Sunday, July 10, 2005

Re: e-mail spying could have stopped London Bombers

Okay, there were a series of bombings in London the other day. I closed my previous posting with a warning to watch what the government leaders do ... because surely they're going to leverage the event to further some agenda of their own.

Here we go:

Email spying 'could have stopped killers' (Sunday July 10, 2005, The Observer)

Millions of personal email and mobile phone records could be stored and shared with police and intelligence officials across Europe to help thwart terrorist attacks.

The Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, will propose new measures at an emergency meeting of European Union interior ministers which will discuss the implications of Thursday's London bombings.

He raised the stakes dramatically by claiming they could 'quite possibly' have helped prevent such attacks, by identifying in advance suspicious patterns of behaviour by potential terrorists.

The article goes on to explain Clarke's proposal as tracking 'traffic data' (namely, sender/receiver/time of email transmissions, or other messaging systems). The goal is addressing this scenario:

'Terrorism today is by definition international: the more we can survey the way in which people operate, the way in which they make their phone calls, the better your chance of identifying patterns of behaviour which are a threat,' he said.

Hmmm... "patterns of behavior". Reminds me of the Total Information Awareness system proposed in the U.S. Defense Department.

Clarke also pledged to review draft plans for a crackdown on so-called 'acts preparatory to terrorism' - expected to include new offences of associating with a known terror suspect, targeting terrorist sympathisers - to see whether further measures are required. A new counter-terrorism bill had been almost complete when the bombers struck.

Okay, you can see where he's heading. He wants greater powers of surveillance so they can presumably catch these people before they do their deeds. Hmm.... Do you remember in the 1990's, after every school shooting President Clinton would make a speech demanding more surveillance powers for the FBI?

Clearly the government leaders agenda is to more efficiently track our every movements.

We have to think about this very carefully. Do you really want the government to know your every move? For the government to know who you talk with and when?

UPDATE: Apparently they're not just going to go after conversations (email or otherwise). Additionally they're going to install body scanners at "tube" stations:

Body scan machines to be used on Tube passengers (By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent, London Times)

TUBE passengers are to have their bodies scanned by machines that see through clothing in an attempt to prevent further terrorist attacks. The millimetre wave imagers will be used to carry out random checks as people enter stations after services resume today.

... The scanners can spot the waistcoat bombs usually worn by suicide bombers and automatically send an alert to nearby officers. Unlike other scanners, they can cover crowded entrances without the need for people to be stopped for individual checks.

... Simon Stringer, managing director of QinetiQ’s security division, said: “We have been asked to deploy some of this equipment.

“It would certainly assist in preventing this sort of thing from happening again.

“After today, I expect the travelling public will be more prepared to put up with a greater level of surveillance.