Fw: Internet social campaigning under threat

Lilia Patterson lilia at tlio.demon.co.uk
Fri Mar 31 01:01:28 BST 2000

Please excuse repetitions, if any

> RIGHT TO COMMUNICATE / Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill forum
> Peaceful protest is a "serious crime" in the British government's Bill
> to intercept private email communication
> Statement from GreenNet
> In September last year, at a conference on British government plans to
> give police and intelligence services the right to read private email,
> Patricia Hewitt, the minister for e-commerce, claimed these plans were
> necessary "because crime has become global and digital and we have to
> combat this". What she omitted to mention was that one of the "crimes"
> the government was setting out to combat was the kind of peaceful
> protest actions that took place in Seattle at the WTO meeting. This has
> now been made crystal clear in the proposed Regulation of Investigatory
> Powers (RIP) Bill. Continuing with a definition first brought in by the
> Thatcher government to allow police to tap the phones of union members
> in the 1985 British miners' strike, the Bill specifically designates
> "conduct by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose" to
> be "a serious crime" justifying an interception of their private email
> correspondence. The police requested that this measure be introduced in
> a report into the demonstration that took place at the City of London as
> part of an international day of protest actions on June
> 18th last year. There were violent clashes between the police and this
> initially non-violent demonstration.
> The group that organised the June 18th demonstration is a GreenNet user
> and much of the organisation for the international protest took place
> using GreenNet Internet facilities. If the RIP Bill had been in place
> last year there seems little doubt that the police would have applied
> for an order to force GreenNet to give them access to the private email
> of people involved in the June 18th events. The police would almost
> certainly have wanted a similar order over protest activities planned to
> coincide with the Seattle WTO meeting. Under the RIP Bill, they will now
> be able to obtain such facilities to spy on the activities of protest
> groups. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will have to build
> "interception capabilities" into their systems.  When served with an
> "interception warrant" they will be forced to intercept private email
> and convey its contents to the police or various intelligence services.
> Refusal to comply with a warrant will carry a maximum jail sentence of
> two years.  "Tipping-off" someone that their email is being read is
> punishable by up to five years jail.
> This also applies to informing anyone not authorised to know about the
> interception warrant. The warrant will initially be served on a named
> individual within an ISP. They may inform only those other people they
> need to help them implement the warrant and these, in turn, face the
> same penalties for tipping-off. The only exception allowed is to consult
> legal advisors.
> A separate section of the Bill deals with encryption. This provides for
> "properly authorised persons (such as members of the law enforcement,
> security and intelligence agencies) to serve written notices on
> individuals or bodies requiring the surrender of information (such as a
> decryption key) to enable them to understand (make intelligible)
> protected material which they lawfully hold, or are likely to."
> Such an order can be served on anyone "there are reasonable grounds for
> believing" has an encryption key. They could face two years jail for not
> revealing the key and are also subject to the same possible five year
> jail sentence as ISPs for informing someone that attempts are being made
> by the authorities to read their email. This section of the Bill has
> been widely condemned by civil liberties lawyers as reversing the
> fundamental right of a person to be presumed innocent until proven
> guilty and will almost certainly be challenged using the European
> Convention on Human Rights.
> The British Bill is part of long term plans that have been developed
> since 1993 to give law enforcement bodies around the world the ability
> to intercept and read modern digital communications. In that year, the
> FBI initiated an International Law Enforcement Telecommunications
> Seminar (ILETS) for that purpose. The ILETS group has operated behind
> the back of elected parliamentary bodies and within the European Union
> its plans have been implemented through secret meetings of the Council
> for Justice and Home Affairs (CJHA).
> An essential part of these plans involve international collaboration
> between law enforcement bodies. Large sections of the RIP Bill deal with
> "International mutual assistance agreements" to intercept
> communications. Particular reference is made to a
> "draft Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters" produced
> within the CJHA. This Convention lays out plans for communications
> taking place between individuals in one country to be intercepted in
> another. The RIP Bill includes specific legislation "to enable the
> United Kingdom to comply with the interception provisions in this
> draft". The Bill's Explanatory Notes go on to say that "Although no
> similar agreements are currently under negotiation, this subsection will
> provide flexibility for the future".
> In fact, Hansard records of a debate on the draft Convention in the
> House of Lords reveal that "it is hoped that in due course substantially
> similar provisions will be adopted by members of the Council of Europe
> and that there will be co-operation on similar lines with the United
> States and Commonwealth countries" (Lord Hoffman. Moving a report on
> behalf of the government. 7 May 1998).
> The Council of Europe has 41 member states and includes many countries
> with extremely dubious democratic credentials and some very partisan
> "law enforcement" bodies (Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Turkey, Russia,
> etc). At the same time, the ILETS group at the centre of the plans for
> international co-operation in communication interception includes Hong
> Kong, now part of mainland China.
> In many of these countries, opposition to the government or just
> fighting for democratic rights is regarded as "serious crime".  Yet the
> RIP Bill proposes open ended legislation to allow interception from the
> UK of "communications of subjects on the territory of  another country
> according to the law of that country" at the request of "the competent
> authority" in that country.
> It even proposes that "Since no decision is being made on the merits of
> the case...it is considered appropriate for these warrants to be issued
> by senior officials rather than the Secretary of State."
> The RIP Bill is an extremely reactionary piece of legislation dressed up
> with New Labour "spin" to make it appear as if it limits state spying on
> citizens when it actually extends it dramatically. The Bill represents a
> serious threat to the rights of those who use the Internet to campaign
> on social justice issues, both in Britain and internationally.
> Representation to the Home Office from GreenNet over this was
> disregarded. Although GreenNet's submission was included on the Home
> Office web site, the points we made were totally ignored in the Home
> Office summary of submissions. We have been one of the most active ISPs
> within the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) in expressing a
> viewpoint on the Bill, yet we were not included in the 20 strong ISPA
> delegation that the Home Office selected to meet.
> GreenNet intends working with sympathetic civil liberties groups,
> lawyers, politicians and Internet policy organizations against the
> passing of the Bill. We call for the widest possible international
> support for this campaign from ISPs and user groups using the Internet
> for social campaigning purposes. The RIP Bill represents a serious
> threat to us all. Campaigning against it will be an important part of
> the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) European Civil
> Society Internet Rights Campaign, which GreenNet is playing a major role
> in.
> Anyone who wants to help in this campaign please contact ir at gn.apc.org
>   Resources | Support | Services | Search | Contact | Home
>  1998 GreenNet UK
> I shall be organizing the campaign against the Bill for the Green Party
> of England and Wales.  Please get in touch if you would like to help.
> Chris Keene, Campaigns Committee, Green Party of England and Wales
> 90 The Parkway, Canvey Island, Essex SS8 0AE
> Tel 01268 682820   Fax 01268 514164   Email chris.keene at which.net
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