Friday, January 8, 2010
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Area Medical Center employees who do not get the seasonal flu vaccine by the end of the day Friday are going to lose their jobs.
"The vaccine is a condition of employment" and people who do not get the vaccine will be fired, CAMC spokesman Dale Witte said.
Anyone who is not vaccinated by the end of the day Friday will not be allowed to work, Witte said.
"If they are scheduled to work, they will be taken off the schedule until the [human resources] folks and others go over the list to make sure it's accurate," he said. "Then it will be termination."
Thursday, January 7, 2010
It is important to have some education on the nature of the work in American intelligence agencies.
The two following films shed essential light on the real problems with some of the intelligence processes. They will help anyone understand surveillance, national security, secrecy and the way our Congress has become drafted or seduced into an "in" club.
The "closed door" briefings that the CIA and other intelligence agencies regularly commence with, force secrecy on our top officials. Some of whom may actually NEED to speak up on behalf of their constituencies or even possibly self preservation.
Whatever your opinion is of the nature of modern conspiracy; secrecy seems to be consistent with abuses of power.
Below are 2 films to examine what the US government has done on the auspices of "national security".
[Great big thanks to friends Frank Dorrell and Kimberly Johnson]
What I've Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy
ALSO WATCH: Secrets of the CIA
Five courageous former CIA agents reveal deep secrets of the CIA (45 min)http://personalgrowthcourses.net/video/secrets_cia
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
was even quoted in USA Today saying,
"You can actually see the sweat on someone's back".
The Politics of Fear and "Whole-Body Imaging"
By Zack Kaldveer for Privacy Revolt!
As "terror hysteria" echoes across the media and out of the mouths of politicians in response to the attempted terror attack on an airline flight, we've got to start asking some tough questions, because the Fear-Industrial-Complex (i.e. Department of Defense, mainstream media, talk radio, security technologies industry, Congress, the White House, "the intelligence community", pundits, etc.) has kicked into high gear.
The same interests that took advantage of 9/11 to ram through the Patriot Act are out in force once again - aided this time by a much more influential and powerful "security industry".
Advancements in security technology may serve certain important purposes in specific situations, but more often than not, represent the continuing expansion of Big Brother's ability to monitor and record nearly everything we do - usually under the guise of "keeping us safe".
The latest security "fix" being peddled is called "Whole-Body-Imaging" ("digital strip search") and whether we should install this technology in US airports across the country at approximately $170,000 per scanner. Briefly, the technology photographs American air travelers as if stripped naked. These full-body scanners use one of two technologies - millimeter wave sensors or backscatter x-rays - to see through clothing, producing images of naked passengers.
A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official was even quoted in the USA Today as saying, "You can actually see the sweat on someone's back".
What has received short thrift in the media is whether these scanners even would have identified the "underwear bomber" at all. This is in stark contrast to what we in fact do know would have worked: if law enforcement had simply acted on the information it had already gathered - including the father of the "would be Detroit bomber" warning the government personally his son was a threat - the plot would have been foiled far earlier.
Another point to consider before instituting "Whole-Body-Imaging" scanners in every airport is that for every specific tactic we target with a new, expensive, and often burdensome security apparatus, the terrorist tactics themselves will change. Granted, risks can be reduced, but not eliminated. If we strip searched every single passenger at every airport in the country, terrorists would go bomb shopping malls or movie theaters. You'll never be secure by defending individual targets.
As correctly pointed out by Ben Sandilands in his Plane Talking blog, "None of the techniques coming into use abroad can detect explosives inserted way, way, up a rectum, in say a reinforced condom like device that could be passed and then detonated. The whole 'threat' seems capable of lurching toward invasive physical examinations, ending in the collapse of air travel, if we follow the absurd logic that pervades a security scare industry that constantly seeks to create and then offer to solve new risks."
Furthermore, and perhaps most telling, is the substantial amount of evidence - including the case of the "underwear bomber" itself - that suggests our government is gathering TOO MUCH information, and our expanding surveillance state is making us LESS safe, not more.
As Constitutional Scholar Glenn Greenwald notes,
"The problem is never that the U.S. Government lacks sufficient power to engage in surveillance, interceptions, intelligence-gathering and the like. Long before 9/11 -- from the Cold War -- we have vested extraordinarily broad surveillance powers in the U.S. Government to the point that we have turned ourselves into a National Security and Surveillance State. Terrorist attacks do not happen because there are too many restrictions on the government's ability to eavesdrop and intercept communications, or because there are too many safeguards and checks. If anything, the opposite is true: the excesses of the Surveillance State -- and the steady abolition of oversights and limits -- have made detection of plots far less likely. Despite that, we have an insatiable appetite -- especially when we're frightened anew -- to vest more and more unrestricted spying and other powers in our Government, which -- like all governments -- is more than happy to accept it."
TERRORISM, LIGHTNING, SALMONELLA, & the HEALTH INSURANCE INDUSTRY
Before we all run to hide in our closets, willfully give up our civil liberties and freedoms, support wars on countries that did nothing to us, and sign off on wasting HUGE amounts of money on ineffectual security systems, consider this: Your chances of getting hit by lightning in one year is 500,000 to 1 while the odds you'll be killed by a terrorist on a plane over 10 years is 10 million to 1.
Does this sound like a threat that is worthy of allowing the ever increasing list of airline passenger indignities - including ever longer lines of shoeless, beltless, waterless, and nail clipper-less beleaguered travelers now being forced to be digitally strip searched too?
Further illustrating my point is blogger Brad Friedman:
"If you count the Ft. Hoot shooting as a terrorist attack (which it wasn't, and isn't even considered one by experts), 16 people have died in the United States as result of terrorism in 2009. The other three deaths include the Little Rock military recruiting office shooting (1), the Holocaust Museum shooting (1), and Dr. George Tiller's assassination (1), the last two coming at the hands of right-wing extremists. Now let's compare that to the 45,000 Americans that died because they didn't have health insurance and 600 that died from salmonella poisoning."
So let's scrap the whole meme that we should live in fear and must give up our constitutional rights in order to be safe from a threat that is a fraction of that posed by lightning, salmonella, and the health insurance industry. Once we are free from that fear, we can discuss, rationally, specific security proposals being pushed by a variety of politicians and security industry spokespeople looking to profit off "terror".
THE FALSE CHOICE: Privacy versus Security
As is so often the case with technologies like Whole-Body-Imaging, the concerns go far deeper than what it does with the data it collects (though that too is important). Also of great important is what happens to that data once collected? The claims that these devices will distort a person's face or other features to protect privacy are nonsensical.
For one, a "would be terrorist" would simply find a way to use this "distortion" as yet another hole in the system (i.e. nasal, rectal or mouth cavities). And secondly, are we really to believe the government won't allow these devices to record any data when the easy "go to" excuse for doing so will be the need to gather and store evidence? What about the ability of some hacker in one of the lounges to capture the data using his wi-fi capable PC - and then filing it to a Flickr album, and then tell the Twitterverse of its whereabouts?
Privacy advocates continue to argue for oversight, full disclosure for air travelers, and legal language to protect passengers and keep the TSA from changing policy down the road. Again, what's to stop TSA from using clearer images or different technology later? The computers can't store images now, but what if that changes?
The bottom line is a rather stark one: Is the loss of freedom, privacy, and quality of life a worthwhile tradeoff for unproven protections from a terrorist threat that has a 1 in 10 million chance of killing someone over a ten year time period?
Could all this hype be just another way to sell more security technologies, soften us up for future wars, increased spending on the military, and the evisceration of our civil liberties?
The "option" of walking through a whole-body scanner or taking a pat-down shouldn't be the final answer, as is the case in some airports now, and being advocated by many for all airports in the future. As the ACLU pointed out, "A choice between being groped and being stripped, I don't think we should pretend those are the only choices. People shouldn't be humiliated by their government" in the name of security, nor should they trust that the images will always be kept private. Screeners at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) could make a fortune off naked virtual images of celebrities."
MORE EFFECTIVE WAYS TO REDUCE THE THREAT OF TERRORISM
If we are truly trying to reduce the threat of terrorism there are DEMONSTRABLY more effective ways than those currently being pursued. A few alternative tactics to consider: stop bombing and occupying Muslim nations, arming their enemies, torturing and indefinitely jailing their people, and supporting ruthless dictators. In the immediate meantime, we should reinstate every gay Arabic translator (which we have a critical shortage of today in the military) we've expelled from the military because of their sexual preference, and focus our attention on intelligence gathering and good old fashion investigative techniques rather than war making to catch the real extremists that actually want to do our country harm.
In no way am I excusing or defending terrorists or their actions, but let's catch them, try them, and jail them rather than create more of them. Instead of spending one more minute listening to the bloviating of a war criminal like Dick Cheney, we'd be better served by heeding the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: "We all have to be concerned about terrorism, but you will never end terrorism by terrorizing others."
A FEW MEDIA COVERAGE BRIGHT SPOTS
Thankfully we do have a few voices of reason in the mainstream, corporate media. First, be sure to watch this outstanding discussion on Whole-Body-Imaging between Air America's Thom Hartmann and the ACLU's Michael German.
Second, watch Rachel Maddow's extremely enlightening interview with security expert Bruce Schneier, author of Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World. Schneier perhaps sums up the false choice we are being given best:
"If you set up the false dichotomy, of course people will choose security over privacy -- especially if you scare them first. But it's still a false dichotomy. There is no security without privacy. And liberty requires both security and privacy. The famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin reads: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." It's also true that those who would give up privacy for security are likely to end up with neither."
And finally, Keith Olbermann also covered this story, focusing in on how "Whole-Body-Imaging" may be violating Britain's child pornography laws - thereby possibly exempting children from being subjected to the scanners.
THE LEGISLATIVE FIGHT AHEAD
The good news is that a few months ago the House of Representatives - by a 310-118 vote - approved legislation that curbs the growing use of these devices at airport checkpoints. The question now becomes whether, particularly in light of the recent terror hysteria, the Senate will follow the House's lead?
To counteract the immense power of fear on the human mind, the growing influence of the security industrial complex and craven elected officials seeking to score political points, our Senators must hear from us! The Electronic Privacy Information Center is currently leading a privacy coalition to suspend the use of "Whole-Body-Imaging" technologies. Check it out, and make your voices heard.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
One of the most troubling aspects of the bills is the individual mandate. Instead of merely reforming the system to make it easier to buy health insurance or even extend the government health care coverage to more people, Congress seems intent to initiate a National ID under the guise of health care reform.
Ad hoc broad left-right-libertarian coalitions have been successfully fighting a federal National ID for a while. I testified to the Senate against it when Bush was president, wrote commentaries, spoke against it at demonstrations at the Capitol, and sent letters to President Bush.
Later, I was part of similar coalitions against the "REAL ID" proposals. A broad group of us wrote to the Senate against the idea. Just when we thought we had finally killed it, the National ID is rising from the ashes like an ugly phoenix.
Many of us have been in this fight for a long time against both Democratic and Republican Administrations.
Now we need to ask our policy makers: How are they going to enforce a universal individual mandate without a National ID equivalent? Does health care reform need to mean creating an unconstitutional and unwarranted dossier on every American?
Michael Ostrolenk of the Liberty Coalition organized a group letter against an insurance mandate. The letter explained,
The "individual mandate" is a section of the bill that requires every single American to buy health insurance--whether or not they want it or feel they can afford it--or break the law and face penalties and fines. Consequently, the bill does not actually "cover" 30 million more Americans--instead it makes them criminals if they do not buy insurance from private companies. We hope you agree that it is unconscionable to force people to buy a product from a private insurer. This would effectively be a tax--and a huge one--paid directly to a private industry.
Mr. Ostrolenk explained to me, "to create and implement a clearly unconstitutional medical insurance mandate, the federal government will need to issue all Americans a medical identification number to ensure compliance with the law which would clearly be a national id system. It's all about more tracking and control of a free people."
The only way to enforce such a mandate is to implement a medical National ID. Massachusetts residents already have to file a medical form with their taxes to show compliance. Under the current Congressional proposals, such a scheme would constitute the worst aspects of a corporatist system using large corporate political donors to help monitor our personal medical information in cahoots with the Feds.
Follow J. Bradley Jansen on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bradleyjansen
The lack of consideration for the side-effects of a mandatory, uniform full-body scan policy is absurd.
Now, I actually agree with one of Saletan’s major points – that people should get over their hang-ups about other people seeing their entire bodies. Puritanism is so last century (and last decade). I also certainly appreciate that many people worry about their security on flights.
However, the statistical likelihood of being caught in a terrorist attack is quite low – so low that I can’t imagine how the loss of efficiency in the security process or the invasiveness of the procedure can find a counter-balance in “preventing terrorist attacks.” We’ve already done quite a bit in terms of making it difficult for terrorists to pull off an attack. Anything more just leads to diminishing returns. Saletan seems to think a continual escalation – like an “arms race” – is what’s necessary to keep people safe. But there comes a point at which more security measures won’t actually much of anything to deter attacks.
More to the point, this particular attack was a failure of intelligence, which just didn’t get its act together. Perhaps it might be better to address intelligence rather than airport security.
Previous moves, including requiring gender markers on tickets and ID issues, have already made travel unappealing for trans people. But full-body scans are beyond what’s even potentially justifiable. This will out trans people left and right. In a transphobic society, this puts too many people at risk for harassment. I’m sorry – I don’t trust U.S. TSA or any law enforcement agency not to give me crap for being trans. They have the power to pull me aside for even more scrutiny or say that I’m not who I present myself as. Or pull some madness like assuming that my trans-ness is a disguise for terrorist activity. Or just harass me – since law enforcement officials can be bigots just as much as anyone else.
And don’t even get me started on how this violates the religious liberty of people who do believe in modesty as a matter of faith, even though I generally don’t agree with them. This really won’t help relations with Islam.
The U.S. needs to catch itself before setting up full-body scanners everywhere. And, if it doesn’t, no country that seriously respects the privacy of its citizens should cooperate with the U.S. if asked to use full-body scans – including the Netherlands (and Nigeria) and Canada. The consequence is effectively deterring me – an otherwise law-abiding person – from air travel, along with an uncounted number of people like me.
We need to ask more questions about full-body scans than what Saletan has mentioned – or what the talking heads on CNN are blathering about. Do we really want to punish many innocents to catch the few guilty? Do we really want to make it impossible for some marginalized communities to fly for the sake of “mainstream” society? And do we really want to enact extreme measures in response to an attempt at terrorism that didn’t even succeed?
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Award winning war correspondent Michael Yon was detained and handcuffed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Yesterday by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel.
Yon was returning to the United States from Hong Kong to visit family when TSA officials stopped him during a routine security checkpoint. “Officials asked me what was in my bag—nothing wrong with this question,” Yon said in an interview with BigGovernment.com. “I told them it was normal stuff, clothes and toothbrushes.”
At this point the TSA officials escorted Yon to a designated screening area where they examined the contents of his bag. “Then they asked me how much money I make,” Yon said. Yon suggested to the TSA officials that the question was inappropriate and unrelated to transportation security. The award-winning blogger noted another TSA officer approached Yon: “he asked who do I work for.” ”I did not answer the question which clearly was upsetting to the TSA officers.”
Yon was escorted to a room elsewhere in the airport where he said he remained silent during much of the questioning. According to Yon, “they handcuffed me for failing to cooperate. They said I was impeding their ability to do their job.”
Yon described the TSA officials as noticeably frustrated by his refusal to answer their questions: “I always assume everything is being recorded. I was trying to be professional.”
Yon continued, “They said I wasn’t under arrest, but I’m handcuffed. In any other country, that qualifies as an arrest.”
Ultimately Port Authority police released Yon; according to Yon, the police were “completely professional.”
In January of 2009, Yon’s article “Border Bullies” detailed a Homeland Security officer coercing a friend to give up her e-mail password so that he could read private email correspondences between her and Yon.
Regarding the incident in Seattle, Yon was adamant the TSA agents had overstepped their bounds: “If I am the guy on that passport and I don’t have any contraband in my luggage, it is a matter for the FBI, not the TSA.”
“TSA people are out of control,” he said. “They are not doing their jobs, they are harassing people, creating animosity. They ask you ‘what time is your connective flight?’ and they bully you until you miss the flight.”
An internet service launched last week by Google to help cameraphone users to identify strangers in the street has been blocked because of alarm over its threat to personal privacy.
The new service, called Goggles, is a picture search which uses images rather than words to trawl the web. By taking a picture of an object and clicking "search", owners of smartphones can recognise landmarks, identify a species of plant or animal, or obtain tasting notes for a bottle of wine.
Users focus their phone's camera on the object, and Google compares elements of that picture against its database.
When it finds a match, it provides the name of the object pictured and a list of results linking through to the relevant web pages and news stories. Goggles is claimed to be able to recognise tens of millions of objects and places and is growing all the time.
But the most controversial aspect of the new visual search tool is its capacity to allow users to take a photo of a stranger to find out more about them.
With millions of people having an online presence, complete with photos, on websites such as Facebook, it is possible to use the search tool to identify people, obtain contact information, and learn about their tastes in music, their friends and their background.
Google has now confirmed that it is blocking this use of Goggles until the implications have been fully explored.
Marissa Mayer, the vice-president of Google's search product and user experience, said: "We are blocking out people's faces if people try to use Google Goggles to search for information about them.
"Until we understand the implications of the facial-recognition tool we have decided to block out people's faces. We need to understand how this tool affects people's privacy and we cannot change that decision until we do."
Angela Sasse, professor of computer science at University College London, who is researching public perceptions of privacy, said Goggles created unease because it left people with fewer hiding places. "People manage their relationships by selective disclosure," she said.
"Only people with certain mental-health conditions disclose everything all the time. These systems [such as Goggles] lose that. You might go somewhere on the assumption that you won't be recognised. But if people find out who you are they can see where you have been.
"We have seen this problem on Facebook where people have uploaded pictures from a party, forgetting that their bosses can see them, too."
She said people were prepared to accept risks attached to new technology, including a loss of privacy, provided they could see the benefits. But some developments got the thumbs down. When Facebook started broadcasting what people were buying, there was a backlash as the public judged the intrusion as a step too far.
Professor Sasse said Goggles could potentially be used as a marketing tool. When surveillance cameras identified the face of someone who regularly passed by, the business might send them details of a special offer.
"People tend to have a strong reaction to that," she said.
Google has said it has the technology to recognise faces as well as millions of other objects but admitted the service is limited. Sceptics say existing face-recognition programmes are still basic and the capacity to discriminate different faces restricted.
Professor Sasse said: "There does seem to be a certain threshold of accuracy for face recognition that has not yet been reached. At present, you need a full-face shot. The scary thing is that the next generation [of software] will be able to use a large number of images snapped from different angles so this technology is going to get more accurate."
If Goggles proves successful, it would mark a breakthrough in the use of the mobile internet. It has a database of more than one billion images and can recognise landmarks, CD covers, logos, barcodes, books, shop fronts and business cards.
It is less successful at identifying the natural world, but that is expected to improve. It is available on phones run by Google's mobile-operating system Android, and will later be introduced to other smartphones.
Monday, January 4, 2010
What he has made little mention of is that the Chertoff Group, his security consulting agency, includes a client that manufactures the machines. Chertoff disclosed the relationship on a CNN program Wednesday, in response to a question.
An airport passengers’ rights group on Thursday criticized Chertoff’s use of his former government credentials to advocate for a product that benefits his clients.
“Mr. Chertoff should not be allowed to abuse the trust the public has placed in him as a former public servant to privately gain from the sale of full-body scanners under the pretense that the scanners would have detected this particular type of explosive,” said Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org, which opposes the use of the scanners.
Chertoff’s advocacy for the technology dates back to his time in the Bush administration In 2005, Homeland Security ordered the government’s first batch of the scanners — five from California- based Rapiscan Systems.
Rapiscan is one of only two companies that make full-body scanners in accordance with current contract specifications required by the federal government.
Currently, 40 body scanners are in use among 19 U.S. airports. The number is expected to skyrocket, at least in part because of the Christmas Day incident. The Transportation Security Administration has said it will order another 300 machines.
In the summer, TSA purchased another 150 machines from Rapiscan with $25 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
In the wake of embarrassing stories a few years ago about members of Congress and babies appearing on the "no-fly" list, the government reduced the number of names drawing extra scrutiny at airports. Federal officials are right to worry about the civil-liberties ramifications of the no-fly list, but the facts surrounding the attempted attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 underscore that the wrong approach has been taken. Rather than simply reducing the number of names on the no-fly list or raising the bar for a name to be listed, the government should make it easier for wrongly listed travelers to clear their names.
One of the lessons of Sept. 11, 2001, reaffirmed last month, is that it is difficult to keep dangerous items off planes. Watch lists will never replace metal detectors, but they may stop some people who would destroy planes with box cutters or liquid explosives. The no-fly list itself targets potentially dangerous people without the use of racial or religious profiling, and improving it does not require expensive scanning equipment or the hiring of additional screeners.
The problem with the no-fly list is not its size but that some individuals appear on it because they share the name of a dangerous person or as a result of bureaucratic accident or thinly sourced and inaccurate intelligence tips. Rather than require the government to be nearly certain that an individual is an actual security threat before initially listing him or her -- and running the risk that the truly dangerous will be left unlisted -- it would make more sense to facilitate the removal of wrongly listed people.
To begin, travelers should have a way to determine in advance of a flight whether their names are on the list. That way they won't be surprised when they show up at the airport and are forced to miss a flight. Of course we don't want to have a Web site where people can check their names; that would make it too easy for terrorists to check false identities against the list until they find one that works. A better approach would be to create a system where people can check -- in person -- whether they are on the list. Locations for such checks could be airport security offices, U.S. embassies or other federal buildings. Truly dangerous people are unlikely to identify themselves to security officials to ask whether they are on the list; if they do, they can be questioned or arrested. But people who should not be on the list would have the chance to clear their names before enduring delays or missing flights.
For individuals listed by accident or because they share a dangerous person's name, the Transportation Security Administration's ombudsman system could simply update the federal watch list (with more specific identifying data such as date of birth, if necessary). The bigger challenge is people who may well be dangerous but for whom the intelligence community has only a single, classified red flag, perhaps a warning from a concerned parent or intelligence asset. The question becomes whether that tip is an indication of real danger or the result of undue suspicion.
To resolve these difficult cases, listed individuals should be given the right to request an administrative hearing. If the government is concerned that sharing secret evidence might reveal intelligence sources and methods, it should provide these individuals with an attorney who has security clearance. These lawyers can review the evidence, clear up confusion and present the individual's best case. (Providing representation would help compensate people for the inconvenience of an erroneous listing.) It is hard to imagine that actual terrorists would request such a hearing to attempt to remove their names from the list. If they did, the government would be able to learn more about them and would be in a position to arrest them when appropriate. But it should not be difficult for innocent people to clear their names with the help of an attorney who has access to secret evidence.
Because Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was listed in a government database but was not on the no-fly list, some have suggested making the revocation of travel privileges more automatic. We should know more soon about where our system broke down and why the warnings from Abdulmutallab's father did not result in greater scrutiny. But whether or not the government expands the no-fly list, federal officials should incorporate ways for wrongly listed travelers to clear their names. This would help the no-fly list keep dangerous people out of our aviation system with minimal inconvenience to the rest of us.
The writer is an attorney at a Washington law firm and a fellow at the Georgetown Center on National Security and the Law. He has previously published in the Yale Law Journal on the constitutionality of the no-fly list.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Telecoms firms have accused the Government of acting like the East German Stasi over plans to force them to store the details of every phone call for at least a year.
Under the proposals, the details of every email sent and website visited will also be recorded to help the police and security services fight crime and terrorism.
But mobile phone companies have attacked the plans as a massive assault on privacy and warned it could be the first step towards a centralised ‘Big Brother’ database.
They have also told the Home Office that the scheme is deeply flawed.
The criticism of Britain’s growing ‘surveillance culture’ was made in a series of responses to an official consultation on the plans, which have been obtained by The Mail on Sunday.
T-Mobile said in its submission that it was a ‘particularly sensitive’ time as many people were commemorating the 20th anniversary of the protests that led to the collapse of ‘surveillance states in Eastern Europe’.
Martin Hopkins, head of data protection and disclosure, said: ‘It would be extremely ironic if we at T-Mobile (UK) Ltd had to acquire the surveillance functionality envisaged by the Consultation Document at the same time that our parent company, headquartered in Germany, was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the demise of the equivalent systems established by the Stasi in the federal states of the former East Germany.’
Equally trenchant was the response from Hutchinson 3G Uk Ltd, which read: ‘We take seriously the responsibility of safeguarding our customers’ information and data, and are unconvinced of the safeguards that the Government might make to protect against loss.’
The firm also said it had ‘substantial concerns’ over claims that public authorities would only be able to access data on a ‘case-by-case’ basis. It is understood hundreds of public bodies and quangos may also be able to obtain information from the system.
‘It is our belief the safeguards listed in this consultation are incomplete and do not extend far enough,’ it added.
Orange and Vodafone were also highly critical, with a spokesman for Orange saying: ‘The proposals are clearly not about “maintaining” capabilities but rather about “enhancing” existing capabilities.
‘Any debate should address what many will see as a worrying extension of the so-called “surveillance culture”.’
Since October 2007, telecoms companies have been obliged to keep records for a year. Under the new legislation, however, they will also be required to organise it better – for example, by grouping calls made by the same person.
Internet service providers have been required to hold records on emails and website visits since April.
Police and security services can already obtain such information if they are given permission by the courts.
The public will reimburse internet service providers and telecoms companies for the costs associated with storing the billions of records.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘The police and security services need to be able to use communication data in the fight against crime and terrorism. Communications data forms an important element of prosecution evidence in 95 per cent of the serious crime cases.
‘Access to communications data under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act is subject to strict safeguards around how, when and by whom data is obtained.’
The activities of the Stasi, the former East Germany’s secret police, were memorably depicted in the Oscar-winning film The Lives Of Others, starring Ulrich Mühe. At the regime’s height, there were 200,000 agents and informers in a population of only 16million.