Saturday, December 24, 2005 

Three stories all interconnected.

Lawyers acting for seven British residents detained in Guantánamo Bay have launched a court challenge to help secure their release.

They say Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and Charles Clarke, the home secretary, are under a legal obligation to demand that the US frees the men. They should be treated in the same way as the nine British citizens who have already been released from the US detention camp in Cuba, their lawyers argue.

The seven concerned are Bisher al Rawi, Jamil el Banna, Omar Deghayes, Wahab al Rawi, Jahida Sayyadi, Sabah Sunnoqrot and Abubaker Deghayes. All were resident in Britain, some as refugees, before they were captured by the US.

Bisher al Rawi and Mr El Banna, two businessmen, were seized in Gambia in 2002 by CIA agents after being held by British intelligence officers in the UK before being released. Chris Mullin, a former Foreign Office minister for Africa, says they were seized by the Americans after a tip-off by the British authorities.

Bisher al Rawi and Mr Deghayes say British intelligence officers who questioned them in Guantánamo Bay said they would be released if they agreed to work for British intelligence.

Lawyers, led by Rabinder Singh QC, have drawn up an 82-page document asking for a judicial review of what they say is the failure by ministers to honour their legal obligations. They say ministers are wrong in claiming they have no legal right to intervene because the men are not British citizens.

Moreover, the fact that the US has shown no interest in trying them through military commissions shows Washington "has no interest in detaining them for the purpose of pursuing any criminal charges against them", their lawyers say.

The detainees were suffering serious violations of their human rights and there was serious risk they were also suffering abuse amounting to torture or inhuman and degrading treatment.

In a reference to Mr el Banna and Mr Deghayes, they say international law recognises refugees as particularly vulnerable, making their case even stronger.

The detainees' solicitor, Irene Nembhard of Birnberg Peirce, said yesterday: "The grounds of this claim point to British intelligence forces being complicit in both the seizure and interrogation of the detainees in Gambia and in Guantánamo Bay - what is now referred to as extraordinary rendition. Against this background, the subsequent refusal of the British government to seek the detainees' return and to deny any legal or moral responsibility to do so is reprehensible."

It was incomprehensible to the men's families that the foreign secretary refused to act in the light of the prime minister's comments in the Commons on November 22 2005 that the situation in Guantánamo Bay was an anomaly that ought to be brought to an end, she said.

Meanwhile, in the other prisons which the US and UK would rather you didn't know about in Iraq:

Detainees held by the British army in Iraq have been involved in disturbances this week in protest at being held without charge or trial, the Guardian has learned.

The governor of Basra has made representations to the British after complaints by family members who say that their relatives have gone on hunger strike in the Shaiba detention facility south of Basra.

Families of the men say that they were prevented from visiting their relatives on Thursday and blocked the road to the base in protest. They say that when a few did gain access they heard allegations of beatings and of men being attacked by dogs.

Yesterday a British military spokesman confirmed that some of the "internees" had been involved in disturbances and had been on hunger strike but were now "getting fed". The men are suspected of being involved in insurgency or terrorist activity in the British-controlled area.

Sadiq Mahmoud Karim, visiting Qasim Mahmoud Karim, who has been in detention for 18 months, said: "Some visitors decided to block the main road leading to the base and not move till they were allowed to visit their relatives."

And finally:

Lebanon yesterday became the third country to sign a deal with Britain that allows terrorism suspects to be deported back there. Under the deal, Lebanon, which has been accused of repeatedly breaching the human rights of its citizens, promises not to ill-treat anyone returned to it by Britain.

Amnesty International said Lebanon's human rights record continued to be of "serious concern". It said Islamist groups and opposition supporters had been detained without charge for political reasons and that there had been attacks on basic liberties such as freedom of expression and association.

The Foreign Office said a monitoring body would keep track of a suspect after deportation, but it is not clear which organisation would carry out this role. "We are in the process of identifying a suitable body, and discussions with the Lebanese authorities are ongoing," the Foreign Office said. It is also unclear whether any of the alleged terror suspects held pending deportation or subject to control orders are from Lebanon.

Mike Blakemore of Amnesty International said: "Torture, suspicious deaths in custody and the use of the death penalty are all matters of serious concern in Lebanon and it's dangerously misguided to expect countries with a known record of torturing people to respect bits of paper promising not to torture. So-called 'diplomatic assurances' of good treatment are frankly not worth the paper they're written on. The government should abandon this policy of trying to find a way around the international ban on torture and instead concentrate on condemning the torture of prisoners in places like Lebanon."

Mike Blakemore should also have added that the government has repeatedly failed to explain why these men cannot be tried in Britain. Is it because they have no case to answer, or because it would involve revealing British intelligence sources? The Independent reported earlier this month that some of those currently awaiting deportation or under control orders have not been interrogated or interviewed by either the police or MI5 the whole time they have been in custody. Why are these men apparently so dangerous that they cannot be allowed to go around in public, but who have also not seemingly committed any crime that the police or the security services wish to investigate further by interviewing the accused?

Those held in the Iraq camps are in a similar position of being held without charge. Those held at Guantanamo are apparently still being force-fed, as their hunger strike against the conditions there continues. It now seems that when our gentle hearts-and-minds winning British army stopped their prisoners from having visitors that they also rebelled. As to whether they have been ill-treated, who knows? Anything now seems to be possible or permissible. Merry fucking Christmas.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005 

Surveillance all the time, all of the time.

What a cheerful little story for the holiday season:

Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.

Using a network of cameras that can automatically read every passing number plate, the plan is to build a huge database of vehicle movements so that the police and security services can analyse any journey a driver has made over several years.

The network will incorporate thousands of existing CCTV cameras which are being converted to read number plates automatically night and day to provide 24/7 coverage of all motorways and main roads, as well as towns, cities, ports and petrol-station forecourts.

By next March a central database installed alongside the Police National Computer in Hendon, north London, will store the details of 35 million number-plate "reads" per day. These will include time, date and precise location, with camera sites monitored by global positioning satellites.

Already there are plans to extend the database by increasing the storage period to five years and by linking thousands of additional cameras so that details of up to 100 million number plates can be fed each day into the central databank.

Senior police officers have described the surveillance network as possibly the biggest advance in the technology of crime detection and prevention since the introduction of DNA fingerprinting.

But others concerned about civil liberties will be worried that the movements of millions of law-abiding people will soon be routinely recorded and kept on a central computer database for years.

The new national data centre of vehicle movements will form the basis of a sophisticated surveillance tool that lies at the heart of an operation designed to drive criminals off the road.

In the process, the data centre will provide unrivalled opportunities to gather intelligence data on the movements and associations of organised gangs and terrorist suspects whenever they use cars, vans or motorcycles.

The scheme is being orchestrated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and has the full backing of ministers who have sanctioned the spending of £24m this year on equipment.

More than 50 local authorities have signed agreements to allow the police to convert thousands of existing traffic cameras so they can read number plates automatically. The data will then be transmitted to Hendon via a secure police communications network.

Chief constables are also on the verge of brokering agreements with the Highways Agency, supermarkets and petrol station owners to incorporate their own CCTV cameras into the network. In addition to cross-checking each number plate against stolen and suspect vehicles held on the Police National Computer, the national data centre will also check whether each vehicle is lawfully licensed, insured and has a valid MoT test certificate.

It would be cliche to make any references to 1984, but I'm going to anyway. Just remember, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Airstrip one, here we come.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005 


Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

-- President George W. Bush, April 20, 2004

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Laugh of the year.

Tony Blair today shrugged off the revitalised challenge from the Conservative party, telling reporters their "big idea" seemed to be to "try and become more like New Labour", as he set out a new year reform programme for his government.

"If you look at it for a minute, what is the dominant agenda at the moment in British politics? What's the big idea coming from the Conservative party? To try and become more like New Labour.

Blair must be pissed off, because after all, isn't becoming like the Tories New Labour's job? It must hurt to have all your ideas stolen when you stole them in the first place.

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Israel denies Palestinians from excerising their democratic right.

Everyone wants the Middle East to become more democratic, but Israel and the United States are only interested if the people support the 'right' parties:

January's Palestinian parliamentary elections have been plunged into crisis after Israel decided to prevent Palestinians in Jerusalem from voting.

Israeli prime minister's spokesman Raanan Gissin told the BBC it was concerned that the Palestinian militant group Hamas might gain power.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the decision and said it would cancel the poll if voting in Jerusalem is barred.

This election will be only the second since the PA was established in 1995.

Press reports also suggest that head of Egyptian intelligence, General Omar Suleiman, who met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday, is attempting to persuade Mr Abbas to postpone the vote.

Gen Suleiman has reportedly passed on a warning from the US and the EU that aid to the Palestinian Authority would be suspended if Hamas were to make big gains and become part of the future Palestinian government.

Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Shaath said that if there was no voting in Jerusalem, "there will be no elections at all".

"For us, Jerusalem is more important than any other thing," he added.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the 25 January election would be sabotaged if Palestinians resident in East Jerusalem were prevented from voting.

"If these elections don't take place, it will be a catastrophe for the Palestinians," he said.

"I know what the Israelis have on their minds. They don't want a partner. They want unilateralism."

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri has told reporters that his group wants the election held as scheduled.

Mr Gissin told the BBC that the Israeli government had changed its stance since last January's presidential election, when voting had been permitted.

Under special voting arrangements for East Jerusalem - which Israel has annexed and sees as its exclusive domain, while international law decrees it to be occupied territory - Palestinians have previously been allowed to vote in Israeli post offices.

Mr Gissin said these had been exceptions, and stressed the government would not help what he called a terrorist organisation, Hamas, come to power.

In October, Israel pulled back from a policy of opposing the participation of Hamas in January's elections.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said it was not in Israel's interest to oppose Hamas' participation.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had said earlier that his government would hinder voting in the West Bank if Hamas candidates stood in the election.

This is all very ironic. Like America supported the mujahadein in Afghanistan during the 80s in their war against the Soviets, Israel supported and helped Hamas during the 70s and 80s as a bulwark against the PLO. Hamas has since grown hugely in popularity, especially since the death of Yasser Arafat. Hamas more or less runs the Gaza Strip, where Fatah has become marginalised due to corruption, both real and imagined. Hamas now threatens to make the same in-roads into the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Israelis are if anything just using delaying tactics. As it continues to build its so-called security wall, which cuts deep into Palestinian land and as the settlements continue to grow, Israel knows that it can get away with calling Hamas terrorists and therefore blocking them from gaining any sort of power. This is despite Hamas's repeated statements that if a viable two-state solution was available, with the right of return and East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, that they would lay down their arms and let the next generation decide whether to accept that. In other words, they would disband and live side by side with the Israelis in peace. This though is not compatible with Israel's simplistic message that Hamas is a extremist Islamic organisation that will accept nothing less than Israel's destruction. In constantly letting the world know what it thinks, Israel manages to continue to break both international law and the conditions of the road map to peace. It sets the unreasonable demand that the armed groups have to disarm and renounce terrorism before any negotiations begin, the exact opposite to what has led to relative peace in Northern Ireland.

It now seems that Israel is so afraid of Hamas becoming the main Palestinian political organisation that it will stop elections from taking place, making a mockery of George Bush's stated aims of being democracy to the Middle East. Whether Sharon is willing to give up more settlements if his new Kadima party wins power in Israel in the likely upcoming election, there is no chance of the 1967 borders being recognised in any subsequent deal for peace. Unless Sharon realises that only by not humiliating the Palestinians can be peace be broked, there will never be a deal. If he wants to be remembered as the man who brought peace and an end to the biggest source of discontent in the Middle East, then he will have to accept that bullets will never win over ballots.

In the meantine, Israel continues to make everyday life for Palestinians a complete misery:

"The entire West Bank is now becoming covered with phosphorescent yellow vests. A new ruling that will come into effect in Israel shortly will require every driver to wear this glowing garment when he leaves his car at night on the road. West Bank drivers, whose safety is especially important to Israel, have rushed to buy vests from the many peddlers on the sides of the roads: They know that they will be the first ones to get ticketed for violations. At the Qalandiyah checkpoint they cost NIS 15 each."
Does that remind you of anything at all?

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005 

Boobwatch: Tits on the front page.

Ah yes, we're getting close to Christmas, everyone's getting ready for a holiday and of course Fleet Street is no exception. So cue some pathetic stories to fill space, or in this case, fill breasts:

Both the Daily Mail and Mirror have a superb story in that Sharon Osbourne is going to get her breast augmentation downsized. Of course, you can't illustrate such a story without showing a picture of them more or less hanging out, so the tabloid editors have found a convenient way of getting some tits on the front page.

Away from the main eye drawer, the Mail has some wonderful health tips. Think you're fat? Eat a balloon! Depressed? Get a skin patch! Daily Mail reader? Kill yourself!

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Monday, December 19, 2005 

Same old nasty Conservatives attack John Prescott.

Well, the new nice and cuddly Conservative party lasted for just over a week. When John Prescott yesterday made a principled and commendable stand over Blair 'n' Adonis's disastrous education white paper, both William Hague and David "No Brains" Willetts jumped all over him:

Speaking on BBC1's Sunday AM programme, shadow foreign secretary William Hague said the prime minister should take up Mr Cameron's offer.

"He (Tony Blair) knows that the only way to get results in say education, is to give greater freedom to schools at the local level. He knows that is the right thing to do.

"The question is, is he going to carry on and do the right thing, even if it means relying on the support of the Conservative Party, or is he going to give in to these old prejudices of John Prescott and others?"

Shadow education secretary David Willetts said Mr Prescott was fighting old "class war" battles and ignoring young people already denied a good education because of selection by house price.

He told BBC News 24: "The crucial question for Ruth Kelly will be 'is it full speed ahead with reforms as set out by the prime minister or is it lots of clever little manoeuvres to water down some proposals, and back-tracking?'"

He added: "We shall see whether she is serious about reform or engaging in a retreat under pressure from Labour's left wing."

"The question is, is he going to carry on and do the right thing, even if it means relying on the support of the Conservative Party, or is he going to give in to these old prejudices of John Prescott and others?"

What John Prescott has articulated and is right to fear is a return to selection. Prescott experienced the humiliation of failing the 11-plus - yet he later went on to go to Oxford, and then got a degree from the University of Hull. William Hague went to a comprehensive. I can't find any information on where David Willetts went to school, but he was born in 1956. The 11-plus was on its way to being abolished in most schools by 1968, so he may well have been one of the last to take it, or he could have of course have been privately educated. Either way, his comments are cowardly and ring hollow. Surprise surprise, both Hague and Willetts went to Oxford.

John Prescott was a working class boy. The 11-plus was notoriously biased and discriminatory, with the results that middle class children were overwhelming those who filled the grammar schools. Those who failed the 11-plus were sent to the secondary moderns, where many experienced a self-fulfilling prophecy. They were made to feel as if they were failures, and many settled into that role, especially at a time when parents were less encouraging of their children and when aspiration was not as high as it is today.

Both Hague and Willetts accuse Prescott of being essentially prejudiced and fighting "old class war battles". The reality is that it is the Tories who are fighting the class war. They wish to reintroduce selection, as David Cameron has been exposed as supporting. John Prescott is defending the right of children not to be judged at such a tender age, for them not to be deemed failures, and for them not to give up on themselves. No one is suggesting that Prescott is condoning the middle class practice of moving into areas close to sought after schools. He obviously does not, and the alternative white paper from Labour backbenchers last week has measures to tackle this. The Tories real plan is to make Tony Blair depend on them to get his downright wrong education plans through - then when they have done so, to win the next election and make the plans even worse, and properly reintroducing selection.

This is David Cameron's supposed new liberal policies laid bare. They wish to abolish comprehensives, just as Labour's education reforms are finally bearing fruit. They are still many improvements to be made, and the alternative white paper is just what is needed. Can Blair not see that and see that Cameron is pushing him into a corner? There is not a more despicable policy that one that will condemn children into a life they can avoid. There is a huge majority both in the Labour party and the public for keeping comprehensives, and they need to make their voices heard now before Blair with the connivance of the Tories reintroduces a failed policy.

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The street of shame.

Even by Fleet Street's usual standards, today's front pages are incredibly bad.

The Sun leads on the incredible story that Britain's second most worthless cuntbag had an argument at an airport. You can also read the Sun's XCLUSIVE (sic) interview with Shayne, who won the X (sic) Factor on Saturday. A no doubt fascinating tale. Away from those two sensational stories, we have the Sun supposedly talking to Saddam. I'm sure that they have a completely impartial story about it, if you want to find it. And last but not least, you can get a free page 3 picture on your mobile! I'm frantically dialling as we speak.

The Mirror splashes on the amazing fact that some inmates have threatened to kill the aforementioned Shayne's father, who apparently is in prison. A frightening prospect.
The Mirror also claims to have Shayne's first interview, although they've probably just lifted the Sun's interview and reprinted the entire thing as their own. Their own EXCLUSIVE is a woman's love for mercy death father, which I assume is about last week's Wragg case. Whether anyone still cares or did care in the first place is debatable. And last but not least, the Mirror has a story on the winner of Strictly Come Dancing, Darren Gough. I can't remember (and I don't care) how many contestants there were to begin with, but at the most the odds at the start were 12-1. Congratulations on beating those odds, Darren!

The Star has yet another fucking feature on Shayne who claims to be the new Robbie Williams. He must be an incredibly arrogant moron with stupid tattoos, then. The Star also promises a poster of "Lucy", whoever she may be, topless. Journalism at its finest.

Last and certainly least, we have the Diana Express, sorry, Daily Express with another amazing exclusive on everyone's favourite dead princess. Whether she was knocked up in the motorhome is not disclosed, sadly.

It's enough to make you want to castrate yourself with a rusty switchblade.

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