British government’s Libyan torture scandal


This video is called Tony Blair meets Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Libya rendition victims demand disclosure of UK surveillance policy

The government’s refusal to reveal when lawyers’ and journalists’ communications can be intercepted is central to claim brought on behalf of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi

Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent

Friday 17 October 2014 10.05 BST

Secret government policies which set out when lawyers’ or journalists’ phones and emails can be intercepted should be published, a court has been told.

In an open hearing of the investigatory powers tribunal (IPT), which examines complaints against the intelligence services and government use of surveillance, lawyers for two Libyan victims of rendition have called for the documents to be released.

The government’s refusal to reveal the policy papers has emerged as a key issue in the claim brought on behalf of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi who, along with members of their families, were kidnapped and sent to face punishment in Libya in 2004.

The case before the IPT alleges that the intelligence agencies or government spied on their communications with their lawyers, damaging their right to a fair trial in their claim for compensation for kidnap and torture.

Communication between lawyers and their clients are deemed to be “privileged” under longstanding rules. Similar protection applies to the communications between journalists and their sources and other protected groups.

In a hearing at the IPT, Dinah Rose QC, representing the Libyans, said: “We don’t understand why it’s being said that disclosure of policy will cause harm to national security. None of this information ought to be secret. Procedures for ensuring that privileged material is properly protected ought to be open to public scrutiny.”

The government has declined to disclose policies regulating the circumstances in which these communications are intercepted and any safeguards in place to avoid abuse. It says they are secret.

At Thursday evening’s hearing, lawyers for the government did not explain why the policies could not be released. Further preliminary hearings will be held before the case is tried in November. One issue is whether the tribunal has the power to order the government to disclose documents, a principle that could turn into a major confrontation between civil rights groups and the government.

The IPT complaint is one of a series of cases after revelations by the CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden about monitoring of the internet and telephone calls by Britain’s eavesdropping agency, GCHQ, through its Tempora programme.

Eight Libyans, members of the two families, say they were victims of rendition. They claim they were kidnapped by MI6 and US intelligence agencies, forcibly returned to Muammar Gaddafi’s regime and tortured. At that time, in 2004, when Gaddafi relinquished his nuclear weapons programme, intelligence relations between Tripoli, London and Washington were close.

A separate legal action between Belhaj and the UK government is due to be heard at the high court to resolve compensation for the kidnap and torture allegations. The human rights group Reprieve, which is supporting the claim, fears its ability to fight the case will be undermined because staff’s legal correspondence may be surreptitiously monitored.

Saadi, another Libyan dissident, and his family have settled their claim against the government for a payment of £2.2m. The Foreign Office did not, however, admit liability.

The “notice of complaint” by solicitors at Leigh Day on behalf of Reprieve and the Libyans lists the Security Service (MI5), the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, the home secretary and the foreign secretary as respondents. It calls for the case to be heard in open court. Most of the IPT’s hearings are in secret.

The claims states: “There is a strong likelihood that the respondents have intercepted and are intercepting the applicants’ legally privileged communications in respect of the [cases].”

Belhaj and Saadi were prominent military leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group during the revolution, the document points out, and are, therefore, “likely to be of interest” to UK intelligence agencies.

British bird migration to Africa, problems


This video is a documentary about bird migration and their stop overs in the North West of England.

From BirdLife:

New report reveals scale of declines of UK migratory birds wintering in Africa

By Martin Fowlie, Thu, 16/10/2014 – 15:53

The migration of millions of birds across the face of the planet is one of nature’s greatest annual events. Every spring some species move in one direction, while every autumn those same species move in the opposite one, very often linking continents.

Although these migration patterns are as regular as the seasons, monitoring is revealing that, for some species, fewer birds are making the journey each season as the populations of these birds, including species nesting in the UK, are declining rapidly.

The latest in the annual series of State of the UK’s Birds report includes a migratory birds section, including trends for 29 migrant species which nest in the UK in summer and spend the winter around the Mediterranean, or in Africa south of the Sahara Desert. For the first time the recent population trends for these migratory species have been combined into an indicator revealing some marked differences between species that winter in different areas.

Species, such as Whinchat, Common Nightingale, Tree Pipit and Spotted Flycatcher, which winter in the humid zone of Africa – stretching across the continent from southern Senegal to Nigeria and beyond – show the most dramatic declines: the indicator for this group of species has dropped by just over 70% since the late 1980s. This contrasts with species, such as Sand martin, Common Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler, wintering in the arid zone (just below the Sahara desert). These species have fluctuated considerably since 1970, but show a less than 20% decline overall.

One of the most dramatic declines is that of the European Turtle-dove with a decline of 88% since 1995. The following species have also declined over the same period: Wood Warbler, 66%; European Pied Flycatcher, 53%; Spotted Flycatcher, 49%; Common Cuckoo, 49%; Common Nightingale, 43%; and Yellow Wagtail, 43%.

Concern about migratory bird species is growing and future editions of the State of the UK’s Birds report will contain a regular update to the migratory bird indicator. To understand the changing status of the UK’s migratory birds, researchers need to understand more about what’s driving these declines. Evidence is currently being gathered from a variety of sources including tracking studies and on-the-ground surveys.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: ‘West Africa is the winter home for many bird species that breed in the UK. But many of these birds that cross continents are in rapid decline. Their nomadic lifestyle, requiring sites and resources spread over vast distances across the globe makes identifying and understanding the causes of decline extremely complex.

‘The problems may be in the UK or in West Africa, or indeed on migration in between the two.’

David Noble, Principal Ecologist at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), said: ‘We can accurately monitor the patterns of decline in these once-familiar summer breeders thanks to several decades of careful observations by an army of volunteer birdwatchers. More recently, tracking devices have shed light on migratory routes and key wintering areas.

‘To take appropriate action, further study is needed to determine the pressures faced in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as breeding here in the UK.’

Colette Hall, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) Species Monitoring Officer, said: ‘The length of many bird migrations – often thousands of miles – makes it very difficult to pinpoint where and what is causing populations to fall.

‘So the more information we can get all along the migration routes – on land use changes, new infrastructure etc – the better we can target protection measures. It’s important that we help build up the capacity of local bird organisations and volunteers across the world to provide vital information through their own long-term monitoring.’

Alan Law, Director of Biodiversity Delivery at Natural England said: ‘It is self-evident that effective conservation of a migratory species requires appropriate measures to be in place at each step of the migratory cycle.

‘For some species, there is growing evidence of pressure on breeding success here in England. Our focus therefore is to ensure that well-managed habitats are available in this country so that migratory species can breed here successfully; this work involves close collaboration with land managers both on designated conservation sites and across the wider farmed countryside.’

David Stroud, Senior Ornithologist with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, said: ‘Migratory birds depend on conservation actions in all the countries they move through in the course of their annual cycle.

‘The UK is working with these countries to help improve the condition of their critical habitats through its participation in multi-lateral environmental agreements such as the Biodiversity Convention and the Ramsar Convention on wetlands.’

The State of the UK’s Birds report also covers the UK’s Overseas Territories. The latest evidence reveals mixed fortunes for two important albatross populations in the UK’s Overseas Territories. Seventy per cent of the world’s Black-browed Albatrosses nest in the Falkland Islands. A population increase here has allowed researchers to downgrade the extinction threat of this species from Endangered to Near Threatened. Sadly, the fortunes of the Grey-headed Albatross has deteriorated as declines have been reported in nesting colonies on South Georgia, which hosts half the world’s population.

The State of the UK’s Birds report is published by a partnership of eight organisations: RSPB; British Trust for Ornithology; Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust; Natural Resources Wales; Natural England; Northern Ireland Environment Agency; Scottish Natural Heritage; and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Anti-fascism in Britain, 1936-2014


This video from Britain says about itself:

26 September 2012

The magnificent mural in Cable Street in East London, depicts the 1936 battle of Cable Street, when East end residents stopped Oswald Mosley and his fascist followers marching through their streets. In this powerful dissection of what happened, the real battle we learn was three way, between the police, the fascists and local people. Interwoven with eye witness testimony from Bill Fishman, Alan Hudson provides a riveting account of the events, the context and many hidden truths. The official labour movement tried to stop the anti-fascist protests and organised an alternative rally in Trafalgar Square. Lessons for today come thick and fast and we are left to contemplate the mural’s contemporary meaning.

By Gerry Gable in Britain:

They still shall not pass

Saturday 4th October 2014

Gerry Gable reports on the state of Britain’s extreme right 78 years after the Battle of Cable Street

In October 1936 the nature of fascism and national socialism was far clearer to the people of Britain.

In Spain a democratically elected socialist government was under attack by Spanish fascist generals supported by Moorish troops under General Franco’s command and armed and supported by Hitler’s Luftwaffe and Mussolini’s fascist volunteers.

While thousands of anti-fascists ranging from Communists to even the odd Conservative from a multitude of countries rallied to the defence of the Spanish republic behind the slogan: “They shall not pass”, at home their counterparts, Mosley’s jackbooted, black-shirted private army with its wealthy and influential backers, and the barking mad Arnold Leese’s Imperial Fascist League, which had advocated the mass gassing of Jews since 1928, were out in the open, and the people reacted in the most appropriate way — by confronting them on the streets.

Move forward to today and the enemy, who in the main have hardly shifted in their warped ideology, now come in multiple forms and sizes.

The past five years have witnessed the collapse of the British National Party, the first British nazi party to make a breakthrough at the ballot box with, at one stage, more than 60 elected local councillors and another 40 or so on parish and town councils, many elected unopposed, as well as two MEPs.

In terms of membership, the BNP never reached the size of Britain’s largest post-war fascist movement, the National Front, which similarly underwent a rapid collapse after its heyday in the 1970s.

The BNP never had more than 15,000 members and at the end of 2013 officially had 4,220 members and falling.

Since then the party has lost its two MEPs as well as its leader, Nick Griffin, who resigned from the chairmanship in July and was booted out of the party this week, is now keener to spend time in Russia and Syria, and with leaders of the murderous Golden Dawn in Greece and Forza Nuova in Italy.

In Britain Griffin, who had been appointed BNP president, had been undermining his successor Adam Walker, resulting in his expulsion from the party on October 1.

Various split-offs from the BNP have gone nowhere. Those slightly less thuggish nazis around the former BNP MEP Andrew Brons, founder of the British Democratic Party, are rarely heard of. Britain First has barged its way into the headlines with its green-uniformed mosque invasions, but has lost its financial backer James Dowson and its leader Paul Golding is awaiting trial for harassment and wearing a political uniform. And the rump of the National Front has split yet again.

So where does the danger come from? The English Defence League certainly presented a problem, with its marches of thousands of drunken racists around the streets of our major cities giving rise to community tension and disruption.

They have been joined by some well-organised and violent Polish nazis living in Britain who boast at private nazi meetings about carrying out violent attacks on black, Muslim and Jewish people.

Searchlight predicted that the anti-fascist movement would be tested by having to defend communities country-wide nearly every weekend.

Investigations of the EDL uncovered the fact that it was initiated by a group of wealthy businesspeople, who were pulling the strings. However on the streets the organisation, which has no formal membership, was badly led by a pair of low-level convicted criminals. The greater problem would come, we said, when the EDL splintered into small but violent factions.

The EDL have tried three times to mount major marches into the area around Cable Street. On each occasion they have been repulsed by a united front of thousands of people drawn from the local community and further afield. They still have not passed.

Hungarian nazis have also tried to organise in London but were beaten off by large numbers of anti-fascists led by UAF.

But Britain’s fascists are best organised outside the media spotlight. There are three centres for their operations. One is the Traditional Britain Group (TBG), a follow-on from the far-right Monday Club and Western Goals of the 1960s and 1970s.

The TBG organises closed meetings and conferences, bringing into the country well-known overseas extremists, and has links to several millionaires who finance websites and publications internationally.

The TBG also acts as a bridge between fascists and a number of ultra-Tory groups, where one finds Conservatives sitting down with former senior nazi activists such as the infamous former NF organiser Martin Webster.

The second is the Iona London Forum, which also brings in overseas nazis to address its private meetings. These include Germans, Italians, Poles, Spaniards, Swedes, Russians and Americans, including last weekend the key US nazi Mark Webber.

Some have hate-crime convictions in their own countries, but have no trouble entering Britain. Among Iona’s speakers are Holocaust denier David Irving and disgraced fascist bishop Richard Williamson.

The most worrying development is the arrival on the far-right scene of Generation Identity. This group first surfaced in Sweden at a secret meeting attended by Russian fascists such as Alexandr Dugin and the French extremist philosopher Alain de Benoist.

GI believe the “white race” has been brought down by two calamities — the defeat of nazi Germany and what they term the Marxist cultural revolution of 1968, when young people in the West stood up in a left-oriented revolt.

GI are close to the TBG and Iona and are not boneheads or sub-working class but middle and upper-class young people at university or recently graduated. They tell their followers they are prepared to die for their beliefs.

This weekend they were to have gathered in Budapest for a very important conference. For some months Searchlight has exposed their plans and last weekend the Hungarian government banned the conference.

Since last October a series of nazi conferences have taken place in London, Vienna, Crimea, Stockholm and several mainly young far-right extremists, as well as Griffin, have visited Syria for meetings with the Syrian fascist party, founded in 1936 in support of fascist Italy and still approved of by President Assad today.

Readers may wonder why this article does not mention Ukip — well that would need another article.

Searchlight, since its creation 50 years ago, has always been intelligence-led and we are very proud of the work of our volunteers working inside the extreme right in Britain and abroad. From the outset we have worked on the basis that, in the battle to defend democracy against its enemies, we can never win unless we know our enemies’ plans, make a sound analysis and use it to best effect against them.

Gerry Gable is editor and publisher of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight.

Bahraini dictatorship’s hacking of computers in Britain


This 13 May 2013 video is called UK spyware used against Bahraini activists – Ala’a Shehabi.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

UK police asked to investigate alleged Bahraini hacking of exiles’ computers

Rights group Privacy International files complaint that officials illegally monitored devices of pro-democracy trio in UK

Owen Bowcott, legal affairs correspondent

Monday 13 October 2014 11.16 BST

The police National Cyber Crime Unit has been asked to investigate claims that computers and mobile phones used by exiled Bahraini pro-democracy activists living in the UK are under illegal surveillance.

A complaint about Bahraini officials’ alleged monitoring of the devices was compiled by the civil liberties group Privacy International (PI) and submitted to the Metropolitan police on Monday.

The remote interference is said to have started after Dr Saeed Shehabi, Jaafar al-Hasabi and Mohammed Moosa Abd-Ali Ali inadvertently downloaded malicious software or had their machines infected by the programs. The intrusive technology is able to copy and transmit documents, remotely turn on cameras and microphones to record, as well as send emails from other people’s accounts, according to PI.

It said the technology involved was FinFisher, software once owned by Gamma International, a company that used to be based in Andover, Hampshire, but is now run by a firm based in Germany.

The complaint is partially based on evidence published in August by Bahrain Watch and WikiLeaks, which, it is said, details exchanges between Bahraini officials and Finfisher staff who were providing technical support.

The three men allegedly targeted are human rights activists who oppose the current regime in Bahrain and have been granted asylum in the UK.

Moosa Abd-Ali Ali and Hasabi had both been detained and tortured in Bahrain. Shehabi has been sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia and had his Bahraini citizenship revoked.

“We often had the feeling that they were spying on us but we had no physical evidence of intrusion,” said Shehabi, 60, who is a journalist. “I have lived here since 1971. I thought I was under British protection.”

His only direct evidence of computer interference was when his Twitter account inexplicably began following more and more people; on another occasion, he said, his daughter’s travel plans were disclosed to Bahraini government officials. Three years ago his home in the UK was the target of an arson attack.

Hasabi, 43, an IT specialist, said he had received numerous emails which he did not open because they appeared suspicious. He was alarmed to see his computer’s details appear in the WikiLeaks list online.

Moosa Abd-Ali Ali, 33, a TV camera operator, said: “Many times I received notices from my friends that I had sent them emails when I had not. Once I opened up my Facebook page and found that someone was writing it. Later I found it had been deleted. On other occasions I received notices from Gmail saying someone had tried to hack into my account.

“When I first came to the UK I felt safe but I don’t any more. They have hacked my computer.”

PI said: “It is clear from the Gamma documents published online that among those targeted by the Bahraini government with FinFisher technology were Mohammed, Jaafar and Saeed, along with prominent Bahraini opposition politicians, democracy activists and human rights lawyers.

FinFisher was developed and produced by the British company Gamma International. Promotional material for FinFisher shows that it allows its user full access to a target’s infected device and everything contained within it, even enabling them to turn on functions such as cameras and microphones.

“Reports from the Citizen Lab suggest that FinFisher command and control servers have been found in 35 countries, including Ethiopia, Turkmenistan, Bahrain, and Malaysia.”

The National Cyber Crime Unit is part of the National Crime Agency. Earlier this year PI made a similar complaint to police about alleged surveillance of the computer of an Ethiopian activist living in the UK.

Commenting on the alleged surveillance of the Ethiopian, a Metropolitan police spokesperson said: “On 28 February 2014, we received an allegation that a man in Islington had had his computer accessed without authorisation. This matter is currently under investigation by Islington CID.”

PI alleges that surveillance carried out by Bahraini authorities amounts to unlawful interception of communications under section 1 of the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) 2000.

FinFisher and its previous owner Gamma have previously claimed they only sold their products to responsible governments. The German-based firm did not respond to requests for a comment, nor did the embassy of Bahrain.

See also here. And here.

Bahraini government, with help from FinFisher, tracks activists living in the UK: here.

FinFisher spyware used to snoop on Bahraini activists, police told. Gamma International on the end of UK criminal complaint: here.

Privacy International files criminal complaint on behalf of Bahraini activists targeted by spyware FinFisher: here.

G4S Bahrain to provide manned and electronic security to [Saudi] Al Arab News: here.