Posts Tagged ‘spying’

MI5 spying on Martin Ennals: what’s new?

August 21, 2015

On Friday, 21 August, the Guardian reported on MI5 spying on Dorris Lessing but also on Martin Ennals. [“The files released on Friday reveal that MI5 also kept a close watch on prominent figures of the left who were never members of the Communist party. They include the brothers David and Martin Ennals..the latter became general secretary of the National Council of Civil Liberties, a founder member of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and secretary general of Amnesty International…. [Shortly after the end of the second world war] MI5 replied that its files on the Ennals brothers had been “in great demand recently”. MI5 was concerned that UN groups, in which it said both brothers were involved, might be infiltrated by the Communist party. MI5 noted that Martin was “well known to Special Branch for his activities in the Anti-Apartheid Movement”.

However, nine months ago (25/26 October, 2014) the Daily Mail had already referred to this issue under the title: “Revealed: How Special Branch spied on leading anti-apartheid activist“.

The Government is facing calls to reveal the truth about a spying operation on one of Britain’s most respected human rights activists. Previously secret documents show the late Martin Ennals was put under years of surveillance by Special Branch. He was a key figure at Amnesty International and the National Council for Civil Liberties – now known as Liberty – and a leading campaigner against apartheid. Details of his marriage, family and holiday destinations were recorded. His luggage was also regularly searched as he made trips to and from Britain. But the files, released by the Metropolitan Police under the Freedom of Information Act, have been heavily redacted.

His son Marc, who is mentioned in the files, added: ‘If they were doing this to him, they must have been doing this to millions of others who were essentially much more of a threat. He was just fighting for human rights.’” Marc Ennals said it was ‘frustrating’ that so much material from the files had been redacted and the freedom of expression group Article 19, which Martin Ennals helped found in the 1980s, called on the Government to ‘come clean’.

Whether that is now the case I cannot judge, but as founder of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights and a close personal friend of Martin Ennals, I can hardly be surprised by the ‘revelations’. Martin told me from the first day we met that I would alway have to assume that conversations and documents would be overheard or read. That he was accused of communist sympathies was also not a secret as he had taken a very public anti-McArthy stand in UNESCO as explained in the biography I wrote for the Encyclopedia of Human Rights, OUP, 2009, Vol 2, pp 135-138 (ed. David P. Forsythe). Perhaps the most ‘shocking’ is the normalcy of the assumption that anti-apartheid activities are (were) a valid source of concern!

http://www.martinennalsaward.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=98&Itemid=74&lang=en

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2807885/How-Special-Branch-spied-leading-anti-apartheid-activist.html

MI5 spied on Doris Lessing for 20 years, declassified documents reveal | Books | The Guardian.

Amnesty’s Detekt: a new tool against government spying launched today

November 20, 2014

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On 20 November 2014 Amnesty International launched a new tool that human rights defenders can use in their struggle against surveillance. It is calledDETEKT. As I have often expressed concern about digital security in this blog (see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/digital-security/\) here ARE major excerpts from the Questions and Answers that were provided in the press release:

What is Detekt and how does it work?

Detekt is a free tool that scans your computer for traces of known surveillance spyware used by governments to target and monitor human rights defenders and journalists around the world. By alerting them to the fact that they are being spied on, they will have the opportunity to take precautions.

It was developed by security researchers and has been used to assist in Citizen Lab’s investigations into government use of spyware against human rights defenders, journalists and activists as well as by security trainers to educate on the nature of targeted surveillance. Amnesty International is partnering with Privacy International, Digitale Gesellschaft and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Why are you launching Detekt now?

The latest technologies enable governments to track, monitor and spy on people’s activities like never before. Through the use of these technologies, governments can read private correspondence and even turn on the camera and microphone of a computer without its owner knowing it. Our ultimate aim is for human rights defenders, journalists and civil society groups to be able to carry out their legitimate work without fear of surveillance, harassment, intimidation, arrest or torture.

Has anyone used Detekt successfully to know if they were being spied on? 

Detekt was developed by researchers affiliated with the Citizen Lab, who used a preliminary version of the tool during the course of their investigations into the use of unlawful surveillance equipment against human rights defenders in various countries around the world.

For example, according to research carried out by Citizen Lab and information published by Wikileaks, FinSpy – a spyware developed by FinFisher, a German firm that used to be part of UK-based Gamma International– was used to spy on prominent human rights lawyers and activists in Bahrain.

How effective is this tool against technologies developed by powerful companies? 

Detekt is a very useful tool that can uncover the presence of some commonly used spyware on a computer, however it cannot detect all surveillance software. In addition, companies that develop the spyware will probably react fast to update their products to ensure they avoid detection. This is why we are encouraging security researchers in the open-source community to help the organizations behind this project to identify additional spyware or new versions to help Detekt keep up to date.

It is important to underline that if Detekt does not find trace of spyware on a computer, it does not necessarily mean that none is present. Rather than provide a conclusive guarantee to activists that their computer is infected, our hope is that Detekt will help raise awareness of the use of such spyware by governments and will make activists more vigilant to this threat.

In addition, by raising awareness with governments and the public, we will be increasing pressure for more stringent export controls to ensure that such spyware is not sold to governments who are known to use these technologies to commit human rights violations.

How widely do governments use surveillance technology?

Governments are increasingly using surveillance technology, and targeted surveillance in particular, to monitor the legitimate activities of human rights activists and journalists. Powerful software developed by companies allows governments and intelligence agencies to read personal emails, listen-in on Skype conversations or even remotely turn on a computers camera and microphone without its owner knowing about it. In many cases, the information they gather through those means is used to detain, imprison and even torture activists into confessing to crimes.

How big is the unregulated trade in surveillance equipment? What are the main companies and countries involved? 

The global surveillance industry is estimated to be worth approximately US$5 billion a year – with profits growing 20 per cent every year. European and American companies have been quietly selling surveillance equipment and software to countries across the world that persistently commit serious human rights violations. Industry self-regulation has failed, and government oversight has now become an urgent necessity.

Privacy International has extensively documented the development, sale and export of surveillance technologies by private companies to regimes around the world. Recipient countries include: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Morocco, South Africa, Syria and Turkmenistan.

Isn’t publicizing the existence of this tool giving governments a heads up about how they can avoid being caught (by adapting new equipment which avoids detection)?

The technologies that allow governments to efficiently and covertly monitor the digital communications of their citizens are continuously improving. This is happening across the world. The growing trend in indiscriminate mass surveillance on a global scale was laid bare by the Edward Snowden disclosures. In addition to mass surveillance technologies, many governments are using sophisticated tools to target specific human rights defenders and journalists who work to uncover abuses and injustice. The new spyware being developed and used is powerful and dangerous and putting many human rights activists and journalists at risk of abuse.

As surveillance technologies develop in sophistication, it is vital that civil society groups learn how to protect their digital communications. No one tool or intervention will be enough to do this. We hope Detekt will become a new approach for investigating surveillance while sensitizing people to the threats.

However, long term we must also demand that governments live up to their existing commitments to human rights and that they and companies put in place stronger protections to ensure that new technologies are not used to violate human rights.

Surveillance is also used to carry out legitimate criminal investigations, why are you against it? 

Targeted surveillance is only justifiable when it occurs based on reasonable suspicion, in accordance with the law, is strictly necessary to meet a legitimate aim (such as protecting national security or combatting serious crime and is conducted in a manner that is proportionate to that aim and non-discriminatory.

Indiscriminate mass surveillance – the widespread and bulk interception of communication data that is not targeted or based on reasonable suspicion – is never justifiable. It interferes with a range of human rights, particularly the rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

The Detekt tool can be downloaded from: Github page.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/detekt-new-tool-against-government-surveillance-questions-and-answers-2014-11-20

 http://gadgets.ndtv.com/internet/news/human-rights-group-amnesty-international-releases-anti-surveillance-tool-623484

Amnestys Detekt tool wants to help you thwart government spying | ZDNet.