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WhatsApp security debate must be informed or we will all suffer

In the hours after last week s terrorist attack in Westminster that claimed the lives of four people, the message from the Government was one of defiance. Our way of life will not change, they said . It will be business as usual .

The British values of freedom and democracy will prevail. If there is going to be a debate on messaging and security it should at least be an informed one

Yet only four days after Khalid Masood s rampage, the Home Secretary took to the airwaves to demand that messaging services such as WhatsApp tear up their security features1, allowing police to intercept communications as part of criminal investigations. It appears that the debate about how to balance civil liberties against the Government s responsibility to keep the British public safe is about to start up all over again only four months after the so-called Snooper s Charter became law.

The Investigatory Powers Act, you may recall, requires web and phone companies to store the web and browsing histories of all users for a year. It also gives the police and security agencies powers to hack into computers and phones and to harvest vast amounts of data although the European Court of Justice s ruling in December has tempered this somewhat. Despite this major change, Amber Rudd is now targeting message services such as WhatsApp, claiming they provide a safe haven for terrorists by making it impossible for communications to be decoded, thanks to end-to-end encryption.

Giving police access in certain serious cases might sound reasonable, but unfortunately it is not that simple. Tech companies say that building a back door or security flaw into encrypted messaging systems naturally make them less secure for everyone. Ms Rudd also sounded less than clued-up when she talked about the technology she is trying to reform.

On extremist material, she asserted that the Government would speak to experts who understand the necessary hashtags to stop this stuff ever being put up . As anyone who has ever used Twitter knows, this is utter nonsense. If there is going to be a debate on messaging and security, as the Government clearly wishes, it should at least be an informed one.

References

  1. ^ demand that messaging services such as WhatsApp tear up their security features (inews.co.uk)

Westminster security ‘must be stepped up’ after video reveals open gates

THE former Metropolitan Police Commissioner claims the “soft” outer ring of security at the Palace of Westminster must be enhanced after a video showed the complex’s gates were left open and apparently unmanned after Wednesday’s terror attack. The footage shows the aftermath of the assault on New Palace Yard which left PC Keith Palmer mortally wounded. As armed officers swarm the cobbled forecourt, having shot dead terrorist Khalid Masood, the imposing iron gate which allows vehicles to enter can be seen wide open.

No police1 officers are visible guarding the entry point, known as Carriage Gates, fuelling concern that the attack might have been worse had Masood been followed by accomplices.

Pedestrians are shown walking past and at one stage a courier on a moped appears to enter unchallenged.

Yards away, separate footage showed Prime Minister Theresa May2 being rushed from the building and into a waiting car.

Former Met Commissioner Ian, now Lord Blair and ex-House of Commons3 deputy speaker Nigel Evans both said security will now have to be stepped up.

Blair told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I am absolutely certain that there will be a review now of the outer soft ring that those of us who work at the Palace of Westminster are very used to.

“Always behind it is the inner core of armed officers, but PC Keith Palmer has paid with his life for that soft outer rim and I think that his family at least, and everybody else, needs the reassurance that will be reviewed.”

Blair refused to criticise the officers who apparently left the gate unguarded, describing them as “human beings” who will have been “gripped completely” by the attack while knowing the “cavalry” of armed officers was on its way.

But he added: “I’m absolutely certain that there will have to be changes.

“People are used to the fact that if they go into Downing Street4 they are confronted by basically closed gates and armed officers and I’m afraid that’s what will have to happen, but we’ll leave it to the reviews to see what it is.

“But I don’t think there should be shock horror about the fact the gates were open for a moment after that kind of attack.”

Evans described the outrage as “one of those things that by experience you learn” from.

He revealed that “lots” of MPs locked in the Commons chamber during and after the attack were discussing how to boost security in certain areas, but said far more checks are carried out at Carriage Gates than we he was elected in 1992 and a “bobby” would just “wave you through”.

The Tory MP said: “I’ve got no doubts whatsoever that there will be enhanced features of security, it’s happening on a regular basis, but following this tragedy security has got to be upped at the same time as still having a welcoming hand to members of the public to come and see how democracy works.”

The video comes after Scotland5 Yard’s anti-terror chief said current arrangements were “proportionate”.

On Friday, Mark Rowley told reporters that procedures for guarding Parliament6 had been designed so they were not “overly intrusive”.

Parliamentary authorities and the police are carrying out a review of security in the wake of the atrocity.

The complex’s main entrance has two sets of large metal gates allowing vehicles to go in and out of the estate and they have traditionally been left open during the day.

A pair of smaller, makeshift gates was introduced more recently with two police officers at each to check passes and allow cyclists, cars and delivery drivers to come and go.

Just inside the entrance gate, armed police are usually present and an unarmed officer sits in a booth by the exit.

Electronic ramps are depressed and barriers lifted further into the courtyard after passes are checked using handheld machines which flash up with a picture of the pass holder .

MPs’ vehicles are also checked for bombs before they can access the underground car park where the Tory MP Airey Neave was blown up in 1979.

References

  1. ^ police (www.heraldscotland.com)
  2. ^ Theresa May (www.heraldscotland.com)
  3. ^ Commons (www.heraldscotland.com)
  4. ^ Downing Street (www.heraldscotland.com)
  5. ^ Scotland (www.heraldscotland.com)
  6. ^ Parliament (www.heraldscotland.com)

Trump’s Scots security guards hid handcuffs after police complaints

PRIVATE security staff hired by Donald Trump1 to guard his Aberdeenshire golf course hid their handcuffs after concerns were raised by police. Internal emails and reports released by Police Scotland also reveal that the force was concerned that the Trump organisation failed to understand Scotland s land reform law giving the public the right to roam across golf courses. These insights into the relationship between police and the controversial Trump resort at Menie on the north-east coast have prompted renewed attacks by the US President s critics .

He acted like a disruptive child, said one.

Police Scotland has released 49 files of documents on its dealings with Trump International Golf Links Scotland (TIGLS) since 2009 . The files were provided to the Sunday Herald last week in response to a request under Freedom of Information law in June 2016.

One file contained an email in March 2010 from Kevin McKay, owner of a local private security firm called IPPS Security, hired to guard Trump s golf course . It disclosed that police had expressed concern about the firm s use of handcuffs.

McKay wrote to police saying that his staff had been told that handcuffs will only be used in a life-threatening situation and they have to be kept covert (out of the public eye) . He added: This should eliminate the issues you raised with me.

Another file included an extract from an internal police report prior to 2012 accusing TIGLS of not understanding the 2003 Land Reform (Scotland) Act . TIGLS and their representatives have not yet grasped the implications of the legislation, said the report.

Their belief is that the land is private and that they will be able to restrict access unconditionally . This is obviously not the case and this is a potential area of conflict that will need to be managed diplomatically.

Police also released a letter they sent to TIGLS executive vice-president Sarah Malone in June 2011, on the eve of a planned protest march . TIGLS was considering preventing access to the site, the letter said.

The police pointed out that entering land without criminal intent was not an offence under ancient trespass law, and drew Malone s attention to the 2003 land reform legislation . They also highlighted the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 allowing freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

Other documents show police conducted 263 patrols of TIGLS s Menie estate between May 2009 and December 2012.

Aberdeenshire Green councillor and veteran Trump critic Martin Ford described the use of handcuffs by Trump s private security firm as very alarming . Trump was indifferent to accepted norms and rules, he argued.

Whether it s planning or access rights, Mr Trump s attitude is that the rules don t apply to him .

He s like a particularly badly behaved disruptive child, Ford said