Civil Liberty Vanishes 548

The sinister potential of coronavirus lockdown to suppress dissent was on display on Monday as police broke up a small group of protestors outside Westminster Crown Court during a case management hearing for Julian Assange. The dozen protestors, who included Julian’s father John Shipton, were all social distancing at least 2 metres apart (except where living in the same household). The police did not observe social distancing as they broke up this small and peaceful protest.

This is a stark illustration of the use of the current emergency powers to suppress legitimate dissent.

For the first time, there was something of a court victory for Assange’s defence team, as they obtained their preferred date of September for resumption of the extradition hearing. Last week magistrate Baraitser had tried to impose a choice of July or November based on the availability of Woolwich Crown Court. As defence witnesses have to come from around the world, July was too early for the defence, while November would mean another lengthy period of incarceration for the unconvicted Assange. This is not the first time the defence have secured the agreement of the US-led prosecution to a procedural request, but it is the very first time Baraitser has acceded to anything proposed by the defence, throughout all the lengthy proceedings.

SO the Assange hearing will resume in September, and of course I intend to be there to report it, if not myself incarcerated. The exact date is not yet known nor the venue. It will not be Woolwich but another Crown Court which has availability. I suspect it may be at Kingston-upon-Thames, because the government will want to maintain the theatre of the peaceful Julian being an ultra-dangerous offender and that is the other purpose built “anti-terrorism court” in London.

It is well worth reading this excellent article from El Pais by Julian’s partner, Stella Morris. It says a great deal that in the state that is actually holding Europe’s most prominent political prisoner, no newspaper would publish it. It is a truism that the general public fail to notice the slide into authoritarianism before it is too late. I confess I never thought to witness the process first hand in the UK. The information on guns in the article is new to me:

After Julian was arrested a year ago, Spain’s High Court opened an investigation into the security company that had been operating inside the embassy. Several whistleblowers came forward and have informed law enforcement of unlawful activities against Julian and his lawyers, both inside and outside the embassy. They are cooperating with law enforcement and have provided investigators with large amounts of data.

The investigation has revealed that the company had been moonlighting for a US company closely associated with the current US administration and US intelligence agencies and that the increasingly disturbing instructions, such as following my mother or the baby DNA directive, had come from their US client, not Ecuador. Around the same time that I had been approached about the targeting of our baby, the company was thrashing out even more sinister plans concerning Julian’s life. Their alleged plots to poison or abduct Julian have been raised in UK extradition proceedings. A police raid at the security company director’s home turned up two handguns with their serial numbers filed off.

We are now to be expected to entrust ourselves to a new coronavirus tracing app, currently being trialed on the Isle of Wight, that allows the government to know precisely where we are and with whom. The results will be permanently stored in a central database – something that is not required for the ostensible purpose of the app. The UK is alone among European states in seeking to create a national centralised database containing traceable unique identifiers for individuals. Precisely to address civil liberties concerns, all other countries are using a devolved database approach with amalgamation only of research useful date which cannot identify individuals. The UK is also refusing to share code with the public, or even precise detail of developers. The US firm Palantir, which has developed the app for NHSX, is coy about where its development is carried out and by whom. So far nothing has been released on the architecture of the App.

I highly recommend this podcast by Matrix Chambers on the very alarming civil liberties implication of the approach to the tracing app by Boris Johnson’s government.

There is no organisation or group with an interest in data privacy which is not sounding the alarm. The Register reports:

Controversially, the NHSX app will beam that contact data back to government-controlled servers. The academics who signed today’s open letter fear that this data stockpile will become “a tool that enables data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of society, for surveillance.”

As we reported yesterday, Britain has abandoned the international consensus on how much data should be collected to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter said:

We hold that the usual data protection principles should apply: collect the minimum data necessary to achieve the objective of the application. We hold it is vital that if you are to build the necessary trust in the application the level of data being collected is justified publicly by the public health teams demonstrating why this is truly necessary rather than simply the easiest way, or a “nice to have”, given the dangers involved and invasive nature of the technology.

Then a further report in The Register emphasised still more the UK government’s rejection of the Apple-Google app being used by virtually every other country, which is specifically devised to make impossible centralised storing of information which identifies individuals:

Presumably the goal with this kind of explanation is to comfort the vast majority of UK folk who don’t understand how the entire internet economy works by connecting vast databases together.

So long as you can rely on one piece of per-user data – like a “big random number” – everything else can be connected. And if you also have a postcode, that becomes 100 times easier. Ever heard of Facebook? It’s worth billions solely because it is able to connect the dots between datasets.

Indeed, it may be possible to work out who is associating with whom from the app’s ID numbers. Bear in mind, the Apple-Google decentralized approach produces new ID numbers for each user each day, thwarting identification, especially with the ban on location tracking.

Levy also glossed over the fact that as soon as someone agrees to share their information with UK government – by claiming to feel unwell and hitting a big green button – 28 days of data from the app is given to a central server from where it can never be recovered. That data, featuring all the unique IDs you’ve encountered in that period and when and how far apart you were, becomes the property of NCSC – as its chief exec Matthew Gould was forced to admit to MPs on Monday. Gould also admitted that the data will not be deleted, UK citizens will not have the right to demand it is deleted, and it can or will be used for “research” in future.

Yes, that is Matthew Gould in charge of the whole project. Matthew Gould, who as Private Secretary to first David Miliband and then William Hague, and then as UK Ambassador to Israel, held an extraordinary total of eight secret meetings with Liam Fox and Adam Werritty together.

1) 8 September 2009 as Miliband’s Principal Private Secretary (omitted from O’Donnell report)
2) 16 June 2010 as Hague’s Principal Private Secretary (omitted from O’Donnell report)
3) A “social occasion” in summer 2010 as Ambassador designate to Israel with Gould, Fox and Werritty (omitted from O’Donnell report)
4) 1 September 2010 in London (only one September meeting in O’Donnell report)
5) 27 September 2010 in London (only one September meeting in O’Donnell report)
6) 4-6 February 2011 Herzilya Conference Israel (omitted from O’Donnell report)
7) 6 February 2011 Tel Aviv dinner with Mossad and Israeli military
8) 15 May 2011 “We believe in Israel” conference London (omitted from O’Donnell report)

Funnily enough, I was recalling Matthew Gould last week when the Cabinet Secretary, after his “investigation”, published his report “exonerating” Priti Patel of bullying. It reminded me of when then Gus O’Donnell as Cabinet Secretary published his “investigation” into the Fox-Werritty affair, in which Gus O’Donnell systematically lied and covered up the meetings between Fox, Werritty and Matthew Gould, claiming there had only been two such meetings when in fact there were eight. It is also a good moment perhaps to pay tribute to the redoubtable Paul Flynn MP, recently deceased, who after I briefed him attempted to question Gus O’Donnell on the Public Administration Committee about the meetings he was covering up. With admirable persistence, despite continual efforts to block him, Flynn did manage to get Gus O’Donnell to admit directly that one of the Fox/Werritty/Matthew Gould meetings was with Mossad.

Hansard Public Administration Committee 24/11/2011

Q<369> Paul Flynn: Okay. Matthew Gould has been the subject of a very serious complaint from two of my constituents, Pippa Bartolotti and Joyce Giblin. When they were briefly imprisoned in Israel, they met the ambassador, and they strongly believe—it is nothing to do with this case at all—that he was serving the interest of the Israeli Government, and not the interests of two British citizens. This has been the subject of correspondence.

In your report, you suggest that there were two meetings between the ambassador and Werritty and Liam Fox. Questions and letters have proved that, in fact, six such meetings took place. There are a number of issues around this. I do not normally fall for conspiracy theories, but the ambassador has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist and he has previously served in Iran, in the service. Werritty is a self-proclaimed—

Robert Halfon: Point of order, Chairman. What is the point of this?

Paul Flynn: Let me get to it. Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran.

Chair: I have to take a point of order.

Robert Halfon: Mr Flynn is implying that the British ambassador to Israel is working for a foreign power, which is out of order.

Paul Flynn: I quote the Daily Mail: “Mr Werritty is a self-proclaimed expert on Iran and has made several visits. He has also met senior Israeli officials, leading to accusations”—not from me, from the Daily Mail—“that he was close to the country’s secret service, Mossad.” There may be nothing in that, but that appeared in a national newspaper.

Chair: I am going to rule on a point of order. Mr Flynn has made it clear that there may be nothing in these allegations, but it is important to have put it on the record. Be careful how you phrase questions.

Paul Flynn: Indeed. The two worst decisions taken by Parliament in my 25 years were the invasion of Iraq—joining Bush’s war in Iraq—and the invasion of Helmand province. We know now that there were things going on in the background while that built up to these mistakes. The charge in this case is that Werritty was the servant of neo-con people in America, who take an aggressive view on Iran. They want to foment a war in Iran in the same way as in the early years, there was another—

Chair: Order. I must ask you to move to a question that is relevant to the inquiry.

Q<370> Paul Flynn: Okay. The question is, are you satisfied that you missed out on the extra four meetings that took place, and does this not mean that those meetings should have been investigated because of the nature of Mr Werritty’s interests?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I think if you look at some of those meetings, some people are referring to meetings that took place before the election.

Q<371> Paul Flynn: Indeed, which is even more worrying.

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I am afraid they were not the subject—what members of the Opposition do is not something that the Cabinet Secretary should look into. It is not relevant.

But these meetings were held—
Chair: Mr Flynn, would you let him answer please?

Sir Gus O’Donnell: I really do not think that was within my context, because they were not Ministers of the Government and what they were up to was not something I should get into at all.

Chair: Final question, Mr Flynn.

Q<372> Paul Flynn: No, it is not a final question. I am not going to be silenced by you, Chairman; I have important things to raise. I have stayed silent throughout this meeting so far.

You state in the report—on the meeting held between Gould, Fox and Werritty, on 6 February, in Tel Aviv—that there was a general discussion of international affairs over a private dinner with senior Israelis. The UK ambassador was present…

Sir Gus O’Donnell: The important point here was that, when the Secretary of State had that meeting, he had an official with him—namely, in this case, the ambassador. That is very important, and I should stress that I would expect our ambassador in Israel to have contact with Mossad. That will be part of his job. It is totally natural, and I do not think that you should infer anything from that about the individual’s biases.

When I put in Freedom of Information requests for the minutes of the eight meetings involving all of Liam Fox, Adam Werritty and Matthew Gould, they came back as blank sheets of paper, with literally everything removed but the date, in the interests of “national security”. When I put in a Freedom of Information request for all correspondence between Adam Werritty and Matthew Gould, I received a refusal on the grounds it would be too expensive to collect it.

I should make my position perfectly plain. I think a coronavirus tracing app is an important tool in containing the virus. I would happily use the safeguarded one being developed by Google/Apple with decentralised data and daily changing identifiers, not linked to postcodes, being adopted by major European governments.

But I think serious questions have to be asked about why the UK government has developed its own unique app, universally criticised for its permanent central data collection and ability to identify individuals from their unique codes. That this is overseen not by a scientist or health professional, but by the man who held all those secret meetings with Fox and Werritty, including with Mossad as admitted to Parliament by the then Cabinet Secretary, frankly stinks.

With grateful thanks to those who donated or subscribed to make this reporting possible.

This article is entirely free to reproduce and publish, including in translation, and I very much hope people will do so actively. Truth shall set us free.


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548 thoughts on “Civil Liberty Vanishes

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  • Ilya G Poimandres

    This app is a perfect opportunity to give up the servitude to the mobile phone. There is no need for instant awareness of people’s states and mind musings. We are all becoming much more tetchy because of this need for insta gratification. Keep it at home, then no problem.

    • Merkin Scot

      How long before ‘suspicion of not carrying a smart phone without reasonable excuse’ becomes the prefered holding charge?

      • Bill Thomson

        It probably is already at any US border post.
        A subsiduary offence will be traveling with a discharged battery.

          • ET

            Replicant supports very few devices and the ones it does support are ancient by tech standards.
            For rooting your androidphone (gaining full system level authority), custom ROMS (operating systems) and anything android related the best resource is:
            Just be warned, especially with newer phones, the process can be quite involved and risks soft bricking your phone or other issues such as boot loops etc.(which can usually be recovered). They have a searchable list of phones and tablets which is very extensive. Read extensively before you do anything and always back up your phone first.
            Lineage OS is possibly the custom ROM supporting the largest range of phones though there are many others.
            It is generally achieveable as long as you are careful and BACK UP YOUR PHONE first.
            A custom ROM is a good way to extend the life of your phone also.

      • Deepgreenpuddock

        Well Merkin, good question but how about some civil disobedience? Lets all fish out those old Nokias and fliptops from the 90’s still at the back of a dresser drawer,. and start using them, or even better just use landlines. That’ll put their gas at a peep.Back to the eighties!

  • Mary

    Halfon (quoted in the excerpt above) is still around. He was displaying concern yesterday in the HoC for ‘vulnerable children’ in a debate about the virus. He has the chairmanship of the Education Select Committee.
    He has held junior ministerial posts under Cameron and May. He became MP for Harlow in 2010. Halfon’s grandfather and father came here from Libya.

    ‘He was chief of staff for the Conservative MP Oliver Letwin before becoming political director for Conservative Friends of Israel.’

    Way back Letwin and Redwood were advocating privatisation of OUR NHS. Redwood has been the MP for Wokingham since 1987. Letwin left the HoC last year. Together they produced a pamphlet –
    It is discussed here by a GP who has been fighting to save it.

  • Carl

    I’d heard the British app was an outlier in terms of being able to permanently identify individuals. Did not know it is to be overseen by this Israeli proxy Gould. Suggests the aim may be to monitor Britons henceforward to a similar extent as the Palestinians. So much for Boris Johnson’s alleged admiration for the freedom-loving character of the English. So much for the existence of that character if the English submit meekly to being surveilled in the manner of an occupied and defeated people. Although naturally they will not be informed of the unique nature of their surveillance or the background of the man overseeing it.

    • Rhys Jaggar

      Well, if people do not want to surveilled they will have to riot. Polite words get you absolutely nowhere.

      Try burning down the houses of 500 MPs.

      Then Sir Mark Sedwill’s house.

      Then Mark Urban’s.

      The House of Commons would easily burn to the ground if you had some good arsonists set it up.

  • Bill Thomson

    Also of concern is the cashless society agenda. No reason not to go cashless but individuals need robust protection from institutional interference.

    • nevermind

      Just imagine the work of diplomats in Africa without cash to relief various tensions? Craigs book ‘the Catholic orangemen of Togo’ point out very well what cash in awkward positions can do for HMG abroad. It will never happen. How are banks going to launder billions in drugsmoney, hallo HSBC, in future. Will they get secret card accounts and readers?

    • Bayard

      “No reason not to go cashless”

      Lots of reasons not to go cashless

      “but individuals need robust protection from institutional interference.”

      and that is just one of them.

  • Vivian O'Blivion

    ” ….questions have to be asked about why the UK government has developed its own unique app …” Surely purchased off the shelf from a certain Middle Eastern country with a Mediterranean coastline.

    • Minority Of One

      Good point. If it is being tested in the UK now, seems like it has been around / under development for a while, by someone with expertise in these matters.

  • Steve Trevethan

    Might it be worth enquiring of cost when told that F O I information is “too expensive to collect”?
    Might this reduce deflection by generality?

  • John Goss

    Pleased to see that you are raising these important “spy-on-us-all” questions. But not half as pleased as I am to see that Professor Neil Ferguson has resigned. Many of us will conjecture that the reason for this is that COVID-19 (a bad case of flu as one authoritative body put it) has reached its zenith. OffGuardian did a good piece in the track-record of Bill Gates Foundation-dunded Ferguson who as well as being responsible for this lockdown which is crippling society and business was responsible for a whole host of other scaremongering tactics.

    • Cascadian

      I think you will find that he hasn’t resigned from his Imperial College position. This resignation is theatre to cover politicians Gluteus Maximi.

      • John Goss

        I’m sure you’re right Cascadian about his Imperial College position. He probably jumped on this one to cover his lucrative, if dodgy, research and academic position.

        Don’t mention Gluteus Maximi. I’m still suffering from an 80 mile bike ride on Monday. 🙂

    • Rhys Jaggar

      I think ICSM should be sued to the rafters by the FSB.

      They certainly deserve it…

  • Brendan

    Palantir, which is involved with the NHSX app, has received funding from the CIA, and its clients include several US government military and intelligence organisations. It helps the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to track immigrants, sometimes resulting in their deportation. Peter Thiel – who is Palantir’s co-founder, Chairman and largest shareholder – has publicly supported Donald Trump since before the 2016 election.

    Other NHSX partners – Google, Microsoft and Amazon – also do a huge amount of business with the US government.

    But don’t worry, US spooks and mega-corporations would never allow any mass-surveillance of innocent citizens!

  • Ruth

    The British government and its agencies act only in their own interests. Moving the date to September may possibly be to ensure Craig isn’t around to report factually on the proceedings

  • Fredi

    The implementation of this demonic new world order is accelerating rapidly, a cashless society and a micro chipped population is next..

  • Mary

    Guardian – UK coronavirus contact tracing app: is it safe and will people use it?
    It has been developed at breakneck speed – over the past two months – and while NHSX and the firm that has developed it, VMware Pivotal, have had advice from government security experts at the NCSC, there remains the possibility that there could be security flaws.

    Levy, however, argued they were minimal. He said the central system only stored a set of numbers and if you discovered “my app ID is 123456, there are some theoretical things you can do to try to understand my contacts if you’ve followed me round. But if you’ve followed me round, you’ve probably seen my contacts anyway.”

    Others have raised concerns that the central database could expand and increase the security risk. Matthew Gould, the chief executive of NHSX, wrote last month: “In future releases of the app, people will be able to choose to provide the NHS with extra information about themselves to help us identify hotspots and trends.”

    That prompted Damian Collins MP, a former chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, to wonder whether that would make it easier to identify people in the database if it was hacked. He also asked whether the centralised database should be deleted at the end of the pandemic, as Australia has committed to do.

    ‘Dell Technologies is now the owner of both VMware and Pivotal.’

    • Rhys Jaggar

      As they will be designed with security flaws (how can the CIA, MI6, Mossad etc hack you if there are no flaws in there), no words of assurance should be taken at face value.

      When the whole aim of this crisis was setting up a surveillance society, and when hundreds of businesses are looking to make billions through being disgusting perverts, you really should not rely on any mealy mouthed words at all.

      There need to be brutal sanctions in place for failure to secure privacy and career-ending punishments for any politicians selling out their voters.

      • Clark

        A virus doesn’t have an “aim”. That’s taking conspiracy theory to ridiculous lengths; may as well suspect your shoelaces of trying to trip you over.

        • Tony M

          On the contrary Clark (2020-05-06 18:03), to the virus not having an aim, it is now sentient, conscious, like the germs in the Domestos advert, they have a parliament, an especially gruesome looking Leader, also called Boris, they like jelly-babies and liquorice, but hate boiled sweets, they can drive, and fly, they like most music but especially death-metal, but Vera Lyn makes them shrivel, and just like round at Père Skripal’s house they have an affinity for door-handles, but also for soles of shoes, supermarket trolleys, plastic and golf-clubs. There aim is transparent, it’s world-domination. Don’t let the fact they’re microscopic dis-arm you, be on your guard, they’re out there and in here, the little blighters are everywhere.

    • Johny Conspiranoid

      “It has been developed at breakneck speed – over the past two months ”
      Or not, see five posts up.
      There remains the possibility that there could be security flaws introduced by NHSX the firm that has developed it, VMware Pivotal, and government security experts at the NCSC, deliberately.

      • Billy Brexit !

        Too true and internet companies have privacy policies that they pay lip service to enforcing while selling you down the river. This big brother app will be a NO from me !

  • N_

    For reference: The Register is not in any way oppositional. Its group editor (editor of The Register and The Channel Joe Fay) sits on the D Notice Committee. There is no possible way around that fact. He’s not a cool guy. He’s knock-knock, here come the secret police, that’s who he is.

    It is a truism that the general public fail to notice the slide into authoritarianism before it is too late.

    And what about the liberal middle classes, the ones who can’t afford to run off into “communities” gated behind 10 foot high fences? Perhaps they’ll take in a Tariq Ali play or two before they wonder why their savings got wiped out as they did, for example, in Argentina.

    I should make my position perfectly plain. I think a coronavirus tracing app is an important tool in containing the virus. I would happily use the safeguarded one being developed by Google/Apple with decentralised data and daily changing identifiers, not linked to postcodes, being adopted by major European governments.

    You’ve been suckered by the false choice spread about by the Cabinet Office and by scumbags such as Joe Kay at the Register then. There is no important difference between the two “apps”. It’s a complete trap to believe there is. Which companies do you think are making the British government-recommended “centralised” “NHS” version available on their servers, or “app stores” as they call them? None other than Google and Apple.

    • John Goss

      You wouldn’t get me downloading it for love or money. Because of new surveillance and the laws to legitimise information gathering technologies we are already compromised by our controllers. Nothing is private any more. Soviet Russia had dossiers on most of the populace and this was justly criticised in the west. The west today is worse than anything the Soviet state could have dreamed up. But that’s all right because it’s the west: guardian of the free world.

      • Rhys Jaggar

        The simplest solution is simply not to own a mobile phone. They can track you using chip n pin debit cards though. And passports. And if you are a real SOB, they will use satellites.

        • lysias

          I have never owned a cellphone. My primary reason originally was to prevent employers from contacting me during my vacations and off time. But since I had worked for branches of the U.S. military that worked with the NSA, I was always aware of how they could misuse cellphones, so that was always a secondary reason. Now that I am retired, it is my primary reason not to have a cellphone.

    • bj

      You’ve been suckered by the false choice spread about by the Cabinet Office and by scumbags such as Joe Kay at the Register then. There is no important difference between the two “apps”. It’s a complete trap to believe there is. Which companies do you think are making the British government-recommended “centralised” “NHS” version available on their servers, or “app stores” as they call them? None other than Google and Apple.

      And besides, every smartphone has a unique IMEI which will be registered by the Provider when any app contacts a tower. Ultimately, officials as part of any ‘investigation’, will find a need to connect the IMEI tower-connection database with the ‘anonymized’ database, and voilà — you have your ‘human-identity-fitness’ (just making this apt Darwinian term up as I type)-database.

  • Crispa

    The WHO has a well established and tried contact tracing app that can be used for any infectious outbreak called “Go-Data”. As far as I can tell from the training modules it does not result in the mass collection of personal data only that which is health related for the purpose of infection control. It is unnecessary to waste public money on apps from Google, Apple or whoever, when there are off the shelf programmes that with a bit of in-house tweaking would be made fit for this purpose. Not of course how a Tory government in hock to big business thinks.

  • OnlyHalfALooney

    I think a coronavirus tracing app is an important tool in containing the virus. I would happily use the safeguarded one being developed by Google/Apple with decentralised data and daily changing identifiers, not linked to postcodes, being adopted by major European governments.

    I beg to differ. There is probably no such thing as “decentralised”. Google/Apple can read everything on your phone (and thus the authorities too). If people want to install these apps, they are obviously free to but they should understand that they should not rely on them in any way.

    The apps rely on using Bluetooth to determine the proximity of other users. Bluetooth was never designed for this purpose. You cannot reliably determine distance by Bluetooth signal strength. There are just too many environmental and other factors.

    Also, one of the great problems with the Covid-19 epidemic is that a great many who are infected show only slight or no symptoms. If a person doesn’t even know she/he has (had) the virus, how on Earth will they be able to warn others?

    Even if an infection is determined by testing, the accuracy of tests are at best 98%. There have been concerns that the accuracy of some tests are far worse than that. Just imagine the chain of unnecessary “self-isolation” in the event of a false positive or an inaccurate range estimation. (And how reliably do people “self-isolate”?)

    In my opinion, the “coronavirus apps” will be deeply flawed and mostly useless. Perhaps this is why the Dutch government has rejected all tenders until now.

    After a series of terror attacks in France, the French government raised the Vigipirate level to maximum and sent troops to patrol city streets. The troops did not actually provide much protection from surprise terrorist attacks. However, they did calm the public with a (false) feeling of safety and gave them the feeling that the government was “doing something”. .

    Perhaps the coronavirus apps are a similar attempt by governments to give people a feeling of security. But it will be a false sense of security because we simply don’t yet know enough about the virus and how it spreads . We don’t even know exactly how many people have symptomless infections. It could be 50%, or even higher.

    • N_

      The recruitment and organisation of 18000 “contact tracing enforcers” should be considered. There will be some ferocious “knocking on doors” and it will be organised with the involvement of c***s at local councils who have long been looking forward to this day. Soon they will be working with the army if they’re not already.

      “NHS” they will cry. “You dared to go and buy a piece of cheese in the local shop after your smartphone told you you weren’t allowed! So what if you haven’t eaten for five days? You’re virus-spreading scum of the earth!

      • N_

        It’s hard to think of the acronym “NHS” nowadays without thinking of a rabidly chanting crowd, the Nuremburg rallies, and posh boys on the stage (egged on by grammar-schooled “scientists” who pronounced their vowels in a more “popular” way) publicly beheading the impoverished isolated elderly, those with long-term chronic illnesses, and those who dare to go out of their houses without Partei Anti-Contamination Squad permission.

        But wait…Google and Apple and other European governments all love “privacy”. It’s not as if Google have anything to do with the surveillance state. Is this f***ing serious?

    • David

      Re:OnlyHalf… Bluetooth wasn’t designed…

      Bluetooth has been recently transmogrified into a very accurate location system, typically for badverts, or smart business tracking.
      the key technology phrase here is “Bluetooth Beacon” the range of beacons varies from 20m to 300m. A Bluetooth Low Energy beacon device broadcasts packets of data at regular intervals of time, at a lowish speed 200 kbps, towards the ‘customer’ android or iPhone.

      A BLE beacon can be stuck anywhere, powered by 4 x AA batteries for a year, transmitting on the 3 advertising BtLE channels, (37 channels remain free for data). But that would need dedicated cheap BtLE hardware, stuck up around, say a supermarket, or an island. Typically three or more beacons for reasonable resolution. But let’s get more precise, and drop the actual hardware requirement….

      It gets virtual,

      Virtual BLE negates the need to have a physical beacon in this particular use case. By latching onto existing Wi-Fi networks, beacon points are able to create a range that resembles a beam of a flashlight. More energy is pushed in front of the beacon antenna compared to the sides. This energy forms a power distribution resembling an ellipse. The location of a user is determined by assigning a probability weight to each point in the map. After calculating the expected signal strength and the measured signal strength, the location of the device (user) is determined with great accuracy

      So it could potentially piggy-back on many public/private 2.45GHz Wi-Fi band hot-spots, virtual Bluetooth beacon retail tech(1).

      I have already downloaded my local CivilProtection app, and I will certainly download and use whatever Coronavirus tracing app is offered to me, but the available technology does go a bit deeper than an average user might suspect.

      (1)remember, the ultimate goal of retail is to display a price on the smart label of an item on a shop shelf, based upon what the systems have been able to discover about you, individually, as you entered the shop. individual pricing, surge pricing even. Some hotels in USA already allegedly display & charge Apple browser purchasers a ten percent surcharge simply for owning an Apple product.

      • OnlyHalfALooney

        I am aware of in-store tracking (mainly by WiFi). It has been banned in the Netherlands. There is also an easy way to avoid it: set a routine on your phone to disable WiFi when leaving home and re-enable it when returning.

        Yes triangulation would work to determine smartphone location by Bluetooth. But this would require Bluetooth transceivers to be installed all over the place, because at least 3 would be needed to triangulate location. As the range of Bluetooth is perhaps 40 metres at best, this would require a stunning number of transceivers to cover even busy urban areas.

        See also this article on The Intercept:

  • N_

    So science boy Neil Ferguson got stitched up and removed at short notice. Did he start to get a whiff of how what he has been so enthusiastically helping out with is EVEN VILER than he himself supposed?

    If I had a pound for every figure who that could be said of… Robin Cook comes to mind…

    Meanwhile, Patrick Vallance the “chief scientific adviser” was head of R&D at Glaxo Smith Kline for six years until he got his government post. Who could make this sh*t up?

    But tell some people it’s “science” and they become like a teenybopper at a Justin Bieber concert.

    • Spencer Eagle

      Richard Feynman, a Physicist of some renown, said “Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts” .

      • John Goss

        He also said “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.” But we can’t discuss that or Jonathan Cole’s experiments.

  • wonky

    Just a quick reminder that Peter Thiel, father of Palantir, is one of the most Stasi-Fascist swamp rats alive.

  • Hugh Mckee

    From my reading of what info I can find the NHS app doesn’t “know precisely where we are and with whom”.

    1) Google/Apple do not allow it access to location data.
    2) It only know proximity info according to other users “Installation IDs”. These have post codes associated and phone model only.

    I agree about the risk. I especially would like a commitment to data deletion like Australia has given.(Even here I would want a debate. Churchill ordered the destruction of the worlds first programmable computer for security reasons!) Of course there is the possibility of joining the dots via other systems but I already give my post code and phone number to Amazon and whoever so its not a big ask for the NHS to want the same.

    I think its a mis-representation to say UK is going a different route than “virtually every other country”. The successful ones like China and South Korea have a centralised approach. So does Australia, Israel and Norway. Israel has demonstrated the risks by linking the system with police control of quarantine… don’t know how but clearly to be avoided.

    The simple truth though is that we not only need an app urgently, we are so late we have a much harder task to get Track & Trace working than say Germany who started day one and didn’t abandon as we did.

    We are where we are and we need to stop faffing. I accept all the concerns about dodgy pasts of persons involved but we need to be objective about the options available now. e.g. we might be unhappy at Cummings attending Sage but it appears he was the one making most sense about lockdown soon as. The message is more important than the messenger.

    • Bill Thomson

      Considering that speaking and in particular speaking loudly enhances the risk of transmission these programs will in due course be auto-updated to listen to conversations, purely in order to assess risk of course.

    • OnlyHalfALooney

      I haven’t read or heard a good explanation yet of why half of Sweden isn’t dead already because they do not have a full lockdown.

      And what about the Netherlands that has more restrictions than Sweden (closed schools restaurants) but also no full lockdown? Why are the number of Covid-19 patients in ICU steadily declining despite this “laxity”?

      Is it because Swedish and Dutch are better able to judge risks and possibly more community minded?

      Or have the “strict” governments just reacted in panic?

      I seriously don’t understand this. I do notice the Anglo-Saxon (propaganda) MSM is continually suggesting that a “spike of infections in Sweden” is “just around the corner”. Strangely the corner never seems to come.

      I am interested that there seems to be very strong correlation between the seriousness of Covid-19 infections and exposure to high air pollution levels, especially particulate. (And of course a strong correlation with poverty too.)

      • Shardlake

        I don’t believe you are half the looney your ‘handle’ suggests as you make some very valid points. I have never subscribed to the ‘science’ we have been offered in relation to this current pandemic. We are currently led by a mendacious government that will try to apportion responsibility and blame to any quarter rather than accept accountability for their own ineptitude and mismanagement.

        The Nightingale medical warehouses were an incredible overreaction to this pandemic, but let’s not forget it served as a conduit to the middle eastern owners of the London facility to rake in English taxpayer provided revenue at a time of national lockdown when there would have been no return on their investment. It would be interesting to learn how much will eventually be paid to these individuals who own these off-shore companies. My understanding is that a similar facility in Glasgow has cost the Scottish taxpayer over £43m and those costs are rising further.

        • OnlyHalfALooney

          it’s very much on topic because the UK government seems to be creating panic among its citizens to justify drastic measures that curtail their rights while the efficacy of these measures are not clearly demonstrable. Indeed the UK has much worse figures than Sweden that has not curtailed citizens’ rights to nearly the same extent.

          In other words, the measures remove citizens’ rights for no clearly demonstrable reason.

    • Phil Williamson

      “Churchill ordered the destruction of the worlds first programmable computer …”

      The world’s first programmable computer was made by Konrad Zuse (, the Z3 ( He is written out of all but the most erudite of histories of the computer.

      I’m afraid that there is a lot of jingoistic bullshit spouted about the British computer sector, from Bletchley Park onwards. The only British work cited as ‘prior art’ by Intel ( when they released their first commercial microprocessor was that conducted by George Stevenson’s group ( of ex-Elliott Computers employees working above a shopping mall in Glenrothes.

      • Phil Williamson

        Also worth noting that the “official” version of the invention of the microprocessor (Federico Faggin, with Ted Hoff credited as “co-inventor”) is bullshit: in fact, it was invented by Ray Holt (

        This deliberate falsification of the history of technology (just like that around the integrated circuit, the first flight, the telephone, the movie camera, the aqualung, etc.) mirrors the deliberate falsification of history cited regularly by CM in his posts.

  • jim

    I don’t think you need an ‘app’ to track people, all the data to do this is there already. This is just legitimising what governments have been doing in secret, imo.

    • OnlyHalfALooney

      You are right, but the GPS tracking in your smartphone is not accurate to within 2 metres. The idea is that Bluetooth is short distance and you can judge the proximity by signal strength alone.

      My phone (re)connects to the Bluetooth in our car when my wife turns on the ignition 20 metres away through a wall and the car body. Most disconcerting in the middle of a phone call. But this gives you an idea of the kind of inaccuracy you can expect in certain circumstances.

      It is very worrying that governments are now preparing to make it obligatory for citizens to be trackable at all times.

      • Rhys Jaggar

        It makes sense for young children and the elderly to be trackable at all times (particularly those suffering from confusion, early dementia, Alzheimers’ etc).

        The difficulty is that sensible technology for one segment of society is being pushed for no better reason that some scumbags want to make billions using surveillance technology en masse and they will make more money if the whole population is tagged.

        This is unlikely to be resolved amicably. Too much money is on the line and we all know what Western capitalists do when there are billions on the line. They murder and kill with impunity…..

  • Mary

    Never forgetting that one of Hancock’s donors is Neil Record, Chairman of the Institute of Economic Affairs. Their mouthpieces (Kate Andrews) have permanent access to the ‘news’ channels to spread the word.

    I see Ms Andrews has departed from the IEA and has been seduced by a better offer from the Barclay Bros who own the Spectator. Previously she was with the Adam Smith Institute. YCNMHerU.

    I didn’t know that there was such an entity as Spectator Radio ( a glorified name for a podcast). Here she is again presenting it.

    Her move was given the seal of approval from Guido Fawkes (Paul Staines)

    • Mary

      More or Mr Record –

      ‘On top of this, Record has donated £36,000 to the right-wing think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, which also has close links with the tobacco and oil industries.

      Digging further into his deep pockets, Record has also donated to Tory MP Matthew Hancock. Hancock was minister for universities and science until this summer, and voted strongly against a bankers’ bonus tax going to show that generosity rarely exists without a vested interest.’

        • Clark

          Most or many times, ie. when there are multiple debates and votes on one overall issue.

        • Jon

          Ha! Good question.

          The boring answer is that the algorithm on TWFY looks at the votes called in that category (there are often several) and a high proportion of votes for “for” or “against” is called “strong”. It presume it does not apply if there are only one or two votes called in that category.

  • Uzmark

    “I should make my position perfectly plain. I think a coronavirus tracing app is an important tool in containing the virus. I would happily use the safeguarded one being developed by Google/Apple with decentralised data and daily changing identifiers, not linked to postcodes, being adopted by major European governments.” Craig, you bemoan the loss of civil liberties, but go on to support tracking devices for the people!!!???….I had to read that a couple of times

    • Clark

      We need something better than lockdown. We don’t yet know whether having and recovering from covid-19 imparts immunity, because there hasn’t been long enough yet. Second infection could even be worse, and there are some worrying indications that it might, at least for some. If that’s so, or if another strain or virus comes around, we need the infrastructure; we mustn’t be late like we were this time.

      We need software and data we have personal control over. Free Software and blockchain.

      • John Goss

        We need to let the virus run its course. The whole economy is in danger of collapse because of this wrong-headedness. Stop keep encouraging people to make the same mistakes.

      • Uzmark

        We don’t need software…we need to stop running and hiding..first do no harm

    • Lev Ke

      Yes Uzmark, me too. Our society is so deeply rooted in cognitive dissonance that most people, even very great people like Craig, and in fact, almost all truth tellers, express some form of it. Can’t blame them, but it makes for weird reading often.

  • Blissex

    «It is a truism that the general public fail to notice the slide into authoritarianism before it is too late. I confess I never thought to witness the process first hand in the UK.»

    That seems to me exceptionally naive and out of touch, because on the contrary there is a strong demand by many voters for authoritarianism, rather than the public failing to notice it a slide into it, and the Conservatives in particular have been explicitly and loudly pandering to it for many years, since at least the “dog whistles” of when Howard was leader of the party in the 2000s. But New Labour of course pandered as much as they could too, and Conservative David Davis of all people resigned in 2008 and re-fought his seat in protest at “the erosion of civil liberties in the United Kingdom” as in the 2008 Counter-Terrorism bill.

    This is in large part because a much larger percentage of voters are oldies (many Colonel Blimps and many more hang-and-flog ranting aunts), living well on final salary pensions, in nice 3-4 bed semis in leafy, quiet suburbs, properties that they bought cheaply and that are now worth 10 times what they paid, and many have got buy-to-let properties that are cash-gushers.

    These people have got theirs, are sitting pretty, and are terrified, just terrified of any change, of anything, of anybody: they no longer have hope, they no longer want opportunities, for them the only possible effect of change is to lose their comfortable situations; their principle is “safety at any cost to someone else”. They want authoritarianism and repression, they want a strong government screwing everybody else but them, they want fascism if that is what it takes.

  • Crispa

    One of my dogs got me up early this am so I listened to this rather rambling but fascinating discussion from a Twitter link. I also had watched Dr Wodarg’s earlier webinar, which with his analogy to the Emperor’s New Clothes is about my favourite interview of this kind. Here he expands on what might be termed the sociology of the novel coronavirus and the interaction between the the politicians, the scientists and big business for whom data is like gold dust and who will lobby the politicians and scientists with their inducements and bribes to get hold of it by any means they can. All are involved in a mutual web of corruption and the science and us proles suffer with the loss of our freedom, privacy and rights.

  • Peter

    I am reminded of the scene in the, still excellent, Channel 4 drama ‘A Very British Coup’ when the Director General of MI5 (played by Alan MacNaughtan) turns to his sinister assistant (played by Tim McInnerny) and asks him words to the effect of “will you be happy when you can surveil all the people all the time?”

    To which he replied “No. Just satisfied.”

  • N_

    Neil “Professor Lockdown the Scientist” Ferguson clearly knows that what he spouts for his masters is a load of old c*ck.

    His lady friend Antonia Staats is a leading “campaigner” at Avaaz, the New York-based obvious CIA front “campaigning community bringing people-powered politics to decision making worldwide” that gets morons on the internet to give it money “relies simply on the generosity of individual members”.

    Staats’s husband Chris Lucas, meanwhile, is an academic at the notorious MI6 hole SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studies. According to the Daily Mail, his “neighbour” says “Chris is incredibly intelligent. He speaks about six or seven languages and is an academic at SOAS. Both he and Antonia are very popular around here and are a big part of our community. I always enjoy talking to them, especially Chris who is very knowledgeable about Middle Eastern affairs.

    Lucas’s specialism is Arabic linguistics. His SOAS page is here. He says he’s “away on research leave” during 2019-20. Who’s paying? Here‘s his CV.

    Who is Dominic Cummings replacing Ferguson with on SAGE?

    • Laguerre

      “Who is Dominic Cummings replacing Ferguson with on SAGE?”

      He’ll be retained informally?

    • J Galt

      Exactly – just like our very own Catherine Calderwood.

      Judge by actions not what they spout to earn their crust!

      • Clark

        Fox was using his position as Minister of Defence to permit Werritty working with Mossad to pursue Israeli aims against Iran. Unrest was fomented in Iran, but Craig had exposed the British end of the plot.

        • Laguerre

          Israeli attempts to foment unrest in Iran haven’t had much success over forty years. So Werrity was even more of a failure than we thought.

    • John Goss

      It was an affair where Werritty, Fox’s very close male friend, was invited to sit in on defence meetings when he had no parliamentary approval to do so. Fox resigned over it, But he’s still around.

  • Clark

    So. The entire UK population is to be brought under the surveillance of the covert Israeli war machine?

    Fuck that! Over my dead body.

    But not over the dead bodies of hundreds of thousands of pensioners.

    Revenge is a dish best served cold.

    • Spencer Eagle

      The UK’s population was already being brought under total surveillance with the roll out of the GCHQ designed ‘Smart Meter’, the NHS app should integrate very nicely with it.

      • Billy Brexit !

        I responded to nagging by my electricity supplier to have a Smart meter installed. A chap arrived and after at least two hours effort replaced some wiring, various connectors, a contactor for the Economy 7 heaters, he fitted a new shiny Smart meter. When the time came to switch on the power he found the meter could not phone home to HQ. Various solutions and tests were tried but after another half hour he admitted defeat and eventually fitted a new but un-Smart meter. So a mornings work for no result. It seems older solidly built houses such as mine are resistant to such tracking radio signals.

    • Republicofscotland

      The Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 allows the Britidh state to already spies on you. A HR challenge was made against it in 2019, but the courts found it was compatible with our Human Rights.

      The court concluded that there was on evidence of abude of power with the act. Of course that’s exactly what has happened as our rights to privicy continue to be further diminished.

      Its only a matter of time until retinal scanning, and facial recognition become widespread outside of airports. I recall reading that in some Asian countries they’ve taken to wearing masks to outfox facial recognition technology.

      • Blissex

        «The Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 allows the Britidh state to already spies on you.»

        That’s not even remotely its purpose. The secret services are secret because they do criminal activities.
        For the foreign secret services that is obvious: spying is a crime in almost every foreign country. There is a home secret service distinct from the police because while both do secret investigations, the secret services do them outside the law, while the police supposedly do them legally.

        The home secret services have always spied on “us”, in every country, they don’t need any law to enable them to do so because they operate outside the law; the Investigatory Powers Act simply legalizes some of what they do so that their evidence be admissible in UK courts.

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Could anything be worse for indicating the state of civil liberties than Sir Keir Starmer’s PMQs today. Instead of following up mentioning the UK’s miserable performance in meeting the pandemic by furious ones about Bozo’s personal and public behavior responsible for the failure, he added steps for improving PPE for workers?

    I guess the the new Opposition scored a zero in its first outing.

  • Steve+Hayes

    “The sinister potential of coronavirus lockdown to suppress dissent…”

    The “lockdown” that you support even though the government, as Matt Hancock admitted, introduced it without having made any attempt to assess how many people would die as a result.

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