At Last A Torture Inquiry 48

Finally David Cameron has announced that there will be an inquiry into British government complicity in torture. It will not start until a number of civil and criminal proceedings by individuals who claim they have been tortured have been resolved – which David Cameron appears to believe will be later this year, but we can’t know that.

Unlike the Chilcott Inquiry, the personnel of this inquiry are not obviously packed with supporters of the government view. I am somewhat concerned that Sir Peter Gibson, who has been Intelligence Services Commissioner for some years, can be viewed as parti pris. If the intelligence services were seriously misbehaving throughout his time as Commissioner, is he not being asked to judge whether he himself has been negligent?

But Dame Janet Paraskeva, head of the civil service commissioners, and Peter Riddell are genuinely independent minded people. Let us hope Sir Peter Gibson can be too.

But what we don’t have is the terms of reference of the inquiry. These are absolutely crucial. Nothing in David Cameron’s statement precluded the possibility that it will, as the intelligence services wish, simply look at individual cases of victims and assess compensation for them, without considering the existence of an overarching ministerially approved policy to use intelligence from torture.

I remain deeply concerned that individual junior MI5 and MI6 officers will be punished, while Tony Blair and Jack Straw plus the very senior officials like Lord Jay and Sir Richard Dearlove, who were responsible for setting the policy, will get off scot free.

It is still by no means sure that the inquiry will even be permitted to consider this aspect. I remain doubtful that I will be able to give my own evidence of ministerial policy of complicity with torture.

You can see the documents supporting that evidence here:

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48 thoughts on “At Last A Torture Inquiry

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  • Clark

    I suppose my real argument is for total disclosure enforced upon the corporate / commercial world; development, accounts, everything. After all, the public are ending up with no privacy, so why should the corporate world be permitted to maintain secrecy?

  • Roderick Russell

    ClARK — What’s new – my phones have been tapped for years. MI5 / CSIS (depending on whether I am in the UK or Canada) even route my calls through an Interception Centre so that they can control access to my lines completely if they want to. Sometimes they run interference on the line as a warning, or cut me off entirely, when they don’t like what I am saying. This is kind of them since it helps keep me in their good books. Indeed I have provided numerous evidentiary examples that prove all this tapping to the Police (and telephone company), just to show them how clever CSIS is. I love big brother.

  • sandcrab

    “So say the mic comes on, saves to memory, compresses to MP3 or equivalent, cutting out silence, and then transmits as a burst. The first three are very low power activities.”

    Listening, buffering, compressing and saving to flash is not a low power profile. Some phones have a dictaphone mode, and it will take just as much juice to do as that, it will run the batteries down much faster than standby, which has no regular processing to perform.

    If turned on only to record at certain times (although such an option has never been identified), it would fail often due to the mic being poorly positioned.

    Ive discussed this before, the speculation about phones capabilities never comes from people with a close understanding of the electronics and programming involved. There are no black or white hat reports about specific cases on the web, the kind of people who specialise in chipping and cracking phones would be all over it if it was happening.

    For emergencies some phones can be turned on remotely, given signal and battery power, but its not a practical bugging technology.

    As soon as proprietory drivers start doing something like this in android, likewise the ‘scenes’ would be all over it.

    Of course phone conversations are tappable, but treat tales of this kind of remote bugging as popular myth until it gets slashdotted – trust me, tech geeks are fanatical about this kind of stuff…

  • Richard Robinson

    Just to add to the paranoia … if I was building something to do that, I’d want to include an extra battery, somewhere inaccessible. Why would you construct a Top Sekrit Bugging Device and then give people ways to switch it off ?

    I know nothing about mobile phone technology, I don’t even own one, but sandcrab’s caveats seem sensible; though, I doubt that gathering a large amount of duff data is necessarily enough to rule it out. Stick the results into an audio editor & you can see the difference, without having to listen.

    But, he’s right. The real test would be, show it happening. Get a receiver and show it transmitting things when you didn’t ask it to ? The suggestion of buffering to mp3, that’s a wrokaround for such a test, is it ? acquire data offline and dump it during a “real” transmission ? So that would preclude real-time tracking of position.

    “Remote activation of the mouthpiece” is straight out of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher, “Special Facilities” in the old landline phones.

  • Clark


    are you trying to boggle my mind? You write a comment saying it won’t happen, with a link to evidence that it already has? Thanks for linking to a discussion about this; it’s the first one I’ve seen.


    I wasn’t really suggesting widespread bugging via mobiles, just pointing out that it can be done.

    There is this assumption that if we are under surveillance then it is by the state. In fact, commercialism hold the tools; the state just buys this service, and may be just one of many customers.

  • Richard Robinson

    Clark – likewise, I wasn’t meaning to say it is or it isn’t, just trying to think what might be possible and how to find out.

  • sandcrab

    No Clark 🙂 – read into the discussion a little. They had to replace the phones with modified ones containing a bug. There are only a couple of commentors in thread worried about normal phones, while there are numerous posts giving technical details that software phone bugs arent practical.

    btw, normal audio that phones transmit is already compressed more optimaly than mp3, any amount of captured audio of useable quality will require significant bandwidth to transmit.

    Sorry to have got stuck into this Clark, its rather OT.

    And what a nice comment to read here from ‘Just Japanese’ earlier!

  • Roderick Russell

    Clark says “There is this assumption that if we are under surveillance then it is by the state.” I don’t think that there is such an assumption at all. In my own case I didn’t draw this conclusion until it became obvious, and until a huge cover-up by the State (Home Office & Police) had kicked into operation.

    The truth is that If you can show that your landline is being tapped, and that you have reported it to the State (as I have), State involvement is a fair assumption since tapping a landline also involves the telephone company and all sorts of legalize. At the very least the State is condoning the tapping. In Canada, as TELUS security told us in front of witnesses, they don’t admit to any tapping at all unless the police use the information in a court – so CSIS can tap the innocent at will and it will never come out.

    The situation with Mobiles has always been a little different because of the wireless signal they transmit. it is quite possible for private organizations to listen in without having to involve the telephone company. It is probably best not to use ones mobile for financial transactions.

    As for other forms of surveillance. Yes, there are private companies that are now almost as sophisticated as a State intelligence service. But they are invariably staffed by former MI5, MI6, Special Branch officers and it is hard to believe that they are truly independent of the intelligence services.

    If you are under surveillance, the last thing you want to assume is that it is coming from the State’s Intelligence Services because you actually want the State to help you

  • sandcrab

    ‘nod to Roderick.

    I admit there is some controversy in the thread. But i read it as noisey without substantial technical description of the supposed bugging capability (rather than just some references to location tracking).

    Technical limitations exist (power, processor, transmition time and (microphone muffling)) and digital security is already scrutinised intensely by professionals and private enthusiasts. I dont listen to the ‘fud’ on this subject and can speculate the technical possibilities better than most. My phone would make a really useless bug. ymmv

  • Clark

    Roderick Russell,

    I wasn’t referring to you particularly, just to what seems to be a widespread assumption about surveillance. The overlap you describe in your fourth paragraph is just what I mean; the influence can presumably flow as easily from firms to state as vice versa. Each party has the all the others over a barrel, due to the need to maintain secrecy. A lot like organised crime.


    I can see that mobiles have their drawbacks as bugs. On the plus side, there are millions of them, the public pay for them, deploy them, keep them charged, and frequently replace them with better models at their own expense without, on the whole, being suspicious of them.

  • Roderick Russell

    Clark – It is generally accepted that MI5 / MI6 can operate above the law in the national interest. What is amazing is that MI5 / MI6 now operate abve the law in private matters as well. What amazes me even more is that they can do so without proper (and very tight) oversight by our politicians. Even more amazing is that these same people are now moving into the private sector; yet still above the law

  • Just a Japanese

    Mr. Mark Golding,

    Thank you very much for your comment.

    I haven’t had the pleasure to visit Britain yet but I worked with British people in Japan in the end of the 1980s, when the Japanese economy was in a better shape… I haven’t given up though. I still hope the industrialized countries will overcome the ongoing financial turmoil in a way at last.

    By the way, I have found the Economist magazine’s report of Japanese “political slush fund” on their website (report from May). Probably this is interesting for everyone… I was thinking that this article was not available online but here it is.

    (A political slush fund in Japan, May 20th 2010)

    This appalling scandal is an open secret in Japan today. The Japanese government has not taken any action over this scandal. The Japanese media industry (except for one large magazine publisher) took no action either. They want it to go away, apparently. There is no public inquiry…at least not yet. So, my country seems to be still running behind the UK in fact. 😉

    Best wishes to all

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