"tom watson"

Appeals Court: Britain's Snoopers Charter is illegal mass surveillance and must be urgently reformed

Just over a year ago, the top court in Europe ruled that the Snoopers Charter, a mass surveillance regime created by the ruling Tory party, was unconstitutional. Read the rest

Court rules against UK government's surveillance legislation

A European court has ruled that the UK cannot subject its citizens to indiscriminate data collection unless the data retained is being used solely to fight serious crime, reports the BBC.

The verdict concerns an earlier incarnation of Britain's blanket domestic surveillance plans brought to court by opponensts. It does not specifically address the recently-passed "Snooper's Charter," though experts say it will lead directly to a legal challenge against it. The charter, officially known as the Investigatory Powers Act, requires phone companies and internet providers to maintain records of users' online activity for a year.

One irony of it is that an original champion of the challenge, David Davis, is now Britain's Brexit chief: he left the case after a change of personal circumstances led to a sharp change in his principles regarding privacy.

Mr Davis, who had long campaigned on civil liberties issues, left the case after Theresa May appointed him to her cabinet in July.

Tom Watson, Labour's deputy leader, who is one of those bringing the case, said: "This ruling shows it's counter-productive to rush new laws through Parliament without a proper scrutiny."

The Home Office said it would be putting forward "robust arguments" to the Court of Appeal.

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Europe's top court says UK surveillance rules are unconstitutional

Last July, the European Court of Jutice's Advocate General ruled that the UK's mass surveillance regime was unconstitutional, triggering an appeal to the ECJ itself, which has affirmed that under European law, governments cannot order retention of all communications data; they must inform subjects after surveillance has concluded; must only engage in mass surveillance in the pursuit of serious crime; and must get independent, judicial authorization. Read the rest

Brexit is a victory for mass surveillance; EU rules Snoopers Charter is illegal

Before Theresa May became Prime Minister of the UK, she was the Pry Minister of the UK, the principle proponent of the Snoopers Charter, a sweeping domestic surveillance bill that the European Court of Justice's Advocate General has just found to be excessive under EU law. Read the rest

Five questions every journalist should be asking would-be UK Labour leader Angela Eagle

UK politics are in disarray: the leaders of the Conservative and UK Independence Parties have both quit; the Tory leadership race is a neverending night of the long knives and the Blairite wing of the Labour Party can't figure out which dice-lawyers to trust on their roll for initiative. Read the rest

Clement Freud accused of serial sexual abuse of children

Two women have come forward to accuse Sir Clement Freud, grandson of Sigmund, MP, broadcaster, dogfood spokesman, and children's author of sexually abusing them when they were children, and of rape. Read the rest

UK Labour Party elects its first left-wing leader in more than 20 years

After decades of Blairite, New Labour politics that catered to banks, built out mass surveillance and attacked unions and the working poor, the UK Labour Party has elected a genuine left-wing leader, by a landslide: democratic socialist Jeremy Corbyn. Read the rest

UK's mass surveillance bill is illegal

High Court judges ruled that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (#DRIP) was inconsistent with the European convention on human rights. Read the rest

Open Rights Group wants to sue UK government over #DRIP, needs your help

Parliament has passed #DRIP, a sweeping, illegal surveillance bill that doubles down on the old surveillance law, which was struck down by the European Court for violating fundamental human rights. Read the rest

Cowardice meets arrogance in UK surveillance stitch up

The leadership of the major UK political parties are set to ram through a sweeping surveillance bill without debate or study. It's a perfect storm of cowardice and arrogance, and it comes at a price. Cory Doctorow wants you to do something about it.

UK government set to ram through surveillance legislation

The UK government is has put MPs on notice that a bill will be considered and moved on July 14, but they won't say what it is. Veteran Labour MP Tom Watson thinks it's data retention legislation that will enlist the private sector to comprehensively spy on everything you do and save it for long periods, turning it over to the government when asked. And almost no one -- not even MPs -- will get a chance to read the bill right up to the last minute, when they'll be whipped to vote for it by their party leadership. Read the rest

Top lawyer finds GCHQ spying is illegal & UK spies who help US drone strike may be accessories to murder

UK Labour Member of Parliament Tom Watson writes, "I thought you might be interested to read the latest developments on the drones and data collection front. I've asked privacy expert Jemima Stratford QC for her legal opinion on aspects of the Snowden revelations. Contrary to reassurance from the Foreign Secretary and Chair of the ISC she finds [PDF]:

1. interception of 'internal' contents data of British citizens in the UK is unlawful under RIPA [ed: the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000; the UK's controversial spying bill]

2. the RIPA framework is outdated and not fit for purpose, leaving British citizens exposed to unlawful interference

3. transfer of data to NSA, which shares data with CIA, leaves GCHQ officials exposed to charges of aiding murder in the UK where the government knows that data is available for use to direct drone strikes against non-combatants

Further, she argues:

4. the government should agree and publish a new memorandum of understanding with the US specifying how data from UK can be stored and used by foreign agents.

Watson doesn't do the report justice, really -- Stratford's opinion includes that UK participation in US drone strikes opens up individual UK intelligence operatives to being charged as accessories to murder. Watson sent copies of the report to all the members of the all-party parliamentary drone group, which of which he is chair. He's also sending it to the parliamentary intelligence and security committee for their own hearings on surveillance.

The Guardian has a great summary of the memo here, but really, you should read it yourself [PDF] -- it's a very quick and easy read. Read the rest

Brits! Write to tell your MP to debate spying in Parliament this Thu!

Jim from the Open Rights Group sez, "The UK's Parliament hasn't debated the consequences of the Edward Snowden revelations once: except to listen to pland reassurances right at the start, and to complain about the Guardian last week. Now Julian Huppert, Tom Watson and Dominic Raab have got a proper debate to open up the real questions about the extent and failure of oversight to prevent dragnet surveillance. If you're the UK, please ask your MP to go to the debate and start asking the difficult questions" Read the rest

Dial M for Murdoch: exhaustive account of the UK tabloids' criminality and the resulting coverup

Tom Watson and Martin Hickman's Dial M for Murdoch is a timely, informative, infuriating insider account of the News International phone-hacking scandal that has occupied the news-cycle, off and on, for several years now (and shows no sign of slowing down). Watson, a veteran Member of Parliament -- and frequent target of the Murdoch press and its hackers and snoops -- was an early and consistent voice of alarm over the scale and illegality of the Murdoch tabloids' investigative methods. He's uniquely well-situated to tell this story. His co-writer, Martin Hickman, is a veteran investigative reporter who covered the story for the Independent. They make a good pair, and the narrative is relatively smoothly told and, at times, is very powerfully written.

The Murdoch papers -- and other UK tabloids and papers -- wield tremendous influence in the halls of British power. Dial M traces the intimate connections between the press and senior ministers, elected officials, and -- crucially -- the police in the UK. As the flagship Murdoch tabloid, News of the World attained the highest circulation of any English-language paper, and seems to have led the world in illegal investigation techniques as well. The early inklings of the scope of the company's criminality were systematically understated by the press, underrated by the police, pooh-poohed by officials (from every party), and buried.

But the story wouldn't die. There were just too many victims, a sympathetic poster-child for everyone -- dead soldiers and their families, terrorist bombing victims, royals, the families of murdered children, and so on. Read the rest

UK education minister: times are tough, let's spend £60M on a new yacht for the Queen!

Britain's flamboyantly weird education secretary Michael Gove sometimes seems to me to be some kind of secret saboteur, bent on discrediting Tories as out-of-touch rich nutjobs. Education budgets are being hacked and slashed, teachers being laid off, class sizes ballooning -- so he proposes stuff like "Let's give every child a Bible!" and "Let's make Latin mandatory!"

But his latest suggestion is weird even by Gove's lights: "Let's buy the Queen a £60M yacht! Because that will help us all celebrate the diamond jubilee and put us in a great mood!"

Clegg who was responding to a question about the idea after giving a speech on the economy, said he wasn't going to comment on leaks – Gove's letter punting the idea – but joked about "haves and have-yachts".

In the confidential leaked letter that Gove sent to fellow ministers, he urged: "In spite, and perhaps because of, the austere times, the celebration should go beyond those of previous jubilees and mark the greater achievement that the diamond anniversary represents." He suggested "a gift from the nation to her majesty" such as "David Willetts's excellent suggestion of a royal yacht".

Tom Watson, the Labour party chairman, said the whole idea showed how out of touch Gove was. In a blog, he posted that although the diamond jubilee should be celebrated, Michael Gove has shown he is "out of touch" with this proposal.

Downing Street rejects diamond jubilee royal yacht idea

(Image: Mega-Yacht, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from simiant's photostream) Read the rest

James Murdoch, "the first Mafia boss in history who didn't know he was running a criminal enterprise"

James Murdoch has been hauled back before Britain's Parliament to answer questions about what he knew and to what extent he is culpable in the News of the World/phone hacking scandal. In the BBC clip linked below, MP Tom Watson asks Murdoch if he knows what "omerta" means (Murdoch demurs). Then Murdoch embarks on a "mistakes were made" (well, "it is regrettable that things went wrong") statement that culminates with Watson asking Murdoch if he felt a comparison between News UK and the Mafia was apt. Murdoch disagrees. Watson finishes by noting that Murdoch must be "the first Mafia boss in history who didn't know he was running a criminal enterprise." To which Murdoch replies, "Mr Watson, please."

It's quite a moment.

Tom Watson labels James Murdoch 'mafia boss' Read the rest

Tom Watson to attend NewsCorp board meetings with "details of previously undisclosed surveillance methods"

Tom Watson, the Labour MP who's tirelessly hounded Murdoch's News of the World over its illegal spying, has flown to the USA to attend the NewsCorp's shareholder meeting (he's got the AFL-CIO's proxy) to reveal that NewsCorp's sins go much deeper than the odd bit of mass-scale crude voicemail hacking. This is a pretty plausible allegation -- the idea that a firm as ruthless and moneyed as NewsCorp would stoop to voicemail hacking but stop there is pretty implausible. I assume that the leaker(s) who are releasing the intelligence about NewsCorp's misdeeds are timing their revelations to ensure that Rupert and his progeny twist and writhe as much as possible, coming up with new, more dire revelations every time the Murdochs appear to have settled things -- ideally these revelations should also reveal the previous round of spin as a pack of half-truths, twisted truths and outright lies. And ideally, each fresh revelation will inspire more leakers to come foreward.

NewsCorp has an odd corporate structure that gives control over the company to the Murdochs, even though they don't own the majority of shares. As activist shareholders begin to mobilize, the possibility of the Murdochs being chucked out of NewsCorp becomes more and more real.

Watson has flown to Los Angeles to attend the shareholders meeting, which he will gain access to having been given a proxy vote by the US trade union umbrella group, the AFL-CIO. News Corporation is bracing itself for independent shareholders to vote in considerable numbers at the meeting against the reappointment of Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal.

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