Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Brazil shows the way

Like a Russian Spring, the ground is beginning to move. Thousands of miles away in a country only recently described as ‘near third world status’ there are significant moves being made which will impact not only on the internet, but critically, also undermine and threaten the profits and standing of the vast American software industry. Brazil is among the fastest growing economies on the planet. They were not impressed to find they were being spied on. They told NSA and GCHQ to stop. You would not know this from most of our media who daily chant their mantra, “We do not need to know what we have not been told.” 

“Brazil has confirmed plans to create a secure email service, following revelations of cyber-surveillance techniques used by the US and UK....

...President Rousseff's announcement follows allegations that the NSA hacked state-run oil company Petrobras and intercepted billions of emails and calls to Brazilians.” BBC Online 14/10/13

Brazil will set up an internal communications system with the assistance of GMX, the German internet provider. They will use encryption to reduce the risk from prying. International e-mails will still be at risk but the President has called a summit meeting for 2014 to discuss internet security and to bypass American control.  

Other countries – and major non-American companies – will no doubt follow suit. Spying on Petrobras was financial snooping. It had nothing to do with the spurious ‘war on terror.’ All the time the yanks have been hypocritically talking up the Chinese threat they have been busily snooping away. 

Meanwhile back on this side of the pond there are signs of hope here too. A week ago the chief spook went public with his fears about how much damage the Snowden revelations had done. This was swiftly followed by a series of stooges singing from the same hymn sheet. Sadly this included journalists who weirdly were also engaged in banging on about ‘press freedom.’ However, the other side of the coin is now being put. 

First we have  the ex Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, who was less than impressed by what has been going on:

“Not the least of the inadequacies exposed by fallout from the Snowden revelations has been the sickly character of parliamentary oversight of the security agencies, even after recent reforms. An intelligence and security committee that goes into brief private session, only to emerge blinking into the daylight with protestations of apparent fealty to the security services, is a poor substitute for grown-up scrutiny. Co-option is not a uniquely British problem, but it surely is underlined when, amazingly, the ISC is chaired by Sir Malcolm Rifkind – once responsible for MI6 as foreign secretary.
He seems badly compromised, and the ISC should never again be led by someone whom the public might perceive as having an axe to grind or an interest to defend.
But worst of all has been the argument, heavily deployed in recent days, including by Sir Malcolm himself, that any more daylight than we currently enjoy simply assists the nation's enemies. Andrew Parker, the new director general of MI5, should be slower to employ this foolish, self-serving rhetoric that naively raises a perfectly legitimate question: how should we ensure that those privileged to be granted special powers to intrude into everything that is private serve a real public interest, rather than the dangerously false god of securitisation for its own sake?.” Guardian 14/10/13 (my emphasis)

He was swiftly followed by Lord Blencathra who had spent some time assessing the security services. 

“Britain's spy agencies may be operating outside the law in the mass internet surveillance programmes uncovered by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, according to Lord Blencathra, the former Conservative Home Office minister who led a formal inquiry into the data communications bill.
The Tory peer – David Maclean when he was an MP – said he felt "deeply, deeply uneasy" about programmes that allow the security services to examine the internet activities of British citizens without the consent of parliament.
In an interview with the Guardian, Blencathra said that the public had a right to know their internet data might be "lifted" and shared with US intelligence services – and that MPs should either vote to approve the surveillance programmes or put a stop to them.
He also condemned the fact that his committee scrutinising the data communications bill – subsequently killed off by the Liberal Democrats – was never told about GCHQ's existing mass surveillance capabilities. A joint memo from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ made no mention of them, he added.
"Some people were very economical with the actuality. I think we would have regarded this as highly, highly relevant. I personally am annoyed we were not given this information," said Blencathra, who was an ally of Michael Howard and considered on the right of his party.” Guardian 15/10/13

More proof, if any were needed, that our spooks do not tell their political masters what is going on. 

Well fancy that!

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