not be tried because they are informers. I think the point about collusion with the security forces undermines the whole system of justice itself.
Gary Gibbon: I'm going to ask Tony, is there any sense that the Labour government is trying to curry favour with the intelligence establishment because there is a sense that they are outsiders?
Tony Geraghty: I think that two factors are at work. One is that this government more than any other is keen to control the flow of information as a political asset. And that goes along with the natural tendency of the military community to keep secret those things that don't necessarily need to be kept secret and there is obviously a coalition of interests.
What is different now is that because of the style of government, and its desire to spin information, it has encouraged some in the military community to go one step further than they have done before. It seems that we have a state within a state and a ministry that is out of control.
Don Murray: I heard Tony Geraghty talk about pollution of the body politic, and I heard Ruth Dudley-Edwards talk about order coming before liberty and that the security forces record is acceptable may be better than that. And nobody seemed to pick up on that and could each address each other's position.
Tony Geraghty: I'm not in favour of the collective punishment of communities by the military without restraint of government. I'm not in favour of the reckless use of firearms in order to murder people whose only offence is to demonstrate their political abhorrence. But I do recognise that the security forces have a difficult job but the problem is that the citizen has no redress as we have no written constitution.
Ruth Dudley-Edwards: I'm not in favour of collusion. I also don't think the security forces record is impeccable. What I said was that I couldn't think of any security forces in any other country that would have done as restrained a job. And I can certainly say that as a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, where the Gardai would have taken such a rough approach if they could.
But in NI the system is inclined towards one direction. The Human Rights Commission on which I have yet to find one person with a vague Unionist sympathy. It consistently shows no interest in paramilitary human rights abuses and that is wrong.
John Wadham: I think its important that human rights organisations make decisions that are neutral. We did represent Gerry Adams because it was a free expression issue. Under the PTA he'd been banned from attending a meeting in Parliament to speak about his concerns. We have also given advice to Loyalists who have been the subject of exclusion orders. Inevitably, the state chooses whom it wishes to victimise and charges them under the OSA, and so far the people that have come forward have been critical of the state.
It's absolutely crucial that lawyers are available to represent people from both sides. I'm not saying that everybody always gets it right.
Lawrence Lustgarden: I'm always amazed at the faith put in written constitutions. The Republic of Ireland has had a written constitution since 1937 with judicial review. I don't recognise Ruth Dudley-Edwards' picture of the RUC but I do accept that the Gardai are worse, and having the constitution there hasn't made a difference. As long as we treat NI as something over there we're never going to deal with this.
Andrew Puddephatt: I remember flying back from Belfast and sitting next to the Chairman of the NI CBI, and he asked me 'what do you do, 'and I said that I worked in human rights and he said 'oh you're a Republican then.' It wasn't said with any antagonism, he just regarded it as a given fact, and I thought that said as much about the mindset of the political establishment in NI than it did about the human rights community. As it happened I was flying back from a meeting with Ian Paisley jr. and the families of the Armagh 4. And I was going back to London to attend a victims rights group.
There is a defensive mindset in NI especially in the Protestant community towards human rights and what it can offer, which is one of the obstacles to producing an integrated community.
Stephen Dorill: (beginning of his statement unintelligible, unable to contextualise rest.)
Gary Gibbon: I'd like the panel to sum up in the last few minutes.
Tony Geraghty: I think this has been a productive, interesting discussion of a situation for which there is no clear solution except time. However I feel that one of the seminal points of that was the involving Ruth Dudley-Edwards and myself turning upon the degree of sympathy that is accorded both the security forces and the terrorists. I'm certainly no friend of terrorism. the kernel of this is whether we should expect the same level of amorality from the security services. We don't expect them to be angels but they are part of the rule of law and they should be answerable to the rule of law.
Andrew Puddephatt: Somebody said that there is plenty of information around on NI and its very easy to get that information, and that's true. But whilst there is plenty of information there is very little free expression and that's the key problem, and that's why I would favour a truth process. But I don't think that the combatants would want it but it would represent a significant threat in forging a meaningful democratic society in N1.
Alistair Brett: It appears that Liam Clark can't win either. He's exposing military intelligence for colluding with paramilitaries or he's accused of working too closely with MI5. Equally, what happens is the authorities, not only do they bring confidence suits, they insist on all the documents staying under wraps. This isn't open justice, it's closed justice. This is the beginnings of a totalitarian state and we have to fight this kind of secrecy.
As regards human rights I think that Article 10 will help journalists get a fair and open trial under HRA.
Ruth Dudley-Edwards: I'd just like to make a couple of corrections. The gentleman at the back talked about the taxpayer paying for state-sponsored terrorism. Well, they've been paying for Republican and Loyalist terrorism because they were all on the dole. Maybe the Real IRA still are.
The gentleman that talked about journalists being complicit with the security services: these were the journalists that became too complicit with the terrorists, again it works both ways. I do not see it as balance to say, OK, I stuck up for Republican terrorists here and Loyalists here. The balance I'm concerned about in NI is the balance between democrats and terrorists and I don't think that there's been enough concern from the Islington armchair brigade for the law abiding people of NI.
When Michael Stone got out of prison it affected more law abiding Protestants than the IRA getting out because they felt that he had dishonoured them. Amorality. I do not condone amorality by the state. I do not want to see any moral equivalence between the state and terrorists but it's also wrong to handcuff the state against the danger of a terrorist threat. I agree with Andrew in wanting a truth and reconciliation commission but he's right: it's unlikely to happen.
Panel Three: The Internet - Circumvention of
Moderator: Sheena MacDonald (Journalist)
Panel: Roger Darlington (IWF), Phillip Virgo (EURIM), Richard Norton-Taylor (The Guardian), Rohan Jayasekera (web managing editor Index on Censorship), John Young (www.cryptome.org)
Sheena MacDonald: We are going to talk about whether we are spider on the web or trussed up flies. How the web can be used and abused. So let's start with John Young, tell us what you do and how it works.
John Young: Cryptome was set up to publish what no-one else will publish and that's our primary purpose. It started off with cryptography issues and spread to other things that are called dual-use technologies that are coming out of the military and intelligence fields into the public. It is a public education site that has about 6,000 documents on it designed to help people understand this technology.
Some of the technology is known, some misunderstood, but it's coming on the market very fast. And the law is well behind the technology. Most people don't know what is used against them right now but they have rough idea because once it was used against their enemies.
There are two developments taking place, one is commercialisation and the other is the use of it by domestic law enforcement agencies. And it's being fed to them from the national security people, so more and more of it's being directed towards internal enemies.
It's certainly happening in the US and that is not well known. We put up a document a couple of weeks ago of a speech by the member of the Department of Justice which said: "we've got a window of opportunity to use this technology to develop an international police sharing system which is not yet covered by the law. We will get this through the public because we will spin the story our way. What we need to get this going is a PR campaign. We're the Justice Department and we should be watching this but it's to our benefit to develop a police sharing and collection information system before a law is passed against it."
Now one of the things that was interesting about the intelligence act that Clinton recently vetoed was that his adminstration sponsored the act. They were the ones who asked for it and the story of why he vetoed it is not yet known. The story is that there's a covert version in effect that hasn't yet been publicised and so this might have been a stalking horse to see if they could get it through, if not they'll do it another way.
One of the ways is through technology and the technology is not well understood because there's a fair amount of misinformation about the capabilities of the technology. We're publishing everything we can get our hands on because we're learning from people who work in the industry, who design and sell this technology to the law enforcement agencies and to commercial organisations.
By the way, one of the first things we realised when we got on the Internet was that it's one of the most fabulous surveillance systems that's ever been invented, and right now it's far beyond the capabilities of telephone or radio for tracking what people are doing. The capacity to store what people are doing on the Internet is slightly known but there are number of private individuals and corporations who are archiving the Internet as well as military intelligence people.
And so one of the stories that has not yet been written is: was the Internet invented for this purpose? Was the commercial spin on the Internet merely to induce people to trust it and buy into it, use it for private communication -- and it has happened very fast, in fact some people think that it has happened too fast.
So back to this question of technology leading the law in all nations. Right now, the fact is that most people in senior levels of government do not understand the capabilities of advanced technology and they're repeatedly misinformed about this. One of the things we try to do is publish stories that show technology as it's publicly known and also leaked stories that are well ahead of the public stories.
I can cite two or three new technologies that are just coming on to the market. One dealing with the gathering of electromagnetic radiation, and the stories of denial about it that are being put out by official agencies that this technology really doesn't work. But in fact it does work very effectively and it's one of the more interesting stories.
Who's going to leak this stuff? It's going to be people that are actually using the technology and who see it in action, not the official spokespersons of these agencies who don't know what it's capable of.
We're told that they are deliberately kept in the dark so that they can tell the truth as far as they know it. Recall that in the Church Committe hearings the one person who told the truth about the technology of those days was someone who operated the equipment who'd been forbidden to testify. The senior officials did not know, it was claimed, what this person knew, and he knew they were lying -- either willfully or otherwise. And he said: I will not go out there and lie as those folks are because I know better. So he was allowed to testify and first broke the story of illegal intelligence agency surveillance of Americans.
We think those people who know the capabilities of today's technolgy will come out too if they have a place they can send information anonymously. One of the best things about technology right now is that are technologies with which they can communicate with us in total anonymity. There are other technologies that can set up hand-off systems to deny tracking information.
We had to learn all this ourselves. A case in point: we're not engineers, we just make this information available. That's all we do, we don't evaluate it. We get death threats and we get chastised for going too far. We are happy to go too far. We are disreputable on purpose. We know how this technology works and the mainstream media is way behind us on this topic.
Sheena MacDonald: When you said that people share otherwise classified information with you without naming names can you give me examples of the sort of people who give you stuff.
John Young: Some folks are willing to be named, like the former Japanese security agent who leaked US CIA documents, who was willing to be named. He was recently arrested and then released a few days ago. Some of the more controversial material we don't know where it came from.
Sheena MacDonald: Last year in May 1999 you published a list of MI6 agents. What have been the most embarrassing scoops for the American state.
John Young: That was the documents that came from the Japanese fellow. Not to be chauvinistic, but most Americans couldn't care less about British secrets. We watched the access hits build up, but then we found that the list of MI6 agents wasn't really secret; it was well known. A lot of this stuff is out there, it's just not well known.
Sheena MacDonald: Surely you're in danger of being sent viruses or infiltrated?
John Young: Perhaps, but don't forget we get a lot of people coming to us who have worked in the industry, ex-intelligence staff looking for work who can advise us on attacks and misinformation. There are a lot of people that come and go and either don't like what's going on or want to raise hell or they're in competition with someone else. We do expect to get false documents but it's not our job to sort that out; somebody else will do that. We like the really anarchistic approach to information: we publish it, you decide on its authenticity.
Sheena MacDonald: I'd like Rohan Jayasekera to compare the American experience with life here in Britain.
Rohan Jayasekera: Three things that we at Index on Censorship quickly concluded when we first started looking seriously at the internet all those web centuries ago. First that it wasn't true to say -- as a lot of people did -- that the web was impossible to censor. Secondly it was equally untrue -- despite the great New Yorker line -- "in cyberspace nobody knows you're a dog" -- that the Internet was anonymous.
But then there was three -- that, nevertheless, it was at least theoretically possible to make it both realistically censor-proof and anonymous, and that there were plenty of people out there who are making it their business to have a go at it.
So we've been out there tracking the rolling war between the authorities and the anoraks, and we are pleased to report that at the present moment the anoraks have the edge.
It's been a lucky thing for freedom of expression that cyberspace inherited its own iconoclastic culture of independence and free speech from its progenitors. It gave it a head start. Where are the front lines?
First the web site itself. In its basic form it comes with a unique IP address, a physical home in a real computer server -- the computers that store and distribute information on the World Wide Web -- in a real building owned by a real person, using a domain name registered by a person with a home address on public record. Plenty there for a secret policeman to start with.
These numbers give the file data carried over the internet a give-away identity that can be blocked at a gateway -- if the gateways are controlled by a state, as in China or Kazakhstan, for example. Kazakhstan bars access to the international news service. www.eurasia.org has been blocked, for example, since September 15, by sealing up access via the country's two state-run joint-stock telecom firms.
If you can't stop people dialling over the border for their connection -- if international calls are allowed -- then you can find out from one of the servers on the way who's been accessing what. Or you can just call round the surfer's home and check his browser history cache, then take a baseball bat to the computer itself.
And of course, it's not only an issue in China or Syria. The Church of Scientology uses lawyers just as effectively to shut down critical sites that use church documents to underpin their charges, citing copyrighted property. Corporations are using the same techniques to silence employees, ex- or otherwise, who criticise their works on line. The same problems apply to the persons posting the websites themselves. Plenty of rebel groups on the losing end of a government counter-offensive have found places to regroup in the virtual safety of cyberspace, but generally they have to do the HTML-coding and uploading in physical security from Geneva or London.
Yet still, for the specialist there are several ways to track the path of the surfer back through the ether and to a real-world address. Internet activist John Gilmore's famous statement that "the Net treats censorship as damage and routes around it," is generally true, but the new routes taken are no less traceable. It's what computers do. File files and records who put them away last, when and where. And of course, it's not only an issue in China or Syria.
So, objective one. Make the website and the route to it unidentifiable and anonymous. Index is one of two score groups and individuals who have offer up server space to a project set up by researchers at AT&T Labs called Publius, a new system that could go a long way toward eliminating online censorship. "Publius," incidentally, was one of the pen names used by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to anonymously publish the Federalist Papers in revolutionary America.
It's not new -- essentially it's a way of hiding the evidence that a particular server holds a certain file by splitting it between many. Asystem tried out by many, notably the USENET linked Anderson Eternity Service. Publius is a little more secure because it works by encrypting files -- text, pictures or audiovisual files -- and dividing them into fragments. Someone wanting to receive materials from the Publius network would look through a directory on a Publius-affiliated Web site; the network itself does the reassembling of the requested file.
Next bit of track-covering: hiding the path to the Publius affiliated web-site, which will of course have its address logged by the forces of darkness. There are several sites that will do that for you - the current star is www.silentsurf.com -- which disguise the site you are after, a system much beloved by people who spend time at the office scanning sportal.com or Playboy online instead of working.
Naturally that address can be logged as well, which is why they offer up alternatives like banking2020.com. There are still more subtle systems. Then there's the problem of covering your way in. Not much help in Syria of course, but web users on AOL and other major ISPs grant access via servers with dynamically assigned -- i.e., random -- IP addresses. Setting up new internet accounts and email addresses to use for a few days takes seconds to do, yet can slow down the investigators for days.
You could always dial in from a web-cafe or via a mobile phone if you needed to be on the move. But the best method out there at the moment is a system called Freedom, developed by the Canadian-based Zero Knowledge company, and using multiple encrypted links to the desired servers and including a secure connection to a local ISP running a Freedom server. Several are now operating in Britain.
Similar to the Publius system, the message, re-encrypted each time it travels, is shared around several Freedom servers before being slipped into the Internet somewhere far away from the originator. The system used means that no one, including Zero Knowledge itself and your ISP you use, knows what messages are being sent or who is sending them. This works for e-mail as well of course.
The key to this is encryption. Present encryption on the Net is based on the fact that multiplication is easier than division. It uses two large prime numbers multiplied together to produce a "public key". One of the numbers becomes a "private key" -- and only a person with that number will be able to decode the message. Thus, if you want to send something securely to one person, you use their public key to encrypt the message using that, and send it to them. They use their private key to decrypt it. Making a public key is simple but cracking it to find the private key from it that is, working out the divisors of a huge number that is the product of two roughly equal primes -- defeats most computers. The larger the number, the longer it takes to search for the divisors. Hence, the "public padlock/private key" set-up is widely used on the Net, at least among those who use encryption.
The systems' main defence is the size of the prime numbers used to encode messages -- basically the bigger the prime, the longer it takes the computer to do the sums. This is also its main weakness: computers follow "Moore's Law," i.e., double in computing power every 18 months. Keys that were uncrackable in a lifetime of computing five years ago can now be cracked -- eventually -- by the bigger and faster computers of today.
The British government is spending millions on arrays of supercomputers that can do the math to unravel these numbers, with the RIP act in Jack Straw's pocket, if the sums are too hard. But already there's a team up at De Monfort University that is working an encryption system will probably defeat the biggest and best computers for some years -- a system that uses random permutations within multiple formulas called, appropriately enough, "chaotic encryption."
All these systems are easily found, if not always easily used. You have to have your anorak wrapped pretty tight to make full use of them. A note to passing venture capitalists -- Index is toying with the idea of a service, accessible online that would do all the preceding for those in need of protection from enemies of free speech, but in a more user friendly manner. Call it a PSP -- a privacy service provider, instead of an ISP.
That said, however, in all these exchanges there are humans at each end. Before you can encrypt a message to send to someone you have to get his or her public key. Likewise with chaotic encryption -- sender and receiver have to 'meet' online at some stage to synchronise their respective places in the coding and decoding algorithm. And when they meet, that's when the secret policemen will jump on them. For in any case, no matter how tight the system, if you get the encryption code you are in. You can use lawyers like the Church of Scientology and Jack Straw, or you can use other means. Which brings us back to the men with baseball bats and a more fundamental analysis of freedom of speech.
I'm not unaware of the possibility that this well-meaning system could be abused. Roger (Darlington) will have something to say about that. The Publius developers envisage that host server managers like myself will take action to weed out child pornographers and supposed terrorists, but I'd like to wait and gauge the scale of the problem before I set up Index on Censorship's IT department's censorship section.
Whatever, the project originators see its ideal user as a person in China observing abuses, on a day-to-day basis, of human rights. In nations where freedom of speech is severely limited and people might suffer great hardship for speaking out, Publius could be an instrument of social change. That's why Index is on board.
Secondly there is the role of private business in all this. An entire industry has grown up to develop public-private key infrastructure for ordinary commerce. When you next go to the Index site to buy a subscription by credit card, you will see the padlock icon in the bottom left corner of your browser and you will be using encryption.
In the UK alone, the electronic security trade is forecast to be worth the best part of a billion pounds inside three years. Some people's eyebrows have been raised by the role of AT&T in the Publius project -- some sceptics have theorised that they might be the Trojan horse that will let the security services into the Publius fortress.
I don't want to malign AT&T without evidence, but Duncan Campbell (who is here today I think) will testify to the close links between the telecoms industry and the secret services. All I can say is, let's look it over. The point is taken. This is a war of sorts. The journalist Qi Yanchen was sentenced to four years in prison on 19 September in Hebei Province. He was arrested in September last year on charges of subversion relating to articles published in Hong Kong and on the Internet, but his May trial and sentencing was delayed, apparently to avoid coinciding with a US Congressional vote on granting Permanent Normal Trading Relations (PNTR) with China. He was sentenced hours after Congress had granted China PNTR status.
But it's true, if you exclude the very many people jailed and or tortured for pro-democracy activities on the web, the casualties are virtual, like the war itself. Anoraks and secret policemen fight it out in cyberspace using ever more advanced technology, until a kind of stalemate sinks in and the war spills over into theatres -- dangerous theatres -- that it was never originally intended to reach.
For the anoraks this means cover for perverts; for the secret policemen it leads down the path to perversion of democracy and human rights in the form of vague law. New regulations covering the Internet in China ban vaguely defined 'state secrets' and any content deemed likely to threaten social stability, Communist Party authority or harm ethnic unity. ISPs are expected to block any illegal or subversive content, and are required to keep log their subscribers' reading habits on the Internet -- details to which the police can gain instant access. Only in China?
The overall effect is not unlike the combination of Britain's own RIP Act and the precedent of the Demon internet case, which makes the ISP liable for the actions of its clients.
An aside to conclude. If you want to take the nuclear stand-off analogy to extremes, perhaps now is the time for Strategic Privacy Limitation Talks. Both sides could learn to live with a little more openness if the reward was a little more security of a more peaceful, democratic kind.
Sheena MacDonald: Well that's avery good point on which to bring in Phillip Virgo.
Philip Virgo: We need to put the whole of the Internet into context. Electronic commerce is around 100 years old. The first legal case as to whether a cable authorisation is a legal signature is over 100 years old. The first encrypted signals was sent by General Havelock over a telegram and it makes the point that PKI is only one of a vast range of technologies. The Internet is only 10% of the traffic being carried by electronic networks.
When we're actually talking about what the technologies actual are one of the big problems in the RIP Bill was that you had a whole raft of stuff driven by people who believed in PKI. It doesn't work very well, lots of people trying to flog lots of equipment to use it and then sell governments even more technology to try and read it. Basically most of this stuff isn't necessary but there are a lot of people whose jobs and reputations would go if the technology worked well. Back in 1997 it looked like everyone was agreed that there should be industry self-regulation that was properly organised and funded. And the application of the existing laws to the internet should be clarified.
A key part of the analysis then was the belief that only a small proportion of that content was either illegal or harmful. No that may well still be true about the content. But when we're looking at the transactions there are some interesting questions. Because one of the issues in recent years is that ordinary people use them and the don't want get ripped off. When we launched our most recent exercise in July we were told then that cyber-vandalism and fraud was costing even the best run of e-commerce operations about 4% of turnover. Those less well run were losing about 40% through various abuses.
One of the descriptions of the Internet is the Wild West without six guns and we're told that billions are being cost by cyber-vandalism like the Love Bug. Common situation: a bank spending more on electronic security than they do on physical security. Visa saying last year that Internet accounted for 1% of sales but 47% of chargebacks. Meanwhile the enthusiasts say that your card details are far more at risk when you hand them over at a garage or restaurant.
And one of the big problems is that the focus of law enforcement is on attaining covert information about conventional criminals. Meanwhile business is actually concerned about cyber-crime, the crimes over the internet itself. One of the reasons for that split is that business has no particular reason to tell the police or the public about what they're doing. They don't want to tell the public because they want people to have faith in the internet. They don't tell the police because they don't know how to report this and the police don't now how to deal with this kind of thing anyway.
The UK end of the G8 response force on international crime has fewer officers in post than would man the firewall of an average High Street bank. Any one of the UK's big financial institutions probably has more people looking after their electronic security than all the computer crime units of all the civilian law enforcement agencies in the country. Even in the US with the Love Bug, the FBI teams were dwarfed by the teams from industry.
Law and order: how's it coming to the web? Just like it came to the Wild West, with little or no help from the govenment. The various Telco's and ISPs who declined to help in a recent spamming attack were disconnected by their peers until they did help. Few of the big ISP's held out for more than couple of hours. Meanwhile you've got Telco's and ISP's spending billions to try and upgrade their networks to provide prioritised, secure authenticated communications not just bandwidth. At the same time you've got banks and credit card companies spending billions on authentification linked to some kind of guaranteed payment or delivery.
All of those are identified on who's going to pay, anonymity on the web even if you can achieve it means you are an e-zombie, you have no credit, you can't actually buy anything. That's fine if all you want is confidential communication but those who underwrite your payment not only know who you are but the biometrics that measure who you are. E-impersonation is soon going to be the most feared crime in the e-world and the punishment is global credit blacklisting -- you could call it e-death.
Society on the other side gets the law enforcement it deserves and what it pays for. One of the strands of debate on RIPA as it now is was criticism from industry about giving priority to covert surveillance at almost any cost against fighting the fight against cyber-crime. Business is far more concerned by cyber-crime, from the Love Bug through to very sophisticated imitations of the websites of well known banks where the idea is it's rather like the pass through thing on the front of the teller machine. You go into this website all innocent, your transaction is forwarded but on the way all your details are stripped along with your security details for future use.
One of the most telling e-commerce campaigns of earlier this year was the one on the London buses by BskyB, 'you can trust us we're not the internet'. The big issue underneath this lot is not whether the Internet is going to be controlled or not, because it already is, but there certainly appears to be consensus across most of business and political world that the same laws should be applied online as offline.
How on Earth do you do that in a cross border environment, there is actually no consensus amongst politicians so it's up to the business community to get their solutions. There are two on offer. Will that handful of players Cisco, IBM etc who effectively run the Internet: will they be promoting secure walled gardens governed by contract for the "moral majority." Are the forensic arms of the big accountancy firms and the investigation arms that control risks going to be paid by the banks to do a Wild West lawman job. Are we going to have networks of self regulators working across frontier: We do what government can't do. Are the various agencies that have got the skills and resources going to make the transition to democratically accountable to law enforcement or is the internet going to polarise between regulated walled gardens with outside that a cyber jungle for predators and free thinkers alike.
In fact all that will happen but the real question is when some of these are abused, as they will be, how do you actually get democratic accountability? And there it all depends what you're more concerned about. I was taught at school that freedom in itself is freedom from what? Is it freedom from abuse by criminals? Businesses? Or government agencies ? And what are the priorities?
And when we're dealing with geographical boundaries one of the problems is that the priorities are different from country to country, and that's why governments can't find the solution themselves but end up rubber stamping something provided for them. A lot of what's being touted at the moment doesn't actually work.
Sheena MacDonald: I think you are protesting too much. However you asked how we get democratic accountability Richard Norton-Taylor, you're one of our guides to democratic accountability. You live by paper. How do you use the Internet?
Richard Norton-Taylor: Certainly for professional purposes to get information, but definitely not for anything in my personal life or finances. I'm going to be really brief and talk about RIP.
First let me say that when the government first introduced the bill it did so with breathtaking arrogance. The government said that it was merely getting the technology and the law up to date to bring the Interception of Communications Act up to date and that it will all be compatible with the HRA. One of Jack Straw's many assertions.
Richard Sheppard MP says that the key proposal whereby people hand over information is like handing over to the police keys to your home. Now I'm pretty bad at technology as I understand are most ministers and MPs, and I think that ignorance is the point in that the bill was very complicated and one is left being asked to trust the government and the ministers and security services to be sensible, an argument they've used in many other bills recently including PTA.
So what does RIPA stand for? Certainly RIP for privacy and another attempt to potentially control the free flow of information. E.g., up till now GCHQ has been authorised to intercept domestic communication only if there is a suspicion of terrorist activity. Under RIP they can trawl through domestic emails almost at will. Home Office minister Steve Bassani admitted as much in a letter recently.
Of course individuals and companies could be forced to hand over information and their keys in the interests of national security or to prevent or detect serious crime or in the interests of the UK's "economic well being". But this is not all, keys would have to be disclosed if the information was necessary for the effective performance of any public authority in carrying out their duty or functions.
The law never keeps up with technology and who does that benefit really, who gets the round the law? The government says that it's aimed primarily at paedophiles and drug dealers but aren't these the sort of people that will get round the law, not innocent and half ignorant members of the public who will be caught in the net.
Lastly what is the law about all this? There are lot of uncertainties about this to some people. Maybe Admiral Wilkinson would say that something on the Internet is not necessarily in the public domain which is certainly what a lot of government lawyers insist.
Sheena MacDonald: Thank you. Now, Roger Darlington you believe in establishing some kind of template on the Internet, do you not?
Roger Darlington: I address you as Chair of the Internet Watch Foundation, which was set up in 1996 by UK ISPs to combat criminal content on the UK Internet. By criminal content I mean overwhelmingly child pornography and I guess if I had to put a single proposition to this very interesting conference it would be that the Internet of which I am both an intensive personal and business user is nothing magical or mystical.
Essentially it's a deliberate mechanism for news and views and related materials and to that extent conceptually is the same as newspapers, books, radio, TV, films and therefore those laws which apply to those other mechanisms ought as far as possible to apply to the Internet.
I think Phillip Virgo's been talking about some of the civil issues which arise. As far as IWF is concerned our concentration is exclusively in the criminal field and most especially in the field of child pornography. In this country that is a criminal offence and so technically any ISP that hosts such material is guilty of a criminal offence.
Understandably ISP's will say that they can't possibly control that and if they don't know then they would argue that they can't be prosecuted. The police have not really bought that argument and have put a lot of pressure on ISP's and so in response to that the ISP's have set up IWF which has a hotline where people can report material that believe to be criminal and if in our view that is the case we advise ISP's to remove the material and in the time that we've been in operation over 23,000 images of child pornography have been removed.
There are those that argue that the Internet is different and there ought not be laws, that's not our view and its not the view of the government that supports us and its not the overwhelming view of citizens and Internet users. From every survey I've seen they don't believe that Child porn should be freely traded within our national boundaries or across them.
The mere creation of a child pornographic image usually involves the abuse of a child and I think that society is right to act. The model which we've chosen to adopt is a self- or co-regulatory model and that has been criticised from opposite sides of the spectrum. Children's groups and others say that we are not effective enough, civil libertarians say who are we to be exercising quasi-judicial judgement without the need to go to court. Both would argue that it would be better if we had a statutory body.
The first thing I would say to that is that you've just heard from Richard Norton-Taylor about the experiences of politicians legislating on the Internet. I put it to you that politicians have not shown themselves to be particularly familiar with the complexities of the technology and the sensitivities of the issues and therefore there is a lot to be said for a non-statutory model.
Secondly, of course, the Internet is an incredibly fast moving area with many different dimensions. Our focus is very much on newsgroups but there's concerns about chat-rooms, the World Wide Web throws up it's own problems and I don't think that any statutory model would be able to keep up.
And thirdly, in the British tradition we have a lot of co- or self-regulatory models within our national temperament and I would argue that over the last three or four years IWF has done a good job. Having said that, if we argue for having to have co- or self-regulatory models or statutory controls there is a serious obligation on such bodies to be as transparent as possible in the way in which they operate and when I was appointed as independent chair a year ago the first thing I did was to put to the board that all the board papers should be published on our website. Immediately they are cleared and that has been the case for the last year.
Equally, I think our policies should be the subject of consultation and the widest possible support and yesterday we published our first policy paper which is on the central issue we have to address, that of child pornography newsgroups and whether we continue with our present policy which is that of asking for the removal of specific images which we judge to be clearly illegal or whether we adopt the policy of closing down newsgroups that regularly display offensive images even if the majority of the content is legal.
I think there is a responsibility on us to be open and discuss the issues and that is why I'm here today.
Sheena MacDonald: Before I open it up I'd like to say that maybe we're a little insouciant in thinking that the Internet can't be controlled, but it has been all too possible to intercept communications sent by email, is Julie-Ann Davies here? Would you like to tell us what happened to you?
Julie-Ann Davies: I'm not too sure what happened to me because Special Branch have never told me what I was supposed to have done. I was a mature student at Kingston University and a supporter of David's campaign and I was in some kind of communication with David on the mailing list but nothing further as such. And on the 6th March this year Special Branch came into my lecture and I was arrested under Section 5 OSA. They said that I'd been in receipt of information from David and circulated it but I had never had anything that wasn't already in the public domain. That's all the information I was given, they were intending to hold me 'incommunicado' but word got out of my arrest. I was held on police bail for 6 months and my police bail was dropped the day that David came back to the country.
Sheena MacDonald: Did you have a lawyer working for you?
Julie-Ann Davies: I was lucky that because word got out about my arrest a friend of mine got in touch with a few people and I did get a civil liberties lawyer otherwise I wouldn't have known where to start. My lawyer now is Gareth Pierce and I'm taking legal action against the police.
Sheena MacDonald: So you would fall into category that Richard would call ignorant and half ignorant which is what I would say most citizens are.
Julie-Ann Davies: There was a lot of belief in the media that it was because I'd originally leaked the CX5 document [Gaddafi assassination plot] to the "byanymeans" website. If they had bothered to look through the archive of the mailing list that I'm on they would realise just how little I know about things like that. At that stage, until the day my bail was dropped, I had no idea how to put a web page up.
Sheena MacDonald: And had you ever been in trouble with the police before.
Julie-Ann Davies: No, never.
David Shayler: This is a great example of how the law enforcement agencies don't understand the Internet and how they've gone for Julie-Ann for no good reason. I do happen to know how that document did get on the Internet but I'm not at liberty to say. I can say that it was put on the Internet because people could not get a proper enquiry into the Gadaffi plot which the plot confirmed. It in fact called into question what Robin Cook said, when he said that he was perfectly satisfied that the allegations had no basis in fact -- and were complete fantasy. If we had a proper system of open government somebody could have taken that document to an independent body and got the matter investigated. And from that of course there could have been criminal charges against two MI6 officers.
I have to say that in the case of that document I wasn't unhappy to see it go on the Internet because as far as I was concerned the general details were already known because I'd already talked about them and the person that did was obviously responsible because they blacked the names out so that nobody in Libya would have any come back on them.
The other document, I have to say I had a problem with. The document dealing with Khalifa Bazelya who was in fact a member of Libyan intelligence and was let into the country by MI6 and was subsequently expelled. I had a problem with that because it did name potential sources and some of them had families in Libya and they would have been open to reprisals. We have to be careful with the Internet I realise that it can do enormous damage to national security but at the same time it does put the onus on the security forces to behave more responsibly.
Sheena MacDonald: You just said that if there were an independent organisation. Is there such an organisation?
David Shayler: No, not at all. OSA is quite clear, in Section 1, that any disclosure by a former agent is illegal.
Sheena MacDonald: What do you think of Cryptome?
David Shayler: Well, they actually put the Bezelya document on the Internet. It was good because it confirmed that the security forces do at times let terrorists into the country in order to recruit them and nobody ever gets to know about them when they get it wrong, so from that point of view it was good. But I can't agree with the detail that was in it.
Sheena MacDonald: Duncan have you got anything to add?
Duncan Campbell: Yes, I don't think that at the start you gave John enough credit. He started out as an architect with a social conscience and his site is now regarded as one of the safest places in the world for safe leaking. It raises the question that is evident in the things that he's done. 10, 12, 14 years ago we had the Spycatcher row and in order to get the book in the public domain we had to go through this absurd process in the courts. Now if anything like that happens you can be sure that it will be immediately available on John's site.
To take something else that was leaked, the list of MI6 names allegedly from Richard Tomlinson. Now I'm pretty clear how that got on the Internet. It's Tomlinson's list alright but he didn't put it there. The person that did it was Mohamed Al Fayed, because he was seriously miffed with the British government three days beforehand for refusing to give him citizenship.
A man of dubious morals acting out of pure spite and reckless as to the damage he caused. That raises the question, we don't know whether Richard gave him the list or if he nicked it, but supposing it wasn't a list of names. Suppose it was a recipe for making nerve gas in your back garden. All the way through the predecessor to the writ bill we talked about we had a chap then at the DTI, Nigel Hickson. He would come to all these sorts of gatherings. This was in the time we were supposed to hand over all the keys we used for encryption. You could see through him and all the people that never came that they were waiting for a great public outcry in which encryption had been used. They weren't interested in public interest, they were waiting for this disaster that never came. But it could come, but for all the concerns about tracking the internet, it is a safe place for the ethical leaker who wants to go to John Young now and in the future.
Glenmore Trenear-Harvey: I would like to follow Duncan in talking about John Young's site which is without doubt a matter of daily record for anyone interested. On the subject of censorship I'd like to quote three examples. One was the list that came out of Japan, the list of Japanese Intelligence Officers that was swallowed up by a Japanese intelligence officer who a la Tomlinson was discomfited with the intelligence service. I think the censorship in that instance was a couple of FBI agents coming to your door, is that correct? Secondly, it was the uncensored version of the New York Times article that covered the joint CIA/SIS rather long in the tooth operation against Mossadeq in Persia that named information the New York Times were unaware they were putting up. Was this the time you had your big loss of service? The other was the CX5 document that Julie-Ann Davies talked about. I believe that on that occasion you had phone calls from SIS requesting that you take the information down, but it remained up there. Although you publish and be damned there is a consequential attempt at censorship. I'm glad that Duncan named Fayed because David Shayler and Richard Tomlinson received a lot of stick for allegedly doing so.
Stephen Dorril: Just a point of information from John. Do you heed copyright rules?
John Young: Usually not, as you well know. [Cryptome published a chapter of Dorril's MI6; it was removed at his request after this exchange.]
Stephen Dorril: Well, exactly, just one negative point as you're willing to publish other people's work.
John Young: We're always interested in what's going to happen to us, and we always report on Cryptome most threats but apart from the temporary losses of service we've not been shut down, we're still up. We've taken protective measures. We bought a new server, split the site between two machines. One of the things about this is helping people to learn as we're learning, on the fly.
Yes, the copyright issue does come up a lot. we don't consider ourselves to be bandits. The copyright issue is pretty big in the US right now and we're right in the thick of it; it's about protection and ownership of information in a digital world. It's a global issue that's being driven by technology.We regret the criminalisation of information. While I respect the work of anyone, I used to copyright my work as an architect but it never used to stop anyone from using it though.
Right now the control of information is through the huge corporations who're trying to control the Internet but most of us who're interested in it couldn't care less about commerce and the giant ISP's . The US is one of the huge exporters and inventors and think that copyright is one of the greatest tools of control and they learned to do this through the military. The crimnalisation of information and the great concern with commerce misses the point that the Internet is about person-to-person communication.
What Phillip Virgo was saying is just a piece of it, commerce is just a small piece and it's one that is getting a large amount of attention. And law enforcement couldn't be happier.
The internet is not about commerce. The military has its own Internet and they're using the public Internet as a cover for theirs. Its called Intel link and other things. They're using this superficial technology to develop a much more pervasive one. It's not secret, it's just that it's not well known. If you follow the hacker links you'll find all this. Our site has just become a portal for information.
What happened to your site David?
John Wadham: We had a number of enquiries about David's site, journalists saying what's wrong, it must be the spooks. But sometimes it isn't all conspiracies.
David Shayler: To give you an idea of how naive our law enforcement agencies are at the moment: I offered all my information to the government and they didn't take it and I got so fed up lobbying that I threatened to post it on the Internet and that was my idiocy. I warned them and they hacked into my site and I couldn't put up my information. I was subsequently arrested and put into prison for three months but when I got out I managed to put my site up. Because people realised it was under threat it was immediately mirrored and the information was put on many other sites and they still didn't take it.
I am now covered by the 1st Amendment even though I'm not a US citizen. When I offered the information again they again acted repressively and wrote to American lawyers asking them to get the site taken down. But because of the US Constitution we were made to look ridiculous. And people are increasingly going to use the Internet to get stuff in the public domain and once its in the public domain it can appear in the British press.
John Wadham: I think the difficulty here is this dual approach to the state because although most of us here are concerned about the activities of the state. The state isn't all bad. There are issues, e.g., privacy itself, in this country and others things relating to one's private life should be private.
International human rights isn't only about Article 10 it's also about Article 8, the right to privacy -- an important human right that needs to be respected. Not just by governments with regard to e-mails, phone calls and the like but also by individuals.
Imagine communications between myself and David Shayler and the tactics we're going to use in court. That information is very important to us and if somebody gets hold of it and puts it on John's site that seems to me to have little to do with freedom of expression and its actually a key issue for our privacy, not all publication is good.
There needs to be balances, that doesn't mean that every thing the state does in necessary in the interests of society and I'm not suggesting that. The problem with the Internet, it seems, is the problem of what the Internet is about. The government spins it to concentrate on criminals and pornographers, and the problem -- and we've had this discussion with IWF -- is of course we should be concerned with anything that harms children but that's not what the law criminalises in this country.
It criminalises images, if I draw a picture of a child and I possess that picture or I put it on the Internet for sexual purposes then my possession of that image is a criminal offence and IWF is about controlling that as well. It's not about harm, though it can be sometimes. But we need to distinguish between the images, pornography and the issue of harm. Liberty has seen cases of people being arrested for possessing pictures of children on the beach, now some of those people had those images for sexual purposes but the children were not harmed.
Roger Darlington: I am afraid the images I've seen are not rough drawings or pictures of children on a beach. If you see a picture of an erect penis penetrating a young child's anus I don't really want spend a lot of time investigating whether that was consensual or not. The 23,000 images we've withdrawn don't raise the issue of whether the children were harmed, the issue I think is whether we treat the Internet as fundamentally different from other media and our proposition is that we shouldn't and I think we need a more consistent approach from the media.
The enforcement mechanisms have to be different because we're dealing with a global problem -- 90% of the material reported to us originates outside the UK. Regulating the Internet is not easy but it has to be done, some people may exaggerate the dangers of the Internet, I believe that overwhelmingly the Internet is a power for good. But we cannot deny that it is used for criminal purposes and on the civil side issues like defamatory libel and breach of copyright are as real on the Internet as they are offline and we have to address that.
Richard Norton-Taylor: I wanted to ask Nick Wilkinson what was in the public domain and what isn't because I think there's a lot of confusion about that in some corners of Whitehall and they say that if stuff is put on the Internet then it isn't necessarily in the public domain.
Nick Wilkinson: No, if something is on the Internet then it is obviously in the public domain. The only questions that then remain are to what extent and for how long.
Sheena MacDonals: I'd like someone to talk about the new, new technology.
Phillip Virgo: Everybody talks about the digital world in fact what we're moving into now is, with optical cable, is we're moving back into the analogue world. In that world the volumes of data which may or may not be information are growing at rate of knots that's the theory of it the problem with is that you are stuck with a 56kbs modem at best with no prospect of anything better to come.
John Young: On copyright, because we respect artists, if we put something up that is copyrighted and the publisher contacts us to ask us to remove it then we do it immediately.
Sheena MacDonald: This is not a very tidy ending because it's not a tidy subject but thank you to the panel.
Trasncription and HTML by Cryptome.