PGP public key

So the GCHQ and the NSA are apparently teaming up to do a whole lot of extremely legal warrantless mass surveillance.

I am not against spying or surveillance per se. Anyone who lives in the UK and says "if you've nothing to hide you've nothing to fear" doesn't understand the purpose of judicial oversight and probably doesn't speak arabic. I believe in judicial oversight. An amoral-nerd-handler is not a judge. And political bias, false-positives and chilling self-censorship are the only outcomes of the GCHQ program I can see on the horizon.

So, if you're emailing me, please feel free to encrypt your message with my PGP public key.
Continue reading "PGP public key"

Registering to vote as an overseas US citizen

I've recently been pursuing the possibility of voting in the upcoming US presidential election, since I am a US citizen. The trickiness is that I have never lived in the US but am a citizen by virtue of my parent who was born there.

The UOCAVA protects absentee voting rights of some citizens overseas, including those who have never lived there.

Here's where I've been looking; perhaps it will help you if you're also considering voting absentee.
Continue reading "Registering to vote as an overseas US citizen"

Ed Brayton's new podcast

I was delighted yesterday to discover that Ed Brayton, who used to host one of my all-time favourite political podcasts, Declaring Independence Radio, has recently started hosting a new show: Culture Wars Radio.

Declaring Independence was a show predominantly about American law and politics. It was constantly fascinating, with episodes being mostly interview with experts in constitutional law, civil liberties, police misconduct and such; interspliced with commentary and lighthearted discussion of current events. What I liked most about it was that Ed Brayton never shied away from getting right down to the tiniest details of case law and history, discussing the minutiae of various cases with his guests and drawing on his huge knowledge of American civil liberties law to get the best out of his guests. Also his staunch non-partisanism, hatred of hypocrisy and demagoguery, and willingness to harshly criticise Obama and the Democrats (while still poking fun at right-wing loonies).

Ed Brayton is an American political journalist, editor and development director of the American Independent News Network, and seems to specialise in civil liberties law. He seems to get particularly fired up about education, separation of church and state, and transparency and accountability in government. He has a general left-libertarian viewpoint. I don't agree with him on everything, but he's very knowledgable about law, and hella smart. To quote erstwhile acquaintance of mine, Seth Manapio, he is "a goddam genius".

I looked hard for somewhere online for old episodes of Declaring Independence to link here, because they're all really worth a listen, but it seems to have evaporated. I've got 74 old episode as mp3s if anyone's really keen. [Edit: find them here.]

The new show, Culture Wars Radio, only has a few episodes out so far, and I've only listened to the first two of them, but it looks to be much along the same lines as Declaring Independence, which is fantastic as far as I'm concerned.

I strongly recommend checking it out, if you've any interest in civil liberties law, American politics or just deep and informed yet intelligible political discussion.

UK stop and search powers are illegal

The Guardian reports:

The Strasbourg court ruled it was unlawful for police to use the powers, under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, to stop and search people without needing any grounds for suspicion.

The widely-drawn ruling said that not only the use of the counter-terror powers, but also the way they were authorised, were "neither sufficiently circumscribed, nor subject to adequate legal safeguards against abuse".

Vindicated!

Legal use of Terrorism Act 2000 44(2)

In follow up to my previous post. So I complained to the IPCC. After a number of initially dismissive letters back and forth, I started to get some thoughtful responses. One clarified that

"Under [section 44(2) of the Terrorism Act 2000] officers do not need to have reasonable grounds to suspect involvement in terrorism."

This prompted a measured response on my part and now I have received a final letter from a DI of the British Transport Police. The letter acknowledges the recent European judgements, claims that

the vast majority of officers do use the powers of search with a genuine belief that that they are protecting the public"

and that

“whether this as been the correct method of prevention perhaps only time and hindsight will tell".

(I’m not going to reproduce it here because the letter appears to be personally written, rather than stock or secretary written.)

Well, I’m happy with that. Not happy, exactly, but at least it’s honest. My beef is no longer with the BTP.

Misuse of Terrorism Act 2000 44(2)

I just watched the compelling documentary Taking Liberties, which prompted me to finally send my complaint to the IPCC, and finish off this draft.

I was travelling Oxford to Cambridge, and had missed my connection at Paddington Station, London. With insufficient money for a hotel, I decided to just sleep in the station and catch the first train back to Cambridge. It was a cold night, so I plugged my headphones into my iPod, switched it to Pseudopod, pulled my Warwick Atheists hoodie tight around me, and sat on a light for warmth. For the next hour or so, I moved between sitting on lights and sitting with my back to a lit sign on a stall, trying to get most warm and most comfortable. There were a few other people in the station — perhaps in similar circumstances, perhaps homeless and seeking shelter from the outside wind. After some time I was dosing and listening to Pseudopod still, when I was woken (about 01:45 am) by a couple of officers in uniform who informed me that they were conducting “random” stop-and-searches under new anti-terrorism regulations. They asked me why I was there, and various other circumstantial questions. They asked to look in my backpack (which contained clothes, university work, laptop, wires).

Here’s a copy of the receipt they issued me before leaving me to sleep, if you're interested:

[.jpg]

I looked up “44(2)”, which means “section 44, subsection 2”, presumably, (the only official justification for the search given) and found it in the Terrorism Act 2000. I quote:

Terrorism Act 2000

Power to stop and search

44. Authorisations.

(2) An authorisation under this subsection authorises any constable in uniform to stop a pedestrian in an area or at a place specified in the
authorisation and to search —
(a) the pedestrian;
(b) anything carried by him.

(3) An authorisation under subsection (1) or (2) may be given only if the person giving it considers it expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism.

From this, it doesn't seem like "random" searches are authorised, since they by definition can't be justified as "expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism.

I am submitting a somewhat abbreviated version of this to the IPCC in the form of an official complaint.

Er...

Ahern defends new blasphemy law

Independant.ie writes:

Mr Ahern yesterday defended a fine of up to €100,000 that will be imposed on blasphemers. ... Gardai will now have the power to seize blasphemous material from the home or any other premises used by a person convicted of blasphemy.

Okay, seriously now guys, stop it.

This kind of thing used to be funny. We'd be all "heh, glad I don't live in Saudi Arabia" or "oh, that crazy pope, what'll he get up to next?".  But the joke's run its course and it's time to give it up and move along, ok?

Remember, we're trying to build a better world here, and hilarious though pranks like this are, they're getting a little tiresome.

Labour hates gays, loves Jesus.

Faith Schools Free to Preach Against Homosexuality

Oh fucking hell. The Guardian writes:

[Sir Alasdair] Macdonald said: "What we're trying to do, and I accept it's difficult, is find a balance between young people having an entitlement to knowledge, facts, information but where schools, particularly schools with a particular faith interest or other disposition, also have a right to put that in context of their particular institution. "

Why?

Think about that — a balance between young people having an entitlement to knowledge, and an institution's particular faith interests. This is just so irresponsible.