Apparently the Leveson Inquiry didn’t yield terribly much, because pictures of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson being strangled by her husband in public are all over the front pages. It’s rather drowned out the more important story about the UK government spying on world leaders during a summit the country hosted in 2009.
For those who have heard some of what’s been going on but got a bit lost in the storm of media coverage, I thought I’d do a nice quick(ish) summary.
The Guardian and Washington Post broke a story last week about the extent to which the US National Security Agency spies on people. This is the US equivalent of GCHQ – a spy agency specialising in digital communication. The reports basically said that the NSA had been saving huge quantities of data in partnership with companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Skype (not Twitter, oddly enough). They have also been recording phone call information from the large US carrier Verizon.
The targets of such digital surveillance have been mostly foreign to the US, although the system they use only has a 51 per cent confidence measure, which means that pretty much anyone could be on the list. Other governments have also been implicated, including the UK.
Getting cleavered to death is a nasty way to go. It’s emotive and graphic. But it’s also very small scale. The country’s reaction to Drummer Lee Rigby’s murder on the streets of London has been completely overblown.
Most of the controversy among the media and politicians is about Home Secretary Theresa May’s proposals to revive legislation to increase police powers over hate groups (popularly called the snooper’s charter). This would include possible banning orders for extremist groups, even if they don’t explicitly encourage terrorism, and a crackdown on internet activity.
This is missing the point. Even if you prevent radical speech online, you can’t stop it in the privacy of people’s homes. At least online you can monitor it, whereas if you start banning online preaching, it’ll just go off the radar. Plus, two radicalised young men with cleavers cannot be stopped because they no longer have access to their favourite YouTube cleric. You have to detain them, which is a whole other slippery slope.
Mahatma Gandhi apparently once said that “an eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.” But that didn’t stop two young men from using the old proverb to justify butchering a British soldier with cleavers in broad daylight, yesterday.
First lesson of terrorism: be on time.
As six radical West Midlands men found out in Woolwich Crown Court on Tuesday, being late to bomb your target doesn’t earn you forgiveness. The men, all devout Muslims in their twenties, had planned to bomb a rally of the English Defence League, a right-wing organisation which believes that Islam is encroaching on British society. But they missed the rally and ended up driving home via a fish and chip shop and a mosque.
According to a ruling today by the aptly-named Lord Justice Moses (pictured), childhood now ends a year later than it did yesterday, at age 18. The change in the law essentially governs whether police officers tell mummy or not when (if) you get arrested.
Rolf Harris’s arrest on suspicion of sexual offences has hit people hard. He’s just that guy who sings funny songs and asks “can you guess what it is yet” in an Aussie accent on TV, right?
The 83-year-old children’s TV presenter, artist and CBE was identified in this morning’s Sun newspaper on a front page splash. The paper defied a media embargo in place since November last year when Rolf’s house was searched by police. The paper even went so far as to print a dummy page to hold on to the exclusivity to the last moment: