The Investigatory Powers Bill forces internet providers to keep a full record of every site visited by each of its customers for over a year. Of course, government accounts are exempt from this Orwellian law.
This bill is not simply about notifying the government if a specific site has been visited, it is about listing every single site that has been visited by each citizen and when. This information will be made available to a very large range of government bodies. Of course, there’s the police, the military and the secret service but also others entities such as the Food Standards Agency and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Here’s a full list of the agencies allowed to search the browsing history of UK citizens.
- Metropolitan Police Service
- City of London Police
- Police forces maintained under section 2 of the Police Act 1996
- Police Service of Scotland
- Police Service of Northern Ireland
- British Transport Police
- Ministry of Defence Police
- Royal Navy Police
- Royal Military Police
- Royal Air Force Police
- Security Service
- Secret Intelligence Service
- Ministry of Defence
- Department of Health
- Home Office
- Ministry of Justice
- National Crime Agency
- HM Revenue & Customs
- Department for Transport
- Department for Work and Pensions
- NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England that provide ambulance services
- Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service
- Competition and Markets Authority
- Criminal Cases Review Commission
- Department for Communities in Northern Ireland
- Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland
- Department of Justice in Northern Ireland
- Financial Conduct Authority
- Fire and rescue authorities under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
- Food Standards Agency
- Food Standards Scotland
- Gambling Commission
- Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
- Health and Safety Executive
- Independent Police Complaints Commissioner
- Information Commissioner
- NHS Business Services Authority
- Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust
- Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board
- Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Regional Business Services Organisation
- Office of Communications
- Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
- Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
- Scottish Ambulance Service Board
- Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission
- Serious Fraud Office
- Welsh Ambulance Services National Health Service Trust
Let’s face it, this law is custom made to create a climate of fear and paranoia in the UK. Studies have shown that government surveillance stops people from sharing controversial opinions online as it has a ‘chilling effect on democratic discourse’. Also, since people sometimes visit explicit websites and tend to google their most personal issues, they could easily be subjected to blackmail or other nefarious actions.
Will government officials be subjected to the same transparency? Nope. In fact, the only amendment politicians have submitted to the controversial bill is to stop MPs from being spied on.
The latest Wikileaks dump is said to be the “biggest exposure of CIA spying secrets ever”. It reveals how the agency hacks into consumer products to turn them into spying devices … and how it can even remotely take control of cars.
Entitled Vault 7: CIA Hacking Tools Revealed, the latest Wikileaks dump contains tons of documents explaining how the CIA has hundreds of zero-day exploits (holes in software that are unknown to the vendor) and can hack almost any smart tv, Android phone, iPhone, or router, and, apparently, recent cars as well. Not only that, the agency can even leave the “footprint” of another entity while doing the hacking, effectively allowing them to put the blame on a foreign nation or organization. The documents state:
“The CIA had created, in effect, its “own NSA” with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.”
Hacking into Your Products
The CIA, working with British spy agency MI5, have developed a back door for a smart TV that allows government snooping while the television is turned off. And that may now include live video streaming of your living room and office. In a 2014 document detailing future and improvements to the program, CIA officials said they planned to add a feature where the Agency could capture video and video snapshots of people through their televisions. This would put the federal government and the CIA right in your family room and office.
Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.
According to the documents, the CIA has been using the State Department consulate in Frankfurt Germany as a headquarters for hackers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
The organization has been collecting a library of attack techniques from malware produced in other states, including Russia. The CIA has the ability to use this library to misdirect attribution of hacks by leaving behind the “fingerprints” of stolen malware.
Remote Controlling Cars for “Undetectable Assassinations”
Probably the most startling portion of this dump is the revelation that the CIA has gained the ability to “hack” into recent cars through their control systems. Note that we are not even talking about self-driving cars (which will certainly become 100% CIA-remote-controlled), but regular cars with computerized components (around 2011 and earlier). Why would they want to do that? To “engage in nearly undetectable assassinations”.
“As of October 2014 the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks. The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations”
These revelations shed a new light on the very mysterious death of journalist Michael Hastings, who lost his life after his car suddenly went out of control and crashed.
Hastings was a journalist, a contributing editor to Rolling Stone and reporter for BuzzFeed. He became a vocal critic of the surveillance state during the investigation of reporters by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2013, referring to the restrictions on the freedom of the press by the Obama administration as a “war” on journalism. His last story, “Why Democrats Love to Spy On Americans”, was published by BuzzFeed on June 7. Hastings died in a fiery high-speed automobile crash on June 18, 2013, in Los Angeles, California.
On June 18, 2013, Hastings died in a single vehicle automobile crash in his Mercedes C250 Coupé at approximately 4:25 a.m. in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. A witness to the crash said the car seemed to be traveling at maximum speed and was creating sparks and flames before it fishtailed and crashed into a palm tree. Video from a nearby security camera purportedly shows Hastings’ vehicle speeding and bursting into flames.
Witnesses described the car’s engine being ejected 50 to 60 yards (46–55 m) from the scene. Hastings’ body was burned beyond recognition. The coroner identified the body by matching fingerprints with those the FBI had on file. Two days after the crash, the Los Angeles Police Department declared that there were no signs of foul play. The coroner’s report ruled the death to be an accident. An autopsy showed that the cause of death was massive blunt force trauma consistent with a high-speed crash.
– Los Angeles Times, “Michael Hastings death: New video of crash emerges”
A news article from 2015 actually mentioned that Hasting’s death was most like the result of a “car cyber attack”.
Former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard A. Clarke said that what is known about the crash is “consistent with a car cyber attack”. He was quoted as saying “There is reason to believe that intelligence agencies for major powers — including the United States — know how to remotely seize control of a car. So if there were a cyber attack on [Hastings’] car — and I’m not saying there was, I think whoever did it would probably get away with it.”
“Hastings’ work as a thorn in the side of government and the 33-year-old journalist’s death in an unusual crash in June 2013 immediately triggered speculation. A witness reported seeing Hastings’ new silver Mercedes C250 coupe speeding down a Hollywood street before dawn when it bounced, slammed into a tree and burst into flames.
Shortly before Hastings’ death, he sent what was described as a “panicky” email to friends expressing concern that associates were being interviewed by “the Feds.” He also wrote that he was onto a big story and needed to “get off the radar for a bit.” His 2010 story for Rolling Stone in which Stanley McChrystal skewered the White House and its strategy in Afghanistan led to the general’s resignation.
The FBI denied Hastings was the target of any investigation, yet a Freedom of Information Act request later unearthed an FBI file on Hastings. Hastings also told a neighbor he thought someone had been tampering with his car. At the time of his death, he was working on an article about CIA director John Brennan.
– Who.What.Why, “CAR HACKING REPORT REFUELS CONCERNS ABOUT MICHAEL HASTINGS CRASH”
According to several sources, Hasting’s last days very hectic.
“In an email to colleagues, which was copied to and released by Hastings’ friend, Army Staff Sergeant Joe Biggs, Hastings said that he was “onto a big story”, that he needed to “go off the radar”, and that the FBI might interview them. WikiLeaks announced that Hastings had also contacted Jennifer Robinson, one of its lawyers, a few hours prior to the crash, and the LA Weekly reported that he was preparing new reports on the CIA at the time of his death. His widow Elise Jordan said his final story was a profile of CIA Director John O. Brennan. The FBI released a statement denying that Hastings was being investigated.
USA Today reported that in the days before his death, Hastings believed his car was being “tampered with” and that he was scared and wanted to leave town.
‘At 12:30 a.m. on the morning he died, an agitated Michael Hastings went to his neighbor and friend Jordanna Thigpen and asked to borrow her car. He said he was afraid to drive his own car, because he believed that someone had been tampering with it.
“He was scared, and he wanted to leave town,” Thigpen recalls.
But she declined, saying her car was having mechanical problems. When she woke up, Hastings was dead, his car having crashed into a tree.’
Hastings died in a single vehicle automobile crash in his Mercedes C250 Coupé at approximately 4:25 a.m. in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. A witness to the crash said the car seemed to be traveling at maximum speed and was creating sparks and flames before it fishtailed and crashed into a palm tree. Video from a nearby security camera purportedly shows Hastings’ vehicle speeding and bursting into flames. ”
– USA TOday, “Hastings thought his car was being tampered with”
Several US officials told CNN that a federal criminal investigation is being opened into WikiLeaks’ publication of documents.
The CIA and government officials around the world are using the Paris attacks to push brand new surveillance laws. And it was all planned in advance.
While democratic systems usually take months (if not years) to pass new laws and legislation, it only took a few days after the Paris attacks to slap honest citizens with more surveillance laws. Several organizations are indeed capitalizing on the fear and panic caused by the attacks to bring forth a brand new agenda that takes a bold new step towards total government surveillance. What’s worse: Leaked information proves that authorities were waiting on a terror attack to go forward with their plan.
In a leaked e-mail written by Robert S. Litt, the intelligence community’s top lawyer during the month August, the plan is clearly outlined: There is a lack of support for the banning of encrypted communications but a terror attack could quickly turn the tide.
“Although the legislative environment is very hostile today, it could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.
There is value keeping our options open for such a situation.”
– Washington Post, Obama faces growing momentum to support widespread encryption
Only a few months after this e-mail, a terror attack occurs in Paris. Only a few hours after the attacks, news strangely blamed “encrypted communications”. Only days after the attacks, officials are calling for…the banning of encrypted communications.
The New York police commissioner, Bill Bratton, called it a “game changer” and, insinuated new legislation that would outlaw encryption was necessary by adding: “[Encryption] is something that is going to need to be debated very quickly because we cannot continue operating where we are blind.
– The Guardian, Intelligence agencies pounce on Paris attacks to pursue spy agenda
CIA Director John Brennan is also using the terror attacks to plead for unrestricted government surveillance of all communications, blaming “privacy groups” for hindering their job.
Then on Monday, in an epic episode of blame shifting, the CIA director, John Brennan, reportedly said privacy advocates have undermined the ability of spies to monitor terrorists. He explained:
“Because of a number of unauthorized disclosures and a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists, there have been some policy and legal and other actions that are taken that make our ability collectively, internationally to find these terrorists much more challenging”, adding that there is a “misrepresentation of what the intelligence security services are doing”.
Read Brennan’s comments carefully because they are very revealing. When he says “legal actions”, he’s referring to the fact that multiplefederal courts have ruled that the government’s secret mass surveillance on millions of Americans is illegal. So it sounds like the CIA director is saying it’s a shame that intelligence agencies can’t operate completely above the law any more, and is scapegoating any failings on his agency’s part on accountability that is the hallmark of any democracy. (Though he still can apparently operate above the law.)
More importantly, Brennan’s comments are incredibly dishonest. The post-Snowden USA Freedom Act passed by Congress reformed exactly one of the countless mass spying programs the US runs. It was the one that sucked up the phone calls of Americans only, and here’s the thing: it has been active this whole time and isn’t scheduled to shut down until the end of the month.
Government officials in the UK are also capitalizing on fear to rush sweeping new laws.
On the other side of the Atlantic, politicians in the United Kingdom, which already has the most expansive surveillance laws in the western world, are using the tragedy to attempt to rush through their even more invasive, new mass-spying bill that aims at allowing police to see the websites every citizen visits and to force companies like Apple to backdoor their encrypted tools.
None of these laws have proven effective in preventing terror attacks. In fact, the Paris attacks took place six months after the enactment of a massive (and controversial) surveillance law in France.
Passed by the French Parliament in May in response to the attacks on the Paris-based magazine Charlie Hebdo, the law allows the government to monitor phone calls and emails of people suspected of connections to terrorism without the authorization of a judge.
But it goes further than that. The law requires Internet service providers to install “black boxes” that are designed to vacuum up and analyze metadata on the Web-browsing and general Internet use habits of millions of people using the Web and to make that data available to intelligence agencies.
In exceptional cases, the law allows the government to deploy what are called “ISMI catchers” to track all mobile phone communications in a given area. These catchers are basically designed to impersonate cell towers, but they intercept and record communications data from phones within its range, and can also track the movements of people carrying the phones.
Finally, the law allows government agents to break into the homes of suspected terrorists for the purpose of planting microphone bugs and surveillance cameras and installing keyloggers on their computers, devices that capture data on every keystroke and mouse click.
– Recode, France Has a Powerful and Controversial New Surveillance Law
In short, after each traumatic event in the Western world (manufactured or not), attention is turned towards a very specific and targeted item that “needs to be addressed as soon as possible”. This item is, in fact, part of controversial law that is sitting on shelves until in can be passed insidiously, while the masses are struck with horror. It happened with the Patriot Act and, almost 15 years later, it is happening again. Their formula is “Order Out of Chaos” and it keeps working.