Aletho News


London Mayor moves to ban Hezbollah

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | July 10, 2017

The Sunni Muslim Mayor of London seeks to ban a Shi’a party from Lebanon from the streets of Britain.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has moved to ban support for Hezbollah in Britain. This is not only an attack on free speech but a totally one-sided attempt to silence global opposition to imperialism and occupation.

Hezbollah is a political party in Lebanon with supporters and well wishers across the world. Hezbollah currently has 12 seats in the Lebanese Parliament and 2 cabinet ministers.

Hezbollah was formally organised in 1985 in the midst of the Lebanese Civil War. Like many political parties which formed in the midst of a civil war, including the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland which currently supports the British government, Hezbollah has an armed resistance faction designed to do what the Lebanese army is increasingly incapable of doing, namely, resisting continued Israeli attempts to illegally attack and occupy Lebanon as well as helping to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria.

It is patently absurd for a UK politician who carries water for the western establishment in their support of Salafist terrorists in Syria to ban support for a group which is fighting them. Hezbollah’s fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda is a fight for civilisation and for common humanity. Many Lebanese who support other parties admit this so why can’t Mr. Khan?

Britain’s streets are filled with officially sanctioned rallies of people holding various flags of extremist Sunni terrorist organisations involved in the conflict in Syria. Some of these rallies have been attended by Mr. Khan, a Sunni of Pakistani origin. This is made all the more odd by the fact that the Mayor of London has no formal foreign policy making role and has no role in the internal politics of Lebanon.

People in major cities like London support all kinds of parties. There are many Americans in London who support the Republican Party of Donald Trump, a man who Khan has attacked multiple times on Twitter. There are French people in London who support Marine Le Pen’s Front National as well as Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche! The list goes on, but Khan has decided to single out for reproach, a single Lebanese party.

This is a disgraceful decision from a disgraceful man. Unless one wants to ban all foreign political parties from having support, one shouldn’t single out one party from Lebanon. One cannot say with any sincerity that the ban has anything to do with Hezbollah’s armed factions as the British Prime Minister sits with a party, the DUP, that has been supported by and has cultivated alliances with armed factions in a disputed territory of Britain that many want to see become part of a united Irish Republic. By contrast, no one disputes that Hezbollah’s heartland of southern Lebanon is anything but Lebanese. Israel’s attempts to once again occupy it have been condemned by the world as illegal acts.

One used to think that Khan was more of a mouse than a man. It turns out, he is a rat.

July 10, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Great Wealth Transfer to the London Elite

By Craig Murray | September 2, 2015

The Guardian has a fascinating piece on house prices which deserves to be read and studied in detail. In London in 2013 the median house price had reached 300,000 while the median salary was 24,600. House prices are 12.2 x salary. That means it is in practice impossible for working people, without inherited wealth, to buy a house.

But the point is, that it should be equally impossible to rent a house. Landlords look for a rental return of approximately 6% of rental value. So that would put median rent in London at around 18,000 pa, which is a realistic figure. But nobody on a salary of 24,600 before tax can pay 18,000 pa in rent. So we should be at a stage where it is impossible for Londoners who have not inherited homes to live there at all.

Very little of the apparent gravity-defying power of the London property market is due to foreign buyers. Their major effect is very much concentrated on the top end of the market. Very few wealthy foreign buyers are purchasing semis in Plumstead or Acton. For prices to be this distorted from the potential of local buyers to pay would require literally hundreds of thousands of foreign purchasers in all segments of the market. They just do not exist.

No what is causing this incredible distortion is the conjunction of buy to let and state housing benefit. The state pays out 18 billion pounds a year in housing benefit, and the vast majority of that goes straight into the pockets of private landlords in the South East of England. State housing benefit underpins the entire system.

Now the brilliance of the trick is that, as it is labeled a benefit, the left fight to keep housing benefit as though it benefited poor people. In fact this is a great illusion. It does nothing of the sort. What would truly benefit poor people is lower rent or affordable homes. Housing benefit goes straight into the pockets of the landlord class.

The landlord class of course encompasses the political class, many of whom (including Cherie Blair, famously) are also landlords. As housing benefit is paid for from general taxation, the entire system is a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, and above all from the North and West to the South and East. The landlord class benefit not only from the taxpayer giving them enormous rents, but from the possession of artificially inflated property on which they can raise further money for more speculation.

The problem is national but is much worse in London and the South East of England. The reason that IDS has not made a serious assault on housing benefit is that it puts money straight into the pockets of most of his Tory chums. The largest benefit recipients in the UK are the great landlords.

The policy mix to tackle this must include building much more council housing, but must also include a phasing out of the payment of state housing benefit to private landlords. Let me put this simply – given a 6% rental return, pumping in 18 billion pounds of state money a year to rents adds 288 billion pounds to property values. Let me say that again because it is very, very important but not that easy to follow.

Given a 6% rental return, pumping in 18 billion pounds of state money to rents adds 288 billion pounds to property values. That explains how you reach the apparently impossible situation of median property at twelve times median income.

The landlord class will endeavour to ensure that any phasing out of such benefit causes maximum dislocation pain to tenants. But correcting the situation is an economic necessity. Ultimately property values have to halve, and rents too. That will provide pain to not just the landlord class but the entire Ponzi economy that Blair built. The ratio of property prices to income almost trebled in the Blair/Brown years, and is the aspect of their economic charlatanry which still overhangs us.

Seen from Edinburgh, another reason to escape to Independence as quickly as possible. The problem is not nearly so acute in Scotland. In England the situation can continue for a while. The Conservative government is delighted with this massive transfer of money to the rich. But once interest rates start to rise, it will bring a crash of gigantic proportions.

September 3, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , | Leave a comment

Forgetting His Own History: William Hague Once Understood How Not to Handle a Black Sea Crisis

By Mark Almond | CroixBlog |  March 6, 2014

“All the assumptions on which… this policy [was]

based turned out to be wrong…. British domestic

opinion would prove hard to persuade that seeking

the return… of a fortress on the Black Sea merited

the risk of a war with Russia.”

William Hague on the Anglo-Russian Crisis (1791)[1]

Oxford historian, Mark Almond, recalls the lessons from history once taught by Foreign Secretary, William Hague, in his study of Pitt the Younger’s mishandling of what he called the “Ochakov fiasco” in 1791.

The current imbroglio over Crimea may be America’s first crisis with Russia in the Black Sea, but it is not Britain’s. Even the Crimean War (1854-56) was not Britain’s first face-off with Russia. More than two hundred years ago as the French Revolution convulsed Western Europe (rather as the Arab Spring has sent shock waves across the Mediterranean), Catherine the Great expanded her hold on the Black Sea coast by seizing Ochakov, not far from the new city of Odessa. Under the supervision of the exiled French Duc de Richelieu who acted as governor, the Tsarina’s architects would soon erect as a naval base to match Sebastopol across the Black Sea in the Crimea which she had already annexed in 1783.

With her major rival, France, apparently rendered impotent by revolution since 1789, William Pitt’s Britain seemed the only superpower – at least to itself. Whitehall was as convinced in 1791 as the White House seems to be today that a combination of global reach via the Royal Navy with the City of London’s financial hegemony would both cause the Tsarina to back off and the other European states to fall into line behind Britain’s demand that Russia retreat from its southern Ukrainian conquests from the waning Ottoman Empire.

Convinced of that the West could cow the East with its combination of advanced military technology and commercial wealth even in a theatre so far from its sources of power and so close to Catherine’s, William Pitt turned the Ochakov issue into a first-rate crisis by demanding Russia withdraw or else.

But when push came to shove, the British government’s assumption that everyone in Europe would fall into line behind its bellicose approach proved as illusory as the sanctions-first strategy-later approach of David Cameron’s government today. The echoes of today’s crisis are obvious – except it seems to the author of an excellent biography of the Younger Pitt described as a “fiasco”.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, set out a succinct account of Britain’s over-reach in 1791 back in 2002 when he was in the political wilderness. His diplomacy, albeit as the junior partner of the USA, suggests that he has forgotten everything about what lessons might be derived from Whitehall’s past performance in the great game for influence in the Black Sea region.

The EU summit in Brussels on 6th March, 2014, should have had painful echoes of Pitt’s brutal learning curve in 1791. Don’t trust the private assurances of “allies” that they will cut off their noses to spite Russia’s face, nor believe over-optimistic British diplomats telling you that everyone is on board and the Russians are too militarily weak and economically backward to face up to a Western challenge in their own backyard.

Looking back two centuries later, Hague described how the Old Etonian prime minister of the day presumed that his European partners would fall into line behind London’s publicly-proclaimed policy to sanction Russia for its occupation of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. But Europe’s capitals were far from firmly resolved to incur Catherine the Great’s wrath:

“While Prussia joined in pressing the British demands, the Dutch were unwilling to risk a war, the Swedes demanded a subsidy, the Spanish were not prepared to help and the Austrians became markedly less cooperative and were actually playing a double game with the Russians.”

Pitt’s majority in the House of Commons sank because he could not persuade MPs why they should risk a war “for a faraway fortress of which they had never before heard.” Because the Russians had not harmed a hair on a British head in 1791, public opinion like Parliament could not get its mind around the need for military threats. Pitt complained that emotions were not running high enough to overrun his MPs scepticism about war in the Black Sea. Raison d’état did not cut much ice in Britain: “They can be embarked in a war from motives of passion, but they cannot be made to comprehend a case in which the most valuable interests of the country are at stake.” Maybe, but the mercantilist elite which provided so many MPs then had a very good understanding of self-interest and could be ruthless about asserting Britain’s interests when they made pounds-and-pence sense. What they could not be won over to was a war for alleged strategic interests well beyond their commercial reach and in fact against a major trading partner like Russia.

Rather as phone intercepts have embarrassed Victoria Nuland – “F*ck the EU” – and Catherine Ashton over the apparently pro-opposition “snipers” in Kiev, so in 1791 the Russian acquisition of British establishment inside information from Robert Adair, an ally of Pitt’s bête-noire Charles James Fox, revealed to Catherine II’s government that – surprise, surprise – the British had been making contradictory promises to Austria and Turkey to keep them both on board – so both drifted away from London on the news.

Pitt had to back down, but, in a lesson for the blundering Bullingdon Club bully[2] in 10 Downing Street today, a colleague noted, “He hoped means might be found to manage matters so as not to have the appearance of giving up the point.”[3]

Diplomacy is often best when it provides a smokescreen for a retreating from a foolish policy. Maybe if William Hague could act like his hero Pitt, he could persuade the White House to declare Vladimir Putin’s permission of a referendum on the future of Crimea to be a triumph of Western ideals to spread democracy and so a sign of Russia’s climb-down! But don’t expect too much: Hague like his American patrons has approached real-time crises with an open mouth, so thinking first before shooting the West in the foot would require reflecting on his own experience as well as remembering the history which appears under his name.

[1] See William Hague, William Pitt the Younger (Harper Perennial: London, 2005), 285.

[2] Cameron’s main unilateral sanction has been to kick away the UK government’s crutch from our para-olympians going to Sochi for the Winter Games this weekend.

[3] Quoted in Hague, William Pitt, 287.

March 7, 2014 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remove children of suspected radical Muslims: Boris

Press TV – March 5, 2014

London Mayor Boris Johnson says Muslim children with suspected radical parents must be removed from their families, causing controversy amongst the city’s Muslim community.

The London mayor made the remarks in his weekly Daily Telegraph column published on Monday.

He alleged that some Muslim children were being “taught crazy stuff” similar to the views expressed by the two men who killed British soldier Lee Rigby on a south-east London street in May 2013.

In a later interview however, when asked if the children of the UK’s far-right British National Party (BNP) activists should also be removed from their families, Johnson said this should be done in “extreme” cases.

The Muslim Council of Britain warned that Johnson’s remarks risked provoking anti-Muslim sentiment across the UK.

“The people responsible for the murder of Lee Rigby were not sons of radical extremists, nor were those who committed previous atrocities. To tackle their extremism we need to look beyond the need to generate easy headlines,” the council said.

Britain’s largest force, the Metropolitan Police, recorded 500 anti-Muslim crime cases across the country in 2013.

Attacks against Muslims have soared in the UK since the murder of Rigby by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, who reportedly killed the soldier in “retaliation for the deaths of Muslims in Afghanistan at the hands of British troops.”

March 5, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Islamophobia | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK police watchdog apologetic about Duggan case


Press TV – January 18, 2014

Britain’s Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has offered an apology to the family of Mark Duggan for “wrongly” telling the media that the black man opened fire at police before he was fatally shot in 2011.

On Friday, deputy chairwoman of the IPCC Rachel Cerfontyne stated that the non-departmental public body is following “a number of significant lines of inquiry” surrounding the death of the 29-year-old.

An inquest jury ruled last week that Tottenham police in northern London lawfully gunned down Duggan on August 4, 2011.

Duggan’s death triggered the massive 2011 summer unrest across England. It was the worst social unrest Britain faced in a generation, unleashing street protests, fighting with the police and arson attacks.

“We know that the family’s confidence in us and our investigation was damaged by mistakes made in the early stages – both in relation to inaccurate information we provided to the media, and the initial management of the incident,” Cerfontyne said.

She added, “I would like again to record my sincere apology to them that on the evening that Mark was fatally shot by a police officer, a member of our staff wrongly led the media to believe that he had fired at police officers. I fully understand the damaging impact of this.”

Cerfontyne further noted that the IPCC is trying to interview key witnesses who have either declined to speak or have given conflicting accounts.

“Having assessed the evidence at inquest, there are initially a number of significant lines of inquiry which we are pursuing. These include following up concerns about the way the police responded to intelligence and seeking to interview some key witnesses who have so far declined to speak to or be interviewed by us or whose accounts are inconsistent with other evidence,” she said.

“We expect police officers to cooperate fully with us if required, including answering questions at interview, something they have so far refused to do,” the IPCC deputy chairwoman pointed out.

January 18, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Comments Off on UK police watchdog apologetic about Duggan case

Watched from a waste bin: UK pulls plug on ‘spy’ trash cans

RT | August 12, 2013

The City of London has demanded that an advertising firm cease its ‘spy bin’ program which uses high-tech trash cans to track people walking through the city’s financial district. The bins follow Wi-Fi signals and capture smartphone serial numbers.

Renew installed 200 bomb-proof bins with built-in Wi-Fi and digital screens inside London’s Square Mile during and after the 2012 Olympic Games. The firm initially offered to place advertisements and financial information on its “pods.” But in June, the agency started testing the bins’ wireless potential, subsequently launching a smartphone-tracking campaign.

The company’s ‘ORB’ technology scanned the streets for smartphones, indentifying the manufacturer of every device through unique media access control (MAC) addresses. It also detected the owner’s “proximity, speed and duration” of stay. Renew had hoped the program would attract advertisers and help companies in their marketing campaigns.

“The technology enables clients to accumulate data readings that will aid in compounding statistical analysis on trending demographics in high profile locations (and particularly a client’s own market share within the City relative to peers in the handheld manufacturing example),” the website’s press release said at the start of the ‘Renew ORB’ beta-testing.

The captured data – which encompassed 4,009,676 devices in just one week of testing – was to be sold to advertisers in “raw form.” Shop owners, for example, could find it very useful for analyzing their customers’ visit time and loyalty.

Instead, the program triggered a media storm, building on ‘spy bins’ hype. This was followed by public outrage and an official ban. Questions were raised regarding whether the scheme was completely legal.

Responding to the turbulent reaction, Renew’s ORB technology CEO attempted to downplay the trash bins’ data collection capabilities.

“I’m afraid that in the interest of a good headline and story there has been an emphasis on style over substance that makes our technology trial slightly more interesting than it is,” Kaveh Memari said in a Monday statement published on Renew’s website. He added that “none” of the proposed capabilities “are workable right now.”

Memari also assured that the MAC addresses collected during the pods’ beta-testing were totally “anonymized and aggregated.” He stressed that no personal details could be devised from analyzing such data, comparing the process to the work of a website counter.

Earlier, Renew promised the technology would enable it to “cookie the street.” The comment was in reference to internet cookies – tiny files created by websites to track an individual’s activity.

A City of London spokesman took a different position on the matter, saying, “Irrespective of what’s technically possible, anything that happens like this on the streets needs to be done carefully, with the backing of an informed public.”

According to the spokesman, the issue has been taken to the Information Commissioner’s Office – a UK public body dealing with data protection and freedom of information.

Renew appeared to be ready both for public discussion and for a legal battle, saying that “the law has not yet fully developed and it is our firm intention to discuss any such progressions publicly first and especially collaborate with privacy groups…to make sure we lead the charge on this as we are with the implementation of the technology.”

However, the firm admitted that such technology required “the future levels of protection” and “people being comfortable with interactive technology.”

Meanwhile, Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch – a civil liberties and privacy pressure group – said that questions need to be asked “about how such a blatant attack on people’s privacy was able to occur.”

August 13, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Watched from a waste bin: UK pulls plug on ‘spy’ trash cans

Ten Years Ago: The Political Assassination of Dr. David Kelly

Dr Kelly Inquest Campaign
THURSDAY 18th JULYb 2013
The campaign to re-open the inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly is holding a silent, gagged, protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, on Thursday 18th July 2pm, to mark the tenth anniversary of Dr Kelly’s death and to demand the re-opening of his inquest.
Campaigners demand Dr Kelly’s inquest, as his right under British law, to examine all the evidence, including the fresh evidence.  The coroner ‘speaks for the dead to protect the living.’  Campaigners demand due process of British law and transparency, for the clear establishment of truth and justice. 
All single, unexplained deaths require an inquest under British law.  Dr Kelly’s unexplained death, according to many centuries of British law, should have been examined in a proper coronial inquest, with the option of a jury, the power to subpoena witnesses, testimony given under oath, with cross-examination and the requirement to establish suicide beyond reasonable doubt. 
Instead, Section 17A of the Coroners Act 1988 was quickly invoked – which is used to cover multiple deaths, as with train disasters – probably uniquely, for Dr Kelly’s single, unexplained death.  The result was the Hutton Inquiry, engaged only to look into ‘the circumstances surrounding Dr Kelly’s death’, neither overseen by a coroner, nor with the proper powers of an inquest.
There is fresh evidence which requires the scrutiny of a proper coronial inquest.  Thames Valley Police FoI responses reveal that there were no fingerprints on six items found with Dr Kelly’s body, including the knife with which he is said to have cut his ulnar artery, blister packs of Co-proxamol tablets, which he is said to have swallowed, an opened water bottle, a watch, spectacles and mobile phone.  No gloves were found at the scene. 
Lord Hutton requested the records provided to the Hutton Inquiry, not produced in evidence, be closed for 30 years, and that medical reports and photographs be closed for 70years.  The Ministry of Justice was unable to explain the legal basis for Lord Hutton’s order.
The Dr Kelly Inquest Campaign demands due process of law – the re-opening of Dr Kelly’s inquest – and transparency, to achieve truth and justice. 
For further press information contact:
Jayne Venables
01904 627211
07876 748255

July 17, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Comments Off on Ten Years Ago: The Political Assassination of Dr. David Kelly

G4s annual meeting stormed by human rights activists

Press TV – June 7, 2013

Pro-Palestine campaigners have staged a protest at the annual meeting of shareholders of disgraced security firm G4S in London, calling for an end to the firm’s Israeli prison contracts.

G4S meeting on June 6 was twice disrupted by protesters, who voiced their anger against the private company’s provision of expertise and security systems to Israeli prisons, and its complicity in the detention and torture of Palestinian children.

The demonstration was organized by the Innovative Minds (inminds) and Islamic Human Right Commission (IHRC) campaign groups.

“G4S cannot expect to do business as usual whilst it equips Israeli prisons which hold Palestinians in breach of the Geneva Convention,” said Sarah Colborne, director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

G4S faces criticism for its cooperation with the Israeli regime, including providing equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints, illegal settlements, the apartheid wall and jails where Palestinian political prisoners are subjected to mistreatment and torture.

June 7, 2013 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on G4s annual meeting stormed by human rights activists

Naked Citizens – World

journeymanpictures · May 7, 2013

Naked Citizens (2013): Increasing numbers of ‘terror suspects’ are being arrested on the basis of online and CCTV surveillance data. Authorities claim they act in the public interest, but does this intense surveillance keep us safer?

“I woke up to pounding on my door”, says Andrej Holm, a sociologist from the Humboldt University. In what felt like a scene from a movie, he was taken from his Berlin home by armed men after a systematic monitoring of his academic research deemed him the probable leader of a militant group. After 30 days in solitary confinement, he was released without charges. Across Western Europe and the USA, surveillance of civilians has become a major business. With one camera for every 14 people in London and drones being used by police to track individuals, the threat of living in a Big Brother state is becoming a reality. At an annual conference of hackers, keynote speaker Jacob Appelbaum asserts, “to be free of suspicion is the most important right to be truly free”. But with most people having a limited understanding of this world of cyber surveillance and how to protect ourselves, are our basic freedoms already being lost?

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June 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Comments Off on Naked Citizens – World

Stop the War to hold two London rallies

Press TV – October 3, 2012

British anti-war campaigners, the Stop the War Coalition, have organized two protest rallies for next week against the war in Afghanistan and the threats on Iran and Syria.

The Sunday rally in London’s Trafalgar Square will be held on the 11th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan to commemorate those killed in an event dubbed Naming of the Dead.

The protest will also call for an end to the British government’s involvement in the “unjustified and futile war” and bring the troops home by Christmas.

Paul Flynn who was recently sacked from the British parliament for saying the government has been lying about Afghanistan will be among the participants in the event.

Also on Tuesday, the Stop the War Coalition will hold a rally at the University of London Union against the “western intervention in Syria” and the threats of military action against Iran.

The Stop the War Coalition’s core idea of a joint rally against the intervention in Syria and the threats on Iran is that Syria is only an excuse for an attack on Iran.

“An attack on Iran remains the ultimate goal for the US. Intervention in Syria is a stepping stone toward that goal,” the group said in a statement on its website.

The group is also warning that any intervention will have “huge regional and global consequences” and will at best “deny the Syrian people the right to determine their own future.”

“It will place the opposition leadership in the hands of the western powers and their allies, who will act in their own interests,” the group said.

The rallies come amid sporadic reports and confirmations by British officials including Foreign Secretary William Hague that London is helping Syrian terrorists with military equipment and intelligence supplies.

October 4, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | Comments Off on Stop the War to hold two London rallies

Surveillance Games

By Katitza Rodriguez and Rebecca Bowe | EFF | July 18, 2012

With the opening ceremony of the London Olympics 2012 drawing near, the colossal security apparatus surrounding the Summer Games has come into focus.

For starters, things got messy in London last week when G4S, the private firm that won the contract to provide security for the games, admitted it wouldn’t be able to deliver the promised number of security guards. To make up for the shortfall, the UK government plans to deploy an additional 3,500 soldiers.

Meanwhile, private guards are only half the equation when it comes to safeguarding the world’s most prominent sporting event. Preparations for the Summer Olympic Games amount to Britian’s largest-ever peacetime security operation, replete with warships, ground troops, and security cameras. “Special drones” will even cruise overhead to conduct crowd surveillance, an unnamed salesman at an Israeli company told the Associated Press. All of this is unfolding in a city already famous for its ubiquitous detection equipment, at a time when a bid for increased governmental surveillance powers has privacy advocates up in arms.

Meanwhile, this latest Olympics security production seems to follow a long-term trend that so far has gone largely unexamined. In the past, the Olympic Games have generated millions of dollars in security spending, only to leave the host cities with upgraded surveillance infrastructure in place long after the athletes have departed. In this article EFF’s international privacy team examines this trend of how intensified surveillance of public space can become a lasting legacy for cities that play host to the world’s largest sporting event.

In a few short months, London will take centre stage when it hosts the 2012 Summer Olympics – and while international broadcasting networks aim their lenses at world-class athletes, a proliferation of surveillance technologies and security cameras will track the movements of spectators and residents. With security costs approaching £1 billion (US$1.6 billion), considerably higher than originally estimated, this year’s Olympic Games is on track to be one of the most heavily surveilled in the Games’s history.

With surveillance and security around the Olympics intensifying from country to country, purportedly to prevent terrorism and serious crimes, activists are increasingly concerned about a growing trend: once the Games are finished, authorities rarely cut back on public surveillance. And with the pricey new infrastructure installed for good, individuals’ rights to personal privacy are at risk of being permanently diminished.

London already bears distinction among privacy watchdogs as being one of the most closely surveilled cities in the world, yet routine security practices pale in comparison with the exhaustive measures to be imposed during the 2012 Summer Olympics. Surveillance and security measures were recently described in the UK’s Independent newspaper as the ‘biggest operation since the Second World War’ to be undertaken by UK intelligence agency MI5. Plans call for the installation of a new monitoring and intelligence gathering system, plus the mobilisation of nearly all of MI5’s 3,800 agents. While details of the intelligence-gathering programme remain classified, it appears to be intended for long-term use.

As London beefs up its security infrastructure, meanwhile, Brazil has already begun mapping out a security strategy in anticipation of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The situation there is shaping up to be another cause for concern, particularly because the government seems eager to follow London’s lead –  and Rio is also one of the most surveilled cities in democratic countries around the world. According to Agence France Presse (AFP) reporter Javier Tovar, Brazilian security agencies plan to use surveillance drones, tough border controls and IP-based surveillance systems during the 2016 Olympics.

Brazil will also host the World Cup in 2014, run by the international governing body for football, FIFA. For both competitions, most of the events will take place in poor urban suburbs of Brazilian cities, where the homicide rate is among the highest in South America. Because of rising crime rates, the announcement that Brazil will host these high-profile sporting events led to a spike in Brazil’s video surveillance market, according to market analyst firm 6Wresearch. The surveillance measures are largely going unchallenged – there seems to be little public debate or attention focused on these issues or the privacy implications they present.

Brazil’s video surveillance market generated US$124.96 million in 2011 and is expected to reach $362.69 million by 2016, research analysts predicted, with a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 24 per cent from 2011 to 2016. 6Wresearch expects ‘a shift towards more secured IP-based surveillance systems’ since advantages include ‘low cost, video analytics, remote accessibility and [are] easy to integrate with wireless networks’.

No sooner had Rio been selected for the 2016 Olympic Games than the US government sought to strike a partnership with the Brazilian government on security and information-sharing strategies, according to secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. In December 2009, the US embassy in Brazil sent a cable to the US government entitled, ‘The future is now’. The message encouraged the US to use the Olympic Games to justify the expansion of its influence over Brazil’s critical infrastructure development and cyber security measures. By highlighting concerns about the possibility of power outages or breakdowns in infrastructure, particularly in the months leading up to the Games, the US government could justify a bid for increased co-operation with Brazil on counterterrorism activities. There were ‘opportunities for engagement on infrastructure development’ and ‘possibly cyber security’, the cable stated.  In a second cable, sent on 24 December 2009, the embassy again emphasised  its interest in broadening US objectives in Brazil. ‘Taking advantage of the Games to work security issues should be a priority, as should co-operation on cybercrime and broader information security,’ it read.

In the lengthy diplomatic exchanges between the US embassy in Brazil and the US government, the absence of any reference to the very serious privacy, civil liberties and public accountability implications of widespread surveillance technologies stood out as a glaring omission. The same could be said for current public discourse in Brazil.  So far, there has not been any significant criticism of the security and surveillance measures being introduced – in marked contrast to the UK, where privacy campaigners have been active.

Brazil’s safeguards for privacy in the face of such pressure aren’t especially promising. There is a need for an impact assessment to evaluate whether cameras installed to help combat crime in Rio are actually needed and to ensure that these intrusive measures do not become an Olympic Games legacy, especially if there are less intrusive methods of combatting serious crimes. There is no legislation pertaining to the privacy of personal information in Brazil, but a draft bill that, if introduced, would protect the collection, use and disclosure of this information is under consideration. It remains to be seen whether the bill will bypass privacy protections by allowing exemptions – namely, databases created for the sole purposes of public security, national security or law enforcement activities.

It’s too early to say exactly what security and privacy protocols Brazil will keep once the 2016 Summer Olympic Games end, or to what extent the Brazilian government will agree to go along with an agenda carved out by the US. But if history is any guide, there is reason to believe that a surveillance regime ushered in by the Olympics will continue to pose threats to individual privacy well into the future. Privacy advocates, having assessed the range of measures implemented in connection with previous Olympic Games, warn of a ‘climate of fear and surveillance’ that could have a detrimental effect on ‘democracy, transparency, and international and national human rights law’.

But the proliferation of surveillance technology around the Olympics is hardly new. Greece’s contract with technology company SAIC called for the creation and support of a C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) system to ‘allow Greek authorities to collect, analyse, and disseminate information’ by leveraging SAIC’s expertise in telecommunications, wireless communications and video surveillance. The technology blends the use of data-mining, data-matching, and profiling capabilities. Those researching this area have referred to the adoption of such security measures as an emergence of a ‘super-panopticon’ and a ‘marriage of camera, computers and databases’.

One report revealed that Greek law enforcement and intelligence agencies installed more than 1,000 surveillance cameras in Athens in advance of the 2004 Summer Olympics – and then continued to make use of them for policing purposes long after athletes and spectators had packed up and left. While the stated purpose for the continued use of the cameras in Greece was to monitor high-traffic roadways, the report found that they were actually employed to monitor public spaces – including during political demonstrations. This revelation triggered heated exchanges between law enforcement officials and the Greek Data Protection Authority, leading to  the resignation of the authority’s head, Dimitris Gourgourakis, and his deputies. At the time, Gourgourakis stated that police use of surveillance cameras ‘directly breached’ privacy regulations. In 2007, the country’s data protection law was amended to exempt surveillance cameras from its privacy provisions.

The use of surveillance cameras in Athens barely registers in comparison with the all-out monitoring campaign Chinese authorities implemented in 2008, when the Olympic Games were held in Beijing. Chinese authorities installed a whopping 200,000 cameras and employed other surveillance measures in an effort to make Beijing secure. And, in a move that drew widespread condemnation, the Chinese government ordered foreign-owned hotels to install internet monitoring equipment to spy on hotel guests.

When it was announced that Vancouver had won the bid for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Canadian civil society organisations feared a repeat of the privacy-invading security measures adopted by Greece and China. Privacy advocates called for the government to remain open and transparent about the necessary security and surveillance practices that were planned; they called for a full, independent public assessment of these measures after the Games and sought to prevent ‘a permanent legacy of increased video surveillance’ and other security measures. ‘It is already clear that the event allowed for new surveillance technologies to gain a foothold in Vancouver that would never otherwise have been accepted,’ noted Tamir Israel of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.

The message appeared to get through. In the run up to the Games, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, in conjunction with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia, issued recommendations to prevent security measures from unduly infringing on individual’s rights. ‘The duty of governments to provide for the security of citizens must, in democratic societies, be tempered by the values that underpin our way of life,’ said Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada. ‘The right to privacy must be upheld, even during mega-events like the Olympic games, where the threat to security is higher than usual. ’ At this critical juncture, the agencies seeking to implement security measures in London and Rio would do well to heed her words.

Violations of individuals’ privacy can range from the loss of anonymity in public places to the inability to communicate and associate freely with others. The capabilities of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) have risen dramatically, and due to the technology’s relative affordability, street cameras are now everywhere. Technological advances make it possible for CCTV to perform surveillance tasks similar to electronic wiretapping, intelligence sharing and identification systems that link images not stored on databases with images that have actually been archived. Given the prevalence of this technology and how easy it’s become to identify one unnamed face amidst thousands, individuals who care about anonymity will have a very difficult time protecting their identity in the imminent future.

While it’s important to take security precautions prior to the Olympics, these actions should not result in the implementation of public surveillance without regard for personal privacy. It’s crucial that the public scrutinise the security and privacy measures the Brazilian government is considering. There must be an informed and open debate about privacy and security.

Most importantly, the public has a right to know whether enhanced security measures will be reversed after the games. The true spirit of the Olympics as an opportunity for cultural exchange ought to be preserved. Using the Games as an excuse for trampling civil liberties violates this spirit.

July 19, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Surveillance Games