Thursday, March 05, 2009


Amnesty are asking people to draw attention to a shocking statistic: ‘Each year, around 1 in 10 women in Britain experience rape or other violence. One in four local authorities leave female victims of violence without the specialised support they need’.

Amnesty want to persuade thousands of people on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter to update their avatars and statuses at 1:10 on Friday 6th March. The status update is: Each year, 1 in 10 women in Britain experience rape or other violence. Act now.

On Twitter, Amnesty are asking members to change their profile picture to our avatar and use #1in10 to spread the message.

And Amnesty are then directing everyone to where they can see which services are missing in their local area and email their MP, asking them to do something to sort it out.

There is a big debate going on aboutwhether this statistic is accurate over on Liberal Conspiracy, so I emailed Amnesty to see if they could shed any further light on it. They replied:

'The information for this particular action is taken from the Map of Gaps Report 2, a report by End Violence Against Women (a coalition that Amnesty is part of - we have a Stop Violence Against Women campaign) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The actual statistic 'Each year, around 1 in ten women in Britain will experience rape and or other violence. One in four local authorities leave female victims of violence without the specialised support they need' is a condensed version of the statistic Over 30 million women live in Britain. Each year, 3 million women in Britain experience rape, domestic violence, stalking or other violence. One in four local authority areas leave women who experience violence without any support from the from the Map of Gaps Report 2, and is featured on the homepage of the website
We are promoting this condensed version to people on online social networks so that they can use it as a status update on Facebook / Myspace or a tweet on Twitter, in order to raise awareness of this situation across these online communities - The link that we're asking people to put at the end of this statistic on their profile update is which takes you to a landing page featuring further information and a link to which contains all the relevant detailed statistics and the Map of Gaps Report 2 .

This site is a microsite which explains the Map of Gaps Report 2 and provides the functionality for users to find out which services are lacking in their local area and email their MP directly from the site. This is the action that we are promoting - we are not asking for any donation.

We are campaigning on violence against women in this instance as we are using the opportunity to raise awareness for International Women's Day - I have forwarded your email on to our Stop Violence Against Women campaign manager but if you are interested, we have a short video on the campaign '

So thanks for that Amnesty. And please do support this campaign.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

On prisoner suffrage and the euro-elections

Dizzy Thinks...are the euro-elections validity going to be legally challenged?
Jailhouse Lawyer aka John Hirst has been working for prisoner suffrage for a very long time. Let's see if this gets anywhere.

And before people appear in the comments to have a go at me for linking to John: I am quite aware of John's past, and it has always been my opinion that people who commit horrendous crimes should go to jail, and not only be punished but if possible, rehabilitated. And if whilst they are in there they decide to learn law, take an interest in bettering the lives of others, and then having served their time, go on to do useful and helpful things, such as become a human rights campaigner and live a law-abiding and peaceful life, they should be commended for it, though nothing can make right taking a life, or bring comfort to the victim's family and friends. And prisoner suffrage is a good thing, and the right to vote is a human right, and unpopular as this may be, I will support it.

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'I was told that it had been decided that as a matter of War on Terror policy we should now obtain intelligence from torture...'

(via Justin)
Former Ambassador Craig Murray needs your help. Craig writes...

'On Tuesday 10 March the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights will discuss whether or not to hear my evidence on the UK government's policy of using intelligence from torture. They discussed whether to hear my evidence on 3 March but failed to reach a conclusion.

The government is lobbying hard for my exclusion. I need everybody to send an email to to urge that I should be allowed to give evidence. Just a one-liner would be fine. If you are able to add some comment on the import of my evidence, or indicate that you have heard me speak or read my work, that may help. Please copy your email to

Please also pass on this plea to anyone you can and urge them to act. Help from other bloggers in posting this appeal would be much appreciated.

The evidence I am trying to give the parliamentary committee is this:

I wish to offer myself as a witness before the Joint Commission on Human Rights on the subject of the UK government's policy on intelligence cooperation with torture abroad.

I appeared as a witness in person before both the European Parliament and European Council's inquiries into extraordinary rendition. My evidence was described by the European Council's Rapporteur, Senator Dick Marty, as "Compelling and valuable".

The key points I wish to make are these:

- I was British Ambassador in Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004.
- I learned and confirmed that I was regularly seeing intelligence from detainees in the Uzbek torture chambers, sent me by the CIA via MI6.
- British Ministers and officials were seeing the same torture material.
- In October/November 2002 and January/February 2003 I sent two Top Secret telegrams to London specifically on the subject of our receipt of intelligence gained under torture. I argued this was illegal, immoral and impractical. The telegrams were specifically marked for the Secretary of State.
- I was formally summoned back to the FCO for a meeting held on 7 or 8 March 2003 specifically and solely on the subject of intelligence gained under torture. Present were Linda Duffield, Director Wider Europe, FCO, Sir Michael Wood, Chief Legal Adviser, FCO, and Matthew Kydd, Head of Permanent Under-Secretary's Department, FCO.
- This meeting was minuted. I have seen the record, which is classified Top Secret and was sent to Jack Straw. On the top copy are extensive hand-written marginalia giving Jack Straw's views.
- I was told at this meeting that it is not illegal for us to obtain intelligence gained by torture, provided that we did not do the torture ourselves. I was told that it had been decided that as a matter of War on Terror policy we should now obtain intelligence from torture, following discussion between Jack Straw and Richard Dearlove. I was told that we could not exclude receipt of specific material from the CIA without driving a coach and horses through the universality principle of the UK/US intelligence sharing agreement, which would be detrimental to UK interests.
- Sir Michael Wood's legal advice that it was not illegal to receive intelligence got by torture was sent on to me in Tashkent (copy attached). On 22 July 2004

I sent one further telegram on intelligence got by torture, with a lower classification, following FCO communications on the subject. Copy attached.
It was my final communication before being dismissed as Ambassador.

In conclusion, I can testify that beyond any doubt the British government has for at least six years a considered but secret policy of cooperation with torture abroad. This policy legally cleared by government legal advisers and approved by Jack Straw as Secretary of State.

Craig Murray
2 March 2009'


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

If I was in charge of things...

...Fred Goodwin could keep his bloody bonus - but only on the following condition. He spends eight hours a day, five days a week, saying sorry, in person, or via a handwritten letter which he has to go and hand-deliver himself, personally, to every single person badly affected by his utterly disastrous trashing of RBS, until he is allowed to retire at 75. He can have 20 days off a year, plus bank holidays, and 40 minutes for lunch every day. Then he might learn what 'sorry' means.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

..there can never be perfect security

Noticed this, an extract from a contribution on Comment is Free, by 'peitha'

'...there can never be perfect security.

Tell me, would you accept more deaths on London Tube trains or more surveillance etc to stop them (or some of them anyway)?

The classic mistake that mass surveillance is effective in stopping such attacks.

Take the example of a Tube (suicide) bomber.

When, exactly, are you going to stop him?

On the Tube train itself a la de Menezes? Too late; if he's smart the bomb explodes anyway (though I'm not going to explain why on a public forum - just accept that even an immediately killing head shot can be too late, OK?). Plus of course the risk of bystanders being shot accidentally as well if you do try a shot there.

OK, on the possibly crowded platform? Assume it's crowded because no suicide bomber is going to blow up an empty train late at night, he's invariably going to attack at rush hour, as the 7/7 bombers did, both because it garners more victims and creates more disruption so it's reasonable to assume the platform will be crowded. Too late for the same reasons. Ditto the entrance hall - remember the King's Cross fire? They tend to be crowded as well.

OK, at the entrance to the Tube Station? Let's put airport style security gates there, and create a nice large crowd waiting to go through - or, in the terminology of the terrorist, a nice large target. Even better - a target that was created by the action of the authorities themselves.

Remember also, if the bomber is in a crowd already, or moving through a crowd it can be extremely difficult to get a stopper shot except at extreme close range - which could easily become a kamikaze response from the pov of the armed policeman taking the shot when the bomb explodes. You volunteering for the job?

Hmmm, guess we have to stop him on his way to the Tube Station? So how did he get there? On a busy bus? 7/7 again. That's no good either. At the bus stop? Nope, no good.

OK, so we have to stop him before he even sets out on his attack to be certain to stop him. But to do that we have to already know who he is and where he lives.

So how does mass surveillance help with that?

That's not a mass surveillance problem, that's a standard humint and police problem. Mass surveillance, far from helping, may actually hinder that because of a likely distraction of resources into investigating the huge number of false positives it will throw up.

So how does mass surveillance actually help prevent suicide bombings? All it is actually good for is tracking back once the bomber has already identified himself by detonating his device as we saw with 7/7. hey were being filmes almost the whole way and didn't care. Why? Because they didn't care about being caught after the event! That kind of goes with the territory for a suicide bomber.

Assuming any reasonably competent cell structure by the terrorists, that gets us back to a standard humint and police problem - tracing known contacts etc, but only after the bombing.

Mass surveillance doesn't help prevent attacks because it is (a) reactive not proactive and (b) the resources needed to track everyone even before they are known to be a 'suspect' in a future bombing is simply impossible in the real world.

Even if by data-mining you can scan all surveillance footage the number of false positives generated will overwhelm you. Remember one of the 7/7 bombers had already been picked up as a 'person of interest' by intelligence but because he was deemed a low-level target he was not put under surveillance because they lacked resources to cast so wide a net.

So why not spend the money improving those resources not spending billions on mass surveillance which is easily defeated and only reactive?

So why don't you now try to explain how mass surveillance will help, rather than just assuming that it will and expressing that view abusively. Think it through and explain your reasoning'

See also Ben Goldacre, the Guardian's celebrated Bad Science columnist - 'Spying on 60 Million People doesn't add up.

You may also be interested in this story of infiltrating a violent extremist group

Yesterday at the convention and conference

Arrived late, after getting lost walking out of Russell Square station and found halls heaving with people, stalls with literature, cartons of orange juice piled high, and shambolic, good natured queues to register, and speakers I wanted to hear going on all over the place across 8 floors. Got approached on the stairs by two '9/11 Truthers' who tried to press a DVD upon me, which combined with the headache I woke up with to make me feel very irritable - why do these people expend all this pointless energy on propagating a load of old rubbish? And why do they always make a beeline for me, when they know I am opposed to them and everything they stand for?

Bumped into Sunny from Liberal Conspiracy and squeezed into a lift together, hoping to get to the 8th floor to hear the Tories talk (Sunny was keen to heckle them), but the lift's progress was slow, we stopped at every floor ( 'it's like are you being served', I said, 'sixth floor, Xenophobia, democracy and unions - going up!') and we arrived too late to get in. I went off to hear a panel talk about faith and freedom instead. Then grabbed a sandwich and went to the Bloggers' summit, where some people I greatly admire were speaking - Phil Booth - from No2ID, Heather Brooke - Your Right To Know, Ben Goldacre - Bad Science, and Sam Smith - My Society.

The headache still wouldn't go away, so I decided to watch the afternoon screenings of sessions in the hall, rather than sit in small stuffy rooms. I was both fascinated and scared by Vince Cable, explaining the impact of the coming depression on freedom and politics. The hundreds of thousands of students, unable to find jobs, the public sector workers soon to be hit by public sector cuts, the journalists from local newspapers forced to close, the middle classes who find bailiffs smashing their way in, and using force to seize property - as they are now allowed to do - all these well-educated, and politically aware people might well find themselves at the heart of a new kind of political activism, a serious political force in opposition to the government. The anti- terror laws could be - no, will be - used to try to contain and control and punish unrest, dissidence and protest. Anger would rise and so could right-wing groups. On the positive side, things that were once thought unthinkable might be tried, things more socially just and fiscally responsible, like capping fatcat pensions and tax evasion.

I wish Vince Cable was running the UK.

Then I rushed over to 8 Billion Ways, and after getting stuck in traffic because the narcissitic loudmouth Anjem Choudary and about fifty of his moonbat followers were marching about Bethnal Green Road and demonstrating outside, claiming that Muslims taking an interest in social justice, the environment and civil liberties with kuffars were un-Islamic. Only ten people noticed him because everyone in the studenty, mostly under 40 crowd inside was too busy watching speeches and films and having debates inside. There was a delicious smell of spices: I was dying to get a plateful of the curry on sale but there wasn't time. On the panel with me were Moazzam Begg, of CagePrisoners, who talked movingly of what it was like for him and the other men in Guantanamo, and Gareth Pierce, who was devastating on the war on our freedoms, and John Pandit from Asian Dub Foundation and a man from Statewatch, who's name I didn't catch, replacing Dr Ben Hayes.

Afterwards I had a chat with some of the audience, hung out with my friend Dr Usama Hassan, who was one of the event organisers, then decided to head home. I was meant to go and have a drink at the Convention and catch up with some mates but the stupid wretched headache still wouldn't shift so I went home instead and made chicken soup for me and J, and watched a completely pointless film which Liam Neeson should be ashamed to have been involved in.

Looking at the coverage today, I am so pleased the events went well and inspired that so many came - the Liberty Convention could have sold out three times over, even though tickets were 35 quid.

I wish I'd seen this live: Lighting a Candle for Liberty; it is the highlight of the Convention and essential listening. Lord Bingham ,take it away.

Anyway, well done everyone. Goodliveblogging from Fabulous Blue Porcupine

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