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I used to want to visit the UK, not so much anymore... when you find yourself mulling over how best to protect yourself in the same way you'd prep for attending something like defcon, it sort of loses its zeal.

Edit: wow, the downvotes are coming fast on this one, guess i found a nerve. needle

It won't matter if you visit the UK. The UK law extends the rights of surveillance world-wide,

These laws comes in handy at times. As part of the "five eyes" spy agrement, UK and US are intentionally spying on one another's citizens and sharing the collected information with each other in order to circumvent restrictive domestic regulations on spying.


It is a legitimate, practical concern whether visiting somewhere will increase your risk of attacks on your devices and data. I was struck by a New York Times article from 2012, before organized governmental hacking was the topic of the day, setting out some of the precautions that people took.


This was particularly focused on hacking by China (something we in English-speaking countries had learned to hate and fear over the years), and I found it sad to learn that the same precautions can be appropriate for visiting liberal democracies.

Seems to be a pretty common theme going on now, at least among the five eyes and any beholden countries.

The one thing that makes me (grimace) laugh is that with this level of surveillance, they seem to be either a) incredibly incompetent because of all the corruption, paedophilia and so on that seems to go unpunished/uncaught, or b) a tool used by people higher up the chain for other purposes.

Probably because the data is only used for intelligence / contra intelligence purposes and quiet rightly the plod (Police) are not allowed to go on fishing expeditions.

Well the <sarcasm>good news</end sarcasm> is that the new laws being proposed in the UK will give the data to the police as well. Given the record of abuse of such data it won't be long before they are dragnetting the database.

That's the worrying issue then the Police and the Home Secratery are not getting on at the moment - I can see the lords putting some amendments down to kill off general access by the plod.

Well the current laws passed in Australia mean a large array of government departments can see our metadata.

That aside, we know the intelligence gathered has been used for parallel construction... perhaps just selectively I guess.

Dragnet surveillance data must be used selectively: you don't want to use it against your "confidential informants", after all. That would ruin their testimony in later cases, and give previously convicted "perps" grounds for appeal.

As a Brit, it's weird because unless you're one of a few kinds of activist or visit Northern Ireland, it's pretty much invisible and a largely theoretical threat compared to, say, regular malware or driveby hackers. It's a lot like refusing to go to the US because the risk of being shot by the police is far higher there: statistically true, but as a white tourist it's very unlikely to be a problem.

The other weird thing is about how the war on terrorism is being carried out as invisibly as possible, including what it might claim as "victories": actual convictions of people for terrorist offences. They're not being paraded around in the papers.

The concern lies at the political level: are the security services being deployed against Corbyn? After all the PM did call him a "threat to national security".

MI5 have a very long, and proud, history of distinguishing between political enmity and "subversive" activity. The history of "entryism" during the Cold War is well documented, and MI5 have declassified information about what they did and did not do. Basically they helped protect the Labour party from infiltration from Communist sympathising individuals who wanted to overthrow Parliamentary democracy. They did not spy on merely left wing individuals.

We're in an age of leaks, and there have been whistleblowers from the UK intelligence services. If MI5 were asked to spy on Corbyn you'd probably hear about it in the resignation letter of the head of the service...

Personally I do think Corbyn is a threat to national security. Not in a sense which he is aiming to destroy the state or country, but that his naive and inconsistent world view would embolden our enemies and be more likely to cause conflict. His views are one which he is entitled to have without state surveillance, he's entitled to stand for public office and entitled to be brutalised by his political opponents for his previous positions, especially on foreign policy.

> Personally I do think Corbyn is a threat to national security... his naive and inconsistent world view would embolden our enemies and be more likely to cause conflict.

I agree with most of your comment, but this one point made me spit my tea all over my screen.

15 years after Tony Blair's 'sexed up' dodgy dossier pushed us into joining the US in the rediculous 'Gulf War 2', which (predictably) resulted in a huge power vacuum in the region, world-wide radicalisation, and further conflict (with no end in sight), it's a little funny that someone outside the usual 'war hawk' template gets accused of being a threat.

Sure, he wants to get rid of Trident, the nuclear missile system that relies so heavily on US guidance infrastructure that the UK physically cannot fire it without US approval. Since it's not independent it has zero tactical value and exists solely as a way of subsidising the US nuclear stockpile while fluffing up our own feathers like a giant mind-numbingly-expensive peacock.

"the UK phsyically cannot fire it without US approval"

I've never seen any evidence supporting that view - we certainly couldn't maintain it for very long without US help but the whole idea of the UK deterrence fleet at the moment is that they have no dependencies on anyone to carry out a launch - for the obvious reason that in most attack scenarios there wouldn't be anyone in the UK left to contact.

I agree. The Permissive Action Link(PAL), a remote security device for nuclear weapons, was typically used when the state is non-nuclear, yet is a member of NATO. They are secured and deployed by USAF members. But the UK is not one of these states. In fact, you can find evidence that they do not use the PAL on their own weapons, so most likely they do not have them deployed on any of the NATO nuclear weapons stationed in the UK.


"The UK Trident system is highly dependent, and for some purposes completely dependent, on the larger US system."


I don't see anything in that says that a UK sub needs US input to launch - in the worst case they don't need any input to launch (they don't have PALs).

Of course, there are dependencies on US systems for lots of things and if the US withdrew support for our Tridents systems we probably couldn't operate them for very long (months - probably, years probably not).

Is it completely "independent" - of course not - it's a US system and there are very few scenarios where the US and UK wouldn't co-ordinate an attack. But does the UK need "permission" to launch - not as far as I know.

The US can withhold targeting data prior to launch, or switch off guidance after launch.

That is all stated as fact in the Parliamentary report. Not sure which part you disagree with.

Sure, you might be able to sneak a launch and hope they don't detect it, but that's a little farcical for a £100bn defence programme I would've thought.

That's appears to be evidence given to a select committee - so it's one person's view.

AFAIK subs don't use GPS underwater - and missile subs spend most of their missions underwater. The missiles themselves use inertial (hence the dependency of knowing the launch point) and star-sighting:

"GPS has been used on some test flights but is assumed not to be available for a real mission."


I'd be very surprised if the sub don't go to see with at least some target data - kinds of defeats the purpose of the entire system which is set up to give UK Trident sub commanders a surprising amount of leeway:


[Edit: For the record - I am rather passionately anti-Trident and would strongly prefer the UK didn't have them].

"The Future of the British bomb", John Ainslie


Of vague relevance, former undercover police officer Pete Francis says he saw files on Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone, Dennis Skinner, Joan Ruddock, Peter Hain, Diane Abbott, Bernie Grant, Harriet Harman, Jack Straw and Jeremy Corbyn. He says he personally spied on Jeremy Corbyn. That's Special Branch not MI5 and not contemporary, but still.

Btw I don't think your comment should be downvoted, I don't see anything it shouldn't be OK to say in it.

distinguishing between political enmity and "subversive" activity

Lots of people would disagree as to whether this distinction was in the right place, especially as "communist infiltrator" is still being thrown around as an accusation decades after the fall of the Soviet Union. While there are a few of the hard left that are a serious handicap to anyone around them (e.g. Tommy Sheridan, George Galloway), they're not especially dangerous.

I fully expect to hear eventually (after decades have gone by) that Corbyn is being spied on. After all, look at Peter Hain: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/low/dates/stories/may/22/new...

"In 2001, secret government documents published under the 30-Year Rule revealed that Peter Hain - then a Minister for Europe in a Labour government - had been under surveillance in 1970.

Harold Wilson's government had even considered charging him with seditious conspiracy for threatening to disrupt the proposed cricket tour."

Anti-apartheit campaigner and friend of convicted terrorist Nelson Mandela: does he go in the 'political opponent' or 'subversive' box?

"Threat to national security" is a very specific phrase which people should be careful of throwing around, since it's used to legitimise all kinds of action against people.

Well said there where well documented entryist attempts on trade unions.

Its a pity that any nuanced discussions get voted down.

MI5 is not Hovers FBI an organization so dodgy that the CIA in the 1960's where concerned! (this is from classified CIA documents)

Oops I meant declassified docs

I'm intrigued here, since I can't personally empathize with your viewpoint. What makes state security services monitoring communications (pretty much like all countries) outweigh the desire to visit another country, experience it's culture, sights etc? For me, this would always outweigh anything else, other than actual physical safety - I'm deliberately not taking my dream holiday to travel Egypt, and have been for years now. (FYI, UK citizen, in case anyone feels it's relevant)

Maybe he's zer0defex is equally torn on the margin between Britain and country x.

But that's the thing. We're always attending something like Defcon ;) Surveillance is ubiquitous.


As a British citizen I wouldn't recommend that anyone visit here.

I wouldn't personally wish to visit the US since its hyper-nationalist, gung-ho, war-fervour has been in full swing, coupled with the potential ass-raping at airport security by the TSA.

Even less so since the NSA/GCHQ stuff has come to light.

> I used to want to visit the UK

I used to want to move to London. Now I know I won't.

Seriously? Now you might be engaging in activities which mean you do need to engage in Defcon levels of preparation, perhaps you work in intelligence, perhaps you're a terrorist, or perhaps you're a journalist. But then you'd be engaging in Defcon levels of preparation all the time, including heading to any Western country. I suspect you're not and you're mistaking your desire for privacy with thinking the UK is in any way interested in you.

This isn't a "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" argument I'm trying to be realistic. The UK has a strong history of an independent judiciary standing up to the state and of a government that has been legislating to increase scrutiny and safeguards for decades. This whole programme may have been under a "vague" law but it is covered under the law and the government is having a debate on making it clearer what is happening. In trying to update old laws to the modern age I think it is acceptable to discuss what the limits should be, but also accept that old concepts of where the state can intercept communications should change not just be written off as "oh well we can't do that any more".

Yes, seriously.

You don't need to believe that someone is actively looking at your communications to be concerned about all your conversations being logged into a database somewhere, for future reference.

We know now that the only chance we have to prevent our communications falling into the mass surveillance dragnet is precisely to follow, as you say, "Defcon levels of preparation all the time".

Despite what you say, your argument is exactly the trite old gripe about "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear". Except maybe if you decide in 15 years to run for political office on a platform to rein in the intelligence services, you might. Then it might not be good for them to have this huge haystack to search through to pass juicy bits to the tabloids. Look into the FBI's handling of Martin Luther King for example.

And yet again the UK is not the USA, MI5 is not the FBI, Spooks is not a documentary.

The FBI's handling of MLK, and the general culture of fear of Hoover in the political establishment, is an excellent example as it is all before any of this technology. It isn't an argument against this, it is an argument for the effective oversight and regulation of the intelligence services. The USA might have some bizarre legal concepts in which the courts defer to the state when "national security" gets played but I can assure you that is not the case here. We've paid out settlements to the British Guantanamo detainees because trying their lawsuits would have potentially exposed intelligence relating to whether they were bad or not. NB nothing justified their treatment regardless of who they were.

It has always been the case that the intelligence services have the capability to destroy someone they don't like. If they don't have that then they're not any good at their jobs. If you have a (rational) fear that they can that is an argument for reigning in that service, not hobbling their ability to do the things we do need them to do.

bizarre legal concepts in which the courts defer to the state when "national security" gets played but I can assure you that is not the case here


"…the Law should be used as just another weapon in the government’s arsenal, and in this case it becomes little more than a propaganda cover for the disposal of unwanted members of the public. For this to happen efficiently, the activities of the legal services have to be tied into the war effort in as discreet a way as possible.."

That was 1970, but if you think the UK security services have clean hands you are seriously underinformed about Northern Ireland. More recently there's Spycatcher, Zircon, Matrix-Churchill, police infiltrators in environmentalist groups ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Kennedy_%28police_officer... ), and so on.

Effective oversight of the intelligence services is really hard because it can't be done in public, and it's easy enough for them to convince politicians that it's all fine really.

Or maybe she is a private citizen with an unusual sexual kink that she does not want her mother/boss/customers to know about. The UK government will not be able to keep all the data they are slurping up secure and it will end up in (more) criminal hands than GCHQ/the police.

> you're mistaking your desire for privacy with thinking the UK is in any way interested in you.

Why does the UK maintain a file on her then? And why on me? And why on you? If they are not interested why bother to store the data?

Your second paragraph is inaccurate in almost every respect.

> The UK has a strong history of an independent judiciary standing up to the state and of a government that has been legislating to increase scrutiny and safeguards for decades.

Do you honestly believe this?

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