Sunday, January 31, 2010

The laboured assault on civil liberties

"[The rule of law] has been invoked down the ages in the face of oppressive government legislation, but it seems to have been forgotten altogether under this shameless government. Not much evidence that David Blunkett, the author of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, had ever heard of such a concept, much less tried to square his proposals with it. But then, if you prepare your criminal legislation on the basis of the law and order agenda of the editors of the Daily Mail and the Sun, you are bound to find you have drifted far from the port of the rule of law." —Mark George QC

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Je ne regrette Iraq

"There is a planet, some way removed from the real one, on which Tony Blair lives. He invited the Chilcot inquiry to join him on it yesterday. On this alternative earth, certainties dissolve and falsehoods become truths. Facts are transformed into opinions and judgments turn into evidence. Success and failure are both the same. On this strange planet, the invasion of Iraq was not a disaster, but a necessary and even heroic act. Other witnesses to Chilcot have admitted error. Mr Blair simply said he would invade Iraq all over again." —The Guardian

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hillary Clinton on Internet freedom

The US Secretary of State has issued a ringing declaration of the "freedom to connect" in her speech today. I'll try and dig up links later to the interviews I've done on this for the World Service and BBC News, but here's what I told Index on Censorship:
Hillary Clinton’s support for online freedom is welcome. I hope it leads to a push for Internet companies to make that freedom meaningful. Microsoft, Yahoo!, Cisco and others can all do much more to protect the privacy and free speech of Internet users around the world. Search engines should join Google in refusing to provide censored results. Webmail providers should store messages and account information out of reach of repressive regimes. Infrastructure companies should refuse to sell “surveillance-ready” Internet routers to countries such as China and Iran.

At the same time, democracies should be careful of their own online freedoms. The US and UK both require Internet Service Providers to enable real-time interception on their networks. The UK government has strong-armed ISPs into blocking access to web pages on a secret list of alleged child pornography, including last year a Wikipedia entry. European ISPs are required to log information about their customers’ online activity — which in the UK is accessible without a warrant to hundreds of central and local government agencies. We should hardly be surprised when repressive governments follow our own example.

You can also read a preprint of a much longer article I've written on Internet self-regulation and fundamental rights.

UPDATE: Bruce Schneier writes: "Whether the eavesdroppers are the good guys or the bad guys, these systems put us all at greater risk. Communications systems that have no inherent eavesdropping capabilities are more secure than systems with those capabilities built in. And it's bad civic hygiene to build technologies that could someday be used to facilitate a police state."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Oxford still not quite getting student diversity

Floreat Etona
Oxford University is supposedly doing its best to encourage applications from state school sixth-formers. Invigilating at an exam full of students in "subfusc" this morning, however, put me in mind of an evening with the Bullingdon Club (spot the mayor of London and leader of the opposition in the photo above).

I wonder how these silly fancy dress regulations impact on teenagers who don't wish they had gone to Eton.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sanity v the war on terror

"After spending hundreds of billions of dollars and imprisoning millions of people, it's slowly beginning to become possible for some politicians to admit that fighting a necessarily endless drug war in pursuit of an impossible goal might be a bad idea. How long will it take to admit that an endless war on terror, dedicated to making America a terror-free nation, is equally nonsensical?" —Paul Campos

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The totally-pants bomber

"What’s most striking about the government’s response to this unsuccessful bombing attempt is the complete lack of any rational relationship between the actions that have been taken and are being proposed, any analysis of which of these and similar tactics did or did not contribute to the success or failure of the Christmas Day attack on Northwest Airlines flight 253, and any likelihood that they would make future attempts at terrorism less likely to succeed." —Ed Hasbrouck

"Any reasonably competent terrorist organisation, with access to funds, capable technical experts and a small number of operatives able to move about the world freely can blow up airliners in flight." —Lewis Page

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Labour’s fixation with control is strangling everyone

"Our sense of self depends on our having some control over how we live. Labour made a disastrous mistake when it abandoned its own tradition of self-help and mutual assistance for a distrustful bureaucratic state. We are not willing to be the helpless observers of our lives." —Jenni Russell

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The politics of fear

"A risk that is completely dwarfed by numerous others — the risk of death from Islamic Terrorism — dominates our discourse, paralyzes us with fear, leads us to destroy our economic security and eradicate countless lives in more and more foreign wars, and causes us to beg and plead and demand that our political leaders invade more of our privacy, seize more of our freedom, and radically alter the system of government we were supposed to have. The one thing we don't do is ask whether we ourselves are doing anything to fuel this problem and whether we should stop doing it. As [John] Adams said: fear 'renders men in whose breasts it predominates so stupid and miserable.'" —Glenn Greenwald