Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why we should all damn the politicians for politicising the police!

I have been thinking about the remarkable similarities between the two blog topics on which I have been opining recently, the David Miranda arrest and the latest drug statistics released by RELEASE and the Mannheim Institute at the London School of Economics!

Both of them, despite being very different in topic, are very similar in the message they are sending about the way in which the police in this country are being increasingly politicised, and this political interference is enhancing the danger that the police will continue to lose legitimacy in the minds of the general public.

In both cases, the police are being used by politicians to undertake actions which are designed to protect political reputations, but which have very little or nothing to do with the usual activities which the police in this country were (and still are) designed to perform.

In using the police in this way, the politicians are exposing them to increasing public opprobrium and assisting in bring the police into disrepute in the eyes of the public.

Pushing the margin for more measurable statistics means that the police will take the line of least resistance when it comes to demonstrating how many drug stops they have made. This policy has, as reported yesterday, a series of very unfortunate consequences in the damage it causes to police - race-relations issues.

This policy is a piece of purely political requirement and needs urgent re-thinking.

In the case of the arrest of David Miranda - we now know that he was arrested by specialist anti-terror police from Scotland Yard's SO 15 department.

This in itself poses some interesting questions, because the very use of these specialist officers proves that the police had prior knowledge of Miranda's presence on the flight and the fact that he would be changing planes in London. The only people who would have had this immediate knowledge would have been our spooky friends in the intelligence services, and they would have wanted Miranda detained and made available for questioning, because they want to keep faith with their US counterparts in the NSA.

However, the fact of this knowledge means that the powers under Schedule 7 of the Terrorist Act were absolutely not the appropriate legislation under which Miranda should have been detained.

The relevant authorities knew or at least strongly suspected that Miranda was acting as a courier for his journalist partner in Brazil. They would have had little realistic knowledge of the exact nature of what Miranda was carrying, but they had more than enough suspicion that it might be carried possibly in some form of electronic storage on his person.

The real problem for the authorities was that there is very little meaningful legislation which would have given them the necessary degree of access to Miranda, because with the best will in the world, it would be very difficult to make any case against Miranda which would justify his being stopped and his property taken from him. And this is where the spooks would have found themselves stymied in their ambitions.

One of the big legal questions is whether electronic data can be said to be 'property' and is it capable of being 'stolen'?

He would have been carrying hardware on which would have been deposited data which might have consisted of records of US secret information. Now the problem with such information is that its very nature makes it impossible to define what might truly be said to be information which could be of realistic value to terrorists.

It is far more likely to be information which might possess the potential to be very embarrassing to the US authorities, or to the UK authorities possibly, but whether it is 'stolen property' which would have given the police a power to stop and detain him is extremely questionable, and how much value it might possess to terrorists, is doubtful.

This is the problem with secret information, once some spook apparatchik acquires information, it is immediately classified, and thus immediately acquires a special condition which gives it an almost mystical status.

I have had personal experience of all this complete and utter bollocks. Many years ago I was commissioned by a CIA-Front Think Tank in Washington to write an appreciation of the use of the global derivatives markets to enable terrorists to undermine the security of the US commercial systems. This was before 9/11, and it was quite a percipient request, considering the volume of derivatives activity which took place immediately before and immediately after the attacks!  

Anyway, having written my document and delivered it, imagine my immense surprise when a few months later I took a call from a lawyer from M.I.6, who wanted to take me out to lunch and discuss my paper. It turns out that my paper had been shared by the CIA with their UK counterparts, and the spooks wanted to discuss it with me.

After a congenial lunch, my contact asked me various questions about my knowledge of the derivatives dangers to financial markets. He should have listened more closely because I certainly outlined the way they could and would be used by criminal banks during the great financial scandal in 2008, but this was many years in the future, so perhaps he can be forgiven!

During our discussions, I asked to see the copy of my paper to refresh my mind on a point which had slipped my memory.

"...Sorry, old boy..." the spook told me, "...You aren't cleared to see this document...I can't show it to you..."

Hence my cynicism when I hear the official state's servants talk about the importance of such security!

However, now having adopted the use of the powers under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, use of such powers which I genuinely believe will be later struck down and criticised by the Courts, the cops are hoist with their own petard.

They now have to try and find some form of action or activity which will somehow give some spurious legitimacy to their acquisition of this information under the illegal circumstances they have used.

Perhaps , even more importantly, they have got to be hoping against hope that the information contains some nugget of pure intelligence which contains information of such awesome qualities, that no judge in any forum will want it to be given any form of publicity.

Whatever the interpretation, the police have now got to do something to justify their continued possession of the information.

They are being forced into this exercise of dubious legitimacy in order to protect the reputations of the politicians who forced them into this dangerous piece of pure illegality in the first place! 

They are going to have to be forced to engage in a theatre of the absurd in order to buy enough time to make it appear that their involvement has become legitimised, thus protecting the gossamer-thin reputations of the Home Secretary and indeed, the Prime Minister, both of whom started off by saying that they were briefed on the operation before it took place.

Of course they were fucking briefed, the cops aren't stupid!

The cops would have realised that what they were being required to do was being undertaken on grounds of extremely dubious legality. They would have known that Schedule 7 was not the right legal boat on which to embark for this voyage, and they would have said to each other, long before the arrest, 'well if the shit is going to hit the fan, we're not going to be the only ones in the target zone'!

The cops would have bought themselves a copper-bottomed set of legal underpants by ensuring that the relevant politicos were briefed before the arrest took place. It is of interest however, to note that the police did not seek the opinion of the Crown Prosecution Service prior to acting, and the CPS have been at great pains to make that fact known publicly. Clearly they don't want to be associated, even peripherally, with the dodgy dealings being cooked up by the Spooks, which begs the question whose advice did the police seek? Can only have been the Intelligence Service lawyers!

This explains why Theresa May and David Cameron were so cautious about being seen to be standing too closely behind the police actions, saying that these were all operational matters for the police and something on which they had no input!

It was these phrases that first put me, a experienced former police officer, on alert, because they had all the hallmarks of the usual degree of political double-speak and morally-feeble wording of which politicians are the past masters.

What complete and utter tosh, all this weasel worded cowardice is. They and their secret servants are all involved in this up to their refined nostrils, and everything that flows, all falls into the same dodgy political zone of smoke and mirrors!

How can you tell?

Well, it's all in the activities that are now being undertaken and the language which is being carefully crafted to describe the actions of the authorities, because whatever happens from now on in, the police must not do or say anything which might be construed as being potentially misleading, because legal proceedings have been commenced and a Judge has already stilled the hand of the investigators, under certain circumstances.

Just watch how the police language quickly escalates in its estimate of concern.

"...Initial examination of material seized has identified highly sensitive material, the disclosure of which could put lives at risk..," London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

"...We welcome the decision of the court which allows our examination of the material - containing thousands of classified intelligence documents - to continue in order to protect life and national security..," the police statement said.

Later the phrase "...highly sensitive material, the disclosure of which would be gravely injurious to public safety..." makes its way into the lexicon of concern.

Finally, in order to give even more dubious credibility, the police then state that they are beginning a criminal investigation as to whether "...Mr Miranda was a person who is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism..."

All this verbal sparring and dancing around the issue is really the police trying to weave some credibility into their actions. None of these phrases of concern are going to have very much influence on a sensible judge when it comes to evaluating the legitimacy of the actions undertaken by police and the servants of the secret state.

The police have, again, been pushed into a situation not of their own making, but by the politicians, who with their spook advisers, are content to ride roughshod over any laws when it suits them.

I suspect in this case, the secret state made a calculated decision that they would get access to the information they wanted, and if they were even later found to have acted incorrectly, they would have achieved their own ends.

The sadness that accompanies this likelihood is that the spooks will not be engaged in any court proceedings, but the police will get the initial blame, and no judge will be likely to be happy with the 'we were only obeying orders' defence!

It merely reflects the wisdom of some advice given to me many years ago by a wise and experienced detective when I first joined the CID and was told;

 "...Have nothing to do with the 'Funnies' (Intelligence services), they are a bunch of fucking wackos in brown brogues and Barbour jackets who will always let you down and get you into trouble, but who are never around when it's time to stand up and be counted..."


AbogadoNZ said...

A very cogent piece - as ever Rowan. I was amuse that the spook's lawyer wouldn't let you refresh your memory by a glancing at a document you wrote as you were not cleared to see it. The lesson there is never speak to a lawyer or a spook without having all the papers you have on the subject with you.

The whole piece should be of interest to Miranda's Lawyer and hopefully increase the quantum of compensation he will have to get. The trouble is the way the nasty Hone Secretary has set this up any compensation will have to come from Police funds.

All in all very grubby BUT at least there is no the glare of publicity and exposure to the sanitising effects of sunlight. At the very least it is another nail in the government's coffin IF and it is a big IF the electorate has sufficient memory or worse, gives a shit.


Angus said...

Hi Rowan,

I'm in the middle of writing a piece on cannabis, racism and policing for the NORML UK blog.

Is there any chance you could expand on how you see the push for measurable statistics has led to a situation where the policing of cannabis users is falling along racist lines?

As an outside observer the impression I have is of the police, whatever their individual positions may be, collectively being a major obstacle to reform of cannabis laws.

e.g. in 2002 when David Blunkett moved to downgrade to Class C it was the police who dissuaded him: “at the last minute, Mike Fuller, then a DAC in the Met with responsibility for drug policy, and Ian Blair, then deputy commissioner, went and saw Blunkett and convinced him to retain the power of arrest." (Brian Paddick's words)

A 2003 ammendment to PACE meant possession of Class C drugs became arrestable. SOCA compounded that in 2005. So researching this it looks to me like the police have actively involved themselves in politics and, moreover, had the last word (this is all in 'Cannabis Nation' by James Mills)

I've been reading events around Blunkett's attempted cannabis reclassification as the police battling to retain powers and exercise discretion independently; with the Home Secretary (like Paddick in Lambeth) fighting to gain central control over officers on the ground (not liberate potheads, obviously) and comprehensively losing the battle.

thanks, enjoying reading your blog,


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Just be thankful that this isn't the tax haven of Jersey.

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