Mythbusters Gagged

Adam Savage, of the excellent 'Mythbusters' programme(*) reports that they were going to do a segment on RFID chips only to have the lawyers descend from Visa, American Express etc.

Texas Instruments comes on along with chief legal counsel for American Express, Visa, Discover, and everybody else... They were way, way outgunned and they absolutely made it really clear to Discovery that they were not going to air this episode talking about how hackable this stuff was, and Discovery backed way down being a large corporation that depends upon the revenue of the advertisers. Now it's on Discovery's radar and they won't let us go near it.

A great quote from the video:

You do have about 3000 people in the room who aren't under such legal arrangements.

The full video is here, and starts with a great talk from Savage about his obsessions.

The point is that keeping the information 'secret' does not stop the bad guys getting it - it stops the rest of us knowing that our information is insecure. If you're reliant on security by obscurity you have no security at all. Given that RFID is a widely distributed technology, the RFID chips should be able to withstand full scrutiny if they're to be trusted for the purpose.

They can't withstand that scrutiny, as evidenced by the reaction of the lawyers, and by this video.

With a bigger antenna on this I can go into Starbucks and get the [details] of everyone there.

It's a shame discovery didn't feel able to nod at the lawyers, and then make the programme anyway - including the conversation with the legal people. Still, when you're depending upon ad revenues, it's not as easy as all that - at least in the short term. A good argument for the BBC TV Licence!

(*) Although the announcer in the UK does often mix concepts of mass, pressure, force etc. Not sure about the guy in the US - the people in the show sometimes do this too, but that comes across to me as more of a 'shorthand' - as they obviously know the difference!

Odd workings of Justice

In case you hadn't realised, there is a cloud over England's test matches in NZ with "allegations of sexual assault and/or rape". Except that no formal complaint has been made, therefore, sensibly, the people at the receiving end have declined to be interviewed.

Understand this, I'm not blinded by being someone who watches the game whilst living in England. If the players have done this, then they deserve to have the full force of the law come into play - however, we must remember that they are also possible targets for warrantless claims. At this stage, none of us can know the truth, nor should we comment upon where the truth may lie.

Why am I posting? Well, I do find it odd to see statements like:

"We are desperate to clear the players' names but we're in a very strange situation - with no allegations, no complaint being made - as to exactly how the name of the players can be cleared."

The names have not been published, not has a formal complaint been made. Surely the names remain clear - or has 'innocent until proven guilty' gone out of fashion in New Zealand too?

If a formal complaint or formal charge is made then there will be a name to clear - but until that point...

Don't talk to the police!

Via Hackaday.

A very interesting lecture, worth watching. Of course, in the UK the right to silence has gone, and failure to talk answer questions may be seen as incriminating.

You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.

Here's the police officer on the same topic:


I've been rather ill for a few days, but have been getting better. Today it's been variable - ups and downs. I'm currently in an 'up' and decided to catch up on the world. I stumbled upon this article which contains the lovely quote:

We have become overly focused on the fairness of what the government does to terrorists than the danger of what terrorists might do to us.

Hmm, rather missing the point of due process there. These people, as guilty as they may ultimately be, are still suspects - they have not been shown to be guilty. They have been locked up with the key thrown away without any recourse to law as we know it.

The article also says:

The government ought to conduct a triage and determine which detainees present no serious threat or are innocent of any charge

Yep. That's going to happen. 'Sorry we locked you up for more than seven years without trial, you're totally innocent, off you go'.

For the US Government, that's a massive lawsuit waiting to happen.

No, what'll happen is that people will be released in a drip-like fashion in such a way that the stain on their record isn't removed - but just that there was 'insufficient evidence to charge'. They'd be released on the understanding that their home countries monitor them, or take responsibility for them.

I'd be amazed if any of them ever got through US customs once released as a true innocent would (though I'd be even more amazed if they wanted to). In this way the US can save face: "We know they're bad'uns" without ever having to test that accusation with evidence.

I am not suggesting for one minute that everyone in Guantanamo is innocent. Just as I'd hope that those with the "hang 'em high" tendency would admit that not everyone in there is guilty just because they're in there.

What I'm saying, and what the article is saying, is that whilst I don't think the US will start putting its house in order anytime soon(*) natural justice demands that it does - that it takes the risks of lawsuits for wrongful incarcerations and undertakes due process. If it did wrong, as I'm sure it knows it has, then it needs to be a nice grown up superpower and put things right.

If the US is serious about reducing terrorism in the future, Guantanamo Bay should go, it's a clarion call for Al Qaeda - just as internment was for the IRA.

(*) (though Bush could conceivably do this over the summer if it looks like a democrat might have to deal with the aftermath - cynical, moi?)

Banned for not committing perjury

There is a story in icCoventry about a young woman called Claire Harrison. She is a lifelong supported of Coventry RFC and worked at a kit provider called Flash UK. In a dispute between the club and Flash UK, Claire was called as a witness. As such, she was under obligation to tell the truth as she understood it. This must have posed a dilemma for her due to the conflict of interest between club and employer. She testified against the club.

A few days later, she received a letter banning her from the club ground. The club may well feel wronged (they lost the case) - but they were found to be wrong by the court (according to the story). It seems rather vindictive to target people called as witnesses.

As a result, a petition has started and people are boycotting the club.

There is a forum discussing the issue on the national league boards.

Claire Harrison quotes the letter:

Dear Miss Harrison,

Further to recent legal situation between flash uk limited and ourselves, in which you appeared on behalf against the club,I would like to state for the record that your actions have caused us surprise and confusion.

We understood you to be a loyal Coventry RFC fan who regularly supports the club and attend games, As you are aware, we took over the club last august and it was clear that there were a number of problems we had to retify for the future benefit of the club. However there are those who do not seem to want this to happen and we must seek to protect what is one of the oldest and most famous clubs in england.

With this in mind as a consequence of your recent actions, i feel unforunately i only have one course of action and that is from this date forward to request that until further notice you have no formal relationship with the club. I would ask that you refain from attending games, functions or meetings.

I am sorry the situation has to come to this:however i must protect the future of the club.

Yours sincerley


Online petition - Unfair banning from Coventry Rugby Club

Update: Coventry have responded to this story.

Obeying the Law

In places in the US there is a 55mph speed limit. This limit is routinely broken. (According to the Wikipedia article, the limit should be higher - perhaps this is referring to one perimeter road?) To illustrate the absurdity of having a law which is not enforced, these students made a film where they obeyed the law.

As the man pointed out. Going at 75mph is accepted, going at 80mph gets you booked for being 25mph over. Surely it's better to have a law that's enforced and understood - so the point they're making is 'move the limit up'.

The reason for the 55mph limit originally was a fuel economy measure following the OPEC crisis in the 1970s. Whilst this is a good motive, it isn't a valid reason when at the same time cars in demand with incredibly low fuel economy (yes, SUV owner - that means you!)

It's interesting that in the film, to avoid people being angry the guy was pretending to use his cellphone - this would just inflame people in the UK!

Reply from Hazel Blears

Hazel Blears replied to my MP after I wrote a letter stating my concerns about the government trying to claim the power to remove liberty without due process. My MP forwarded my concerns to the home office.

Coincidental that this should occur today... the letter from Hazel Blears is undated, but it was forwarded to me yesterday.

Hazel Blears, as expected, put out the usual government spin, and my MP did nothing that couldn't have been done by a post office forwarding system. I still don't know where the man stands.

Thank you for your letter dated 1 February 2005 on behalf of XXXXXX of YYYYY about the Home Secretary's control orders proposals.

The ATCS Act 2001 introduced exceptional powers to counter the risks posed by terrorist activities. Part 4 of the Act is an immigration power which enables the Home Secretary to certify and detain foreign nationals who are suspected of involvement in international terrorism and who are believed to present a risk to our national security but cannot, at present, be removed from the United Kingdom. They cannot currently be removed, as a result of either practical considerations or the United Kingdom's international obligations, such as those under the European Court of Human Rights. However, the detainees are free to leave this country voluntarily at any time, as two have already chosen to do.

Whilst Article 5(1) (f) of the ECHR permits the detention of a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation, UK caselaw is clear - a person can only be detained if there is a reasonable prospect of their removal within a reasonable time. In the Part 4 cases, where there is a barrier to removal, we would therefore be prevented from detaining these individuals, pending their ultimate removal, without a derogation from the ECHR.

This is why a derogation was sought from Article 5 of the ECHR in relation to the part 4 powers. The detainees challenged the legality of the derogation. On Thursday 16 December 2004 the House of Lords allowed the appeal in the case of A and others V the Secretary of State for Home Department.' The Law Lords ruled that the powers in Part 4 section 23 of the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 were incompatible with Articles 5 and 14 of the ECHR in so far as they are disproportionate, and permit detention of suspected international terrorists in a way that discriminates on the grounds of nationality or immigration status.

This appeal was about the compatibility of domestic law with ECHR and it is ultimately for Parliament to decide whether and how the law should be amended. There is no legal obligation to release the detainees as a result of this judgment.

The part 4 powers have been used sparingly, a total of 16 people have been certified and detained under the part 4 powers. One other person has been certified but detained under other powers. Of these 10 people remain in detention. One individual appeal against certification was upheld, two certificates have been revoked by the Home Secretary and one detainee has been bailed under strict bail conditions.

There are extensive legal safeguards, including an individual right of appeal against certification to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC). SIAC is a superior court of record chaired by a high court judge. SIAC also conducts statutory reviews and those detained can also apply to SIAC for bail at any time.

As the Home Secretary announced in his statement on 26 January, we are seeking to develop alternatives to the part 4 powers. We are continuing with the work on deportation with assurances for foreign nationals who we can and should deport. We are also planning to introduce control orders, which would enable a range of preventative measures to be placed on a suspected terrorist irrespective of nationality, where we can neither prosecute nor deport. These will be preventative measures designed to disrupt and restrict an individual's activities where intelligence assessments indicate involvement in terrorism.

These orders will:

  1. be capable of general application to any suspected terrorist irrespective of nationality and, for most of the controls, the nature of terrorist activity.
  2. consist of a range of provisions from a ban on the use of communications equipment to restrictions to premises in very serious cases
  3. allow for a criminal sanction for a breach of any order imposed include independent judicial scrutiny of each case involving the hearing of evidence in both open and closed session, both against the imposition of an order and any subsequent variations of the provisions. There will also be regular reviews of extant orders.

As the Home Secretary said in his statement on the 26th January "A careful balance has to be struck between the rights of an individual and the protection of society against threats from organisations which seek to destroy". We believe that these powers will address this balance in a proportionate and effective manner.

It is ultimately for Parliament to decide whether and how we should amend the law. The Governments intention is to introduce a bill to give effect to control orders as soon as is practicable. It may be possible to enact the bill in a time scale that makes renewal of the part 4 powers unnecessary. Should that not be possible the Government will seek to renew the Part 4 powers for a limited time to enable the new powers to be put in place.

The Home Secretary will not be revoking the certificates of the current detainees between now and when the new powers are in place unless the threat they pose changes and they no longer meet the criteria for certification.

Andy Hamilton on the news quiz: 'What a topsy turvey world we live in when our best hope of opposing draconian laws is Michael Howard'. and 'Am I alone in having an extreme dislike for ... Hazel Blears'. The consensus was 'no'. The news quiz is available for download from saturday afternoon and will be available for a week.

Kofi Annan made a Keynote address to the Closing Plenary of the International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security in Madrid

By the same token, the United Nations must continue to insist that, in the fight against terrorism, we cannot compromise the core values I have listed. In particular, human rights and the rule of law must always be respected. As I see it, terrorism is in itself a direct attack on human rights and the rule of law. If we sacrifice them in our response, we will be handing victory to the terrorists.

Quite so, Kofi.

House Arrest and my Prospective MP (Tory)

I've received a reply from the Conservative Candidate in my area regarding the house arrest of terror suspects.

My apologies for not replying earlier.

I take the threat of terrorism very seriously. Which is why I want to see terrorists face trial and be punished, not be placed under house arrest at the request of the executive.

I'm sorry you found it so hard to find my website. I'll explore what we can do to ensure a higher profile. And thanks also for your blog tips

(I made some comments about putting in an RSS feed, and how it was so difficult to find out who the conservative candidate was given that the current guy was deselected - though I don't support the chap in all things, he'll probably be my MP as this is a safe seat and I want to keep tabs on what he's doing.)