September 2005

David Mery
Thursday September 22, 2005
The Guardian,16132,1575532,00.html

A London underground station was evacuated and part of a main east-west line closed in a security alert on Thursday, three weeks after suicide bombers killed 52 people on the transport network, police said. (Reuters)

This Reuters story was written while the police were detaining me in Southwark tube station and the bomb squad was checking my rucksack. When they were through, the two explosive specialists walked out of the tube station smiling and commenting: “Nice laptop.” The officers offered apologies on behalf of the Metropolitan police. Then they arrested me.

7.10 pm: From my workplace in Southwark, south London, I arrange by text message to meet my girlfriend at Hanover Square. To save time – as I suppose – I decide to take the tube to Bond Street instead of my usual bus. I am wearing greenish Merrell shoes, black trousers, T-shirt, black Gap jumper, light rainproof Schott jacket and grey Top Shop cap. I am carrying a black rucksack I use as a workbag.

7.21 pm: I enter Southwark tube station, passing uniformed police by the entrance, and more police beyond the gate. I walk down to the platform, peering down at the steps as, thanks to a small eye infection, I’m wearing specs instead of my usual contact lenses. The next train is scheduled to arrive in a few minutes. As other people drift on to the platform, I sit down against the wall with my rucksack still on my back. I check for messages on my phone, then take out a printout of an article about Wikipedia from inside my jacket and begin to read.

The train enters the station. Uniformed police officers appear on the platform and surround me. They must immediately notice my French accent, still strong after living more than 12 years in London.

They handcuff me, hands behind my back, and take my rucksack out of my sight. They explain that this is for my safety, and that they are acting under the authority of the Terrorism Act. I am told that I am being stopped and searched because:

· they found my behaviour suspicious from direct observation and then from watching me on the CCTV system;

· I went into the station without looking at the police officers at the entrance or by the gates;

· two other men entered the station at about the same time as me;

· I am wearing a jacket “too warm for the season”;

· I am carrying a bulky rucksack, and kept my rucksack with me at all times;

· I looked at people coming on the platform;

· I played with my phone and then took a paper from inside my jacket.

They empty the contents of my pockets into two of their helmets, and search me, and loosen my belt. One or two trains arrive and depart, with people getting on and off. Then another train arrives and moves slowly through the station. The driver is told not to stop. After that, no more trains pass through the station.

We move away from the platform into the emergency staircase. I sit down on the (dirty) steps. The police say they can’t validate my address. I suggest they ask the security guard where I work, two streets away. We go up to the station doors, and I realise that the station is cordoned off. Two bomb squad officers pass by. One turns to me and says in a joking tone: “Nice laptop!” A police officer apologises on behalf of the Metropolitan police, and explains that we are waiting for a more senior officer to express further apologies. They take off the handcuffs and start giving me back my possessions: my purse, keys, some papers. Another police officer says that this is not proper. I am handcuffed again. A police van arrives and I am told that I will wait in the back. After about five minutes, a police officer formally arrests me.

8.53pm Arrested for suspicious behaviour and public nuisance, I am driven to Walworth police station. I am given a form about my rights. I make one correction to the police statement describing my detention: no train passed before I was stopped. I empty my pockets of the few things they had given me back at the tube station, and am searched again. My possessions are put in evidence bags. They take Polaroid photographs of me. A police officer fingerprints me and takes DNA swabs from each side of my mouth.

10:06pm I am allowed a call to my girlfriend. She is crying and keeps repeating: “I thought you were injured or had an accident, where were you, why didn’t you call me back?” I explain I’m in a police station, my phone was taken and the police wouldn’t allow me to call. She wants to come to the station. I ask her to stay at home as I don’t know how long it will take.

10:30pm I am put into an individual police cell. A plainclothes officer tells me my flat will be searched under the Terrorism Act. I request that my girlfriend be called beforehand, so that she won’t be too scared. I am asked for her phone number. I don’t know it – it is stored in my phone – so I explain it is with the officer at the desk. I later find out that they don’t call her.

12:25-1:26 am Three uniformed police officers search my flat and interview my girlfriend. They take away several mobile phones, an old IBM laptop, a BeBox tower computer (an obsolete kind of PC from the mid-1990s), a handheld GPS receiver (positioning device with maps, very useful when walking), a frequency counter (picked it up at a radio amateur junk fair because it looked interesting), a radio scanner (receives short wave radio stations), a blue RS232C breakout box (a tool I used to use when reviewing modems for computer magazines), some cables, a computer security conference leaflet, envelopes with addresses, maps of Prague and London Heathrow, some business cards, and some photographs I took for the 50 years of the Association of Computing Machinery conference. This list is from my girlfriend’s memory, or what we have noticed is missing since.

3.20am I am interviewed by a plainclothes officer. The police again read out their version of events. I make two corrections: pointing out that no train passed between my arrival on the platform and when I was detained, and that I didn’t take any wire out of my pocket. The officer suggests the computer cables I had in my rucksack could have been confused for wires. I tell him I didn’t take my rucksack off until asked by police so this is impossible. Three items I was carrying seem to be of particular interest to the officer: a small promotional booklet I got at the Screen on the Green cinema during the screening of The Assassination of Richard Nixon: a folded A4 page where I did some doodles (the police suspect it could be a map); and the active part of an old work pass where one can see the induction loop and one integrated circuit. Items from the flat the police officer asks about: the RS232C breakout box, the radio scanner and the frequency counter.

The officer explains what made them change their mind and arrest me. Apparently, on August 4, 2004, there was a firearms incident at the company where I work. The next day I find out that there had been a hoax call the previous year, apparently from a temp claiming there was an armed intruder. Some staff had also been seen photographing tube stations with a camera phone. On June 2, as part of a team-building exercise, new colleagues were supposed to photograph landmarks and try to get a picture of themselves with a policeman.

4:30am The interviewing officer releases me on bail, without requiring security. He gives me back most of the contents of my pockets, including my Oyster card and iPod, and some things from my rucksack. He says he will keep my phone. I ask if I can have the SIM card? He says no, that’s what they need, but lets me keep the whole phone. On August 31 I arrive at the police station at 9 am as required by bail, with my solicitor. A plainclothes police officer tells us they are dropping the charges, and briefly apologises. The officer in charge of the case is away so the process of clearing up my case is suspended until he signs the papers cancelling the bail and authorising the release of my possessions. The meeting lasts about five minutes.

I send letters to the data protection registrars of London Underground, Transport for London, the British Transport police and the Metropolitan police. The first three letters ask for any data, including CCTV footage, related to the incident on July 28, while the final one asks for any data they have on me. They all have 40 days to respond. On September 8 I talk to my solicitor about ensuring the police return all my possessions, giving us all the inquiry documents (which they may or may not do) and expunging police records (apparently unlikely to happen). The solicitor sends a letter to the officer in charge of my case conveying to him how upset I am.

I write to my MP about my concerns. The police decided that wearing a rain jacket, carrying a rucksack with a laptop inside, looking down at the steps while going into a tube station and checking your phone for messages just ticked too many boxes on their checklist and makes you a terrorist suspect. How many other people are not only wrongly detained but wrongly arrested every week in similar circumstances? And how many of them are also computer and telecoms enthusiasts, fitting the police’s terrorist profile so well?

While a police officer did state that my rain jacket was “too warm for the season”, could it have been instead that the weather was too cold for the season? The day before had been the coldest July day for 25 years.

Under current laws the police are not only entitled to keep my fingerprints and DNA samples, but according to my solicitor, they are also entitled to hold on to what they gather during their investigation: notepads of arresting officers, photographs, interviewing tapes and any other documents they entered in the police national computer (PNC). So even though the police consider me innocent there will remain some mention (what exactly?) in the PNC and, if they fully share their information with Interpol, in other police databases around the world as well. Isn’t a state that keeps files on innocent persons a police state? This erosion of our fundamental liberties should be of concern to us all. All men are suspect, but some men are more suspect than others (with apologies to George Orwell).,16132,1575532,00.html

Indymedia Newswire, illustrating the spread by blogging, of this story:


1 hr 30 min MP3 (32kbps 22,050 16bit mono)

David Mery popped into the rampART radio studio to talk to us about his terrifing night at the hands of Londons terror police…

20 megabyte download or torrent from

A handbook that offers advice to bloggers who want to protect themselves from recrimination and censors has been released by Reporters Without Borders.
The media watchdog said it gives people who want to set up a blog tips on how to do so, how to publicise it, as well as how to establish credibility.

It also offers advice about writing blogs from countries with tough media restrictions, such as Iran and China.

The handbook was part-funded by the French government.

Key international bloggers, experts and writers helped to produce the guidelines, such as US journalist Dan Gillmor and Canadian net censorship expert, Nart Villeneuve.

“Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure,” Reporters Without Borders said on its website.

“Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest.”

Blog clamp-down

Included in the booklet, called The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-dissidents, is advice about how to blog anonymously, as well as how to identify the most suitable way to circumvent censorship.

It also outlines some help on developing ethical and journalistic values.

Blogs – easy-to-set-up diary-like websites – are proving increasingly popular on the net as vehicles through which people can publish their own thoughts.

Technorati, a blog search engine, tracks more than 17 million blogs globally. Blogs can be anything from personal diaries, to technology news, and political comment.

Many have turned to blogging in countries where mainstream media is restricted. But they are increasingly being targeted by strict authorities.
Iranian authorities have been clamping down on mainstream media for some time, but it has recently turned its attention to cyber-dissidents and bloggers.

Campaign groups say at least two dozen Iranian bloggers have been jailed as a result of the clamp-down. It is estimated that there are some 46,000 bloggers in the country.

The issue of blog censorship and freedom of speech is truly global, however.

In June, Microsoft’s MSN Spaces site in China started to block blog entries which used words such as “freedom”, “democracy” and “demonstration”.

Microsoft said the company abided by the laws, regulations and norms of each country in which it operates.

China recently introduced regulations that required all blog owners to register their sites with the state by 30 June.

And on Wednesday, two Chinese Singaporeans appeared in court charged with posting racist remarks about minority Malays on the net.

The blogger booklet can be downloaded from the Reporters Without Borders website in English, French, Chinese, Arabic and Persian.

NUJ The Freelance Sept05: More Indymedia woes

NUJ The Freelance Aug 05: More Indymedia seizures

NUJ The Freelance Aug 05: Public Order at the G8

NUJ condemns police raid to grab BBC tapes after G8

He’s a fair cop, guv Paddick’s promise

NUJ The Freelance Sept05: All’s well that ends G8?

NUJ The Freelance Sept05: How the G8 is spun

NUJ The Freelance Aug 05: Public Order. Stay safe, stay together

Police ask for more Internet powers – ZDNet UK News,39020330,39210631,00.htm

Association of Chief Police Officers: Media Advisory Group

Met Police: Media Guide

Protest groups clashed with police during the summit
Police investigating disorder at the time of the G8 summit have used a court order to seize TV footage from BBC Scotland and Scottish Television.
It is understood they also have a warrant to take tapes from Sky.

Police viewed the footage in advance and then took 15 tapes from the BBC offices in Edinburgh on Monday morning and 10 from STV.

Demonstrations and violent clashes over the week of the G8 summit at Gleneagles in July led to 358 arrests.

Some 10,000 officers from across the UK were drafted in as world leaders met in Perthshire.

Safety concern

The week of the summit saw running battles on Edinburgh’s Princes Street, on the streets of Stirling and Bannockburn and at the summit security fence near Auchterarder.

BBC Scotland lawyer Alistair Bonnington said that the corporation objected to the breadth of material being requested.

He said: “We were successful in taking it right down to the minimum and also we managed to get the powers of search taken out of the warrant.”

Mr Bonnington said there was only so much that could be done in the face of a warrant but he backed the idea of a stronger industry-wide strategy.

NUJ spokesman Paul Holleran told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “It needs to be seen that the press is at arms-length from the state and shouldn’t be seen as a body that hands over material for information to the police just willy-nilly.”

Mr Holleran called on stronger criteria to protect the press in such cases.

“That’s the second part of our concern, the health and safety aspect of journalists who could be seen as being used by the police,” he said.

BBC: Tuesday, 6 September 2005, 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK

The National Union of Journalists has also been active this morning calling on stronger criteria to protect the press in such cases on the BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme. Which can be listened to until 6am on the 7th of September here:


03 September 2005 10:09

Home Secretary Charles Clarke last night tried to breathe new life into his bid to introduce national identity cards and declared: “Big Brother society is already here and my job is to control it.”

He told the EDP that the argument that cards would infringe civil liberties was “ridiculous” – and promised to present new proposals about the cost and make-up of the ID cards “within a couple of weeks”.

He attacked the “Big Brother state” accusation head-on, insisting: “People’s names are already on a large number of databases.

“Most of us have dozens of cards in our wallets with our identities on. We already have a Big Brother society.

“ID cards mean identity fraud can be dealt with and stopped.

“ID cards are a means of controlling the Big Brother society rather than creating it. Big Brother society is already here.”

The Bill to introduce ID cards went through its Second Reading in the House of Commons with a majority of just 31 on June 28, with MPs in all parties anxious about civil liberties and the cost.

Opponents are lining up to try to defeat the Government in the Bill’s later stages, and promising fierce opposition in the House of Lords if it does clear the Commons.

A report from the London School of Economics (LSE) said the ID-card scheme could cost as much as £19bn, or about £200 per person – a claim dismissed by Mr Clarke as “complete nonsense”.

But in an interview with the EDP, he said: “Can we produce

a scheme which is worth it on cost?

“We’ve got a long way to go to persuade punters here in Norfolk and everywhere that they are a good thing.”

Mr Clarke said he was a “militant supporter” of ID cards.

He said: “The whole thing depends on using ID cards in a number of different areas of life, including Criminal Records Bureau applications, driving licences, passports.

“It could reduce the number of cards you have in your pocket.

“I think the civil liberties argument is ridiculous.

“If we compare people’s right not to be blown up with their right to civil liberties it is not difficult.

“No measure can absolutely guarantee to stop a particular event. But I believe ID cards will help. Most countries in Europe have ID cards.”

He would not comment on how much the cards could cost, but said the LSE figures were “absurd”.

“We have to remake the argument for ID cards. It needs to be re-articulated. The argument against is principally cost. I’m less preoccupied about the civil liberties issue.”

The cards, which could be issued from 2008, are likely to include a photograph of the holder, along with their name, address, gender and date of birth. A microchip would also hold biometric information – a person’s fingerprints or iris or facial scans.

Mr Clarke faces the busiest period since he took charge of the Home Office following David Blunkett’s resignation last December and is planning a series of speeches in the lead-up to the party conference season to unveil his key policies.

He will talk to the European Union Parliament in Strasbourg on September 7 about the urgent need for cross-border co-operation to tackle international terror and crime.

And the following week he will outline his plans to overhaul the judicial and prisons system at a speech to the Prison Reform Trust.

His tray is full of unresolved issues, with the continued fallout from the London terror attacks, controversy over 24-hour licensing legislation and the never-ending arguments about immigration.

Eastern Daily Press 3rd Sept 05