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UK police chiefs seek powers to attack terror web sites




UK police chiefs seek powers to attack terror web sites
UK police chiefs seek powers to attack terror web sites



http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/07/23/acpo_seeks_new_terror_powers/ 

By John Lettice
23rd July 2005 

The Association of Chief Police Officers has asked for new legislation
giving the security services "powers to attack identified websites".  
The proposal, along with one for a new offence covering "use of the
internet to prepare, encourage, facilitate acts of terrorism" was part
of the terror law 'shopping list' presented by ACPO at the Prime
Minister's meeting with law enforcement agencies on Thursday.

Much of ACPO's list covers territory where legislation is already
planned by the Government and/or is part of broader international
roadmaps being pushed by Europe's Council of Ministers and the G8. The
request for a cyberwarfare capability, however, is one of several new
proposals put forward by ACPO, and has wide-ranging implications. ACPO
doesn't give specific details of what it envisages, but says the power
"has significant benefits for counter terrorism and overlaps with
other police priorities namely domestic extremism and
paedophilia/child pornography." ACPO therefore clearly envisages the
security services being given the power to attack a wider range of web
sites than those simply associated with international terrorism.

The security forces already have the capability to deal with web sites
that are within UK jurisdiction, which means that the major target
must be sites beyond it. "This issue goes beyond national borders and
requires significant international cooperation," says ACPO: "The need
for appropriate authority and warrantry is implicit." For the
international cooperation to be delivered, the Government would
therefore need to get legalised hacking, interdiction and denial of
service moved up the EU-G8 security agenda.

It's possibly worth noting that ACPO is unlikely to be alone among the
UK security services in its desire to interfere with web sites from
afar. This fanciful item [1] alleges among many other improbable
things that the "warrants the MI5 watchers have obtained permit them
to intercept Jamal.s e-mail conversations with those he is grooming,
and to carry out 'portscans' on his computer. Using sophisticated
software, they reach into it to search for incriminating files."  
Spyblog made the failed Spooks script gag [2] before we could, but
it's perfectly possible that there's a security services' agenda
underlying the sub-Bond PR spin.

The proposed offence covering use of the internet "to prepare,
encourage, facilitate acts of terrorism" is explained by ACPO as being
a move to "suppress inappropriate internet usage in respect of today's
global communication capability." The organisation says however that
this "preventative measure" may be catered for in the "acts
preparatory to terrorism" [3] legislation the Government already has
planned. ACPO's interest is likely to ensure that it is.

Interestingly, ACPO's general commentary on the 'acts preparatory'
legislation says: " It will allow the police and intelligence agencies
to intervene at an early stage early to protect the public and will go
some way towards countering the negative messages we receive
concerning terrorism arrests and subsequent charging/prosecution
figures" (our emphasis). Government statistics on Terrorism Act
arrests (which Charles Clarke has recently seemed reluctant to update
in responses to parliamentary questions) show relatively few instances
of charges being brought for terrorism offences, and tend to indicate
that numbers of immigration and passport fraud offenders are being
caught instead.

This might be taken to suggest that the security forces are looking in
the wrong places for terrorists. One might perhaps observe that
thinking up new offences that let you count more of the people you
arrest as terrorist offenders is not necessarily the appropriate
response to our current difficulties.

ACPO also, puzzlingly, calls for the creation of an offence "not to
disclose encryption keys etc." This follows on from a call made by Met
Commissioner Sir Ian Blair a few days ago, and is presented as a
necessary amendment to part 3 of the Regulation of Investigatory
Powers Act, making it "an offence to fail to disclose such items."  
Part 3 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act however already
includes such an offence. In 53, 5 [4] it say that a person guilty of
such an offence is liable to "imprisonment for a term not exceeding
two years or to a fine, or to both."

There may well be some subtle nuance that escapes us which makes this
the wrong kind of offence as far as ACPO is concerned, but the thought
that the security services now have so much lovely new legislation
that they can't keep up is treasurable, and we'll treasure it until
somebody tells us different. Seriously though, ACPO's commentary says
that recent investigations "have been made more complex by
difficulties for investigating officers in ascertaining whereabouts of
encryption keys to access computers etc." It seems likely to us that
these difficulties are related to an inadequate police grasp of RIPA
and of how the internet works, and that's not something new or
retreaded offences will fix.

More on the ACPO proposals can be found at Spyblog [5], while the full
proposals can be read here [6]. =AE

[1] http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-20749-1688893,00.html 
[2] http://www.spy.org.uk/spyblog/archives/2005/07/why_does_the_su.html 
[3] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/07/21/clarke_counter_terror_law_plans/ 
[4] http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/00023--e.htm#51 
[5] http://www.spy.org.uk/spyblog/archives/2005/07/association_of.html 
[6] http://www.acpo.police.uk/asp/news/PRDisplay.asp?PR_GUID={423FD3C2-2791-403A-B5D0-8FC6B5476B0B} 


 

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