UK taxpayers will have to pay billions of dollars to have their web surfing, email exchange, text messaging, and even Skype calls, monitored. In addition to the hefty price-tag, innocent Brits risk being misidentified as terrorists.
The shocking data comes ahead of the plan announcement in the Queen’s speech, which is scheduled for May. Meanwhile, the Home Office, Britain’s interior ministry, said ministers were preparing to legislate “as soon as parliamentary time allows”.
More than $3 billion over the first decade alone is the extraordinary sum the British taxpayer will have to pay to be legally spied upon, reports the Daily Mail. In addition, annual running costs of roughly $320 million – $610 a minute – to store the data gathered from private communication.
Moreover, the above figures are based on 2009 estimates, which means the actual price, if it were estimated now, would be higher still.
British security agencies are pushing for a law, which would allow police to gain access to who you call, what sites you surf and how you play video games.
The government wants details about text messages, phone calls, email, visited websites, Facebook and Twitter exchanges and even online game chats.
The bill is aimed at finding potential terrorists and criminals in the name of protecting British citizens. However, Brits themselves might need protection from the side-effects caused by the new policy. According to the Information Commissioner’s Office – an independent watchdog upholding information rights in the public interest – once implemented, the bill may lead to innocents being wrongly identified as criminals. Or worse still – terrorists.
According to ICO internal documents uncovered by Tory MP Dominic Raab, this misidentification may lead to regular people being barred from flying along with terrorist suspects and criminals alike.
“Individuals may be wrongly identified, subject to identity fraud or there may just be a mistake. How do they put this right? Intelligence can be used to put people on no-fly lists, limit incomes or asset grabs by government agencies,” the documents read.
Rights activists fear potential abuse of the surveillance, as well as hacker threats to the database storing the personal details collected. It will be a responsibility of providers to store the data for two years. ICO documents cover this sensitive subject too, warning of the potential for abuse by service providers.
These revelations have caused an upheaval among British politicians, with both Tories and Liberal Democrats standing their ground as opponents of the policy, which was first suggested by the Labour government back in 2006. Six years on, MPs are raising their brows at the estimated cost of the project, in the wake of financial hardships that push UK government to make cuts elsewhere.
The plan is said to have been prepared by the Home Office in collaboration with home security service MI5, the foreign intelligence service MI6 and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the body responsible for signals intelligence and information assurance for UK’s government and armed forces.
The plan is expected to be announced in May in the Queen’s Speech. It is a rewrite of a similar plan, which was developed by the Labour Party, but had been shelved in November 2009 due to lack of public support. Then in opposition the Conservatives criticized Labour’s “reckless” record on privacy.
TheRealNews | April 3, 2012
Gareth Porter: IAEA demanded to see Parchin on recent visit ahead of schedule to make Iran look uncooperative
Ankara – The ‘Friends of Syria’ conference in Istanbul ended with a pledge of qualified support for the Annan plan while agreeing on concrete measures to undermine it. Saudi Arabia and other gulf states are going to stump up the money to turn the so-called Free Syrian Army into a fully-fledged mercenary army. Saudi Arabia and Qatar had previously said that they intended to spend millions of dollars arming the ‘rebels’ and at the ‘Friends of Syria’ conference, the US, Britain and the gulf states agreed to spend millions more on providing the armed groups with unspecified ‘humanitarian’ assistance and ‘communications equipment’. The gulf states are also hoping their money will lure Syrian soldiers into defecting.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar operate on the basis of human cupidity and greed. They must be surprised on those occasions when they discover that not everyone has a price. Late last year the Qatari Prime Minister, Hamad bin Jasim al Thani, was reported to have offered Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Muallim $100 million and permanent residence in Qatar if he would defect. The occasion was a meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Jeddah. Muallim declined, asking in return, rhetorically of course, how much money Qatar had spent so far internationally and regionally to deepen the crisis in Syria. This follows on from the money Qatar spent on the destruction of the Libyan government.
In February eight million Syrians voted for political reform that will usher in a multi-party political system and will remove the Baath party as the central pillar of state and society. The armed gangs have been chased out of the cities where they had dug themselves in. Human rights groups and the media are finally drawing attention to what they have wilfully ignored for months, the extreme violence of the FSA and other groups of armed men, directed against soldiers and civilians. Recently Der Spiegel, rightwing and openly hostile to the Assad government, ran an article on the executioners of Homs, the men who were taking the captives of the FSA to a burial ground and cutting their throats. Interesting that none of the correspondents smuggled across the border into Homs seem to have picked this up before.
If there is a role for any outside party surely it should be to help wind down the conflict in Syria, not wind it up, yet this is precisely what the ‘Friends of Syria’ are doing. Will Ban Ki-Moon or Kofi Annan have anything to say about this? They have a peace plan which cannot possibly work as long as its ostensible supporters are working to undermine it. Syria has accepted the Annan plan but has made the obvious point that it cannot pull its soldiers and tanks off the streets unless the armed gangs lay down their weapons. Here we have Saudi Arabia and Qatar shelling out money to ensure they keep fighting, with the backing of the other ‘Friends of Syria’. We can see what this is intended to produce, a situation in which every time the Syrian army is involved in conflict with armed groups it will be blamed for violating the Annan plan. All the ‘rebels’ have to do is keep shooting. This is exactly what their peace-loving supporters meeting in Istanbul want them to do.
If there is a proper name for the group that met in Istanbul it should be the Bad Losers’ Conference. These people have thrown everything into the struggle to bring down the Syrian government. They have plotted and conspired. They have used their media and they have thrown money and weapons at the ‘rebels’ but they have failed. Assad – abused and insulted by them – is still there and more on top of the situation than he was a little while ago. It should be ‘game over’ but Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in particular, are determined to play on irrespective of the cost in human lives and destruction to Syria and its people.
Hillary Clinton or her public relations machine tried to give the impression that she was in Saudi Arabia to talk the Saudis out of doing anything rash. More likely she was there to frame how the next steps would be taken, with Saudi Arabia stepping out in front and the US appearing to follow on behind. There is no point in saying anything about Clinton. She is what she is and no comment is needed. The Saudis are driven by their own agenda, which is to set up a Sunni Muslim wall against Iran and Shi’ism across the Middle East. Does anyone seriously think they have the best interests of the Syrian people at heart?
As for Turkey, its relationships with near neighbors have been transformed in the space of a year from good to bad. Insofar as Syria is concerned, the Turkish Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister have burnt their bridges. It is either them or Assad from now on. Certainly there can be no resumption of good relations as long as he or they remain in government. Someone has to go and they are determined it is going to be him. Alienating Syria has meant alienating Iran and raising the suspicions of the Shia-dominated government in Iraq, which has strongly opposed Turkey’s line on Syria. In January the two countries exchanged harsh words over the warrant for arrest issued against Iraqi Vice President Tariq al Hashimi, a Sunni Muslim accused of organising death squads used against Shia Muslims. Fleeing to Kurdistan, Mr Hashimi has now turned up as a guest of the ruler of Qatar. He denies being ‘part of Turkey’s geopolitical project’ but admits to receiving ‘advice’ from Turkey and has stated that he feels ‘indebted’ to the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for ‘making statements on my case’.
These amounted to the view that Mr Hashimi was being pursued because he was a Sunni Muslim. At a party meeting in Ankara, the Turkish Prime Minister, responding to Iraqi accusations of meddling, said that ‘Mr Maliki [Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki, a Shia] should know very well that if you initiate a period of clashes in Iraq based on sectarian strife it is impossible for us to remain silent’. The refusal of the Kurdish governorate to hand Mr Hashemi over to the government in Baghdad deepens the divide between these two centres of power in Iraq. The warm welcome Mr Hashimi was given in Qatar is further evidence of the broader divide that is taking shape in the Middle East, with the US, the EU, the Gulf states and Turkey standing on one side and Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Russia and China on the other.
After the meeting of the ‘Friends of Syria’ in Istanbul, Nuri al Maliki strongly condemned the decision of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to give further support to the armed groups in Syria. ‘We reject any arming [of Syrian rebels] and the process to overthrow the regime because this will leave a greater crisis in the region. The stance of these two states is very strange. They are calling for sending arms instead of working to put out the fire and they will hear our voice, that we are against arming and against foreign interference. We are against the interference of some countries in Syria’s internal affairs and those countries that are interfering in Syria’s internal affairs will interfere in the internal affairs of any country’.
His position is shared by Egypt, whose Foreign Minister, Muhammad Kamal Amr said after the Istanbul meeting that ‘arming the Syrian opposition, as Egypt sees it, will increase the rate of killings and will transform the situation in Syria as a whole to full-scale civil war’. Egypt’s misgivings are certain to be shared by other Arab governments, suggesting that in their single-minded pursuit of the Syrian government and their continued support for armed ‘resistance’ the gulf states and Turkey are very much in a regional minority.
In confronting Syria, Turkey inevitably alienated Iran and further exacerbated relations by agreeing to give the US the right to install an anti-missile radar station on its soil. Its only possible use could be to forestall missile retaliation in the event of an attack on Iran by the US or Israel (or both). Turkey has tried to placate Iran but insofar as Syria is concerned Iran is standing firm. It knows full well that it is next on the chopping block.
A perceptible nervousness about the actions of the government is beginning to appear in the Turkish media. In confronting Syria in such a belligerent manner and giving support to an armed group carrying out attacks in a neighboring state, the government has opened a new chapter in Turkey’s foreign policy. The legal dimensions of this policy are now coming up for scrutiny. Writing in Hurriyet Daily News, Yusuf Kanli made the following observation: ‘In the absence of a declaration of war or authorisation by parliament, it is a crime under Turkish law to allow Turkish territory to be used for hostile purposes against any neighboring country. Turkey is hosting scores of rebel commanders and there are serious claims that the rebel forces are receiving arms through Turkish territory. With almost 50 per cent electoral support, the current Turkish government can escape all kinds of accountability but as electoral support cannot last forever, tomorrow may be bleak, particularly if the effort to change the Syrian regime fails’.
Well, up till now it has failed and the continued attempt to drive Bashar al Assad out of office is going to cost more lives than the thousands who have died so far. As Syria is not just the will of one man, contrary to the image projected by the media, what would this achieve anyway? Rather than back off and throw their weight behind a peaceful solution, the ‘Friends of Syria’ decided to continue their campaign of support for the armed men at the precise moment Kofi Annan is calling on everyone to lay down their arms. The logic is Macbeth’s. They have gone so far in this venture that ‘returning were as tedious as go o’er’ but it is Syria and Syrians who will have to pay the price for their decision to keep going.
- Jeremy Salt is an associate professor of Middle Eastern history and politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey.
- The belligerent “friends” of Syria in Istanbul (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Saudi Arabia to recognize, fund Syrian National Council; Russia rejects Syria resolution (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Syria blames terrorist gangs for massacre in Homs (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Amnesty International accused the International Criminal Court (ICC) of “political bias” after it refused to investigate crimes carried out by Israelis during the 2008-9 Gaza War.
The court’s chief prosecutor on Tuesday rejected a bid by the Palestinian Authority to clear the way for the permanent war crimes tribunal to investigate the attacks, which left at least 1,300 Palestinians dead.
The UK-based rights group criticized the ruling, saying the ICC had risked its independence.
“This dangerous decision opens the ICC to accusations of political bias and is inconsistent with the independence of the ICC. It also breaches the Rome Statute which clearly states that such matters should be considered by the institution’s judges,” said Marek Marczyński, head of Amnesty International’s International Justice campaign.
The ICC based its decision on Palestine not being determined as a state by UN bodies and ICC states, but Amnesty insists the court has ruled in error.
“For the past three years, the prosecutor has been considering the question of whether the Palestinian Authority is a “state” that comes under the jurisdiction of the ICC and whether the ICC can investigate crimes committed during the 2008-9 conflict in Gaza and southern Israel.”
“Now, despite Amnesty International’s calls and a very clear requirement in the ICC’s statute that the judges should decide on such matters, the Prosecutor has erroneously dodged the question, passing it to other political bodies.”
The long-awaited written ruling by Luis Moreno-Ocampo is also a setback to the Palestinian campaign for international recognition as an independent state.
Israel launched a deadly war on the Gaza Strip at the end of 2008, carrying out a series of indiscriminate bombing raids and ground invasions on heavily populated civilian areas.
Israel also bombed UN compounds in Gaza during the war.
Palestinians have attempted to seek justice through the international criminal system, with attempted prosecutions of Israeli war criminals.
In December 2009, a British court issued an arrest warrant of former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for her role in the killings, but the ruling was later overturned.
- Israel using Gaza as testing field for weapons: Meshaal (alethonews.wordpress.com)
They said that journalist Mohammed Anwar, 29, who works with Quds Press, was also taken from his home in the pre-dawn raid.
The sources said that the soldiers encircled the homes of both men, who are in the same suburb to the east of the city, and ordered them to get out of their homes because they are under arrest.
This is the third time Beitawi is detained and has served a total of four years in Israeli jails while it is the fourth time for the journalist who served four and a half years in the occupation jails.
Sources told the PIC that the soldiers also stormed a number of houses in the same suburb including that of MP Hamed Beitawi, which was thoroughly searched. They said that the soldiers might have taken other persons from the suburb.
- IOF soldiers arrest 15 Palestinians mostly in Nablus (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Israeli occupation forces round up 17 Palestinians including journalist, minors (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli soldiers raid office, home of detained journalist (alethonews.wordpress.com)
BETHLEHEM – Israeli forces demolished four ancient buildings and uprooted 52 electricity poles in lands near Bethlehem on Tuesday morning, locals said.
The electricity line that connects the Al-Makhrour neighborhood to nearby Beit Jala was destroyed by bulldozers, local anti-wall committee coordinator Mazin al-Azza told Ma’an.
Locals said the electricity connection had been installed eight years ago, and they never received a demolition order for it from Israeli authorities.
Al-Makhrour, west of Bethlehem, is considered a natural heritage site by the Center for Cultural Heritage Preservation. The hillside neighborhood is slated to be cut off from Beit Jala by Israel’s separation wall, the center says.
Syrian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jihad Maqdissi confirmed Tuesday that a United Nations delegation will arrive to Syria tomorrow to discuss the mechanisms for implementing International Envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.
As he reiterated Syria’s commitment and concern to implement Annan’s plan successfully, he criticized some Gulf countries’ decision to arm the so-called opposition, considering that this “targets Syria’s national security on one hand, and obstructs Annan’s mission on another hand”.
In parallel, international envoy Kofi Annan’s spokesman announced Tuesday that an advance UN team is expected in Damascus within the next two days.
“We expect the UN advance team on the deployment of monitors to arrive in Syria in the next 48 hours. They are there to work on the modalities of the deployment of monitors,” the spokesman told AFP.
- UN – Arab League envoy hails Syria’s plan acceptance (alethonews.wordpress.com)