Tag Archives: UK

Spy Agency’s Secret Plans to Foster Online “Conformity” and “Obedience” Exposed

Internal memo from secretive British spy unit exposes how GCHQ and NSA used human psychological research to create sophisticated online propaganda tools

By Jon Queally
June 23, 2015
Common Dreams

 

“Among other things,” The Intercept reports, “the document lays out the tactics the agency uses to manipulate public opinion, its scientific and psychological research into how human thinking and behavior can be influenced, and the broad range of targets that are traditionally the province of law enforcement rather than intelligence agencies.” (Photo: Getty Images)

With never-before-seen documents accompanied by new reporting on Monday, The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman are offering a more in-depth look than ever into how a secretive unit of the UK’s GCHQ surveillance agency used a host of psychological methods and online subterfuge in order to manipulate the behavior of individuals and groups through the internet and other digital forms of communication.

According to the reporting, the latest documents, which were leaked to journalists by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden,

demonstrate how the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a unit of the signals intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is involved in efforts against political groups it considers “extremist,” Islamist activity in schools, the drug trade, online fraud, and financial scams.

Though its existence was secret until last year, JTRIG quickly developed a distinctive profile in the public understanding, after documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the unit had engaged in “dirty tricks” like deploying sexual “honey traps” designed to discredit targets, launching denial-of-service attacks to shut down internet chat rooms, pushing veiled propaganda onto social networks, and generally warping discourse online.

Among the most troubling revelations is a 42-page internal JTRIG memo that describes in detail how the elite unit developed, maintained, and apparently sought to expand its “scientific and psychological research into how human thinking and behavior can be influenced” in order to increase its ability to “manipulate public opinion” via online tools like email, social media, video, discussion forums, and other platforms.

Greenwald and Fishman argue JTRIG’s self-documented exploits are most notable because of their “extensive use of propaganda methods and other online tactics of deceit and manipulation” that are not only reserved for “suspected foreign enemies” or criminals, as the agency continues to claim, but have also been used against other groups and individuals that the agency deems threatening or “politically radical.”

As Common Dreams reported in February of 2014—when the existence of JTRIG was first made public—the GCHQ has used the unit to develop and deploy a complex series of “dirty tricks,” “propoganda,” and “false flag” operations designed to spy on selected targets who included not only “suspected terrorists” and “criminals” but also diplomats, journalists, and activists.

Included in the new JTRIG memo is this detailed look at the manipulative online tactics developed by the group:

The reporting also highlights the internal memo’s focus on “manipulation” and how the GCHQ hoped to foster both “conformity” and “obedience” among those targeted:

Read The Intercept‘s full reporting here. And links to the new published documents follow:

UK government, Murdoch press smear of Edward Snowden unravels

By Chris Marsden
June 16, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

A press attack on National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has backfired on the UK government.

This weekend’s Sunday Times ran an article under the headline, “British spies betrayed to Russians and Chinese,” citing numerous anonymous sources from within the government and security services.

The sources once again painted a picture of Edward Snowden having endangered the lives of spies and informants, jeopardising state operations. The Times article was replete with unfounded assertions, distortions and outright lies.

Both Russia and China were said to “have cracked the top-secret cache of files stolen by the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden, forcing MI6 to pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries, according to senior officials in Downing Street, the Home Office and the security services.”

Moscow was supposed to have “gained access to more than 1m classified files,” after Snowden “fled to seek protection from Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.”

“Senior government sources” then “confirmed that China had also cracked the encrypted documents.”

A “senior Home Office source” accused Snowden of having “blood on his hands”, “although,” the Sunday Times immediately added, “Downing Street said there was ‘no evidence of anyone being harmed’.”

The only named source, Sir David Omand, the former director of GCHQ, called Russia and China’s supposed de-encryption of Snowden’s files a “huge strategic setback” that was “harming” to Britain, America and their NATO allies.

The Sunday Times claimed that a comment made by a “senior Downing Street source,” i.e., from the prime minister’s office, “that Russians and Chinese have information,” represented irrefutable proof of the veracity of the claims. It was, moreover, “the first evidence that Snowden’s disclosures have exacted a human toll”.

This was followed by another “senior Home Office source” declaring, “Why do you think Snowden ended up in Russia? Putin didn’t give him asylum for nothing. His documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure and we have now seen our agents and assets being targeted.”

All of which goes to prove the old adage, “If you tell a lie, tell a big one and stick to it.”

Glenn Greenwald, who worked closely with Snowden, issued a devastating rebuttal of the Sunday Times, noting, “The whole article does literally nothing other than quote anonymous British officials,” while offering “zero evidence or confirmation for any of its claims.”

He noted several particularly glaring falsehoods: When Snowden left Hong Kong, he took no files with him, having given them to the journalists with whom he worked, and then destroying his copy so that it wouldn’t be vulnerable as he travelled. “How, then, could Russia have obtained Snowden’s files as the story claims—‘his documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure’—if he did not even have physical possession of them?”

The Sunday Times states that David Miranda, cynically referred to as “the boyfriend of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald”, was “seized at Heathrow in 2013 while in possession of 58,000 ‘highly classified’ intelligence documents after visiting Snowden in Moscow.” Greenwald counters that Miranda “had never been to Moscow and had never met Snowden. … The Sunday Times ‘journalists’ printed an outright fabrication in order to support their key point: that Snowden had files with him in Moscow. This is the only ‘fact’ included in their story that suggests Snowden had files with him when he left Hong Kong, and it’s completely, demonstrably false…”

The claim that the Russian and Chinese governments learned the names of covert agents by cracking the Snowden file, “forcing MI6 to pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries,” he adds, “appears quite clearly to be a fabrication by the Sunday Times … [because] not even the anonymous officials claim that Russia and China hacked the entire archive, instead offering only vague assertions that Russian and China ‘have information’.”

Greenwald ends by noting, “The Sunday Times has now quietly deleted one of the central, glaring lies in its story: that David Miranda had just met with Snowden in Moscow when he was detained at Heathrow carrying classified documents.” The claim “remains in the print edition and thus requires a retraction.”

Privacy International, Liberty, MPs Tom Watson and David Davies and many others have pointed to the timing of the Sunday Times smear, suggesting that it is a counter to last Thursday’s publication of the official report on UK surveillance laws by David Anderson QC. They have cited in particular its call for judicial rather than ministerial oversight of surveillance.

This lends unwarranted credibility to a report that in fact justifies existing mass collection of phone and Internet data and the extension of such powers providing only that a “detailed operational case” and a “rigorous assessment” of the intrusiveness, effectiveness, cost and legality of extended snooping powers is made by the security services. This is meaningless, no matter what civil liberties groups might believe or suggest.

Anderson also supports the compulsory retention of “third party data” and urges the government to secure the cooperation of Google, Facebook, etc., to this end. He comes out in support of companies handing over encryption keys.

What is of greater concern for both the government and the Murdoch press is the widespread public opposition to mass surveillance, particularly when the intention is to pass the “snoopers’ charter” into law in the autumn.

The Draft Communications Data Bill creates wide-ranging powers to compel any communications service provider to collect and retain information about any organisation that interacts with users and produces or transmits electronic communications, even if this information is irrelevant to their business needs. This information includes Deep Packet Inspection that bypasses encryption software and matching data from different sources to create a central database of communications, behaviours and patterns of activity.

Last week, the Intelligence and Security Committee confirmed that Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is still collecting “bulk personal datasets” from millions of people’s phone and Internet records. Privacy International has launched a legal claim before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) calling for this practice to be ended—citing the passing of the USA Freedom Act ostensibly curtailing the bulk collection of phone record metadata. In the UK, this is still legal under the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) passed in 2014.

In addition, last month GCHQ operatives and the police were made exempt from prosecution for hacking under the Computer Misuse Act (1990). The exemption move was first initiated last June, one week after a case taken out at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal by Privacy International and seven Internet and communications service providers, and was included in the Serious Crime Bill 2015. The IPT case focused on the alleged use of hacking tools to download malicious software allowing users’ cameras and microphones to be remotely hijacked.

The smearing of Snowden, like that of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, is a vital element in a general effort to create a climate of fear to justify state surveillance and repression. This has long been conducted in the name of combating Islamic terrorism. Now, in line with the predatory aims of British and US imperialism, the threat is said to come from Russia and China.

In all cases, millions of working people in Britain and internationally are identified as “the enemy within”, whose democratic rights are trampled on by a ruling elite hell bent on destroying jobs, wages and vital social services.

Seizing an alternative: Recognizing ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ as THE STORY of today (1 of 7)

By Carl Herman
May 31, 2015
Washington’s Blog

 

The following is my paper for the Claremont Colleges’ conference, Seizing an Alternative Toward an Ecological Civilization, with open registration to the public on June 4-7, 2015.

 

 

 

 

https://player.vimeo.com/video/5412622

Paper title:

‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ political collapse: Seizing an alternative to OBVIOUS unlawful wars, bankster looting, lying corporate media

I’ve divided the paper into sections:

Recognizing The Emperor’s New Clothes as THE STORY of today (1 of 7)

Obviously unlawful US/UK wars of the present (2 of 7)

Obviously unlawful Israel wars on Gaza (3 of 7)

War lies to hide obviously unlawful wars: propaganda as usual (4 of 7)

Bankster looting: fundamental fraud that “debt” is “money” (5 of 7)

Lying corporate media: required propaganda trying to hide naked empire (6 of 7)

Integrity for the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (7 of 7)

This section is: Recognizing The Emperor’s New Clothes as THE STORY of today (1 of 7)

**

Summary: Historical oligarchs typically control government (to dictate policy), what is used for money (to enrich themselves and pay minions), and media (to spin public opinion from damning facts). 21st Century humans are awakening to Emperor’s New Clothes’ obvious facts in these three areas to recognize Earth’s oligarchs in the present. First: we are recognizing current US/UK/Israel wars are not even close to lawful, and that “reasons” for wars are now officially disclosed as lies known to be lies as they were told. Second: the US does not create money, but its Orwellian opposite: debt created by banks. This system is like adding negative numbers forever; causing unpayable debt. Calling “debt” as “money,” and pretending escalating public debt is somehow “good,” is massive and fundamental fraud. Third: corporate media “covers” these crimes to hide the Emperor’s New Clothes obvious from public discovery. Our world in 2015 is in dramatic contest between these factors of political collapse versus an awakening public demanding obvious solutions for peace, debt-free money, and comprehensive factual reporting. The outcome whether humanity will seize an alternative for ecological civilization depends on the overall integrity of humanity to address obvious facts of our condition, and demand solutions.

**

Introduction:

The Emperor’s New Clothes is the story of current wars and central “monetary” policy: “official” stories easily and completely refuted by anyone caring to look at the facts. All three are tragic-comedies because even children see the truth with just a few moments of attention.

Addressing three topics for one academic paper may seem ambitious, and that said, here’s what I see:

  1. War law is crystal-clear in letter and intent, yet continuously violated in Wars of Aggression by former imperial nations with impunity.
  2. These powers create what we use for money as debt, with mathematic consequences like adding negative numbers forever: aggregate debt becomes tragic-comic. “Debt” is called its opposite, “money,” with impunity.
  3. These deceptions and failure to address obvious solutions are only possible from public discovery through continuous propaganda from “officials” and corporate media.

Historic oligarchies usually control government (to dictate policy; often war to steal valuable resources), what is used for money (to enrich themselves and pay minions), and media (to control spin to shape public opinion). Therefore, connecting all three elements in our world of the present, that are again obvious and immediate when pointed-out, will contribute to our awakening and realization of obvious solutions.

Our analogy of The Emperor’s New Clothes has government officials, messengers (corporate media), and many in the public claim that political leadership is “covered” by the noblest of appearances, and those who fail to perceive this are either “unfit for his position” or “hopelessly stupid.” The game-changing central fact, of course, is that the emperor is naked and not even close to wearing clothes.

These naked facts are easily explained, objectively observed, and proved for anyone caring to look. Indeed, a child points it all out with easy confidence, irrefutable accuracy, and proves the “official story” has zero credibility for any objective observer.

In the story, upon public initial conversations of the facts, the emperor continues the pretense, along with “officials.” However, the illusion is shattered within moments as the “whole town” began speaking about what was clear for everyone upon minimal attention.

If we had to document the facts that refute the official story, we would probably define a few key terms:

  • clothes: material for the human body to be worn for adornment and coverage.
  • wear: in context of clothing, to have clothes intentionally placed on one’s body. This is opposed to having clothes in one’s closet or dresser not on one’s body.

With just a little work, we refute the “official story,” and use the facts to make ridiculous any argument in support of this official story.

And importantly, if we did have to document our evidence even though clear to a child’s examination within moments, it would take some time to write and read, just as our arguments will take with current unlawful wars, bankster looting, and corporate media lying to “cover” these obvious crimes.

And this said, if it were true that wars, bank looting, and corporate media lying are just as easy to prove as in the Emperor’s New Clothes, wouldn’t you want to invest the time to clearly see for yourself, and wouldn’t you want such destructive farce seen for what it is by the wider community?

Britain is Set to Open the Door to Cancerous GMO

By Steven MacMillan
May 28, 2015
New Eastern Outlook

 

UKGMO3434111This summer, British scientists are expected to begin field trials of a genetically modified (GMO) potato dubbed by proponents the ‘super spud’, whose developers boast will be free of fungal diseases and other pest problems. GMO maize and oil seed rape could also be grown in England by the end of this year, as Westminster is pushing for more GMO foods to be introduced into the UK food supply.

In March of last year, David Cameron’s chief science advisers pressed for the government to allow the cultivation and spread of GMO crops in Britain, in addition to criticising “dysfunctional” European Union (EU) regulations which at the time restricted the quantity of GMO food in the European food supply. EU law has changed since then however, allowing individual EU governments to decide whether or not to allow GMO crops to be grown in their countries, with many seeing this as a backdoor for Big-Agri to push their products on the continent. “It is a stunning defeat and will result in a massive spread of GMO crops in the EU for the first time,” was how strategic risk consultant and author William Engdahl described the move in an article for New Eastern Outlook titled: Monsanto’s Trojan Horse will eat in EU Fields.

Britain looks set to follow in America’s footsteps as the US had allowed an abundance of GMO products into its food supply. “Currently, up to 93% of U.S. corn is genetically engineered (GE), as are 94% of soybeans and 96% of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products). It has been estimated that upwards of 75% of processed foods on supermarket shelves – from soda to soup, crackers to condiments – contain genetically engineered ingredients”, according to the Center for Food Safety. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also recently approved the planting of GMO potatoes and GMO apples, further opening up the US agricultural sector to GMO crops.

Paradoxically, despite many in Washington pushing for more GMO’s, ordinary Americans are increasingly buying organic as the dangers of GMO foods becomes more apparent, with US farmers having to import organic produce to meet growing organic demand. Let’s hope this trend continues into the future, as supermarkets and other retailers will respond to consumer demand if it starts to infringe on their profits.

Monsanto’s Roundup “Probably” Causes Cancer

Despite many in the political and corporate sphere dogmatically arguing that GMO foods are safe to consume, copious volumes of scientific research completely contradicts this argument. In March, the World Health Organisations (WHO) cancer agency – the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – conducted a study on glyphosate, the main ingredient in the most widely used weedkiller in the world, Monsanto’s Roundup. The IARC study chillingly concluded that glyphosate “probably” causes cancer in addition to revealing it was “classified as probably carcinogenic to humans”. Last year, a comprehensive report by The Ministry of Health in Cordoba, Argentina, found that in areas where GMO crops are grown and agro-chemicals are used, cancer rates are double the national average.

In 2012, Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen led a study which examined the long term health effects on rats that had consumed Monsanto’s GM corn and its Roundup herbicide. The peer-reviewed study was conducted over a 2 year period – which is the average life-span of a rat – as opposed to Monsanto’s usual period of 90 days, and discovered horrifying effects on the rats health, with a 200% to 300% increase in large tumours, severe organ damage to the kidney and liver, in addition to 70% of the female rats participating suffering premature death. The first tumours only appeared 4 to 7 months into the research, highlighting the need for longer trials. France, Italy and Poland are among the countries which have banned the cultivation of varieties of GMO maize.

A somewhat comical episode (if it wasn’t so serious) which illustrates the glaring hypocrisy of many who promote GMO foods, was when Big-Agri lobbyist Patrick Moore was asked to drink a glass of glyphosate during an interview with French investigative journalist and filmmaker Paul Moreira. Below is a transcript of the interview:

Moore: Do not believe that glyphosate in Argentina is causing increases in cancer. You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you.

Interviewer (Moreira): You want to drink some? We have some here.

Moore: I’d be happy to actually… Not, not really, but…

Interviewer: Not really?

Moore: I know it wouldn’t hurt me.

Interviewer: If you say so, I have some glyphosate.

Moore: No, I’m not stupid.

Interviewer: OK. So you… So it’s dangerous, right?

Moore: No. People try to commit suicide with it and fail, fairly regularly. 

Interviewer: Tell the truth. It’s dangerous.

Moore: It’s not dangerous to humans. No, it’s not.

Interviewer: So you are ready to drink one glass of glyphosate?

Moore: No, I’m not an idiot.

Moore then storms out of the interview after calling Moreira a “complete jerk”.

Controversy of a similar nature was sparked in 2010 when Downing Street refused 10 times to say whether David Cameron would eat GMO foods or serve it to his family, raising suspicions as to whether the British Prime Minister follows many other prominent political figures that only eat organic yet often promote GMO’s. Cameron has now stated that he would eat GMO and feed it to his family, although many view these comments with scepticism considering his earlier refusal to answer the question.

The Sanity of Russian Policy on GMO Foods 

In contrast to the governments in London and Washington, Moscow has taken responsible and effective action in protecting its food supply from GMO foods.  “According to official statistics the share of GMO in the Russian food industry has declined from 12 percent to just 0.01 percent over the past 10 years,” as RT reported in November of last year. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedevannounced recently that Russia would not import GMO foods and would concentrate instead on producing organic foods. “If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food,” Medvedev remarked.

Russia has enacted laws which punish individuals and businesses that violate the GMO labelling laws in the country, with authorities having the power to fine violators in addition to confiscating the products. The Russian scientific community has also voiced scepticism over the safety of GMO foods. At the end of last year, leading Russian scientists urged the government to put a 10-year ban on GMO products so that researchers could vigorously study the health implications of the products on humans. This seems a logical and sensible recommendation for other governments around the world to follow (if they haven’t already), as it is clear there are serious questions over the safety of GMO’s.

The good news is that demand for organic food continues to skyrocket as people around the globe become increasingly aware of the dangers of GMO foods. Let’s ensure this trend continues into the future and we leave our children a healthy, clean and safe food supply!

Steven MacMillan is an independent writer, researcher, geopolitical analyst and editor of  The Analyst Report, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Britain’s anti-terror law and the global assault on democratic rights

By Jordan Shilton
May 21, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

In the year marking 800 years since England’s Magna Carta, which asserted that kings could not simply impose their will without oversight and freemen could not be punished unless they violated the law of the land, Britain’s new Conservative government is preparing a massive assault on civil liberties.

The Tories are set to enact new legislation targeting “extremists” that poses a fundamental threat to political opponents of the government and to the working class. The claim that the new law is aimed simply or primarily at Islamic terrorists is a lie.

Under the legislation’s provisions, the authorities will be able to punish anyone engaged in “harmful” behaviour, ranging from public disorder to threatening the functioning of democracy. Individuals or groups subject to “extremist disruption orders” and “banning orders” will be compelled to submit to the police all material they intend to publish, including on social media. Individuals may also be prohibited from attending public gatherings and speaking at demonstrations or protests.

Prime Minister David Cameron indicated the sweep of the government’s intentions when he proclaimed that Britain has been a “passively tolerant society for too long, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.” Freedom from persecution by the state will no longer be guaranteed, even to those who obey the law.

The British government’s proposal is only the latest in a raft of anti-democratic measures adopted internationally in recent months. The new push for police state powers was initiated by the United States.

In a speech at the United Nations last September, President Barack Obama called on Washington’s allies to step up efforts to combat Islamic extremism. The call came shortly after the US initiated its latest war of aggression in the Middle East with the bombardment of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) positions in Iraq and Syria.

In February, Obama hosted a terrorism summit in Washington involving 65 states. The US president remarked in a speech that both domestic and foreign policies had to target not only “terrorists who are killing innocent people,” but also the “ideologies, the infrastructure of extremists—the propagandists, recruiters, the funders who radicalize and recruit or incite people to violence.”

The World Socialist Web Site warned at the time that such all-embracing formulations could “potentially include virtually anyone who condemns the supposedly ‘moderate’ policies of US imperialism.”

Within weeks of this summit, draconian measures have been imposed in a number of countries.

Last month, the French parliament adopted a new anti-terror law allowing for a vast expansion of state surveillance. Seizing on January’s attack on the offices of the publication Charlie Hebdo, the Socialist Party government of François Hollande included in the law an increase in military and intelligence service positions so as to expand monitoring of the Internet and social networking sites. Intelligence agents will be authorized to read documents of individuals under surveillance and a new database for air travel is to be established.

In Canada, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper is rushing a law through parliament that hands draconian new powers to the intelligence services. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) will now be empowered to actively “disrupt” groups considered to threaten economic or national security or the country’s territorial integrity. The CSIS will be given a green light to violate the Canadian Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and break virtually any law in so doing.

As in the case of Cameron’s forthcoming legislation, the definition of national security threats in Canada’s Bill C-51 is so broad and elastic as to cover political opponents of the government’s militarist foreign policy and striking workers.

Bill C-51 also provides for the prosecution of individuals accused of “promoting terrorism,” in line with similar provisions passed in Australia last year targeting free speech.

A significant feature of the new “anti-terrorism” and “anti-extremist” laws is the rapidity with which they are being implemented. Over the course of a few months, legislation has been enacted in France and rammed through Canada’s House of Commons that undermines long-standing democratic norms. The British law is due to be included in the May 27 Queen’s Speech, which outlines the government’s legislative priorities, and will be implemented within months.

There is no serious opposition within the ruling elite internationally to the abandonment of democratic procedures and implementation of police state measures. The Cameron government’s new law was presented at the end of an election campaign in which all of the major parties upheld the right of the intelligence services to continue their mass surveillance of the population, supported Britain’s aggressive militarist foreign policy abroad, and advocated fresh attacks on the social rights of workers at home.

The British Labour Party, during its thirteen years in power, oversaw the strengthening of police powers to detain suspects, codified in the 2001 Terrorism Act, the criminalisation of the “encouragement” and “incitement” of terrorism in 2006, and Britain’s leading role in the operation of a global spying network in alliance with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

The US led the way in the initial assault on democratic rights in the aftermath of 9/11, with the passage of the Patriot Act, the opening of the gulag at Guantanamo, the policies of rendition and torture, and the vast expansion of the NSA’s spying programme.

Edward Snowden’s revelations brought to light the fact that all of the major imperialist powers are complicit in the mass surveillance of their own populations.

The claim that these governments are pursuing a crusade for democracy in the supposed “war on terror” has been exposed as a fraud. This was most recently illustrated by the revelation that the 2011 assassination of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden came after US intelligence had been aware for a year that he was being sheltered by Pakistani intelligence.

In pursuit of their imperialist interests around the globe, the US and its allies have been more than willing to collaborate with the same Islamic extremist groups they cite to justify attacks on democratic rights domestically. In both Libya and Syria, the Western powers backed forces loyal to Al Qaeda, some of which went on to form ISIS. So brazen was the support for jihadist forces in Libya that, as revealed recently by the Ottawa Citizen, Canadian military officials joked in 2011 that NATO warplanes were operating as “Al Qaeda’s air force.”

There are two interconnected reasons for the establishment of the infrastructure for dictatorship. First, as the danger mounts of a global conflagration between the imperialist powers, fears grow within the bourgeoisie of the potential for a mass movement in opposition to militarism.

Second, the same limitless self-enrichment by the financial oligarchy that animates the turn to militarism and colonial-style wars of conquest underlies the assault on jobs, wages and essential services that Cameron has declared the new “age of austerity.”

The prevailing level of social inequality—the ever greater concentration of wealth at the very top of society alongside the impoverishment of the vast majority—is incompatible with democratic forms of rule. The preservation of such a social order demands coercion and state violence.

 

 

UK government counter-terrorism bill would criminalize speech, political activity

By Jordan Shilton
May 18, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

The Conservative government in Britain is preparing to enact new legislation that, under the guise of the “war on terror,” will vastly expand police-state powers and essentially criminalize speech and other political activity.

Presented officially as an anti-terrorism bill, the proposed measures will be targeted at any popular opposition to the government’s policies of aggressive militarism abroad and austerity measures in Britain.

Following his party’s victory in the May 7 general election, Prime Minister David Cameron announced the proposal at last week’s National Security Council (NSC) meeting. The meeting, chaired by Cameron, brings together leading government officials with the heads of Britain’s security agencies.

The new bill will include a series of measures targeting groups and individuals deemed by the government to be “extremist.” This term is defined so vaguely as to encompass a wide array of political activity.

The new bill will create extremist “disruption orders” for individuals and “banning orders” for groups. The targets for these new police powers will be those who have conducted “harmful” behaviour.

According to the Guardian, the “harmful” behaviour covers activities that pose “a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress or creating a ‘threat to the functioning of democracy’.”

This will be used to criminalise campaigns critical of government policy and protests, which are frequently dispersed by the police on precisely the grounds that they disrupt public order. The language also indicates that the government would have the authority to target those merely planning such activity prior to it taking place.

Extremist disruption orders will permit the government to take action against individuals considered to have engaged in such harmful behaviour, or whom the government claims have attempted to “radicalise” youth.

The orders contain bans on individuals broadcasting their views on television, and anyone subject to an order will be compelled to submit any written publication, including social media posts, to the police before it is printed. In addition, the orders will make it illegal for individuals to attend or address public gatherings or protests.

OffCom, the broadcast regulator, is to be given powers to move against channels judged to be broadcasting “extremist” material. The charity commission will be able to take action against charities that “fund terrorism.”

Banning orders will allow the government to outlaw “extremist” organisations. If such a move is taken, anyone found to be a member of the organisation will be guilty of a criminal offence. Authorities will also be able to shut down premises used by groups to promote “extremism.”

Human rights group Privacy International branded the new proposal as an “assault on the rights of ordinary British citizens.”

Islamist groups will not be the main focus of the new law. As the Guardian ’s home affairs editor wrote in an analysis of the proposal, “the official definition of non-violent extremism is already wide-ranging and, as Big Brother Watch has pointed out, the national extremism database already includes the names of people who have done little more than organise meetings on environmental issues.”

The requirement that the government apply to the courts to obtain such orders will do little to prevent their abuse. The government has repeatedly invoked national security considerations to present evidence to the courts in secret. It even intended to hold an entire terrorism trial in secret last year before abandoning it at the last minute. The declaration of a national security threat would thus permit government claims about an individual or group to go unchallenged in the courts by an independent lawyer, since the only individuals allowed access to such information are government-appointed legal representatives.

Together with a sweeping attack on democratic rights and legal norms, the Conservatives’ anti-terror bill will further advance the government’s right-wing agenda of whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment. New powers will be established to deny immigrants entry on the grounds of preaching extremist views.

Cameron’s proposals make clear that the Conservatives are determined to vastly expand the repressive powers of the state, including by reintroducing the controversial “snooper’s charter” which would grant intelligence agencies the power to conduct mass surveillance and store data from emails and other internet data from social networking sites and messaging services. It will also allow authorities to access encrypted messages.

Cameron claimed that the UK has been a “‘passively tolerant society’ for too long, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”

This extraordinary declaration is a backhanded acknowledgement that those who Cameron intends to target with the new law have committed no crime under the existing legal system.

“This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values. Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality,” Cameron proclaimed.

Cameron’s reference to “one nation” were especially sinister. It suggests that anyone challenging the political interests of the British ruling class and championing the rights and interests of the working class will be targeted for surveillance and repression.

The “values” Cameron talks about promoting are precisely those that have been used by successive governments to wage aggressive wars abroad to uphold British imperialist interests, and carry through an assault on social and democratic rights at home.

These policies have seen British imperialism, alongside American imperialism, aligned with some of the very Islamist forces it now seeks to present as the greatest threat to the country. In the 2011 regime change operation in Libya, Britain participated in the NATO bombing campaign that toppled the Gaddafi regime, while supplying weapons to Islamist groups in the country. Many of these groups had ties to Al Qaida and later moved to Syria with CIA support, where some elements came together to form the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The assertion that Britain has been “passively tolerant” for too long is a lie. The entire political establishment, including the opposition Labour Party, has been complicit in erecting the framework of a police state in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the London bombings in 2005.

The Labour government under Tony Blair brought forward “anti-terror” measures in 2001 that included wide-ranging police powers to detain suspects for crimes committed under an expanded definition of terrorism. In 2006, a further law allowed the prosecution of those “encouraging” terrorism, which saw individuals put on trial purely for making statements or posting videos online that had no connection to a specific terrorist attack.

However, the push to go even further has been growing for some time. In the wake of the attacks on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo earlier this year, political figures and intelligence operatives criticised Britain’s anti-terror laws for not doing enough to monitor the Internet.

The planned actions in the UK are part of an escalating international assault on democratic rights. Earlier this month, the French National Assembly passed legislation sanctioning mass spying and other police state measures. Also this month, the Canadian House of Commons passed the “Anti-Terror Act,” which gave the state vast new powers, including the ability to target any activities declared a danger to “national security.”

The Mindset of UK Prime Minister David Cameron – It’s Not Enough to Follow the Law, You Must Love Big Brother

By Michael Krieger
May 16, 2015
Liberty Blitzkrieg

 

It’s not just those domestic extremists and crazy “conspiracy theory” kooks who took serious issue with UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent overtly fascist language when it comes to freedom of expression in Great Britain. For example, in a post published today, the UK Independent describes the quote below as “the creepiest thing David Cameron has ever said.”

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 11.52.20 AM

This statement, and others like it, are a huge deal. This isn’t how the leader of a major civilized Western so-called “democracy” speaks to the citizenry. It is how a master talks to his slaves. How a ruler addresses his subjects. I think the following tweet by Glenn Greenwald earlier today sums up David Cameron’s attitude perfectly well:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>This is really the mentality of Her Majesty's Government RT <a href=”https://twitter.com/akaSassinak”>@akaSassinak</a&gt; But now it is not enough to obey. You must LOVE BIG BROTHER.</p>&mdash; Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) <a href=”https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/598831206311010304″>May 14, 2015</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

Those of us who are in disbelief over David Cameron’s recent language, don’t have to just point to the quote above. There’s a lot more to it than a simple quote. For example, the Guardian reports:

The measures would give the police powers to apply to the high court for an order to limit the “harmful activities” of an extremist individual. The definition of harmful is to include a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress or creating a “threat to the functioning of democracy”.

A “risk of public disorder,” or a “risk of harassment alarm or distress.” Think about that for a second. Pretty much 90% of all speech could be classified as posing a risk to all of those things. It’s basically banning any criticism the government doesn’t like. Truly remarkable. Now here’s how the magnificent “democracy” of Great Britain plans on dealing with such “extremists.”

They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organizations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred.

Although I’m not a British citizen and have never lived in the UK, I have spent some time writing about the disturbing trends happening across the pond due to the historic, cultural, geopolitical and linguistic ties between the U.S. and Great Britain. I warned all about these dangerous trends last fall in the post, The UK’s Conservative Party Declares War on YouTube, Twitter, Free Speech and Common Sense. Here are a few excerpts:

Teresa May wants to “ban non-violent extremist groups that fall short of the current threshold for being banned as terrorist-related organizations.” Think about that very closely. Essentially, she is saying non-violent groups that are currently not breaking any laws should be criminalized by creating new laws. Once this process begins, it will continue to be expanded and expanded until pretty much every form of expression other than government propaganda will be banned.

Secondly, she notes that the new laws are necessary to combat groups that undertake activities “for the purpose of overthrowing democracy.” Considering that the U.S. government changes the meanings of words at a moment’s notice, such as claiming that “imminent” doesn’t really mean “imminent,” I argue that an official government definition of democracy is necessary. Moreover, what if the UK is like the U.S., a state that claims to be a democracy, but in reality is an oligarchy? What are the rules about calling for the removal of an oligarchy?

Have fun mates.

For related articles, see:

The UK’s Conservative Party Declares War on YouTube, Twitter, Free Speech and Common Sense

Britain’s “War on Terror” Insanity Continues – David Cameron Declares War on Encryption

How UK Prime Minister David Cameron Paid Thousands of Dollars for Facebook “Likes”

Press Rebellion in the UK – British Media Launches Protest Against Spying, as GCHQ Places Investigative Journalism in Same Category as Terrorism

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

UK Election Aftermath: Cameron to Continue Waging War on Working People

By Colin Todhunter
May 12, 2015
Global Research

 

David Cameron says he’s a big fan of The War on Drugs

David Cameron. Image from: diymag.com

Today in the UK, people are waking up to their first week of a five-year rule under a Conservative majority government. It’s been the first time the Tories have managed to form such a government since 1992. Only 37 percent of those who bothered to vote actually voted Conservative. In fact, the current administration is in government with 24 percent of support from all those who were eligible to vote.

Under the UK’s ‘first past the post system’, the Scottish Nationalist party gained 56 seats with 4.8 percent of votes cast. The Greens gained one seat with a share of 3.8 percent. Under a system of proportional representation, the Greens would now have 25 seats in the new parliament. With the current system, a party could theoretically gain the most number of seats nationally but fail to gain a single seat. This is the nature of the ‘democratic’ voting system in the UK.

What the UK now has in store is five years of an ideologically driven administration that will push through its welfare-cutting, pro-privatisation policies wrapped up in talk of a need for austerity and presided over by a millionaire-dominated cabinet which represents the interests of the richest echelons of global capital.

Out of those who voted Tory, a good deal comprised people of relatively modest means: people who will have been led to believe that ordinary people’s interests equate with the ‘national interest’ as defined by Tory politicians. These are people who for some strange reason believe that more privatisation, more deregulation, more austerity, more inequality, more concentration of wealth and more attacks on the public sector will be good for them as individuals and good for the economy.

The acceptance of this ideology is not just down to Tory methods of persuasion but is also due to its perpetuation by the corporate mainstream media and the other main political parties, which have fully embraced neoliberalism. However, many people feel that the Tories can be best trusted to see through such things, unlike Labour (Tory-lite) or the Liberal Democrats who might mismanage, waver or may not be quite as committed to the neoliberal cause. As a party by the rich, for the rich of and of the rich, they may have a point.

What we can now expect to see is the attempted completion of a project that had begun under Thatcher in the eighties: the complete subservience of ordinary working people to the needs of powerful corporations, the tax-evading corporate dole-scrounging super rich and the neoliberal agenda they have imposed on people. And key to securing this is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The European Commission tries to sell TTIP by claiming that the agreement will increase GDP by one percent and will entail massive job creation. These claims are not supported even by its own studies, which predict a growth rate of just 0.01 percent GDP over the next ten years and the potential loss of jobs in several sectors. Corporations are lobbying EU-US trade negotiators to use the deal to weaken food safety and restrictions on GM food and agriculture as well as labour, health and environmental standards, among other things. Through certain regulatory and investor trade dispute stipulations, the outcome would entail the by passing of any existing democratic processes in order to push through the ultimate corporate power grab.

This proposed trade agreement (and others like it being negotiated across the world) is based on a firm belief in ‘the market’ (a euphemism for subsidies for the rich, cronyism, rigged markets and cartels) and the intense ideological dislike of state intervention and state provision of goods and services. The economic doctrine that underpins this belief attempts to convince people that they can prosper by having austerity imposed on them and by submitting to neo-liberalism and ‘free’ trade: a smokescreen the financial-corporate elites hide behind while continuing to enrich themselves.

Current negotiations over ‘free’ trade agreements have little to do with free trade. They are more concerned with loosening regulatory barriers and bypassing any current democratic processes that hinder their profits. These deals could allow large corporations to destroy competition, enforce privatisations and secure lucrative government procurement markets and siphon off wealth to the detriment of smaller, locally based firms and producers. We see this from TTIP, to the US-India Knowledge Agreement on Agriculture, CETA, TPP and beyond.

Cameron: handmaiden to the rich

Whether based in New York, London, Berlin or Delhi, the planet’s super rich and their corporations comprise a global elite whose members have to varying extents been incorporated into the Anglo-US system of trade and finance. For them, the ability to ‘do business’ (exploit labour – or automate – and make profits) is what matters, not national identity or the capacity to empathise with an ordinary working person that was born on the same land mass and who will lose their livelihood.

Notions of the ‘national interest’ that governments churn out are merely rhetorical devices to be used to rally the masses. And notions of being ‘against the national interest’ are used to curtail of destroy dissent, as we currently see happening with Greenpeace in India.

In order ‘to do business’, government machinery has been corrupted and bent to serve their ends. In turn, organisations that were intended to be ‘by’ and ‘for’ ordinary working people to challenge capital have been successfully infiltrated and dealt with.

The global takeover of agriculture by powerful agribusiness, the selling off and privatisation of assets built with public toil and money and secretive corporate-driven trade agreements represent a massive corporate heist of wealth and power across the world.

Whether it concerns rich oligarchs in the US or India’s billionaire business men, corporate profits and personal gain trump any notion of the ‘national interest’. 300,000 dead farmers in India who killed themselves or the ranks of the unemployed in Spain or Greece are regarded as mere ‘collateral damage’ in what is ultimately a war on working people and the environment itself.

Looting economies for personal gain is disguised as ‘free trade’. Austerity is sold as ‘growth’. Massive profits is ‘wealth creation’. Ecological degradation is ‘progress’. From Obama in the US to Cameron in the UK or Modi in India, their neoliberal agenda betrays them as handmaidens to the rich.

In Britain expect to see militarism, brutality and imperialism continuing to be sold under the banner of ‘humanitarianism’ and ‘democracy’. Expect more cronyism, an increasingly wider revolving door to facilitate the flow between private interests and government, more insidious lobbying by big business and a continued free for all in the corrupt City of London.

Some 11,334,000 voted Conservative in the UK last Thursday. The other 53 million in the country now face having deal with the outcome for the next five years.

– See more at: http://www.globalresearch.ca/uk-election-aftermath-cameron-to-continue-waging-war-on-working-people/5448709#sthash.lFaUuXHD.dpuf

IMF head Christine Lagarde praises UK for austerity measures

By Richard Tyler
April 20, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

https://i0.wp.com/barnsleycsc.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Austerity.jpg

photo credit: Barnsleycsc.com

International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde has endorsed the outgoing Conservative-Liberal Democrat government for its handling of the British economy.

Speaking alongside Conservative chancellor George Osborne at the IMF and World Bank spring meetings, she said growth in the UK was “holding strongly”.

“It’s obvious that what happened in the UK has actually worked”, she said. The right balance of spending cuts and revenue raising was “clearly delivering results”.

Her praise was echoed by German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble. “The UK has done a very good job in the last few years and Osborne has a very good plan for the future,” he said.

Such a political endorsement in the run-up to a General election on May 7 begs the question: What has “worked”? What “results” have been delivered?

The move was in part a response to the political embarrassment caused by an IMF survey issued last week that refuted election claims that a Tory government would produce a budget surplus of £7 billion over the course of the next parliament. According to the IMF’s twice-yearly World Economic Outlook, instead of eliminating a £90 billion deficit and moving into surplus by 2020, a shortfall of £7 billion would remain, a position £14 billion worse than being predicted by Tory Chancellor George Osborne.

The Tories stated that they based their figures on estimates made by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) for growth of up to 2.5 percent in the UK economy over the next five years. However, the IMF saw this as too optimistic: “Given uncertainties pertaining to the May elections, a slower pace of consolidation than that in the Budget is assumed for 2016-17 and beyond.”

The IMF document points out that lower oil prices will have a more significant economic impact on countries like the UK with deep-water production. Britain’s North Sea oil costs $40 a barrel to produce, compared with under $5 in the Gulf state of Kuwait, or about $12 in the US where widespread extraction of shale oil and gas have depressed prices.

The fall in world oil prices has already lead to major UK layoffs, with some experts saying that the North Sea industry is “close to collapse”. The negative impact on the UK exchequer is enormous; tax revenues from North Sea oil for 2016-17 are now estimated at £1.25 billion instead of £6.9 billion when prices were higher.

The IMF warnings also undermine the claims of the Labour Party that it would achieve a balanced budget by 2020 should it win power on May 7.

It demonstrates that even meagre election promises of additional spending on the National Health Service of £6-8 billion, supposedly funded by the growth in the economy, are lies. The reality, whoever is elected, will be increased austerity measures on top of the cuts in the tens of billions both parties admit to.

The remarks of Lagarde and Schäuble are an endorsement of an endless austerity agenda.

On entering office in 2010, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government set out to eliminate a budget deficit of about £135 billion by the end of its term. However, in 2015, a deficit of £90 billion still remains.

This has been carried out at the expense of working people including the destruction of hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs, and cuts in benefits and welfare provisions.

As the Socialist Equality Party election manifesto points out, “More than 13 million people live in poverty, including almost one-third of all children. The working poor make up the largest number of those in poverty, with millions eking out an existence on low-pay and often zero-hour contracts.”

A recent report by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) highlighted the correlation between the depth of the austerity measures, the rise in benefit sanctions and the growth of food banks in the UK. The Trussel Trust, a charity providing emergency food and support to those in crisis, reported that it was operating in 29 local authorities in 2009. By 2014, this had increased to 251, covering almost the entire country.

Whereas it had provided a three-day emergency food package to 25,899 people in 2009, in 2014 over 900,000 individuals sought its help.

At the other end of the social spectrum, Britain’s wealthy have not only recovered everything they may have lost in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 banking crisis, but gone on to see their fortunes soar to greater heights.

According to the Sunday Times “Rich List”, there are now some 104 billionaires based in the UK, three times the figure from a decade ago. These super-rich individuals collectively own more than £301 billion, a 50 percent increase on the £201 billion possessed by the 75 billionaires in 2008.

In other words, some 100 people in the UK could put an end to the entire UK budget deficit by sacrificing just a third of their wealth.

Following the May election, whichever party, or combination of parties, enters office will make no difference. As the SEP election manifesto notes, “All are bought-and-paid-for tools of the super-rich, whose primary purpose is to ensure that the voice of working people is silenced. Every major decision will continue to be made on behalf of the only constituency that really counts—the corporate and financial elite.”

Their various pledges to “balance the books”, whatever time frame they speak of, means that austerity measures will be stepped up again and again. Indeed, the brutal measures imposed so far have only met a third of the target set by the Tories—indicating the scale of the social misery that is still to come.

For further details visit: http://socialequality.org.uk/

UK welfare benefit sanctions hit the homeless

By Dennis Moore
April 20, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

photo credit: Jafria News

A report for the UK homeless charity Crisis describes the system of benefit sanctions as cruel and disproportionately affecting homeless people.

The Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University conducted the survey.

Benefit sanctions, where a job centre can suspend or dock welfare payments, are applied when a claimant is deemed not to be in compliance with the specific requirements of claiming a particular benefit. A sanction could be applied when a claimant does not attend just one appointment at the Job Centre or work programme provider. Sanctions can be applied against a claimant deemed not to be proactively looking for work while claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA).

Following the Welfare Reform Act 2012, the rules regarding sanctions were tightened. Benefit payments can now be stopped between four weeks and three years, dependent on how many times the claimant breaks the rules.

The report shows the “post code lottery” behind the sanctions regime. Claimants in more economically depressed areas of the countries are hit harder. Crisis said sanctions varied between 15.4 per hundred per month in Richmondshire, North Yorkshire, and 1.8 per hundred in the Western Isles.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said, “Sanctions are cruel, and can leave people at severe risk of homelessness—cold hungry and utterly destitute.”

The number of people on the unemployment benefit JSA that have been sanctioned in the last 13 years is 6.8 million. The numbers of those on JSA who are sanctioned has risen from 35,000 a month in October in 2012 to 84,800 per month to the date of the report. This group is predominantly younger, with two-thirds of all sanctions being applied to claimants under the age of 35.

Sanctions also affect those claimants who claim the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) sickness benefit. Many ESA claimants suffer mental health or substance misuse problems.

The number of those sanctioned claiming ESA since its introduction in 2008 already stands at 120,800. The rate at which sanctions have been applied to ESA claimants has risen dramatically, with a nearly a fourfold increase from 1,400 per month in March 2013 to 5,400 in March 2014. This represents one sanction per 100 ESA claimants and applies to claimants who are placed in just one specific category, the work-related activity group. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) deems those in this category capable of work at some time in the future and capable of taking steps towards moving into work.

One-in-three sanctions is imposed for failing to actively seek work. At present over half of all JSA sanctions are imposed at the lower level, while one-third are at the intermediate level, and less than 10 percent are at the higher level.

The numbers of people who are classed as homeless and those living in hostels and shelters that are sanctioned are difficult ascertain, as statistics do not include the housing circumstances of particular claimants. A study carried out over a three-month period in 2013 by the Homeless Link charity suggests that sanction rates amongst homeless people are high. An estimated one-third of homeless people claiming JSA were hit and nearly one-fifth claiming ESA.

There is a strong body of evidence to suggest that vulnerable groups of claimants are at an increased risk of being sanctioned, with many people finding it difficult to navigate increasingly complex rules in order to receive meagre benefits.

An independent review carried out by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee scrutinised the system of sanctions in 2014. They found evidence that claimants faced difficulties storing letters, correspondence that was impossible to understand, poor communication, claimants having difficulties with literacy and no access to the Internet, and a lack of flexibility to accommodate claimants’ commitments for job interviews and hospital appointments.

Homelessness, though not often mentioned in many such studies, contributes to many of the contributory factors that vulnerable people experience, such as ill health, substance misuse, lack of work experience, problems with literacy and low self-esteem. Homeless people experience some of the worst health in society, facing much higher levels of physical, mental and substance misuse than the general population.

Homeless people face further difficulties in ability to comply with the regime of “conditionality” as they will often lead chaotic lives, not knowing where they will sleep from one day to the next. The system of benefit sanctions is particularly restrictive when applied to these claimants.

A homeless claimant who is in receipt of JSA will be expected, as part of their claimant commitment to qualify, to use a phone or have access to a computer to carry out a job search. If they cannot demonstrate to their local benefits office that they have been looking for jobs, then they are at risk of having their benefits sanctioned.

Homeless people are less likely to receive mail due to the transitory nature of their lives. If they live in a large hostel, mail is often not received. When they do receive it, there are often problems due to poor communication by the DWP. The letters are not clear and include vague wording, often difficult to understand. Evidence from Citizens Advice Scotland found that many clients had not realised they had been sanctioned until they had gone to the bank to find out they had no money.

Sanctions increase the risk of homelessness. Claimants once sanctioned have to cut back on housing costs including payments towards rent, service charges. Failing to reclaim Housing Benefit following a sanction being imposed leads to rent arrears and the possibility of eviction.

Benefit sanctioning has been integral to the massive clampdown on welfare entitlement carried out over the last five years by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition. Some 20 billion has been slashed from the welfare budget, with a further £12 billion in welfare cuts already being planned by the Conservatives. These cuts have sharply reduced incomes and increased housing insecurity for the poorest.

The use of sanctions to punish those on welfare has been in place since the late 1980s within the British social security system. However, sanctions increased markedly with the introduction of JSA in 1996.

It was the Labour Party that strengthened existing conditionality criteria, making it central to benefit claims. Conditionality was an intrinsic part of the 1997-2010 Labour governments’ welfare reforms. The coalition is implementing the harshest regime of conditionality in the history of the welfare benefits system, but the blueprint for the current regime can be traced back to the Labour government, who commissioned reviews and White and Green papers published in 2006-2008.

Labour is committed to retaining the brutal sanctioning system should it come to power on May 7. In November last year, Rachel Reeves, Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and Stephen Timms, Shadow Employment Minister, wrote, “Sanctions have been part of our social security system since its foundation, and the principle of mutual obligation and putting conditions on benefit claims were integral to the progressive labour market policies of the last Labour government.”