Monday, July 25, 2005

The Stockwell tube shooting (contd)

The maintainers of the blog commented on my earlier article about this:

The Times reports that the innocent Brasilian Jean Charles de Menezes waited for, and caught a Number 2 Bus from near his home too Stockwell Tube Station, and was "under surveillance" for more than 20 minutes.

Do the Operation Kratos "rules of engagement" value the lives of Bus passengers less than those of Tibe passengers ?

Why was this alleged suicide bomber allowed to board a Bus ? If he was not considered to be a "threat to life" on the Bus, then why was he considered to be one before he got to a Tube train ?
These are indeed important questions. If the police considered Mr Menezes to be a suicide bomber in the process of carrying out an attack then surely they should have stopped him before he got on the bus, or even as soon as he left his house? It is possible of course that it wasn't until after he got off the bus that the police thought he might be a suicide bomber, but this is a vital question and demands an answer.

There is also the question of whether the police did enough to identify themselves as police when they challenged Mr Menezes. The eyewitness accounts suggest they did not shout "police" or "armed police". This might be a factor in explaining why Mr Menezes ran.

There plenty of questions that need answered here. I hope the inquiry will answer them and that if the police are found to be at fault then those responsible face the music and that procedures are altered if necessary.

Nevertheless, I think that shooting to kill someone who is in the process of carrying out a suicide bombing attack is the right policy (if there is no safe alternative). And where possible we should try and stop these people before they set out to blow themselves up in crowded areas.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

New No2ID pledge

Following the success of the earlier No2ID pledge, a new pledge has been set up, aimed at those who are opposed to ID cards but feel they cannot incur the fines or possible jail sentences associated with refusing to get one. The new pledge reads:

I will actively support those people who, on behalf of all of us*, refuse to register for an ID card, and I pledge to pay at least £20 into a fighting fund for them but only if 50000 other people will too.
The originator of the pledge is a mother called Franky Ma, and as the website explains this pledge is aimed at those who for whatever reason feel that they can't join in a campaign of non-compliance directly:
"As the mother of a young child I can't risk her rights with mine by contesting ID cards directly, but I want to do everything I can to make sure she grows up in a free country." - Franky

*Many people, including Franky, have told NO2ID that they really want to refuse to register but they feel that their professional or family responsibilities mean they cannot personally contest registration--which could stop them travelling, working, and exercising many other civil rights.

The government's so-called 'voluntary' phase is a lie. Linking your passport to the National Identity Register and ID card WITH NO OPT-OUT is coercion, not choice. It may, in fact, prove to be a violation of human rights conventions.

NO2ID has already found over 10,000 people willing to test this--and the government's apparent intent to starve out the non-compliant. They will need your support.
The aim is to collect 50,000 signatures for this pledge by 31st March 2006. Given that they got 10,000 signatures for the earlier pledge in a matter of weeks, with a 9th October deadline, I'd suggest they've got a good chance of achieving this.

The Stockwell tube shooting

After shooting a man dead on Friday, the police have announced that he was not in fact connected to the inquiry over the London bombings:

A Scotland Yard spokesman said last night that there would be an inquiry. "We are satisfied the victim of the Stockwell Tube shooting is not linked to our terrorist inquiry. For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one the Metropolitan police regrets.

"The man emerged from a block of flats in the Stockwell area that were under police surveillance as part of the investigation into the incidents on Thursday, July 21. He was followed by surveillance officers to the Underground station. His clothing and behaviour added to their suspicions. The circumstances that led to the man's death are being investigated."

Clearly things went badly wrong here for the police to shoot dead someone who was not carrying out a suicide attack, and one hopes that the investigation will clear up what exactly happened. It is too early to judge what happened here.

However, it seems to me that if the police had good reason to suspect that Mr Menezes was on his way to carrying out a suicide bombing, then they did not have much choice, when confronted with his refusal to obey police instructions to stop and his subsequent fleeing into a tube station including jumping a turnstile and running onto a tube train, but to do what they can to stop him. Had this really been a suicide bomber carrying out an attack, then it seems to me that shooting him dead was the right thing to do, to prevent many more lives being lost.

The sad fact is that since the emergence of suicide bombing in this country, the police face a very difficult situation when faced with someone they believe may be about to carry out such an attack. Failure to act could lead to dozens of people dying. Acting may require shooting the suspect dead. It follows that mistakes will be made.

Of course we should establish what happened to see if anything could have been done to prevent this tragedy, and if it becomes clear that the police had been incompetent then those responsible for the incompetence should face the music. But it is possible that, based on the information they had at the time of the incident, they had no choice but to do what they did. Such is the nature of the situation we face with the arrivial of suicide bombing in Britain.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Over 10,000 pledge to resist human livestock bill

The Register reports that the No2ID pledge set up by Phil Booth, the No2ID National Coordinator has reached its target of 10,000 signatures with several months to go before the October 9th deadline. The pledge states:

"I will refuse to register for an ID card and will donate £10 to a legal defence fund but only if 10000 other people will also make this same pledge."
It was set up back in June, and has thus reached its target in under 2 months.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

UK government pushes for data retention across the EU

Following the 7th July bombings in London, the British government is pushing for communications service providers to retain data for upto 3 years for access by the police and intelligence agencies:

Under the proposals, telecoms operators and Internet service providers would have to keep records of emails, telephone calls and text messages for between 12 months and three years. Law enforcement agencies would be able to see who had sent and received these communications, although the content of these communications would not be stored.

Home secretary Charles Clarke claims that the powers would help to establish links between individuals.
This move is despite the fact that the European Parliament recently rejected these proposals, though because the proposal was put forward under the "third pillar" it has no power to stop the proposals if the member states push ahead with them.

An extraordinary meeting of the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council called by Charles Clarke has given backing to these data retention powers. Yet, surely it would be trivial for any terrorists to circumvent such measures to try and spy on them. For example, each of the following methods would make data retention useless for monitoring who they communicate with:
  • Buying and regularly changing unregistered pay as you go mobile phones.
  • Using anonymous internet accounts and other anonymising services to hide your activities.
  • Communicating face to face.
  • Posting coded messages from newly created internet accounts to usenet groups, making it impossible to determine who the message was for, let alone who actually read it.
  • Communicating via dead drops.
  • Communicating via postal services.
So the end result is that all this data will be stored for the law abiding public and those who wish to circumvent it will do so easily.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Blog revamp

You might notice that my blog is looking a bit different! My old template had acquired a few bugs I couldn't eliminate for some reason so I ditched it and chose a new one (from Blogger's standard selection -- the old one was chosen from there too) which I've now tweaked. Constructive feedback is appreciated on the new choice.

Blogcritics UK -- become a book reviewer...

Tim Worstall is busy setting up a UK subsection of Blogcritics, a blog that is dedicated to letting bloggers submit book reviews. If you're interested in reviewing books then hop over there. The only commitment you need to make is that if you spot a book you want to review and they send you a copy, you will in fact write a review of it. Anyway more details at Tim's blog.